With arguably the best views in the Lake District, here's why you should be adding Storrs Hall to your itinerary...
For a Lake District newbie, making my first trip Storrs Hall – nestled on the picturesque southern shore of Lake Windermere – was something of a rookie move, since its location is pretty much unrivalled. A Grade II listed building built on England’s largest lake, Storrs Hall is five minutes from tourist honeypot Bowness-on-Windermere – full of lively cafes, restaurants and activities – and 15 minutes from the bigger town of Ambleside. Arriving there involves driving down what’s locally known as ‘Millionnaire’s Mile’ – a long, wide road full of eye-wateringly expensive, lavish riverside properties – with Storrs Hall tucked away neatly at the end.
The hotel is independently owned and run by Mark Hindle, who took over the hotel from his father last year and already has “an exciting programme of investment” planned (we’re told it’s likely to include a swimming pool and spa, Babington House-style). Not that you’d envisage it needing any changes. Its outstanding location – the hotel’s impressive lawns run right down to the lake itself – immediately transports you into holiday mode thanks to the quiet clanging of boat sails and the gentle lapping of water on the lake’s edge. Blissful.
The main hotel has a distinctly old country feel with high ceilings, stained glass windows and elegant furnishings. There’s a games room and a bar, with a more formal dining room and conservatory looking out onto the spectacular views. There are 34 bedrooms in total, but it’s the six new contemporary lakeside suites – found a few minutes walk from the main building – that we’re here to see (they’re all named after birds like Mallard, Swan and Kingfisher – we found ourselves in ‘Turn’). For a more private stay, there’s a secluded boathouse on the lake itself that sleeps two (guests can use the hotel’s facilities but enjoy some time off-grid alone). While we’re there, we’re told the hotel’s very own boat has just got its license to take guests on day trips, too – the hotel has its own jetty for this purpose.
The lakeside suites are impressive, with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors which open out onto your own private terrace, each with its own hot tub and outdoor seating area. Four have views onto the hotel gardens (there’s 17 acres of grounds), surrounding greenery and lake – a truly magical view to wake up to. The whole experience feels so green, spacious and completely plugged into nature, it’s almost as if you’re in a tree-house, (albeit at ground level).
As you might imagine, it’s really all about the views but suites are designed tastefully inside, in neutral colours with all the mod cons you’d expect. Picture huge, sumptuous beds and unobtrusive built-in televisions (in both the suite and the bathroom – perfect for a Netflix binge in the freestanding bath), electric fireplaces and Nespresso machines. But it’s the tiny things that set special hotels apart, I always think. Like sweet treats to arrive to (jelly beans in this case, which I’ve since developed a penchant for…). And plenty of plug sockets (how irritating is it when you have to move bedside tables or unplug lamps to charge your phone?) soft-closing doors and air-con that isn’t so loud you can’t sleep while it’s on.
In the morning we opted for breakfast on our terrace instead of the main restaurant. Room service is available in all rooms but the hamper breakfast is limited to suites and the boathouse (although those with limited mobility can make additional requests). It arrived in a heaving hamper, exquisitely packed full of delicious items we’d ordered the night before (pastries, toast, juices, coffees and of course, a full English made with locally-sourced produce). It was a real highlight, and we even had guests – a team of ducks, intrigued by our breakfast (who wouldn’t be?) waddled over to join us.
The lunch menu is simple and unfussy (sandwiches, soups and burgers) but the restaurant has been awarded two AA Rosettes for its food, so it’s worth booking in for dinner. Since only a select number of tables face out onto the lake by the restaurant’s huge windows, try requesting a specific table or eat early if you can. Food is fresh, seasonal and locally-sourced (fish comes from nearby Morecambe Bay and the lamb is of course, Cumbrian) and the staff are exceptionally helpful and knowledgeable – about everything from the food itself to local attractions, and even the paintings on the wall. At a time when the hospitality sector has been so badly hit, it was a real pleasure to see how well somewhere like Storrs Hall has bounced back, and how much staff know and truly care about the hotel, its surroundings and guests.
Good to know:
If you have time, it’s also worth visiting The Yan at Broadrayne, a family-run boutique hotel and restaurant in Grasmere. The views are other-worldly (eat outdoors if the weather allows). We had the world’s tastiest shepherd’s pie – think generous chunks of soft lamb, cheesy mash and a crispy bacon topping (as mouth-watering as it sounds). Fans of strong coffee and sweet treats should also head to Yard 46 in nearby Kendal on a day-trip (the carrot cake is so good it should be illegal).
For more information on Storrs Hall visit www.storrshall.com. Lakeside Suites cost from £560 per night including in-room treats and breakfast (two of the suites have mobility access).