It was in the months before the first lockdown and we had no idea of the year ahead of us.
But spending a few nights by Windermere was the perfect way to relax and recharge our batteries after a week at work, taking in some of our country’s most beautiful views.
The Lake District attracts visitors from across the world, flocking to enjoy its scenery, climbing its peaks and relaxing by its waters.
It’s a place of two extremes – the peace and tranquility of nature and the energy and excitement created by its landscape. It was with this in mind that my wife and I arrived at Lakeside, near the southern tip of Lake Windermere for a weekend of exercise and relaxation, experiencing nature’s elements and our hotel’s luxury.
Lakeside Hotel and Spa is within easy reach of the M6 – just 15 minutes from Kendal and the main routes north, south or across the Pennines.
Originally a 17th Century coaching inn, it now has 75 rooms and suites, two restaurants and a swimming pool and leisure area with jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.
We stayed in one of the hotel’s suites with lake views and the comfort of a living room, bedroom and en suite facilities.
Following our walk by the lake and a visit to the hotel bar, we dined in the five-star restaurant, choosing from the extensive al la carte menu. I opted for the poached chicken terrine, followed by tender saddleback pork fillet with salt baked celeriac, onion ash and slow-roasted shallot. The knowledgeable and attentive staff advised on our menu and wine list choices using their expertise to ensure a superb evening and pleasant stay.
A comfortable night’s sleep was followed by our return to the restaurant and a delicious breakfast from a menu including smoked salmon and sirloin steak. I enjoyed a more traditional and locally-sourced start to the day with Cumberland sausage, poached egg and hash browns.
We were then all set up for a day in the Grizedale Forest – a previously unknown area of the Lakes to me, overlooking Coniston Water. We hired electric mountain bikes from the visitor centre and took to the well-marked trails.
As cyclists who both take to the roads on our daily commute to work, this was a completely different experience, powering along the route, easily passing those finding it harder work to climb the hills.
Once we’d mastered using the various settings on the bikes we decided to cycle down to the water for coffee and cake at Brantwood, the former home of artist and social reformer John Ruskin.
Back on the bikes and on turbo power, we pedalled up the hills into the forest – exploring far more of the area than we would have ever imagined without the aid of electricity.
The visitor centre is also home to a Go Ape treetop rope course, an exhibition area and cafe – where we enjoyed a tasty lunch. We then explored a little more of the surroundings before heading back to our hotel.
And after a day’s cycling in Cumbria’s hills, what better way to relax and unwind than with a soothing massage in Lakeside’s Aveda Spa. It offers a wide selection of treatments – perfect to follow on from trekking, biking or sightseeing.
I opted for the Walker’s Tonic spa treatment – a relaxing foot and leg massage with essential oils. My spa therapist told me how she had moved to the area from London in her teenage years and had never looked back. The peace and tranquility of the area in stark contrast with the capital’s hustle and bustle.
For some teenagers, moving to Cumbria from the excitement of the big smoke would have seemed a step too far. As I relaxed in the Lakeside spa I could understand its lure perfectly.
As well as its hills, lakes and mountains, the area has much more to offer tourists. Cruises on Lake Windermere and trains on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway run from right outside the hotel.
Fifteen minutes’ drive away is Sizergh Castle, a National Trust-run property just outside Kendal. The grade I listed castle is the home of the Strickland family.
Its fascinating history has seen the medieval house, with its 14th century solar tower, extended and transformed.
We toured the building, learned of some of its inhabitants and climbed to the Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber before exploring the gardens and visiting the gift shop and cafe.
A visit to Sizergh and its estate was the perfect end to a perfect weekend in the Lakes.
Lakeside Hotel & Spa: In 2019, double rooms started from £245 for a two-night stay, B&B based on two sharing. 015395 30001, www.lakesidehotel.co.uk
Grizedale Mountain Bikes: Electric bikes, gravel bikes, children’s bikes, tag-a-longs and trailers also available. Covid measures are in place. 01229 860335, www.grizedalemountainbikes.co.uk
Sizergh Castle: The castle reopens on May 22. 015395 60951, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/Sizergh