“ Great Langdale / Ambleside (Nr) / Cumbria / LA22 9JD / England. „
A month or so ago I decided that hubby and I needed some serious rest and relaxation, so I browsed the Internet to see if anything took my fancy. I came across a Spa deal at the Langdale Hotel and Country Club near Ambleside (39 miles from us), and thought that this sounded like just the thing I was after. The website I have to say is excellent, and if you do decide ever to visit then certainly check it out, there are photos (although saying that they can make it look a bit better than it is!) of everything - rooms, spa, restaurant. Plus it is regularly updated.
Having consulted with hubby (he wasn't particularly keen I have to say) and informing him that it was great value at just £250 for the both of us, he begrudgingly agreed to it.
This review is a lengthy one - it is essentially three reviews in one - the hotel, Purdey's restaurant, and the spa. I hope it will give you a complete feel of the experience!
£250 might sound like a lot for a night and a day away for two, but I thought that it sounded like a pretty good deal - I had chosen the Relaxation Spa package, described on the website as "a great way to switch off & chill out when time is limited, guaranteeing the long-lasting benefits of a Langdale signature treatment." There are various other packages available, so check out the website - http://www.langdale.co.uk/spa/spabreaks.htm
The package included a £27.50 allocation per person towards dinner in Purdey's Restaurant. This sounds very generous (more generous than it actually is), a full English breakfast, and a 'light lunch' in the Terrace bar. Of course there's the night in the hotel, in a signature room (you can see 360degree pictures of the various types of room on the website), and the day at the spa. This includes use of the swimming pool (and steam room, Jacuzzi etc), use of a fairly decent sized gym (we looked but didn't use), mountain bike hire and tennis if you so desire, plus one of a choice of treatments.
There are optional extras when booking, and I ordered a £37 bottle of Champagne for the room (not sure what I was thinking, dreaming of romance I suppose!), but these are paid for when the bill is settled at the end of your stay.
I booked the relaxation package online, and a £50 deposit was taken from my card. 10 minutes later I received a phonecall (which I really wasn't expecting) asking me which spa treatment my husband and myself would be requiring. It put me on the spot a bit as I hadn't actually thought about it or discussed with hubby. I asked for a full body massage at 11am for both of us as it was the first thing which came off the top of my head. Thankfully in retrospect I think it was the right choice!
Then 5 minutes later I received a phonecall from the hotel asking me what time we wanted dinner, and whether we were staying on the Sunday night (before the spa day) or the Monday night (after the spa day) - good that you have the choice, but I thought it made more sense to have the night away before the day in the spa, and that way we'd only need the Monday off work! At this point the hotel wanted to take the remaining £200 payment, which was fine. However it was all a bit weird having paid £50 only minutes before, surely one transaction would just be easier?
The hotel it seems was very efficient (too efficient/desperate) with the booking, and as well as a confirmation email, I received a receipt for payment through the post the next day. Personally though I found it all a bit much, I would have preferred the correspondence to be done via email, rather than being called while I was at work (while my work phone was ringing in the background) and being put on the spot. It wasn't really a particularly relaxing booking experience!
---Where is it?---
The Langdale hotel is near Ambleside, we came through Keswick and Grasmere to get there. Full directions can be found on the website (we did manage to take a wrong turning thanks to sat Nav woman). It's a lovely area, but be careful on the roads as they're full of people walking along, not in single file, and not facing oncoming traffic (idiotic if you ask me). Very dangerous, I really have no idea what these people are thinking - perhaps they believe they're invincible, but they need to have some common sense.
A lot of people have timeshares at the Langdale which I can understand due to its fantastic location, especially for those who enjoy walking!
Check in is from 3pm. We arrived at about 4pm. I had to sign a form, and for the card keys (one each, and they also activate the lights in the room). Hubby ordered a paper for the morning (which arrived while we were out at breakfast - would have been better before). The receptionist (foreign as most of the staff there were, as is usual at these places) was friendly, and showed us on a map how we could find our room.
I have to say we weren't very impressed with this. I know it was raining and miserable outside, but someone could have shown us where the room was, I don't think I'd ever have found it (terrible navigation skills) without hubby, and we took a detour up and down stairs to get to it (it was on the ground floor).
It reminded me of being on holiday (well, I suppose technically we were!) getting to the room, as rather than being one big hotel with rooms it was apartments. To get to our room there was a main door, then a corridor leading to our door. The outside of the building was lovely with pretty flowers cascading down the walls.
Unfortunately when in our room we could hear the guests in adjoining rooms opening and closing doors and talking, plus when they closed their door it made it feel like someone was trying to get into ours. This wasn't a big problem, but I imagine it could be annoying if you're staying for a while.
The décor of the room was lovely, quite masculine with dark blues, very tasteful though. The 28 inch flat screen TV was hidden behind a cupboard which was very smart. Unfortunately the TV only had 10 channels, which is a lot less than we're used to at home!
