Castle Inn Hotel, Lake District – Review
By Barney Bardsley
I have had a somewhat distorted view of the Lake District until now. After one dismal childhood holiday near Windermere – where the heavens open the minute we arrive, and stay that way until the moment we leave, and we do nothing for two weeks but huddle for shelter in narrow shop doorways, next to crowds of disconsolate cagoules housing even more miserable and soaking walkers – I am convinced that this part of the country was simply grey, wet and sorrowful. I am quite wrong.
My recent trip to the Northern Lakes, close to the Scottish borders, is blessed with clear skies, peaceful walks and cheerful punters at every turn. Finally laying to rest that childhood aberration. The destination for this trip is Bassenthwaite, the only true lake in the region (the others being “waters” and “tarns” and the like.) More specifically, I am headed for the Castle Inn Hotel, a big and friendly former coaching inn, dating from the 1700s. It is now converted into a three-part contemporary building, linking together the former inn, the old house, and a new “executive suite”. The latter designed in a split-level, Swiss Chalet style – all soft wood and large, light-filled windows. Very comfortable and pleasing (there is a pool and a gym too, for the athletic).
“Expansive and enjoyable”
The Castle Inn Hotel is family-friendly, relaxing and spacious. Its staff, most of them local, seemed proud of their domain. Most importantly, they are generous with their help and their smiles. It seems like a happy place to work as well as stay. The rooms are comfortable and clean. The dining room, housed in a large conservatory which opens out on to a lovely garden, makes eating an expansive and enjoyable prospect.
The evening meals are all reasonably priced, at £25 for three courses. But the piece de resistance is definitely the breakfast menu. Fruit, pastries, and a “Full Cumbrian” is on offer, as well as eggs benedict or a giddy kipper. Tea and coffee on tap. All delicious. Then a sit in a comfy chair by the garden window to read your morning paper. Most civilised.
Bassenthwaite Lake itself is a little drive away from the hotel. Although tucked between two roaring main roads, it is a particularly secretive and secluded stretch of water. Trees hide it right up to the water’s edge and it is famous for its wildlife and its contemplative mood. This is not one of the resort lakes, where people sail and motor noisily around,. It’s a place to sit, to walk, to meditate. It is a real beauty.
Meanwhile, should you head off south west, you can enjoy the bucolic charms of the Ravenglass and Eskdale narrow gauge railway; or east to Ullswater, with its steam boats and dark, dark depths. Then back to Bassenthwaite for quiet restoration. And the promise of a fabulous breakfast in the morning.