A long soak in the roll-top bath in The Cottage in the Wood's attic room, staring through the skylight at the blue Cumbrian sky, is the perfect antidote to a long day's hike on the fells.
Discerning hill walkers and cyclists who know their food will be delighted to hear that this award-winning restaurant with rooms, set in a former 17th-century coaching inn in the Whinlatter forest near Keswick, has just reopened after a two-month refurbishment by owners Liam and Kath Berney.
It now has a new residents' lounge and refreshed styling. But the star of this show is dinner, a seasonal, local choice served in the conservatory restaurant with fine views of Skiddaw, the favourite peak of writer and illustrator Alfred Wainwright. The entertainment comes courtesy of woodpeckers, red squirrels and the other residents of the surrounding forest.
The nine refurbished bedrooms have retained their rural charm with an earthy backdrop of neutral tones and judicious use of floral accents in the drapes and cushions. There are three room types to choose from: the smaller Cottage rooms are a bit of a squeeze, while the Attic and two Mountain View rooms are majestic. Bathrooms have had a similarly chic makeover, bolstered by new power showers and whirlpool baths. The residents' lounge has been opened up, with deep sofas set around a welcoming new fire.
The food and drink
The conservatory restaurant, overseen by Liam, formerly of the Savoy, London, is light and spacious and serves a seasonal British menu with a continental twist, using plenty of local Cumbrian ingredients. The menu, £28-per-head plus wine, might include loin of fell-bred lamb in a merlot gravy and deliciously rich celeriac gratin, or grilled Scottish scallops, with red pepper chutney and Cumbrian chorizo. Liam also offers a handy take-out lunch if you're off for a day-long walk, and there's a good selection of single malts to warm you up on your return.
The rooms offer Freeview televisions and DVD/CD players, plus Wi-Fi access is available in the lounge for those who can't face the isolation. But, primarily, The Cottage in the Wood is a place to disconnect from the digital world and head outside to work up an appetite for the hotel's evening fare. The Berneys are always on hand to recommend local walks and wildlife spots – the Whinlatter Forest is a good spot for rambles, while the heights of Catbells (451m/1,480ft) offer more of a challenge, and Buttermere Lake is close.
The restaurant is accessible by wheelchair. Guests with limited mobility will struggle with the steep stairs and tight corridors. Children are welcome.
Cottage rooms with double or twin beds costs from £96 per night with breakfast. Attic and mountain-view rooms with whirlpool or roll-top baths are available from £130 per night. The hotel is offering a special deal of two nights' dinner, bed and breakfast from £145 per person, based on two sharing, until 28 March.
The Cottage in the Wood, Magic Hill, Whinlatter Forest, Braithwaite, Nr Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5TW (01687 78409; cottageinthewood.co.uk).
Jamie Merrill travelled to the Lake District courtesy of Virgin Trains (0845 722 2333; virgintrains.co.uk), which offers advance single tickets from London Euston to Penrith from £28.