Not a great deal of wardrobe space, but fine for a short stay. Hubby made use of the iron, and the tea/coffee making facilities (I just ate the complimentary biscuits) but he thought the coffee was vile. There was the usual desk and drawers (we noted that there was no hotel stationary which is unusual), hairdryer, and a chair.
The bed was extremely comfortable, and big, with lots of pillows and cushions. For some reason though it was two singles pushed together and we could feel the gap between.
The bathroom had a bath and a lovely big shower (which you turn on from outside the bathroom before you go in, so it heats up), and of course sink and toilet. Soaps and shampoo/conditioners to take home, and adequate towels but other than that no real excitement. I was a bit miffed that there were no glasses (they can normally be found in bathrooms), as I like a glass of water by my bed, so had to use a mug.
On our beds were two bathrobes. I assumed that these were for use in the bedrooms, as there was a note saying that we'd be charged £15 if we took them from the room (they weren't even particularly nice and fluffy). It turns out that we were meant to take them to the spa with us even after we'd checked out - but more about that when I talk about the spa!
As I said earlier, I ordered Champagne for our room which was waiting for us in a bucket of iced water. We had this a couple of hours after checking in (lovely and cold), and although expensive at £37, it was lovely Champagne!
We headed to the bar about half an hour before dinner and both had pints of lager (unfortunately no cider on tap for me). We charged them to the room, and shockingly a pint cost over £4 - I dread to think what everything else cost! They also have a bar menu, which is quite pricy. Incidentally, for those who want to eat elsewhere (not here or the restaurant), there is a pub called "Wainwright's Inn" which is a short walk from the hotel, not that I can say how good that is having not been!
The bar area is nice with comfy seats, and there's an undercover area outside for when the weather's nice, or for those who smoke. The outside area is nice as there's a waterwheel and waterfall, it's all very relaxing.
Hubby and I had high hopes for our meal at Purdey's - restaurants with an AA rosette are normally of a good quality. I had looked at the menu on the website and thought it sounded very good, albeit a bit expensive. Interestingly, when I booked the hotel, the menu was different from what it was when we went (they had updated it on the website). The previous menu I'm sure was slightly cheaper. Unless you especially choose the cheapest options you won't even get the starter and main for the £27.50 allocation which we got with our package, let alone dessert and wine! Personally I'd prefer a meal with a set number of courses for a set price.
Our table was booked for 8pm, and we arrived at about then, with our drinks from the bar next door. Service from the outset was not good and we had to make our own way to a table. Our water glasses were filled up and then they removed the jug - they didn't come back with more water for the duration of our meal.
They brought us for small bread rolls between the two of us, and as they were all different we cut them in halves. The bread was all lovely.
However, I was slightly disappointed as it seems quite usual (well from my limited experience anyway) that you get some sort of pre-starter in a place where you're spending this kind of money on your food - generally something that the chef is testing out. However, there was nothing like that here.
I chose the "Apricot Stuffed Saddle of Rabbit" served with Scottish Girolles (aka mushrooms) and Sherry Vinegar Jus for a whopping £9.50 (most expensive starter). I don't get the chance to eat rabbit much, and find that sometimes it tastes a bit 'dirty'. However, this was quite possibly the nicest rabbit that I've had, and I was very impressed.
Hubby on the other hand went for the "Free Range Chicken, Woodhall's Cured Ham & Tarragon Ballotine" with plum chutney at a more reasonable £6.50 (the cheapest), which he enjoyed.
I had the "Roast Breast and Poached Leg of Goosnargh Chicken" with Wild Mushroom and Baby Onion Fricassee (£18.50). Hubby chose the "Line-caught Halibut" with spring onion mashed potatoes and lobster tortellini (since he loves lobster) at £19.50. Mains ranged from £15.50 (for the one vegetarian option) to £26 for the beef.
My chicken had a fantastic flavour which went well with the mushroom and onion. I think there was some sorted of small potato like thing, but on the whole there wasn't really much veg. To be honest I could have done with a little bit more on the vegetable side! Hubby's halibut also had a fantastic flavour, but the lobster tortellini was horrible and salty when it really shouldn't have been - hubby was convinced it was frozen stuff they'd defrosted.
Not once during our meal did a waiter ask us if our food was ok, which I don't think is a sign of good service. When they came to clear our plates hubby asked the waitress if she could ask the chef where the seafood had been sourced from (the halibut because it was so nice, and the lobster because it was so bad). I don't think she understood, and thought we meant what sauce was the fish in. Anyway, the head waiter came over and gave hubby some story about the lobster being from a loch, and the halibut coming from the North Atlantic, but he wasn't sure.
