Globe-trotting, city slicker Rachel Stansfield is thrilled to take on the challenge of a staycation in the Lake District.
In an age of low-cost airlines and budget breaks, it’s little surprise that most of us turn our attention overseas when planning the next holiday. Yours truly is no exception, regularly spending hours online searching for flights to far-flung destinations.
But a conscious decision was made recently to visit places much closer to home. It started last year in Bath, continued with trips to Oxford and Cambridge, and this summer the latest in a line of staycations saw a return to the Lake District after a 20-year hiatus.
What could I remember of those early day trips? Not much I realised, as the train pulled into Windermere and we walked the windy road into the town itself, stopping for lunch and obligatory cream tea at Wild & Co – a pleasantly rustic cafe with a sign welcoming muddy dogs and wellingtons. Or was it muddy wellingtons? One got the feeling either was acceptable.
Venturing further and the lake could finally be seen. Now the memories started flooding back. The feeling of nostalgia was almost tangible, passing the cafes, ice cream shops and car ferry. And the views of course. Now there’s something you never forget.
But a trip to Windermere wasn’t the only thing on the agenda this time around. Next stop was The Wild Boar, a luxury four-star inn situated a 10-minute taxi ride from Bowness.
Ten minutes and a world away, as one left the tourist trap for a venue that felt far more exclusive.
The traditional tavern – which takes its name from the local legend of Sir Richard de Gilpin, who is said to have fought and killed a ferocious wild boar on the site – is set in the Gilpin Valley and boasts acres of private woodland and walking trails.
While the setting may be rugged, the rooms are anything but. Thirty-three bedrooms on site offer classic luxury, with 17 suites boasting features from log burning stoves to copper baths and canopy beds.
After a day spent battling the elements – it may be summer, but as always the English weather was anything but predictable – it was with great pleasure that we removed boots and raincoats in the Spotted Swine Suite. I do hope it was assigned before we checked in...
The room was classically elegant yet comfortable, with a dressing area, coffee table and king-sized bed, complete with optional soft or hard pillows. A nice touch.
As was the heated floor in the bathroom, which made stepping out from the waterfall shower far more bearable. A couple of broken toiletry bottles and temperamental tap aside, this was everything you’d hope for from a country abode.
Suitably relaxed and refreshed, it was time to head downstairs to sample the Grill & Steakhouse.
At 5ft 11ins without heels, caution was taken when manoeuvring around the aged establishment, but the ducking and diving proved worth it when the meal arrived.
As a self-confessed foodie, the place was a haven. A starter of scallops eased me in nicely for the show stopping Chateaubriand, cooked to perfection (by which I mean rare and barely cooked at all) and carved at the table, accompanied by mushrooms, triple cooked chips and a surprisingly impressive ratatouille.
The evening was finished off nicely with gin cocktails and whisky in the neighbouring bar. A note for those who enjoy drinking the ‘water of life’: The Wild Boar has more than 100 whiskies on offer and plays host to monthly tastings and a yearly festival. I’m not a fan myself, but Laurent Perrier events, which also take place on site, would pull me back time and time again.
Fast forward through a great night’s sleep, and breakfast brought with it more treats, namely a hefty portion of smoked salmon – smoked on site at the establishment’s own smoke house. At first sight it may not look too impressive, but listen to how head chef Marc Sanders uses it to conjure up many a speciality, and you realise what a treat it is.
Refuelled and ready to go, a walk around the grounds was next on the agenda. On a relaxing break we chose not to partake in clay pigeon shooting or archery, though both were on offer. The walk was impressive enough, striding through fields of bluebells while looking out for wild deer. Sounds magical? It really was.
Back at the ranch, and there was one more treat in store – just what the man of the house had been waiting for. If having a top-quality restaurant, smoke house and masters of malt whisky events wasn’t enough, The Wild Boar also boasts its own microbrewery, producing a number of house beers served exclusively at English Lakes hotels.
The demand for these hops is high, but manager Adam Bujok – a wonderful host it must be said – insists that the product stays exclusively in house. And who can blame him? When you have something so good, you want to keep it for yourself. And those lucky enough to pay a visit, of course.