WILD swimming is all the rage. Even it seems at the best hotels. We were chilling out on the jetty at Lake House when a fellow guest, goggled and Speedo’d, charged past and plunged into the tarn. Breasting aside the lily pads he made for the far shore, flummoxing the wild ducks.
'Your create your own personalised blended spa products for the treatments – mine was a trailblazing cocktail of lemongrass, frankincense and orange oil!'
Soon after, continuing our laid-back Jetty Spa Trail afternoon, we watched from the hot tub, champagne in hand, as he resurfaced, with a cheery wave for us, and disappeared into the main house. Each to his own, but our three hours of pampering seemed infinitely preferable to all that mud and marshwort. And, suitably relaxed, there was dinner and more champagne still to come for us up at the main hotel, Gilpin.
My wife and I were road-testing the latest luxury experience created by hoteliers extraordinaire the Cunliffe family in their quiet corner of the Lakes just 10 minutes away from boisterous Bowness.
We are no strangers to Gilpin. Since a first visit 15 years ago to what was then Gilpin Lodge we have returned intermittently to observe its steady progress. During which time John and Christine Cunliffe have been joined by their son Barney and his wife Zoe, adding their own youthful impetus.
The new Garden Suites, each with a submerged cedar hot tub in the decking, were a spectacular enough addition; ditto the stylish expansion of bar and dining areas; the acquisition of Relais & Chateaux status in 2006 was statement of ambition, confirmed by a subsequent clutch of top awards.
The eye-opener in recent times has been the opening of Gilpin Lake House, a six suite boutique lodging a couple of miles away from the hotel, but feeling very remote in 100 wooded acres on the edge of a deep (novice wild swimmers beware!) private lake called Knipe Tarn. The property came via a family inheritance.
Christine masterminded the design with a vaguely vintage Agathie Christie murder mystery feel to it. Mulberry curtains, Colefax and Fowler wallpaper, fabrics from Zoffany and Pierre Frey – a litany of decor chic. But there’s also a continuation of Gilpin’s quirky touches – a leather stuffed cat in each of the six suites, hats on antlers in the hall and a lounging leprechaun statue on the patio. All the suites were named after aunts in the family (this time we were in Gertie). We loved it all from first sight.
A very impressive feature was the heated indoor pool and sauna, which now is an essential part of the “Jetty Spa Trail”, which has just opened in August 2013. A short walk away are two newly-built cosy treatment rooms floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake – and for winter roaring fires. The rooms combine to become a romantic couples’ suite.
The ‘Jetty Spa Trail’ is the antithesis of the big glitzy spa, with the entire trail booked for each couple in complete privacy. Our trail started with an aromatherapy consultation with spa manager Jo Evans to create personalised blended spa products for the treatments. What’s left over becomes a bespoke gift to take away. My blend was a trailblazing cocktail of lemongrass, frankincense and orange oil!
lNext stop was a swim in the pool privately reserved for us for half and hour, a chance to unwind in the warm salt snug with an aroma spritzer, and exfoliate with a salt scrub shower. Then we were led on a lovely trail through the woods to the spa suite for our massage with our chosen oils. We were blessed with a sunny day, which helped the almost Zen-like calm of the experience.
Green tea with a bizarre flower opening out in the glass on the jetty was followed by hot tub and bubbly. This last treat may well move to the new Japanese Ofura hot tub (still bedding in) with spectacular views through a cleft of pines down the Winster Valley.
In inclement weather the final retreat might well be the renovated Boathouse, again with fires and soon-to-be-fitted glass doors overlooking the tarn and the rowing boat you can take out. We repaired there next morning after an evening of culinary indulgence at Gilpin. A chauffeur ferries you between the properties.
Attention to detail is everywhere. Witness The Spa Trail – a carefully thought out, very special treat. But then, you wouldn’t expect anything else at this unique family hotel.
Gilpin Hotel and Lake House, Crook Road, Windermere LA23 3NE.
The Jetty Spa Trail is exclusive to guests staying at Gilpin Lake House and costs £280 for two persons. Gilpin Lake House offers suites from £500 per night including dinner, bed and breakfast and complimentary transfers to and from Gilpin Hotel for dinner; based on two sharing. Gilpin Lake House is two miles from Lake Windermere and a short distance from Oxenholme Train Station with regular trains running from Euston Train Station. By road Gilpin is 80 miles from Manchester, slightly more from Liverpool.
For further information bout the hotel and spa visit www.thegilpin.co.uk or call 015394 88818.
For details of Relais & Chateaux Hotels visit www.relaischateaux.com/en/
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