Cosy winter breaks can be just as nice as winter sun, don’t you think?
Don’t get me wrong, I’d hardly say no to some sunshine in the cooler months to thaw me out, but I’m also a huge advocate of being cosy and comfortable while the weather runs amok outside. I particularly enjoy lying in bed at night with the electric blanket on, wrapped within a heated cocoon of duvet and fleece, listening to the wind whistle outside.
I recently set off on a weekend break to the Lake District in search of some home comforts, cosy pubs and scenic drives. My base for the weekend was the Ravenstone Lodge Hotel, a short drive from the pretty town of Keswick.
What was it like?
Set by the roadside the lodge was once a 19th century coach house for the manor on the other side of the road. Perched on a decline which leads to the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake, it has a scenic vantage point over the English countryside. The exterior boasts attractive original stonework, a new extension and my favourite part, the conservatory. The old stable has been converted into a quirky bar, retaining some of the key features and structures and adding to the undeniable character of the building.
The conservatory really has the best seats in the house for the comfort factor, the multiple windows to enjoy the views, and the cosy fireplace to relax in front of. Visitors are instantly drawn to this area of the lodge, and it was easy to see why.
Our room was quintessentially ‘countryside’ with plenty of pine furnishings and fantastic views. While there wasn’t an electric blanket (that would just be weird), there was delightful four poster bed, complete with lace curtains and a thick duvet. I discovered later that night there were high velocity winds to be heard, providing that cosy, untouchable effect that I was aiming for.
The bathroom was the modern exception to the room, with the choice of a standard shower head or one of those wide, tropical-rainfall-type heads. The bath tub itself was especially deep, which is exactly what you need – no one likes having limbs exposed above the water level, it’s so cold!
Additional features include a television, tea and coffee making facilities with a couple of wee biscuits, a hairdryer in the drawer, toiletries and fluffy towels available in the bathroom, and a room service menu – just in case you’re feeling really lazy. I may have indulged in a cheese board, chocolate brownie and a wee dram of Talisker. I was on holiday after all!
Far more important than the room service, is the table service offered in the lodge’s ‘The Coach House’ restaurant. Local chef James uses the best local ingredients to deliver delicious, immaculately presented dishes, earning the restaurant its AA Rosette status in 2014. Thanks to the dramatic downpour on the afternoon of our arrival, our entertainment for the evening was the dining experience, and of course the post-dinner tipples by the fire in the conservatory.
The ‘Twice Baked Appleby Cheese Soufflé’ metaphorically jumped off the specials board, slapping me in the face and activating my tastebuds. This indulgent delight had the perfect, light texture with a rich, creamy cheesiness, designed for mopping up with fresh crusty bread. Next up was my ‘Roast Rump of Lakeland Lamb, dauphinoise potatoes and spring greens with a rosemary and port jus’, which wasn’t just a pretty plateful, it was a definite tastebud pleaser. Almost ready to burst I persevered, determined to sneak in a few bites of the Sticky Toffee Pudding which myself and my partner ordered to share. Wonderful!
The Ravenstone Lodge clearly has a commitment to keeping you well fed and satisfied, something which was also evident at breakfast time. Guests can help themselves to cereals, fresh crusty break to toast, fruit, yoghurts and jams. But that’s not all. There is also a made-to-order menu which features a tempting ‘Full English’ and my favourite breakfast ever – eggs benedict with bacon. Having hearty breakfasts cooked for me on both mornings was a real treat.
Given the perfect conditions for being a coach potato, and the decadent food on offer, the outdoor surroundings were very important in ensuring I didn’t return from my weekend looking like the side of a house. The shores of Bassenthwaite Lake are easily reached from the lodge, via a few fields, wooden gates, muddy paths, arches of trees and a beautiful 1000 year old church. At an easy pace, the walk takes around 15/20 minutes and is sure to stretch your legs and provide a ‘scenery fix’ en route.
When venturing out to explore more of the nearby Lake District, the town of Keswick is just a 10 minute drive away and is home to a number of cutesy shops and cafes, a choice of restaurants, an old-school cinema and a lake, of course!
Heading through the town towards Borrowdale you’ll find yourself way above sea level at the famous Honister slate mine, following the dramatic, steep climb to reach it. Buttermere Lake is waiting down the Honister mountain pass and through the valley, passing exactly the kind of rusty coloured scenery you would expect from the lovely Lake District in winter.
The Overall Verdict.
While the weather that weekend was seriously temperamental and didn’t allow for much outdoor exploration, this gave us an excuse to really use the lodge and its facilities to our advantage. I rarely spend time in the accommodations I stay in when I’m travelling, but on this occasion I really appreciated the comfortable bed, the deep bath to soak in, the fire in the conservatory, the wonderful food, and the on-site bar stocking local beers and single malt whisky. The staff were also a credit to the lodge, particularly Sharon who looked after us when we arrived. I loved the history behind the lodge, and the fact that some of the original features have been retained. This accommodation has its own wee identity and character, perfectly in sync with the English countryside setting. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting the Lake District.