All desserts are £7.50 so at least that's simple. Without hesitation I went for the "Tasting of Chocolate" - Milk Chocolate and Tonka Bean Mousse, White chocolate parfait, ice cream, dark chocolate and peanut truffle. It was all nice enough except the chocolate and peanut truffle which was absolutely vile - I don't know what the chef was thinking to put salted peanuts and dark chocolate together! Although I ate most of my dessert it certainly wasn't worth the price tag. Hubby had the Vanilla Pannacotta with strawberry presse and almond biscuit which was nice, but £3.50 would have been a more appropriate price for both desserts.
Wine ranged from £15.95 a bottle up to about £40 (wine menu on website), and we chose an English White (Chapel Down Bacchus) at £21.95 just because it sounded a bit different having an English wine. It's rare that we go for white wine with dinner, and it had a lovely flavour. A bit much though that the waiters didn't come to fill up our glasses. A bit of an oversight on their part really as we might have had more to drink if they'd done this!
We also had a nice half bottle of Australian dessert wine (hubby seems quite partial to this) for £11.50 (there were two other more expensive ones).
---More about the Service---
It was really difficult to attract the attention of the waiting staff, and they seemed to spend the time a long way away from the tables talking to each other. People who had arrived after us ended up being served before us.
We sat around after our desserts waiting for them to come and offer coffee, but they never came. After about 10 minutes we just got up and walked out. It wasn't like we were doing a runner since we were staying in the hotel, and we only went back to the bar to get another pint. Half an hour later the waitress came out to the pub with the bill for us to sign.
The service in the restaurant was a big let down, and they certainly didn't deserve a tip, so they didn't get one!
The layout of the restaurant itself was fine, and there was nice classical music playing in the background which helped with the atmosphere.
It was mainly couples eating in the restaurant, and no children. However there is quite a limited children's menu (£8.95 for three courses).
I'm not sure if the restaurant itself has toilets, I think you're meant to use the ones through Hobson's Bar, and they are fine as far as toilets go!
On the whole although the food was mainly very nice, I certainly wouldn't recommend this restaurant due to the prices and the poor service. However, if you've purchased a spa package as we did then it does really make sense to eat there. Perhaps best just to have a main course and soft drink and save your money and find a dessert somewhere else!
We went for breakfast at around 8:30am (think breakfast was from 8-10am), and were shown to a seat. The waitress offered us tea/coffee and toast. Hubby enjoyed his coffee, and said it was much better than the horrible stuff in the room.
There was a menu on the table and things could be ordered from the kitchen - various fish dishes (kippers, haddock, salmon etc) which were available for an additional charge. You could also order poached or boiled eggs. It was a bit strange that the waitress didn't ask us if we wanted anything (especially the things they could have charged us for), my guess is that the kitchen staff couldn't be bothered to cook anything.
There was a nice hot selection with food of good quality - bacon, sausages (lovely), hash browns, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, black pudding and fried eggs on fried bread. Only slight issue was that they had run out of eggs and we had to wait 5 minutes (while our food went cold) - again it was just an example of not particularly good service. Plus there was no scrambled egg when it said on the menu that there would be in the selection.
Various fruit juices on tap. The cold selection of food consisted of cereals, yoghurts, pastries, muffins and cereal bars. I had a croissant and hubby had a pastry which were ok, but not particularly fresh. I fancied a muffin, but they had run out of chocolate ones which was a shame as they looked lovely. Despite a few minor niggles, overall I enjoyed breakfast and it set us up for the day.
Check out time is 10:30am. We checked out following breakfast. It was all a bit confusing really with not knowing what to do since we were then going to the spa, but the receptionist told us we should check out then. We settled the bill (£108, which was basically the drinks and part of the meal), and asked what we did next. The receptionist was assuming we'd been before, which of course we hadn't. In fact all of the staff seemed to assume we knew what we were doing which was not helpful at all. Anyway, she directed us down a corridor.
---Arrival at the Spa---
It was just before 9:30am that we arrived at the spa, and from the outset we didn't have a clue what we were doing. We asked at the main desk and they directed us upstairs as they thought we were just wanting the spa treatments. Upstairs there was no one around, but eventually we found the treatments room, but of course they didn't know what we were doing there as we weren't having our massages until 11am. They directed us back downstairs.
Anyway, there were two men on reception and we told them we were on the relaxation day and were giving towels, flip flops, locker keys (as a wrist strap) and paper wrist bands for lunch. When I then asked about bathrobes we were told we were meant to bring the ones from the hotel room. I explained that there was nothing telling us to do that, and he told us to go back and get them. Obviously as I explained we couldn't do this as we'd already checked out.
It took about 10 minutes for the man to get us bathrobes, apparently some sort of admin error. But I was left feeling really stupid when we hadn't actually done anything wrong, it was the hotel and spa's bad organisation. So, by the time we got the bathrobes hubby and I had pretty high stress levels - hardly a relaxation day!
