“ Windermere / Cumbria / England / LA23 1LP „
I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at the Low Wood Hotel in Windermere as part of a conference funded by a pharmaceutical company. It is part of the English Lakes Hotels chain. Despite not having the opportunity during my stay to explore the Lake District, the setting of the Low Wood Hotel makes it an ideal base from which to investigate the sights of the Lake District. The hotel is easy to find and is perched within metres of the banks of Lake Windermere which provides some beautiful scenic views all year round. When I visited in November, the weather was cool to say the least but the mist on the lake and the hazy skies still made it a beautiful setting to relax and get to grips with the latest advancements in cancer treatment. From the outside, the building has a quaint British feel to it. It isn't small by any means but the white frontage with flags on display and ivy climbing the walls gives the hotel a very patriotic feel.
Inside, the reception area gave a taster of what to expect from the hotel. With marble floors and a large mahogany reception desk, the Low Wood exudes grandeur and sophistication. Check-in was a relatively quick process which was particularly impressive considering the number of guests in our party who were all checking in at once. On the ground floor, there are also plenty of nooks and crannies where guests can relax with a coffee and a newspaper, or something with a bit more kick if required. The sofas and chairs spotted around were large and comfortable and the large open fires gave the place a homely and relaxed feel. In the lounge areas, the decorations were more contemporary and rural than the classy reception and it was a lovely environment to relax and catch some of the breathtaking lake views.
When it came to the room, it would seem I definitely drew the short straw. Whilst I was lucky enough to stay at the Low Wood Hotel for free, if you're paying, I would strongly advise refusing a night in room 4. It might not have been quite on a par with Stephen King's room 1408 but it wasn't far off. My room was perhaps the smallest in the hotel and despite boasting a very comfortable double bed, bedside tables, wardrobe and desk, there was little room to swing a cat in. The bathroom was even more compact and my desire for a long hot bath accompanied by a glass of wine quickly dissolved when I discovered the bath was not even full size and would have required me contorting my body in some sort of concertina motion simply to fit in. But perhaps the biggest disappointment of all was the noise I was forced to endure during the night. Living in a town centre and being partial to sleeping with my windows open, I am quite tolerant of sirens, loud drunks, traffic and so on and can sleep through the nigh chorus of Burnley uninterrupted. However, during my stay in the Lake District which I expected to be calm, tranquil and relaxed, it was the incessant sound of high heels on the marble floor below me that almost drove me to insanity.
When I went for breakfast the next morning, one of the waiters asked me if I had slept well. The resounding no as I shot him a look that could kill promptly put a smile on his face. Before I took a swing for him, he quickly announced that I must have been sleeping in room 4. So this is a room that's reputation extends amongst all of the staff at the hotel and since a stay at the Low Wood Hotel doesn't come cheap, take heed and politely decline even if this is the only room available. I did sneak a peek in the rooms of some of my colleagues after they left my room laughing. Roll top baths and sprawling bedrooms seemed to be a common feature for the other guests of the hotel. There was clearly a vast difference between the cupboard under the stairs that had been transformed into room 4 and the other rooms in the hotel.
Now if you're planning a weekend at the Low Wood Hotel, food and drink are likely to come high up on the agenda. And since all my meals were inclusive during my stay, I ensured I sampled as many of the dishes as possible, solely for the purposes of this review of course. We were treated to a number of three course meals over the weekend and I have to say the food was fantastic. The service was perhaps a little over enthusiastic with my full soup bowl being whisked away from under my nose whilst I stopped to answer an engrossing question about prosthetic breasts or something similar. I can whole heartedly recommend the sticky toffee pudding which is a specialty of the hotel and was sublime. If you're particularly bowled over by this light and sumptuous dessert, there is a book in each of the bedrooms which gives the history of the hotel as well as the family recipe for the pudding. I did write it down but have yet to attempt to recreate it at home. The bar was also well stocked with an extensive range of wines and spirits. The house wine was very quaffable but at just shy of £5 a glass, my intake for the evening was restricted.
Just as an aside for anyone considering using the Low Wood Hotel's conference facilities, I was rather impressed with the room we used as well as the service we received. The only drawback was the group of young Christians who were having a gathering next door and proceeded to talk in tongues very loudly whilst our group was discussing the finer points of metastatic disease. But the endless stream of complimentary coffees, elderflower cordials and homemade biscuits made up for that.
On the whole, I was impressed with the hotel and I think it was pure bad luck that meant I was unfortunate enough to stay in the worst room. The setting was perfect for exploring the Lakes, the views of Windermere were stunning and the hotel was relaxed and comfortable but still exuded an air of opulence and sophistication. As I've mentioned, my stay was free, but a quick nosey on the English Lakes Hotels webpage at www.elh.co.uk shows a few offers the chain is currently promoting. A midweek stay for one night including a 3 course meal in the evening costs £109 each for two sharing. For those of you whose budget is more on a par with mine, the website is also running a promotion where they will be offering 100 rooms a month for £10 each, details of which can be found here http://www.elh.co.uk/10/index.aspx. At £109 per person, I would purely reserve this hotel for a very special occasion but if you manage to snaffle a room at £10 for the night, then the Low Wood Hotel should provide a relaxing break from the daily stresses of city life.
Also fetaures a leisure club and watersports centre on the shores of Lake Windermere.