The Lake District – Staying in Grasmere


Back in October my boyfriend and I found ourselves hurtling up the M1 in a hired Audi A1 for a sassy little staycation in the Lake District.

Our housemate Fiona nearly lost the plot when she heard about our plans to spend 4 days in Grasmere, Windermere & Ambleside; having spent many a childhood summer in and around the Lakes she was full of the good feels for that part of the world. So much so, she sent me a full list of things to do and places to go as well as a requesting, erm actually – demanding we bring her some Fudge back. Alright Fi calm down! We’ll get you some fudge ya Lake loving Northerner!!

Another not so enthusiastic pal of mine asked me if I had suddenly got married, turned 40 and popped out a brood of kids. A question, I’ll be honest, I did have to ask myself…

…Like, yeah sure the Lake District is beautiful and everything but girl you only 27 – shouldn’t you be hot footing it over to Berlin to party hard at the Berghain?

Well yeah maybe but my bank balance didn’t agree so a staycation in the Lakes seemed like the next best option. So off we toddled through the wind & rain and along windy, flooded roads to Grasmere for 3 laaaaverly relaxing nights.

The Hotel

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We stayed at the Red Lion which is a Best Western hotel and was great value for money (£225 for 3 nights through booking.com – not to shabby eh?). Plus thanks to a recent refurb, it was looking fresh to death. And not only was it cosy, comfy and clean it was decked out in all the Christmas trimmings giving it a properly festive feel which I was all game for!!

Check in was very quick & easy and soon we were in the lift on our way up to the second floor – unfortunately the lift sounded like it was being pulled up through a waterfall (not a reassuring sound at all) and was subsequently out of service when we went to use it 15minutes later to head back down and explore more of the hotel digs.

Of course, being hot young things, we were fine to use the stairs and actually opted to do this for the rest of our stay even when the lift was back in order. In YOUR face national obesity stats.

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Our room was a standard double (I think?) but the bed was HUGE and I fell arse over tit in love with it. It was so big that I could lie any which way across it and my feet weren’t off the end! And we could both starfish across it and not touch. Which is ideal for me, I like my own space in bed, the spooning sort I am not. GET BACK ON YOUR SIDE is more my bedside manner. I’ve even been known to build pillow / duvet barriers to keep the boyf from disturbing my side with his furnace of a body. Don’t I sound like a dream girlfriend?

Anyway, as for the rest of the room, it was just dreamy. I was a big fan of the little entrance area where you could strip off your muddy, wet clothes (more on that in another post) without traipsing it into the room. It made it feel like an actual little home and with the fire too I was just about ready to move in for good.

I’d say the only minor down points about the room were:

No bath – I had visions of me lazing around in a free-standing, bubble-filled bath but alas there was only a (very powerful & hot) double shower (one of those big square overhead ones and a smaller, hand-held on on the wall). Of course we could have upgraded to have a room with a bath but I forgot & then it didn’t seem so vital.

The heating – The room was absolutely roasting when we arrived which was great as I hate nothing more than being cold but this was a bit OTT. In fact the whole hotel is boiling, they certainly aren’t scared to crank up the thermostat. So don’t worry about wrapping up indoors!

Oh and the wifi wasn’t brilliant BUT another plus point is  they do allow pets to stay. Yay for four-legged pals!

Other than that the room was perfect and couldn’t really be faulted.

As for the rest of the hotel…

We had breakfast in the hotel every morning and although my feller wasn’t overly impressed with the full english (I thought it was alright, he’s just massively fussy about quality of food) the continental was great – giant fresh croissants, loads of different cereals to choose from, fruit, yoghurt, toast, ham and cheese, the lot! We definitely didn’t go hungry.

We didn’t eat at any of the other restaurants in the hotel (the Lamb’s Inn, The Glasshouse, the Easedale bar & lounge) – having read some less than glittering reviews on the food we just decided to give elsewhere a go first as we weren’t there for long.

We also didn’t really use the lounge area or conservatory but both looked really cosy and the former had books, magazines & games left around to entertain you.

One facility we did use was the swimming pool, despite having forgotten our swimwear, (just FYI there was no skinny dipping!! I wore my blokes boxers and a vest top which was hilarious & hideous all at the same time.) It did seem like the pool area hadn’t, had the face-lift the rest of the hotel had recently had but it was fun to sit in the (not overly warm) jacuzzi whilst the rain pelted the glass roof. #thisisliving

I would definitely recommend a stay at the Red Lion. It’s comfy and fantastic value & I can’t imagine you would need much more from a hotel. The rooms are lovely and the tiny town of Grasmere is a beaut!

Check out the website HERE.

