Stay the night: Haweswater Hotel, Cumbria
These days, this hotel in the Lakes is well received. But that wasn't always the case, says Mark Rowe
Sunday 19 December 2010
In the ever-busy Lake District, a hotel in a lonely valley, on a dead-end road to nowhere, is a rare thing.
Yet, the Haweswater Hotel is one such property, standing on the lakeside road on the east side of Haweswater, a flooded valley that is now a reservoir for the North-west's drinking water.
The hotel was built in 1939 by Manchester Corporation – go to the first floor staircase to see the original window with its logo – by way of compensation for the forced removal of the villagers of Mardale Green when the valley of Mardale was flooded. The villagers were less than appreciative of this gesture.
The original hotel was built in homage to Art Deco, introducing an unlikely slice of 1930s' Chicago or Shanghai to the Lakes, though its fortunes have waned more than waxed over the intervening years. A £1m refurbishment, which finished last summer, has given back to the building much of the design, flair and spirit of those times.
The renovation uncovered a wonderful wooden floor in the lobby, hidden under carpets for decades, imprinted with abstract geometric Art Deco patterns. A lobby lounge with comfortable sofas overlooks the lake through original wrought-iron latticed windows, and Art Deco lamps and polished classic radios abound. Heavily varnished wooden stairs lead to the rooms, while ground-floor walls are hung with pictures of Haweswater through the years, including one of the villagers of Mardale Green outside their doomed Dun Bull pub.
Twenty-one renovated rooms are spread across two floors. The five suites are on the first floor – "suites" is a slightly generous term as the rooms qualify for this moniker by dint of having an L-shape design rather than offering generous space. They also lack a mini-bar. That said, they are Art Deco in spirit and design, with the original latticed windows, heavy, deep-red counterpanes and matching curtains, coloured wall lamps and roll-top glass lights in the bathrooms, which are fitted with moody dark tiles. Rooms at the front, some with balconies, have wonderful lake views. Those at the back peer into dense woodland. All have flat-screen televisions, and the suites have whirlpool baths.
The food and drink
The superb restaurant – Le Mardale – overlooks the lake and offers half a dozen choices, typically displaying inventive variations on duck (with beetroot rosti and rhubarb and port sauce) or sea bass (with mint-pea risotto), along with a classic steak. Desserts are superb – after a 10-mile walk I wanted to try them all, but settled on sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and local ice cream. The global wine list is priced from £9 to £30 a bottle. There's also a VIP list of fine wines – if your winning lottery ticket's come up you could plump for the £1,300 Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1983. One request: could you extend your evening opening hours please? Last orders of 8.15pm is a little early should one wish to make the most of those whirlpool baths after a long day on the hills. Across the lobby, the more utilitarian Hikers Bar offers smart sandwiches and Solway Firth potted shrimps from £6. You can buy good bottled real ale here, along with two house wines by the glass. Dinner costs around £40 per person for three courses, including drinks.
Unassuming Haweswater competes with the Lakes' honeypot areas when it comes to glorious walking. The 2.5 miles to Mardale Head can be walked either on the road or along the shoreline path, while the hills of Harter Fell, Riggindale, and Mardale Common, are tough but exhilarating challenges. During times of drought, such as last summer, the ruins of Mardale Green can emerge. The vibrant market town of Penrith is eight miles away.
Babies allowed, but not children under 15. One room, located at the side of the hotel, has been tailored for people with limited mobility, with a walk-in shower and ramp access.
B&B from £35 to £185 per room.
Haweswater Hotel, Lakeside Road, Bampton, Penrith, Cumbria CA10 2RP (01931 713235; haweswaterhotel.com).
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