Deanna Thomas heads up to the lakes for a family-friendly, dog-friendly trip
Grasmere might be missing a trick not having a hotel made out of gingerbread, its signature product being Sarah Nelson’s famous Grasmere Gingerbread. Sweden has an ice hotel, restaurant and bar, which gets rebuilt every year, so who wouldn’t want to wake up to the comforting smells of ginger and syrup in a fairy-tale environment?
Not to worry. Until someone works out the (mainly weather proofing) logistics of my idea, Grasmere is certainly not short of lovely places to stay.
Andrew, who has been at the hotel for over 25 years, is one of only 400 Masterchefs of Great Britain
But travel features and restaurant reviews are quite different in 2020. As lockdown begins to ease, many people are hoping to salvage something out of what’s left of the summer vacation. Those, like me, who aren’t quite ready to brave sitting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger on an aeroplane, are looking to holiday closer to home, but they want to know how safe it is. There’s no point in going on holiday if you can’t relax.
We headed over to the Lake District to see how some of England’s tourist destinations are dealing with social distancing measures and how they’re coping under the shadow of the current pandemic.
As well as gingerbread, Grasmere is also well known for being home to English poet William Wordsworth, who called it ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.’ On a bright summers day, I would agree, but you’re taking your chances with the Cumbrian weather, but all that rain is what helps puts the grass in Grasmere I suppose.
On the day we arrived in the pretty village the skies were grey and drizzly and trying to keep socially distanced while huddling under shop fronts with strangers to keep out of the rain and was proving difficult. Instead, we gave up walking round and headed over to the sanctuary of Rothay Garden Hotel for a cup of tea and a wifi connection in its comfortable lounge areas.
Rothay Garden Hotel, which won Cumbria Tourism Awards’ Small Hotel of the Year in 2018/19, also has a two acre private garden, which can be overlooked from many of the bedrooms via balcony, French doors or private patio.
From our ground floor suite, which had its own eternal terrace, we could also see the floor to ceiling windows of their Riverside Spa. The treatment rooms are currently closed (in accordance with government guidelines) but the HydroSpa bath (from which you can also catch a glimpse of the surrounding fells beyond the garden,) Monsoon showers and reflexology walk were in operation. For safety, guests were allocated a specific thirty minute time slot (at no extra charge), which allowed time for the housekeeping team to enter in-between to give the spa facilities a deep clean.
Rothay Garden Hotel has implemented a number of covid-safe practices for the safety of its guests. Hand sanitiser was positioned at the entrance to the hotel, in the reception area and at the entrance to the hotel restaurant. The reception area has had a Perspex screen fitted, check in has been moved to 3pm to allow for deep cleaning and each bedroom has been treated with Medi-Shield 30 day anti-microbial activated shield.
Rothay’s 2AA Rosette Garden Restaurant is situated in a spacious glass conservatory with views of the garden. Joint head chefs Andrew Burton and Adrian Kneeshaw, who have both been at the hotel for over 20 years, oversee the kitchens. Andrew, who has been at the hotel for over 25 years, is one of only 400 Masterchefs of Great Britain, so the dishes are proudly classic British utilising the excellent quality produce found in the area.
The menu (currently on paper and printed daily) changes often to make the best of seasonal availability. We enjoyed starters of smoked duck and orange salad, and seared scallop with crab and tomato Charlotte, followed by a hearty but perfectly executed Gloucester Old Spot Pork tournedos in pancetta, with cheek croquette, spring greens, apple puree and sage jus.
Puddings are classic, one of us went light with a perfect raspberry soufflé while the other (probably quite rightly) thinks a trip to The Lakes isn’t complete without a bowl of sticky toffee pudding.
Waiting on staff were friendly, efficient and wore protective Perspex visors rather than masks and were doing all they could to make guests feel at ease despite the current restrictions.
This independently owned hotel is a hugely versatile base for all sorts of holidays. It has a good sized car park (a real asset in a tricky-to-park tourist town like Grasmere) and, after its major £3 million redevelopment in 2008, no less than six different tiers of spacious bedrooms and suites to suit, making it ideal for a romantic weekend, a family trip, a walking break or even a pit stop on your way further up north.
Rothay Garden Hotel, Broadgate, Grasmere, Ambleside LA22 9RJ