Travel review: Laura Ashley The Belsfield Hotel, Bowness-on-Windermere
A trip to the Lake District is like stepping into the pages of a classic novel set hundreds of years ago.
The winding roads flanked by dry stone walls wind their way around the lakes, through valleys and hills eventually leading us up a hill to Laura Ashley The Belsfield Hotel at Bowness on Windermere.
It was a much-needed escape to the country and a very luxurious one at that.
The building is gorgeously grand and a stunning example of Victorian Italiante architecture overlooking Lake Windermere. It was built in 1845 as a private residence for the Baroness Von Sternberg and the house was acquired by the steel magnate Henry Schnieder in 1869 and converted to a hotel in 1892. It was also extended to provide additional bedrooms shortly before the First World War. Corus Hotels manage The Belsfield but the interior is lovingly put together by Laura Ashley featuring wallpaper, sofas, chairs, lighting, tables and canvases.
The colours of the fabrics are soft with creams, duck egg blue, pink and lemon creating a calmness to the rooms. The lighting is glamorous with lots of chandeliers in the lounge and restaurant.
It’s classy and beautiful and complements the lakeside setting perfectly.
We enjoyed a warm welcome as we entered the glamorous glass reception and were shown to our room.
Wow. We were really spoiled as we had the treat of a suite overlooking the lake.
The sitting area was spacious with a plush sofa, coffee table and cosy armchair along with a little table and two chairs positioned to overlook the stunning view.
There was also a TV and an area to make drinks along with a fridge and local sweets and biscuits.
The bedroom was rather grand with a huge bed and beautiful headboard, large wardrobe and dressing table and a view, again out on to the lake. The bathroom was clean and tidy, and, you guessed it, that lake view and a real plus point in the autumn chill, our toes were kept very toasty with the underfloor heating. It was the perfect setting to unwind and relax for the weekend.
After a long day of travelling up north we were happy to be dining at one of the restaurants at the hotel. Our day had been busy with a visit to Keswick (approx 20 miles north) to the Derwent Pencil Museum and Puzzling Place along with a wander round the town and a quick stop off in Grasmere to buy some of the much-loved gingerbread.
The Brasserie is a laid-back dining experience. The informal setting overlooks the garden terrace with the lake beyond. The furniture and decor is a bold red mixed with wooden floors and coffee colour walls, sleek and simple.
The food offers a great range of nibbles, starters, mains and desserts. We picked adventurous dishes to start; for my husband the chorizo and parmesan croquette, tomato and red onion salsa, garlic dip and I decided to sample the twice-baked Lancashire cheese soufflé, cheese fondue and beetroot relish.
Both were a big hit with gorgeous flavours and the soufflé in particular with a lighter-than-air fluffy consistency offset by the earthy beetroot flavour.
The mains were Cumbrian chicken schnitzel, with lemon and parsley butter, tomato and basil salad and also the smoked haddock and chive fishcake, with samphire, tomato and caper salsa. The husband devoured his commenting on the fresh flavour of tomato and basil coupled with the the tender and refreshing zest of the chicken.
My fishcake was tasty and the samphire a delicate taste but I was a little overpowered by the amount of salt. It was a little too much for my tastebuds but I should have considered this looking at the ingredients of the dish!
After a restful sleep in the big and comfy bed we had a filling breakfast with a choice of toast, cereals, fruits, pastries or cooked, all served at the buffet with lots of options to fuel you for the day ahead.
Another day of exploring followed including Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top, and a leisurely mooch around Ambleside and Bowness. Had the weather been better we may have got our walking boots on and ventured up one of the mountains.
We were booked into the two AA Rosette restaurant for five courses of fine dining for the second evening. We sat overlooking the lake and enjoyed the quiet and tranquil setting as we absorbed a view of the lake glistening in the moonlight. The food was beautifully presented with inventive combinations full of exciting flavours.
We had burrata and regato cheese, honey figs, heritage tomatoes with basil followed by cod, baby fennel, sea salt potatoes, sweetcorn and chorizo and finished with the sticky toffee pudding, banana purée, honeycomb, clotted cream ice cream. Yum. The staff were smily and helpful too.
We thoroughly enjoyed the exquisite meal and relaxed in the lounge with a glass of wine after dinner.
It’s such a beautiful hotel in amazing surroundings and well worth a treat for that super, special occasion.