A Spa Suite at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Windermere, United Kingdom

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House
Windermere, United Kingdom


Of all the wonderful things you could say about Gilpin Hotel & Lake House in England’s postcard-worthy Lake District, what sums up a stay here best is that the personal signature of the family who owns the property, which is split across two sites, makes it feel as though you’re not just a guest of the hotel, but of the family itself. It’s a rare achievement.

Ask any Londoner and they’ll tell you that the best way to spend a weekend in the capital is to not spend it there at all: that’s not because we’re not utterly in love with our city, but because so many rewarding getaways await within just a few hours of travelling from London. The Gilpin Hotel & Lake House is one of them – well, actually, two. With just over a mile between the two estates, this is a property that offers two very different types of stays, yet consistently excellent service from a warm and welcoming team that’s always happy to have a chat and make you feel ‘at home’.

The Gilpin Hotel sits amongst 21 acres of moors and woodlands that bring to mind the 19th-century Lake Poets who eternalised the beauty of this landscape in their oeuvres, while the 2010-opened Lake House is embedded into a 100-acre estate overlooking a private lake (a walk around which comes highly recommended to naturalists, for the rare chance to spot gorillas and giant turtles… you’ll see what we mean!). Since our stay coincided with what can only be described as a Great British monsoon, we spent most of our time indoors, which was just as well seeing the shared spaces at the Lake House were beautifully furnished and equipped with the kind of books, magazines and classic games that double as decor. And because we escaped here to find some peace and calm just before Christmas, we also benefited from the hotel having pulled all the strings on holiday decorations.

Hungry as we were, having travelled up from London without a proper breakfast, we headed straight for the restaurant at the Lake House, where, though there were no dedicated plant-based options on the menu, the staff put together a few small bites to get us through the day. This was a little random, but we didn’t mind, especially as we knew we’d be in for a treat at the 2018-opened, pan-Asian Gilpin Spice for dinner. The atmosphere here was surprisingly lively and cosmopolitan for a hotel in rural Cumbria: think jazzy music, guests dressed to the nines, a few rather Instagrammable features and a bar fronting an open kitchen where clattering woks and flames immerse you in the action. We loved the tomato ‘che saar’ soup, the tamarind-glazed aubergine and a warming tomato and pumpkin seed curry, all of which tasted even better because the team clearly enjoyed themselves at work (and kept our bubbly topped up!).

On our second night, we headed straight for the champagne bar, where we enjoyed a very dangerous Belvedere Martini before trying SOURCE, the hotel’s fine-dining outlet which at the time of writing boasts a Michelin Star earned under the stewardship of Executive Chef Ollie Bridgwater. SOURCE and the adjoining lounge area with a piano and a living room vibe are lovely, but what made the restaurant stand out to us was how included it made us feel with a special plant-based menu and a vegan-friendly wine pairing demonstrative of the attention to detail employed in catering to guests’ dietaries here. Our ten-course menu of exquisitely prepared delights was delicious, from a ‘ball’ of gin & tonic to broad bean hummus and hen of the woods with black garlic to coconut tiramisu. With the exception of room service, which required a rather convoluted process for us to order, as the regular app it is ordered through featured no vegan-friendly options, we found that the Gilpin Hotel & Lake House did an excellent job at looking after visitors with dietary requirements – and a better one than many a five-star property in London, where we’re yet to be served a ‘Full English’ with scrambled tofu and veggie black pudding for breakfast!

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While you’re Out There
Owning to bad weather during our stay (this is England, after all!), we didn’t get a chance to explore the area surrounding the hotel. But we hear there are plenty of beautiful, quaint and quintessentially Cumbrian walks to enjoy across the region, and have no doubt the team can assist and advise on where to head depending on your preferences and level of fitness. The Brant Fell viewpoint is particularly popular, offering panoramic vistas over Lake Windermere.

While the accommodations at the Gilpin Hotel range from rooms in the main house to five dedicated Spa Suites that each feature an outdoor bathtub, a private pond, a sauna, a steam room, and automated massage chair by WEYRON, an infrared bed and overall contemporary design, the nine rooms at the Lake House are a lot less exciting. Albeit very spacious and with a view over the estate’s lake, our Harriett Suite lacked rather basic amenities like reading lights or spare sockets to charge our devices (forcing us to unplug our bedside table lamps) and looked very tired – especially our beige-tiled, 90s revival bathroom. This was disappointing, to say the least, as we’d come here for a spa weekend, and ended up not even wanting to slip into our bathtub.

The Lake House offers a 3.5-hour’Jetty Spa Trail’ journey for guests looking for a similarly wellness-oriented experience as those staying at the nearby Gilpin Hotel, although parts of our journey were riddled with issues, from the jets in the outdoor jacuzzi, which went off after some fifteen minutes into our one-hour soak, with no one around to ask for help, to the sauna, which was lukewarm at best (and again, no one around to assist). Because we couldn’t find any towels either, we turned up late to the next part of our ‘relaxing’ journey, a sumptuous afternoon tea by the fireplace. This bit of the experience was lovely, and so was our aromatherapy massage using Espa products in the very stylish and almost Scandinavian-looking spa, which sits high above the lake. Don’t get us wrong: you can have a wonderful stay at the Lake House if you’re looking to spend your time exploring the beautiful surrounding countryside and return to your generous suite in the evenings. But if, like ourselves, you’ve come for a spa weekend, you’d be much better off staying at the Gilpin Hotel.

Whichever side – and site – of the property you’re looking to experience, it’d be impossible to miss just how charming this place is. We loved thoughtful details like the Dora-branded door stoppers to truly indulgent toiletries by local brand Pure Lakes. A small but fine selection of books in our bedroom sent us into a reading frenzy, not least because some of the books on our shelves looked as though they’d been read before and left behind by previous guests, which we thought made the hotel feel even more homely. One volume in particular stood out to us. Entitled ‘Slightly Perfect: A Lake District Love Affair’, it’s the memoir of the hotel’s original owner, John Cunliffe, who recounts the story of Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, which continues to be run by the Cunliffe family, in it. When staying here, you get the sense that everything carries the handwriting of the family, not least because the hotel punches above its weight in certain regards: nothing here feels luxurious in an ostentatious kind of way. They simply strive for excellence and take pride in what they do. With that in mind, the team seems very much part of the family, too.


Photography courtesy of Gilpin Hotel & Lake House 

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