“ Address: Lancaster Road / Carnforth LA5 9LD / Lancashire „
The County Hotel is situated in Carnforth, a north Lancashire market town just off junction 35 of the M6, probably most famous for its railway station, which was the setting for the classic film, Brief Encounter. This wasn't our reason for going there, however. Originally we had intended to book a hotel in the heart of the Lake District, but it proved tricky to find what we wanted at the price we wanted, it being quite short notice and the Lakes being extremely popular at this time of year. So we decided to look for accommodation within easy reach of the Lakes.
After a day spent in the Lakes, it took us about 45 minutes to drive from Ambleside to the County Hotel for our Saturday night stopover. We planned to spend Sunday in the North Yorkshire Dales as it only takes half an hour or so to drive to North Yorkshire from the hotel. So, the hotel is quite conveniently situated for a weekend break combining the Lakes with North Yorkshire. (It is also within easy reach of Morecambe Bay, Lancaster and the Forest of Bowland.)
My first impressions of the County Hotel were of a reasonably attractive, half-timbered building with colourful hanging baskets. The external paintwork was looking a little bit shabby, but all in all it looked quite pleasant and welcoming. There was a wedding party going on when we arrived, and my heart sunk a bit as I feared that we might be in for quite a noisy night. However, fortunately we discovered that our rooms were in a separate building to the pub/restaurant. The hotel has 12 rooms, all en suite.
Because we had already had our evening meal, we did not need to eat at the hotel, but it is handy to know that this option is available should you require it. The restaurant/bar serves food from 12 noon to 9 p.m. on Monday to Saturday and 12 noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday. From what I could see there appeared to be typical pub favourites (scampi, steak & kidney pie, etc.) and carvery meals with children's options. The bar seemed to be a popular place as it was busy. The bar has Sky HD and 3D and there is a beer garden area that looked quite appealing on a warm night. If it hadn't been so busy with the wedding guests, I would have liked to sit there with a cool drink.
Check in was efficient and the staff friendly. Despite the pub being busy and the wedding being on, I didn't get the feeling that the staff were not giving us their full attention. We were pleasantly surprised by our family suite which was absolutely huge. The main room had a double bed with an extra single bed plus a cot, and there was a separate room with twin beds. It was great to have such spacious accommodation instead of feeling cooped up together.
Considering that the annex bore the somewhat romantic name of the Poachers Lodge, I would have expected to have seen a little more rustic character in the room, but there was nothing out of the ordinary about the décor. This didn't bother us much though as we had all we needed - colour TV, hairdryer, tea and coffee making facilities, a selection of magazines, etc. and we were perfectly comfortable. The room had a small flat screen TV which worked fine which meant we were able to watch the Eurovision Song Contest (whether that's an advantage or disadvantage is perhaps a matter of opinion.)
There was the usual selection of tea, coffee and hot chocolate in the room and a somewhat spluttering kettle that didn't pour brilliantly, but I was pleased to see an impressive choice of biscuits, not just a stingy 2-pack of shortbread fingers but bourbons, ginger snaps and fruit shorties too.
I have had some bad experiences with hotel showers but couldn't fault this one. It was very easy to adjust the speed and temperature without one of those 'Oh my GOD!!!!' moments when the water goes freezing cold and you are desperately twiddling the dial and getting nowhere, your teeth chattering. It wasn't the sort of bathroom that makes you go 'Wow' because of its chic design but it was clean - no hairs in the sink, no flushing issues with the toilet, enough towels and a selection of shower gels and shampoo/conditioner that may have looked boring but actually made my skin and hair feel rather nice.
The bed had a firm but comfy mattress, plenty of pillows and the sheets felt very soft and silky against my skin. I wasn't aware of any wedding noise or pub bustle at all and slept really well.
Breakfast was served in the lounge, an attractive room with stylish leather chairs, some interesting abstract mirrors on the wall and a nice Tiffany lamp near our table. We received friendly service and were shown to our table promptly and invited to help ourselves to fruit juice, cereal, yoghurt and fresh fruit selection. Compared to other hotels, the breakfast spread was modest, but I was pleased to see a good choice of cereals ranging from the healthy (All Bran) to the more sugary (Frosties). Our orders were taken for tea and coffee and cooked breakfast. My husband opted for the full English breakfast priced at £10.95. Other options included Grilled Kippers and Tomatoes for £8.95 and poached eggs, scrambled eggs or beans on toast for £8.95.
While the rooms were reasonably priced, the food is definitely overpriced. I must admit to thinking £8.95 for a breakfast where the only hot food is beans on toast is an obscene price, but this was the only thing my daughter wanted. She said it was nice, but it ought to have been at that price. I had poached eggs on toast, which was fine. I was pleased to have a mixture of brown and white toast. If I was being fussy I would have liked my poached eggs to be a little runnier, but they were by no means rubbery and uneatable.
I was a little disappointed that there was no vegetarian version of the full English breakfast. In this day and age it is relatively easy to get hold of vegetarian sausages and cook up a few hash browns, so I don't see why that couldn't have been included. A continental breakfast is also available for £7.95.
Our room was situated up a flight of stairs and therefore would not be suitable for guests with mobility problems. However, the hotel does have a twin room which has disabled access and is suitable for wheelchair users.
All in all, we enjoyed our overnight stay at the County Hotel, although we did feel that having to pay extra for breakfast made it a little expensive. The family suite, which can comfortably sleep 5 plus a baby, cost £85.00. Other rooms cost from £55 to £65. In retrospect, we wished we had booked directly instead of online through Booking.com as we could have saved £20 per room.
I still prefer a hotel in the heart of the scenic Lakes, but would definitely consider using this hotel again if, for instance, we wanted to break our journey to or from Scotland. It had a nice atmosphere and we found our stay relaxing and welcoming.