The women's changing room was clean and spacious, plenty of showers and cubicles. I had a bit of trouble finding my locker as my key had two numbers on it. Anyway, having changed I put my clothes in it and went out wearing bathrobe and flip flops which I mainly left on one of the loungers by the pool.
Jacuzzi - First things first (well, after a shower) hubby and I were in the Jacuzzi which seats 10 (most we had in were 4 of us). Press the button and then the bubbles go on for 10 minutes. Then there is a break for 7 minutes while it can't be used. This can be a bit annoying if you want to use it after someone else has! Anyway, our first time in the Jacuzzi definitely started to relax us!
Steam Room - A pretty normal steam room, with colour changing lights on the ceiling. They advise 10 minutes in it at a time which is what we did. Could perhaps have had some relaxing music in there. Hubby loves steam rooms, I have to say I get a bit bored of sitting and sweating!
The Sanarium - This is like a sauna but not as hot. We only went in this once as they ran out of towels outside the Sanarium (and you have to sit/lie on towels). I wasn't very impressed, it felt like sunbathing except without the sun. I quite like the intensity of a proper sauna, and this just didn't deliver.
Showers - Deluge Shower - A bucket fills up with cold water (they say icy cold, but I wouldn't go that far), and you pull the lever emptying it on yourself. Quite fun after the steam room.
Tropical Shower - delivers either tropical or cold water.
Swimming pool - The 20 metre pool is 1.2 metres deep with a lane cordoned off for people doing lengths. Kept at a warm temperature, but can feel cold after the Jacuzzi!
It is important to note that those under 15 are not allowed to use anything except the swimming pool. I think the main reason is so that they don't get in the way. There were quite a few children in the pool.
We spent until 10:40am using the facilities and then showered and dried off before our treatments. We came back after that to use the facilities again for an hour or so before lunch. I know we were entitled to spend the whole day there, but I felt we would have got bored, there are only so many times you can go in and out of a steam room!
We were early and sat outside the spa treatment room in our bathrobes on a sofa. One of the workers came out with a medical questionnaire for us to fill in, and then we were ready to go in. Hubby was taken away by one attractive woman, and me by another!
I was pretty nervous having never had anything like this before, plus I'm not really a fan of being touched, and I'm quite self-conscious especially since I'm overweight. However, the masseuse reassured me. She gave me a few minutes to take clothes off (except swimming costume bottoms - I was wearing a tankini) and get onto the massage table with my head through a hole, and covered with sheets.
The massage (which would cost £50 to purchase separately) lasted 55 minutes, and it was absolutely wonderful. She started with the back on my left leg, then worked her way up, and then over onto the other side doing the front of my legs and feet, arms and hands and neck/shoulders. A nice warm aromatherapy oil was used. She occasionally asked if the pressure was too much (it wasn't, although there were a few points where it was slightly uncomfortable - but they soon passed), and I occasionally made conversation. But it was just generally a lovely experience, and the muzak playing in the background helped as well.
After the time (it went too quickly!) I was given time to get dressed and some cream to put on. Then outside for a glass of water before going back to the pool area!
They do loads of different treatments including ones specifically for pregnant women, and ones specifically for men. A full list and prices can be found here - http://www.langdale.co.uk/pdf/health_beauty_brochure.pdf
---The Terrace Bar---
After we'd finished using the facilities we dressed and headed up for lunch. We could have gone in our robes, we had decided to head off afterwards.
We were given menus and told we could choose something from it. It wasn't really very clear what we were entitled to, but I actually think you could choose anything. I chose a rib eye steak in a bun, and hubby went for crayfish sandwiches. Our diet cokes were also included (first drink apparently), but we had to pay for a side order of chips and subsequent drinks.
My steak bun was huge, and absolutely lovely although a bit chewy. It was rare without me asking for it rare (but that's fine), and the onion marmalade divine! Thankfully the horseradish was separate so I didn't have to eat it. The chips were lovely and crunchy.
Although the food was good, it was a bit confusing knowing what we were entitled to, and what we were meant to do with the paper wristbands - they didn't seem to want them handed in, so I don't know what there would have been to stop us giving them to someone else.
Although long, I hope you've got a feel for the whole experience of the relaxation package. It was certainly a nice break - the hotel room was lovely and food was good. The massage was absolutely wonderful (and something I would certainly have done again!), and the facilities were ok (nothing spectacular though, there are far better spas). However, really the general service let things down a lot, and for this reason I can only give it 3 out of 5 stars.
I don't think hubby and I would go back again, but we'll certainly bear in mind another spa break (somewhere else) in the future.
For full prices and further details for the Langdale visit www.langdale.co.uk - as I've said it is an excellent website.
This review will be appearing in due course on Ciao with pictures.