We tried the Jetty Spa Trail at Gilpin Lake House and it was a rainy day dream
I’m sitting in the cold autumn rain feeling its gentle tap tap tap on my bare skin. I’m wearing nothing but a swimsuit but I feel more relaxed and at peace, than I have in a long time. Thankfully, I’m toasty warm as three-quarters of my body is submerged in a bubbling, steaming hot tub. I reach for a glass of chilled champagne, stare out over the misty lake through a canopy of trees dressed in their autumn best, all gold and copper and crimson, and lie back feeling like I’m about to wake up from a dream.
This kind of luxury is not cheap but at the rate we’re going, it may well be cheaper than putting the radiators on at home.
I’m here, very fortunately, on a press trip to check out a spa package at Gilpin Hotel’s Lake House. The journey starts characteristically for any visit to the lakes (in my experience at least) with a lot of head-scratching about where the hell we’re going. After arriving at the Gilpin Hotel proper and having to re-route in torrential rain, swerving down winding roads to avoid collisions with locals in Land Rovers, we finally find it. The gates of the Lake House slowly open and the next 24 hours feel like a peek into another way of life we can only dare to dream could ever be our reality. But it’s nice to try it on for size, isn’t it?
Every time I drive up to the Lake District I gaze at the scenery unfolding like an oil painting and think it is the epitome of what people imagine the green and pleasant British isles to be. Living in a smoggy, chaotic city like Manchester, where it seems I am never more than five feet from a construction site, it’s the ultimate escape - and boy did I need to escape.
Good job the staff at Gilpin Lodge pick you up and wrap you in a fluffy cloud from the moment you arrive then. Ever rushing around like the Tasmanian Devil back home, I float around the gardens of the Lake House agog as various blissed-out couples wave from hot tubs and rowing boats. It’s almost ridiculous how idyllic this 100 acres of grounds is. I was a little doubtful about going to the lakes in soggy old autumn and yes, it poured down all day, but the rain seemed to turn up the vividness of the natural colour palette. A picture paints a thousand words so just look at these. I mean. have you ever?
After our brief perambulation of the gardens, we pop back to our huge “Gertie" room (all six bedrooms here seem to be named after grandmas) and gaze at the scenery some more through the window over a quick cuppa before heading back out for a massage. I know, your heart bleeds for me.
The jetty spa trail includes several hours of self-indulgence starting with a treatment in the spa. We’re given a choice of Swedish, aromatherapy or Indian head massage and because we are here as a couple, we share a room to enjoy these on parallel massage beds. Even the spa room has mind-blowing views, it’s kind of a shame our time in there is spent mostly face down with our heads in a soft doughnut. The gentle massages leave us totally relaxed and ready for a snack.
This comes in the form of a cream tea (tiny scones with jam and cream, tea or coffee and fresh fruit with the option of another glass of bubbly if you like) in a log cabin in the woods, again with lake view. The heavy rain stops us from sitting on the deckchairs out front but the sound of it on the wooden roof is hypnotic as we stare out at the patterns it makes on the lake. Next, we move into the swimming pool and sauna (guided by a lovely staff member with a huge brolly). The pool is warm and I attempt a few laps but the massage has made me far from inclined to do any real exercise, a salt scrub shower and sweat out our sins in the sauna then?
Mocktails are on hand to cool us down before a glass of Champers in that aforementioned hot tub. There are two hot tubs at Gilpin’s Lake House. We are told the other one is a bit deeper. I’m sure they are lovely in the summer but if you are wondering about an autumn or winter break, I think the best way to experience a hot tub is when it’s freezing cold outside. The last time I was in an outdoor hot tub in ice-cold weather was in the forests of British Colombia in Canada. It was also a wonderful experience but under the bonfire-coloured leaves of the Lake District’s trees, this is just next level. This kind of luxury is not cheap but at the rate we’re going, it may well be cheaper than putting the radiators on at home.
We have an hour or so to get ready for dinner before a cab, arranged by the hotel, picks us up for the short drive to Gilpin Hotel proper and dinner at HRiSHi.
