Beech Hill Hotel, Lake District – Review
By Roger Crow
I don’t need much of an excuse to visit the Lake District. The breathtaking vistas and artsy crafts vibes are right up my street. So when I’m invited to stay at the Beech Hill Hotel and Spa in Windermere, it’s a case of packing a few basics and hitting the road.
Following hellish roadworks on the M62, we’ve just driven miles out of our way because of a Road Closed sign on the hotel’s doorstep. A detour that could have been avoided. But, like most Brits, I bottle that fury like a fine wine. After an ascent from the car park to the reception worthy of Edmund Hillary (no lift, sadly), we find our room and the stresses of road works and traffic start to melt.
Following a cuppa and a cheese platter rustled up by the kitchen, I start to feel human again. A comfy bed and spotless bathroom also help lighten our mood. Normally I like arriving at hotels at night. It gives me a chance to assess the facilities and not be bothered by the fact my room might look out on to a brick wall.
“Eateries and specialist shops”
After a chilly night I pull back the curtains to the best sight I’ve seen from a UK hotel window. Lake Windermere, the sort of retina-searing vista which no magazine or movie screen can replicate. Suddenly my bankrupt emotional bank account is back in credit. The chill was due to an open window which counters the condensation. It’s not perfect, but in retrospect it’s worth it for that view.
Breakfast overlooking the lake is a joy. We arrive early to get a window seat and, while my chair has seen better days, it scarcely matters. The locally produced full English, care of a help-yourself buffet, is spot on, as is the coffee and croissants. My partner Rachel’s vegetarian breakfast isn’t bad either.
The early start continues to pay dividends when we head into Bowness-on-Windermere, around three miles away, for a day of shopping and exploration. Parking spots are soon rarer than hens’ teeth, so I’m in smug mode for the rest of the day.
As a fan of Beatrix Potter, Rachel is in her element at a local attraction devoted to the creator of Jemima Puddleduck and Jeremy Fisher. There’s no shortage of eateries and specialist shops as we sample the local tipples. Kendal Mint Cake vodka is too good to resist, and after a few hours of people-watching from a restaurant overlooking a church, and basking in the sight of that stunning lake, we head back to try out Beech Hill’s facilities.
“A widescreen assault on the senses”
It’s obvious the owners have spent serious money on the pool, sauna and hot tub, all of which are excellent. There are plenty of spa treatments too, should you want those knotted muscles seen to, or assorted other cosmetic extras. Dinner is a must at sunset, soaking up the final rays, with the camera locked on panorama setting. The area is a widescreen, IMAX assault on the senses, and yet blissfully serene.
The hotel reminds me of Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, a favourite residence overlooking the Rockies. Rarely a day goes by when I’m not reminded of drinking in those Canadian views from 2001, and this has the same feel. Obviously it helps that I don’t have to travel thousands of miles for the privilege.
There’s so much right with Beech Hill, it’s a shame Burlington’s feels so dated as the restaurant is one of the strongest assets. A little TLC here and there would work wonders, and while I love some of the muzak – a mash-up of Batman themes from the sixties to the noughties being a standout curio – they could do with something classier for dinner. (Strangely they frown on people using mobile phones for fear of ruining the ambience but have no dress code. One guy in a tee shirt looks like he’s mistaken the place for a fast food restaurant).
“All that walking ensures we’re out like a light”
I enjoy a Pork Cheek starter, which is deliciously tender. The vermicelli vegetables, crackling and apple puree accentuate the flavour. Rachel’s veggie option, Tempura of Seasonal Vegetables (onion rings, yellow pepper and broccoli) is a bit of a let down. “It just felt like something I could get on a pub menu,” she remarks. But her Crepe Rollito is the polar opposite. A mix of leeks, mushrooms, cheddar and herbs generates plenty of enthusiasm, even if she feels it’s more of a starter than a main.
My Poach-roasted Chicken Supreme main is beautifully tender, and the layered dauphinoise potatoes and wild mushrooms with thyme jus are a delight. An apple sorbet between the dishes acts as a good palate cleanser, though it lacks the wow factor.
All that walking, literally breathtaking saunas, hot tub and pool ensure we’re out like a light, and after a night with the windows shut we can see why one reviewer had a problem with the condensation.
“Descent down to the lake is a stunning sight”
Other little aspects let things down. However, with a new carpet, chairs and tables, the dining room would be outstanding. An ice machine would be a bonus, as would a mini fridge in the room, and slippers/robes.
The descent down to the lake for more photos is a stunning sight. Especially as we catch it on a crisp, sun-kissed morning. The staff do a good job, and it’s a big improvement over the last Lakes hotel we stayed in where my own front door key could open theirs.
I’m guessing despite that gobsmacking view, the 1900 property has taken a step into 2017, but could do with an extra push to feel more ’today’ without compromising its history. The drive home takes a mere 150 minutes instead of 300 on the way there. The fact I get the weekend break blues half way back is testament to how much I enjoyed it.
The Beech Hill Hotel & Spa, Newby Bridge Road, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 3LR
Prices at Beech Hill Hotel & Spa start from £143 a room (based on two people sharing) for Dinner, Bed & Breakfast
0844 502 7587