Rothay Manor – Hotel Review

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rothay manor lake district review

Rothay Manor Hotel, Ambleside, The Lake District

Hotel Review

by Rachel Howard

The Lake District… the most visited National Park in the UK, home to some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery, and my own personal ‘happy place’. I’ve been a regular visitor to the area for many years, enjoying lots of the activities and walks on offer, not to mention plentiful tearooms and shopping. However, this trip promises something that I have yet to sample in Cumbria – a luxury hotel with fine dining.

It’s not something you would immediately associate with the touristy areas of Grasmere and Ambleside. But if you take a look beyond the tearooms and pubs, you might just find something a little more special.

After a beautiful couple of days spent in the fells exploring Easedale Tarn, Orrest Head and Helm Crag, we make our way over to the village of Ambleside and the Rothay Manor hotel. Being a little too early to check in, we leave our bags and wander into the town. As well as being right on the shores of the northern end of Windermere, Ambleside is full of shops, cafes and galleries. We even manage to squeeze in a very competitive game of crazy golf! Basking in my winning glory, we make our way down to the shore to enjoy a late-afternoon drink in the sunshine overlooking Windermere. When the weather is on form, there isn’t a better view in the world.

rothay manor hotel review room


It is with difficulty that we drag ourselves away to make the short, ten-minute walk back to the hotel – but what awaits us is more than worth it.

We are shown to our room – the Conservatory, which feels more like our own private cottage due to the external access and the sheer size. From our triple aspect windows, we have a view out on to the beautiful gardens at the front of the imposing 19th-century building, once a privately owned property that was converted into a hotel in 1936. The room is a tasteful mix of original features and contemporary design, and is completed by a luxurious bathroom fitted out with a free-standing bath and separate rainfall shower – just the job after a day’s hiking. If your day has been particularly strenuous, guests are also invited to soak their aching limbs in the spa facilities of a nearby hotel – free of charge.

By the standards shown in the room, we know we are in for something special for dinner, so we don’t waste a minute, quickly getting ready and making our way to the bar area. The same mix of traditional Regency décor and modern touches make the bar and restaurant a formal affair, but with a relaxed and warm feel. As we peruse the menus, we each enjoy a pre-dinner G&T – complete with fresh-flower accents and added garnishes of fresh ginger and home-grown miniature strawberries (mine), and olives and fresh herbs (my partner, Pete’s).

rothay manor hotel review starters


Having been tempted by all the dishes on the menu, we both decide to opt for the 9-course tasting menu. For guests staying on a Dinner, Bed & Breakfast basis, this option can be selected for a £15pp supplement. Nine courses is perhaps a little misleading, as before we are even shown into the restaurant, we are brought a selection of delicious canapés that really set us up for the main event – and with coffee at the end, you’re actually looking at 11 courses.

Once seated in the restaurant the fun really begins as the amuse bouche is brought out – the chef’s own take on a leek and potato soup that encompasses an ice-cream that doesn’t melt when the hot soup is poured over it – magic!

We move on to the starter courses – the first being torched and smoked mackerel with beetroot, presented with a touch of drama under a smoke-filled glass dome. This is followed by foie gras with onion flavours and Monbazillac, the perfect fresh accompaniments to the richness of the foie gras. The starters are rounded off with a real standout dish – one-hour duck egg with king oyster mushrooms, truffle, sourdough and Parmesan. This is one of the tastiest and most unusual dishes either of us have had the pleasure of enjoying. The texture and flavour of the egg is superb, and they certainly don’t hold back on the decadent truffle.

rothay manor hotel review mains


The first main course is Shetland cod served with nettle gazpacho, girolle mushroom and smoked red pepper. This is so aesthetically pleasing, it is almost, almost, too pretty to eat – but eat we do and thoroughly enjoy the combination of perfectly cooked fish alongside the pepper, lemon and mushroom flavours.

Next up is my personal favourite, Ambleside lamb – loin, shoulder and belly served with courgette, peas, broad beans and wild rocket. The lamb is perfectly cooked and the chance to eat all three cuts in one dish demonstrates the talents of the chef – all melt in the mouth and the simple accompaniment of the greens just helps to showcase the quality of the local meat.

Homemade fruit tea is served as a palate cleanser before the desserts arrive. But this is no ordinary cuppa. The hot tea is poured over the aforementioned ‘non-melting’ magical ice cream – this time with pickled ginger flavours.

The first dessert is simply entitled ‘Lemon’, leaving diners to guess what form that may take. It is in fact a lemon ice cream served with limoncello jelly, biscuit crumb, white chocolate shards and a hint of coconut. It was every pudding-lover’s dream.

rothay manor hotel review dessert


Course number nine (or ten if you count the canapés!) concludes the meal, and does so with a bang. The chocolate dome with raspberry and rose textures is a shared dish – for which we’re both thankful – our waistlines are paying the price! But what a finale of a dish… Under a dark chocolate shell hides meringue, sorbet and ice cream spheres of raspberry and rose. It’s a treasure trove of delights and confirms this will be one of those meals we’re talking about for a very long time to come.

Special praise must be paid to the Rothay Manor head chef, Brandon Shepherd, and his team. The creative flair shown in these dishes is something very special, not to mention the quality of the predominantly local and home-grown ingredients. It’s easy to see how the team has already achieved the accolade of 2 AA rosettes in recognition of culinary excellence, and I’m sure it won’t stop there. Did someone mention Michelin…?!

rothay manor hotel review bathroom


The service in the bar and restaurant is faultless and is mirrored throughout the hotel. The next morning when we arrive for breakfast, everyone is very understanding of our need for a small portion (given the previous night’s indulgences) so we thoroughly enjoy the fruit and yoghurt options, alongside a variety of cereals and pastries. Pete manages a half portion of kedgeree, which he deems excellent. The breakfast menu is one of the nicest I’ve seen (full English, eggs Benedict and Florentine, kedgeree, kippers, porridge… the list goes on); I just wish we had the room to sample it more thoroughly.

As we pack our bags and bid farewell to the Rothay Manor, I realise that I arrived expecting to review a luxury, destination hotel in the Lake District, and what I actually got was just that, plus a top-class fine-dining experience that will go down in our memories as one of the best.

If you are thinking of heading to the Lakes, or indeed already live there, and fancy pushing the boat out for a special occasion, or even just a treat, the Rothay Manor should be top of your list.

Rothay Manor Hotel, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0EH

Prices start from £170 for a classic room based on two people sharing.

01539 433605
[email protected]

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