The Food

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With breakfast included in our hotel booking we ate there every morning but lunch & dinner were enjoyed in and around the Lakes. I thought that on the whole the food in the Lake District was was pretty damn good!

Our first meal was an evening one and as we’d arrived in Grasemere in total darkness, after a precarious drive along almost totally submerged roads (oh look Nicky – I reckon this is one of the Lakes we’re driving through! I didn’t realise the roads went through them. LOL.) we didn’t fancy venturing too far so sprinted with hoods up from our hotel, around the corner to to the Dove Bistro at the Wordsworth hotel.

The Dove Bistro is the more informal restaurant at the Wordsworth, they also have a much posher one called The Signature just in case you were wondering?! Oh and William Wordsworth lived in Grasmere hence the hotel name.

We actually called The Dove in advance to reserve a table but on a wet Sunday in October at around 8pm the restaurant was almost empty – there were, however, a few people watching the football in the bar part of the Bistro.

We naturally went the whole hog and ordered starters, mains & desserts.

I kicked things off with macaroni & cheese, swoon! Which was green but I can’t remember why? It was, however, the perfect starter. And the boyfriend had peas pudding and ham hock – much to my dad’s delight (I sent him a picture) as he’s always trying to ram peas pudding down our throats, being from the North East ‘n all – seriously northerners love it, whereas I’m not even sure what it is?!

For mains I had lamb cutlets and pea risotto and my guy had the biggest hunk of braised beef I’ve seen, honestly it was a tower of meat and Nicky was over-the-fricken-moon with it. It also came with mash & some greens.

We rounded things up with a cheese board for me and a sticky toffee pudder for Nicky.

It was a really amazing start, food wise and we contemplated going back a few nights later as it was reasonably priced too but there are so many other places to try we decided variety was the spice.

Definitely a good place to check out though, if you’re staying in and around Grasmere.

The Wordsworth / Dove Bistro website: here.

The next day after breakfast, a bit of a palaver with the car (I’ll explain later) and a big walk around beautiful lake Grasmere we drove into Windermere where we stopped for a hot chocolate & cake before driving onto Watermill pub for lunch.

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Our hot chocolates came from the Homeground Cafe and I wished we’d stayed & eaten there as it looked lovely (properly organic & homely and fresh) they also had a nice fire but the place had a fairly modern feel to it and I was desperate for a proper cosy pub with a fire and ales and all that Lake District jazz I’d heard so much about, so we left in search of the Watermill.

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…which was a proper old English pub, with a fire (albeit only in one room) and it was on a river which would have been really pretty had it been warm enough to sit outside.

As for the food – I ordered a chicken & brie bap and it was pretty underwhelming which was shame. The bun was a little stale and it didn’t really hit the spot in my opinion. Therefore I wouldn’t say it’s worth the drive just to eat.

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Buuuuut they have loads of home-made ales available so if you fancy trying some local booze it’s probably a good starter. And it is a really nice classic English pub.

Homeground Cafe website HERE.

Watermill pub website HERE.

For dinner that night we headed to another hotel in Grasmere, the Dale Lodge which is attached to a pub called Tweedies. We chose to eat in Tweedies as opposed the posher Lodge restaurant. (we ain’t fancy!)

Once again we had no problem getting a table however there were a few more bodies than in the Dove and lots of (what I assume) were locals in the bar area catching the football.

It’s a pretty large pub / restaurant and the whole place is covered in beer mats from around the world – which I was like, woah ma gad, so impressive. I mean, it’s quite amazing just quite how many varieties there are!

Of course we ordered starters & mains once more (duhhh what else is a holiday for other than eating) and I had chicken liver parfait and the boyfriend had soup of the day. Both really delicious.

For mains I went for the – Udale Himalayan Salt Ageing Chamber Ribeye Steak – swits swoo!!! and Nicky had faggots which is just SO unlike him because I was almost positive he didn’t even know what faggots are – but not only did he order it, he really enjoyed it too. At which point I nearly fell off my chair because he is the worst for trying new food.

IMG_20151116_205505As for my steak, it was nice…if a liddle bit like nah mate, can you stop being so fast & loose with the oil, my steak is swimming in it. It was nicely cooked though – a very pleasant medium / rate.

I would recommend Tweedies for food, I can imagine it’s a really nice place to go in the summer too (they even have a beer festival there in September) and they often have live bands perform too so it’s probably a right old ball on a Saturday night.

After dinner we had a couple drinks in the bar which hit me like a sledgehammer and my reasoning for this to Nicky was…THE ALTITUDE.

Oh you know, because we were obvs so damn high like when you’re skiing in the mountains and you get pissed really quickly.

*face palm* when I thought about it and realised we were basically below sea level.