You might know Hrishikesh Desai from his many appearances on The Great British Menu. His USP is that he weaves his Indian heritage as well as a love of Thai and South Asian food into a Modern British Michelin Star tasting menu.
The restaurant is a classic Lakes Michelin Star setting. Ridiculously plush seating, crisp tablecloths and wait staff that would rather die than allow you to break your own napkin. We add the wine flight to our tasting menu and some of the stars of it include Dr Loosen Riesling and Elysium black muscat. At least three of the wines on the list have some residual sugar or are actually sweet so if you don’t like (or can’t have) sweet wines, I’d choose a few glasses from the wine list instead. It's a varied selection though and I enjoyed trying the matches.
The food is an interesting riff on the classic Michelin Star tasting menu. There’s duck liver parfait instead of foie gras, and the (incredible) lobster dish includes a South Indian sambal sauce (you can see how much I enjoyed that on my TikTok). The lamb “main” is another highlight, prepared in a skill-flourishing French style but paired with a laal maas curry sauce - traditionally served with mutton in India. If you’re looking for Michelin food with an element of spice you rarely find in that type of restaurant, go here. It’s got enough Indian influence to keep it interesting but doesn't stray too far from the classic path. We skip one of the two desserts for a big plate of cheese to share.
Our taxi drops us back at the Lake House with the option of a nightcap in the room unnecessary after al that wine. We melt into the enormous bed feeling like we've won the life lottery.
Gilpin Spice for lunch
Just to make sure we are thorough in our assessment of this luxury hotel and its restaurants, we visit Hrishikesh’s side hustle the next day. Gilpin Spice is the more relaxed (and far cheaper) of the two restaurants and feels almost like an upmarket chain. I don’t mean that to be disparaging. Printed paper table mats, block colour walls, hanging wicker lampshades and a menu divvied up into snacks, small plates and larger plates, it feels comfortingly familiar. It’s a great place for a family lunch, as is illustrated by the many families dining happily on our visit.
We enjoy a couple of souped-up soups, before sharing some small plates and a main dish. The main dish of beef feather blade with a Vietnamese curry sauce is not really designed to share but it’s such a hefty portion that we struggle to finish it. I suppose it doesn’t help that it’s not much more than 12 hours since we ate a seven-course tasting menu and we’ve had breakfast in between.
My favourites are a prawn salad with coronation dressing and a plate of light black rice crisps topped with trout tartare, yuzu and wasabi mayo. Staff here are amiable and can’t do enough for us. A Singha beer for me and a Diet Coke for the designated driver and we shed a tear at our visit being so regrettably short.
I think people forget that you can access Windermere by train from Manchester - sometimes it’s even a direct train taking about 90 mins, though at the moment we do have to make allowances for ongoing issues. Gilpin is just a short taxi ride from the station so even if you don’t - or don’t want to - drive, it’s really accessible.
We are so lucky to have such cinematic scenery so nearby and every time I go to the lakes I promise to return again sooner rather than later. The Lake House at Gilpin is an ideal getaway in autumn or winter, if you were thinking these kinds of trips were a spring/summer thing, think again. Cumbria thrives in the rain and so will you, especially if it involves a glass of bubbly in a hot tub.
Gilpin Lodge Factfile
Kelly stayed in the Gertie room at Gilpin Lake House. Spa lodges cost from £690 per night in summer and £520.00 per night in winter. If you want, and can afford to, you can actually hire the whole Lake House to yourself.
Kelly enjoyed the Jetty Spa Trail package for three hours. Spa treatments start at £75 per person but contact the hotel to discuss packages. You can also buy lovely spa hampers to take home for £60.
A tasting menu evening meal at HRiSHi costs £95pp or £165pp with a matching wine flight.
Lunch at Gilpin Spice varies but Kelly's meal for two with drinks but no dessert was roughly £80 plus tip.
Trains to Windermere from Manchester Piccadilly start at £21 return based on two advance singles.