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Swan off to The Swan
Macdonald Swan Hotel (Grasmere)
Member Name: SWSt
Macdonald Swan Hotel (Grasmere)
Advantages: Gorgeous but convenient location, fantastic views from the room,
Disadvantages: Traffic may bother some, rigid check in times, surcharge for credit cards, expensive,
On the way back from a recent holiday in Scotland, we decided to treat ourselves by staying overnight in the Lakes to break the journey. Having spent a night at the start of the holiday in Ullswater, this time we decided to stay at another MacDonald Hotel - The Swan in Grasmere.
The Swan Hotel is very easy to get to. It stands on the main road connecting Keswick, Grasmere and Ambleside, just outside Grasmere Village. As such, it is perfect for using as a base for accessing virtually any part of the Lake District. Alternatively, it's a gentle five minute stroll into Grasmere itself - the perfect location for whatever you want to do. Better still, although it's at the side of a main road, it is surrounded by gorgeous views - something I'll return to in a minute.
What's nice about the MacDonald hotels is that, although they are part of a chain - so you can expect a certain level of quality - each of their hotels are also different and individual. The Swan is a lovely old building and much of its character has been preserved. It feels very much like an old coaching lodge (I suspect that's exactly what it used to be) and stepping inside you get a wonderful feeling of going back in time and leaving the hustle and bustle of the 21st century behind you. Dark wood panelling and beams all around contributes to this "olde worlde" feel Comfortable, roomy and slightly dark (but in a pleasant, rather than a gloomy sense), it is immediately welcoming.
This initial welcoming feeling is confirmed by the staff who are equally friendly, polite and efficient. We had pre-booked our room on the internet, so that check-in took just a few minutes. A couple of signatures and (the painful bit) handing over the card to pay, and that was it, we were done.
One thing to bear in mind with checking in, though is that you can't do it until 3pm - later than many hotels. And it appears that this time is very strictly adhered to at the Swan. We arrived at the hotel around at around 2.45pm, but still had to wait until three for our room, because they hadn't yet finished cleaning that section. It's worth bearing in mind when planning your day so that you don't' arrive too early and have to hang around.
Of course, because of its location, the Swan is not cheap. Although it offers a perfect base from which to explore the Lakes, it's unlikely you'll be able to afford to stay there too long. The tariff for room only is £86 per night (I did say we decided to treat ourselves!). You also need to be aware that, like all MacDonald Hotels, there is also a £2 surcharge if you decide to pay by credit card.
We didn't dine at the hotel at all, so I can't comment on the quality of the food. However, like the room itself, it probably wasn't cheap. If we had decided we wanted breakfast after all, this would have cost £14.95 per person, so goodness knows how much a proper evening meal would set you back. Thankfully, there is an excellent pub - The Traveller's Rest - less than five minutes walk up the road which serves superb food and also sells real ale. Personally, I would recommend going there for food, rather than paying through the nose at The Swan.
The room itself was excellent. It was a very light, pleasant room which offered some stunning views of some of the hills around Grasmere. We actually got very lucky, because we got a corner room - meaning that we had windows on both sides, effectively giving us two different views of the hills. The views actually differ quite considerably, depending on the aspect of the room, but I would imagine pretty much every room in the hotel would offer wonderful views.
Although the room we had faced out onto the main road (which is quite busy), there was no real disturbance from the cars going past, as the room was fitted with really efficient double glazing. In fact, even with the window open, the traffic was not an issue, as the hotel is slightly set back from the road and it could not really be heard.
The room was a good size and very well laid out to make the most of the space. It had all the usual furniture you would expect to find in a hotel room, together with an en-suite bathroom. It was also very well equipped in terms of extras - a TV (although it only received 4 channels) and coffee and tea making facilities (with plenty of supplies, rather than the usual couple of sachets). There were a couple of surprises though. In the wardrobe, there was a shoe shine kit, ironing board and iron - not the sort of thing you often find in most hotels!
The bathroom was one of the few aspects which let the room down. It was only very sparsely furnished and used a rather unpleasant beige colour for both the flooring (linoleum, rather than carpet) and the tiles. It was a bit like taking a bath in a room decorated using ear wax!
In common with hotel rooms the world over, the room was incredibly hot - even turning the radiator down, you still felt like you were sitting in tropical climes. Personally, I always hate this and open the windows to get some fresh air through; otherwise I find them very stifling.
Interestingly, at the start of this holiday, we stayed at the Leeming House Hotel on the banks of Ullswater. Although that was more expensive hotel (£107 per night) and a four star hotel (The Swan is three), I actually preferred The Swan. It's clear that with Leeming House, you are paying for its location, right on the banks of the lake and set in its own grounds. However, this is really only an advantage if you get nice weather to make the most of them (we didn't). The room and the hotel itself, although nice enough weren't as pleasant as The Swan. If I'm ever again in a position to treat myself to a hotel room in The Lakes, I would probably The Swan over Leeming House every time.
Macdonald Swan Hotel
Tel: 0844 879 9120
© Copyright SWSt 2008
Summary: A great place to go to treat yourself or a loved one!
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