“The water came up to here,” said the delightful General Manager Sarah Gibbs, indicating a point around her knees. “In other places it was deeper. It was like the swimming pool had taken over the place. We had to have a complete refurbishment.”
A midnight walk took us past the boats moored at the southern end of Windermere: there was a dark wood over the water, an owl calling, a full moon making day of night, and silence.
While Cockermouth in the North Lakes hit the headlines for the floods last November, the South Lakes got a battering too. But after a £4m renovation The Swan Hotel and Spa at Newby Bridge, at the southern end of Windermere, is back and sporting a bloody brilliant in-house design.
One of the latter, the shower in our Lonsdale Suite was so magnificently commodious and so well designed it was hard to tear yourself out of it and back into the real world. But as generous and well-designed as our suite was – big too, if we’d brought a cat we could have given it several clear swings - you wouldn’t want to stay in it too long when you have kids along.
The hotel has an adventure course in the grounds, a games room, a gym and a 10 metre swimming pool - for the ladies it also has an ESPA treatment at the VU Spa. While everybody else went in the pool – the two boys later declaring it, ‘fantastic’ - I tested out the gym.
This was unique. I might still play football and ride my bike a lot but I’d never in all my 46 years, been in a gym before. I ended up on a cycling machine and did 15kms in the wrong gear, finishing up sweatier than a fell-runner.
A retired couple from nearby Ulverston came in while I was pedalling away, and the gent of the pair had a go on the adjacent machine. He recalled how he’d come in one day and found United players past and present, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Patrice Evra and Wes Brown using the gym. Apparently Wes Brown is a friend of the family who own the Swan.
I could tell as I left that the Ulverston pair thought I was fitter than any of the United players. Well I think they thought that.
The afternoon was taken up with an excursion up to Blackwell House, the exquisite Arts and Crafts building about seven miles north from the Swan close to Bowness. This was built a little over a century ago and was the holiday retreat of double term Lord Mayor of Manchester Edward Holt.
The visit gave Confidential the opportunity to pat ourselves on the back. Edward Holt was the boss of Joseph Holt brewery, the still existing Cheetham Hill beer-maker. Previously Blackwell had only sold Peroni beers, after a Confidential campaign last year to make them see sense, they now stock the beers that made the money that enabled the house to be built.
“They’re really selling well, it's good to sell them here rather than just Italian or German drinks - more appropriate,” said one of the canteen staff to us.
We also had a cracking walk up Gummers How on the way back to the hotel. This eminence of just over 1000ft dominates the area despite its relatively low altitude. The walk underlines the loveliness of this end of the Lakes, an area people often scoot past on their way to the higher central areas. The South Lakes is all about softer inclines, cool woods, bracken walks, unexpected views - give it a whirl if you haven’t yet. Click here for the view of Windermere from Gummers How.
Then it was back to the Swan. The original Inn was built in the 1600s, rebuilt in the 1700s, and it provides a classic picture of archetypal England standing as it does at the northern end of the fifteenth century bridge over the River Leven.
The restaurant has a short menu full of classics too. The highlight was the roasted 6 rib rack of Lake District lamb for two at £36, with as many sides as you could wish for, including some beautifully crisp seasonal veg. The flesh on the ribs was glorious, the Swan should make a big bold wallpaper design with them in repeating pattern to honour the dish. The Dorset crab and king prawn (£8.50) starter was superb also, the coriander mixed in here being the secret.
Our charming Bulgarian waiter brought us a stunning Rioja which had to be hauled back to the Suite part way through as the errant thirteen year old son, the one who made the wrong choice in life and went Blue, insisted we tried to catch the second half of Manchester City’s 3-0 defeat of Liverpool on Sky.
Eighty miles and a world away.
Or rather not.
For most G20 countries eighty miles is almost in the next street. We are fortunate to possess such a wide variety of landscape in the North West of England. If you want a retreat for a night or two or longer (double bedrooms start at £99), with the kids or without them, then at an hour and a half away by car, the The Swan Hotel and Spa makes a very compelling case for itself. Give them a call 01539531681.
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