Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere – Review

Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere – Review exterior

By Clare Jenkins, February 2024

There’s no doubting the Langdale Chase Hotel’s wow factor. It’s there in its position – right on the shore of Windermere, with panoramic views of the lake and the fells beyond, mist writhing through the trees, a skein of geese flying in formation overhead, swans gliding on the lake…

It’s also there in the magnificent entrance hall, with its carved oak panels, minstrels’ galleries, mullioned windows, flickering log fire and heraldic stained glass soaring up alongside the curving staircase. Everything says opulent Victorian-medieval, but with 21st century sofas and armchairs, champagne on ice, soft music and wallpaper depicting a restful Lakeland scene. It may be just off the busy main road to Ambleside, but it creates its own calming world. So it’s not altogether a surprise that it’s just been named the best hotel in the North by The Times.

Dating from the 1890s, Langdale Chase was conceived (as so many grand houses round here were) as a summer home for a wealthy Manchester industrialist. He died before he could enjoy it, so his wife took over, building a larger Gothic pile, complete with turrets, Italian mosaic floor tiles and carved coats of arms. The first house in Windermere to have electricity installed, it housed just her and her daughter – and some of their 16 household staff.

Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere – Review lake


Turned into a hotel in 1930, it soon became one of the places to stay in the Lake District. In more recent years, the Grade II listed building became a bit frayed at the edges, at which point Daniel Thwaites stepped in.

The Lancashire brewery firm already had properties in the North-West, but this was its most expensive renovation yet, a multi-million-pound project completed at the end of last year.

Many local people have very fond memories of the place, some going back decades. Our Bowness-based friend Cathy, for instance, used to come here with her husband and their twin daughters. They’d “potter up” to the jetty in her father-in-law’s motorboat, jump out “and dash along the foreshore into the hotel for tomato soup and ice cream, as a special treat”.

Now: “Wow!” she said as she stepped inside for the first time in years. “This is amazing! It used to be quite dark in here, and now it looks so much lighter and brighter.”

She wasn’t alone. A mother and daughter from Kendal, treating Granny to lunch, couldn’t believe the transformation. “It all looks so lovely now,” said the mother as we all explored the various rooms and quiet nooks and crannies. “We used to come here years ago, and it definitely needed some TLC. It was looking very tired. But it’s so much better now. There’s so much more glass down here in the dining-room, whereas before you didn’t get this whole lake view. It’s fabulous.”

Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere – Review great hall

“Cosy reading room”

Throughout, there’s a soothing palette of muted colours, with country-house-style fabrics and stylish botanical wallpapers. Beyond the entrance hall, there’s a large bay-windowed sitting-room, an Oak Room with carved overmantel above the original fireplace, and a cocktail bar with intricate plasterwork ceiling. The perfect place, we saw later, for couples to play chequers after dinner, brandy glasses warming over tealights.

Just off the main staircase, steps lead up to a cosy reading room, while the basement houses not just the wine cellar but also a nine-seater cinema, where you can watch such films as Brief Encounter, Casablanca and Swallows and Amazons (author Arthur Ransome lived above Windermere).

There are 21 bedrooms in the main house, with a further eight in the adjoining Lakehouse and one in the historic Boathouse (popular with honeymooners). Dogs are welcome here, too, hence the dog beds, baskets, water bowls and treats. Most of the bedrooms have views over the lake and four acres of woodland and gardens. Originally designed by Victorian landscape architect Thomas Mawson, they’re now a restoration-work-in-progress.

Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere – Review bedroom

image: Stephen McClarence


My husband Steve and I arrived on a typically Lakeland-drizzly day. As we unloaded the car, receptionist Lynda Willson came out to help, closely followed by guest services manager Sonia Whittington, who checked us in over tea (it was too early for the champagne). By the time we entered our room, our luggage was already installed.

Elegant and spacious, the room had smart cream shutters, a double bed covered in a plump duvet and soft wool throw, two dogtooth-print armchairs around a low table, and a wardrobe housing a safe, clothes brush and shoe cleaning equipment. It also had its own balcony from which to watch the sightseeing boats cruising along the lake (binoculars are provided) – and/or bathe in the outdoor copper hot-tub.

In the bathroom itself, there was a claw-foot bath as well as a cascade shower, along with gorgeous Sedbergh-based Bath House toiletries (you can stock up at their Ambleside shop). Plus a strange electronic toilet that lifted its lid as you opened the door.

Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere – Review dining room

“Sumptuous afternoon tea”

A complete boxed set of the Peter Rabbit stories sat on the windowsill, while other nice touches included a bottle of warming, richly fruity damson gin.

After a reviving rest, it was time for dinner with Cathy. Although we were eating in the sleek dining-room, surrounded by contemporary artwork, we opted for the bar and lounge menu as there was only one vegetarian option on the main menu (Jerusalem artichoke, plus a cheese souffle starter).

As it turned out, there was only one veggie main dish on the bar menu as well: beetroot gnocchi, which Steve pronounced tasty, if a tad monotonous. I had thickly battered fish and chips, while Cathy chose the “bitingly hot” chicken pie, though she was alarmed to see the calorie count (1149 in her case) spelt out beside each dish. Maybe as a result, only I had dessert – a rather taste-lite cheesecake. Overall, the meal was fine if unremarkable, despite the restaurant’s two AA Rosettes and the Insta couple at the next table taking seemingly endless photos of their different courses. And the disengaged service was in sharp contrast to the warmth of the initial welcome.

Service was friendlier at breakfast (delicious mashed avocado and poached eggs), and friendlier still over sumptuous afternoon tea. Dainty sandwiches and savouries, including potted Morecambe Bay shrimps and poached lobster for Cathy, were followed by warm scones and cream, and a plate of novelty fruit-shaped cakes (the apple crumble one was delicious).

Langdale Chase Hotel, Windermere – Review ambleside


To work up an appetite between the two meals, we drove to Ambleside and its Armitt Museum and Gallery, always a haven from the crowds thronging the town, with its absorbing library, bookshop and exhibitions. One concentrates on local writer Beatrix Potter’s fascination with fossils and fungi, illuminating her life beyond floppy bunnies. Another is devoted to fell-running. But we were there for Kurt Schwitters, the German refugee artist and collage-creator, described on a nearby plaque as “one of the greatest influences on 20th Century art”.

Regarded as a ‘degenerate’ artist by the Nazis, he fled Germany on the eve of the Second World War and was interned first in Norway, then on the Isle of Man, before ending up in the Lake District for the last two years of his life (he died in 1948).

The current compact display shows his charming, very human portraits of local people: the chess-playing doctor who saved his life after a brain haemorrhage, the owner of a grocery store, a couple of elegant wives-of-dignitaries.

“Art cannot be taught,” he once wrote. “It can only be awakened.” Rather like the newly reawakened Langdale Chase.

Langdale Chase Hotel, Ambleside Road, Ecclerigg, Windermere, LA23 1LW. Room rates start from £290 per night B&B. 01539-432201,
The Armitt Museum & Gallery, Rydal Road, Ambleside, LA22 9BL, 01539-431212,


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