The Lake District is well known for its historic association with fine English literature, but gets a free pass for having also inspired some of the country’s worst poetry, such as Gotta Love Dem Daffodils by Adam Glick, who visited last year, and Somewhere Around Here Is My Heart I Guess by Pauline Marr, an HR assistant from Bristol.
But whatever your talent for cobbling together a sonnet, this wet, wet province up north is without a doubt the country’s best and most evocative bit: rugged mountains, weird little stone walls, and lakes so beautiful that coachloads of Chinese tourists travel halfway around the world just to see them. At one point we saw a lone Spitfire flying low over the mirror-still waters of Lake Windermere, and for a moment I felt proud to be British. Which was odd, because I’m not British.
The hotel: You’re going to want to stay somewhere befitting of these grand surroundings, and nowhere else has the distinguished air and quiet dignity of the historic Storrs Hall, a Grade II listed country house built in 1790 and converted to an invite-only hotel in 1889 (though anybody is welcome to stay now). During the golden age of the house it entertained such luminaries as Beatrix Potter – back then very much the Lady Gaga of the Lake District – as well as everyone’s favourite describer of flowers, William Wordsworth. The hotel is right on the shores of Lake Windermere and set in 17 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, from the manicured lawn that runs from the water’s edge right up to the restaurant, to the tranquil surrounding woodlands that hide the Temple of Heroes, which sounds like a Zelda dungeon.
Things to do: Bowness-on-Windermere is a village that banks hard on the fact that Beatrix Potter once wrote about a cartoon rabbit here. You’ll find lagomorphic tat sold on every street corner, as well as a garden museum and exhibition dedicated to her work, called The World of Beatrix Potter. If Peter Rabbit isn’t your “deal”, then grab an all-day ferry pass and take a hike instead. We boated over to Far Sawrey on the lake’s western coast, before walking a few hours north to Wray Castle, a National Trust site overlooking the water. National Trust, by the way, has the Lake District tied up; it owns a quarter of the land. Try find a single Georgian boathouse or stone turret without their logo on it. You can’t.
The food: The refined Lake Edge restaurant at Storrs Hall is a destination for local foodies. It’s led by head chef Paul Nicholson, who works with local suppliers to source produce from around the Lake District. There’s a full vegetarian menu with a banging garlic gnocchi, and wine pairings to enjoy as the sun drops below the horizon. Then retire to an armchair by the log fire in the cosy Tower Bar after dinner for a whiskey nightcap.
Ask about: For a more secluded stay, couples can book into the Boathouse, a private lodge in the woods with panoramic views over Lake Windermere, as well as a fire pit, a hot tub and a personal steam room. Nine additional lodges line the shores, ideal for wedding guests.