OH HAZZA YOU IDIOT.

Anyway -dinner was great and we stumbled back to the hotel very full and sleepy (at about 10pm woo, wild!).

The Dale Lodge & Tweedies website HERE.

On the final morning in the Lakes we once again awoke & ate breakfast in the hotel (might have gone up to the buffet 4 or 5 times – hey, everyone else was doing it!) before driving over to Hawkshead / Tarn Hows to get lost in the countryside and walk in the pissing rain for a couple of hours. IT WAS SUPER FUN. (no, it really was!)

When we finally made it back we headed into the Queen’s Head Pub which is another perfectly quaint English pub.

They had prosecco on tap (Yalla!) which I ordered as a congrats for making it back from the walk alive.

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To eat; I had an old favourite of mine, the Ploughman’s. But this wasn’t just any old ploughman’s, oh no. This was pretty much the best ploughman’s I’ve ever seen / eaten in my life.

FIVE different cheeses, a pork pie, sliced apple, a dollop of coleslaw, bits of bread, slices of ham, some pickles & gherkins AND a hard-boiled egg.

I mean, it was probably something you’re meant to share between at least two people but whatevs, I ate it all by myself. YOLO.

Nicky enjoyed one of the Queen’s Head’s stone-baked pizzas which I also had a slice of despite having a meal for five in front of me. YOLO x2.

It was Really great food, a really great pub, and just a really nice afternoon! You can even stay at the Queen’s Head too if you fancied.

I would definitely pay it a visit if you can!

Queen’s Head Website: here.

Later that night after chilling out at the hotel and going for swim in my boyfriend’s undies (Lols) we decided to venture out in the wind & rain one more time, for dinner at the Swan.

We decided to walk instead of drive and it was a pretty creepy stroll along the dark country lanes, in fact we ran most of the way home because I was all ohmygod what if we get murdered by some weird countryside stalker. (I very much doubt that would have happened).

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The Swan was another hotel with a fairly fancy restaurant, that was completely empty when we went. Which made for kind of an awkward dinner as the waitress only had us to serve so she was just hanging around in the background all the time and it was just a bit like erm can she hear everything we’re saying or nah?

We sat right in front of an open fire though which was nice and cosy.

We started with some bread and oil with balsamic vinegar and unfortunately had to sacrifice a few chunks of bread to actually get to the balsamic. For some reason they’d decided to give us almost a pint glass of oil with a tiny dash of balsamic at the bottom.

We did ask for them to change it for bit less oil which they did but it was now a half pint with balsamic in it. And what do you know bread dunked in that much oil isn’t all the yum you’d think it would be.

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For mains I had a pie which I’d been hankering for since arriving in the Lake District. You know a big home-made number with steak & ale or chicken & leek – a proper country pie. Which is just what I got.

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Nicky had a burger and wasn’t overly impressed with it – I think it looked better than it tasted. Bit of a shame on the last night.

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Although we had a couple of mishaps at the Swan, I wouldn’t totally rule it, I reckon it might have been an off night because there was literally no-one in the restaurant. And it also looks like it’s a really lovely place to visit in the summer / daylight to sit outside on the river.

The Swan Hotel website: HERE.

Transport

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To get the the Lakes we decided to hire some wheels. We found this was the easiest option for us as otherwise it would have involved a lot of public transport and sometimes (even though it can be slightly more relaxing to just chill out on a train) it’s just more hassle & more expensive than it’s worth.

We booked a ‘small’ car from Sixt and it cost us something like £78 for the 4 days. My boyfriend picked it up and I was pretty impressed when he rolled back in the above Audi A1!

My only MAJOR tip for hiring a car is to check the bastard thing PROPERLY.

I assumed my normally, conscientious feller would have done this but somehow he missed a massive fucking dent above the left wheel arch which sent us both into melt-down on Monday morning when we spotted it from the window of our hotel room.

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^^^ Squint & you can see the dent! Woo.

AND OF COURSE we’d only gotten the 3rd party insurance too which meant if we were responsible for the dent we were going have to pay a hell of a lot for it to be fixed. (yay to an £1000 excess! FFS.)

Lots of phone calls to both our Dad’s as well as one to the AA man and a garage to see if someone could come out and fix it (luckily they couldn’t) and a whole three days of talking about whether it was already there or not was just a little bit of a downer on the trip.

So yeah it was basically a fucking palaver and in the end it turned out the dent was already there.

LOL. or NAAAT.

So yeah, my advice is check the car, take pictures of every inch of it and probably just get the fully comp insurance because you never know what might happen.

I’ll be chatting about things to do in and around the Lakes my next post so make sure y’all come back for a read soon.

Thanks for reading!

Harry x

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