In Beatrix Potter’s footsteps: Inside a lovely Lake District hotel on the shore of lake


Grandfather clocks, ornate picture frames, gently creaking floorboards, beautiful antique furniture, head-turning oil paintings and beguiling busts.

The interior of four-star Grade II-listed Storrs Hall hotel is eye-catchingly elegant and an enchantingly relaxing environment.

What propels the Georgian property into the super league for tranquil escapes is the exquisite ‘pinch me’ location – the shoreline of England’s largest lake, Windermere, which lies in the south-east corner of the extraordinarily alluring Unesco-listed Lake District National Park.

Storrs Hall sits on a prime elevated plot, with epic lawns running from the main building down to the water’s edge and pathways winding through clusters of lush lakeside woodland.

I journey there with my partner and five-year-old daughter from our London home via an Avanti high-speed train service from Euston to Oxenholme Lake District and a trundle from there on a local service along a single-track branch line to Windermere.

Ted Thornhill checks into Grade II-listed Storrs Hall hotel in the Lake District (above), the interior of which he describes as 'eye-catchingly elegant and enchantingly relaxing'

Ted Thornhill checks into Grade II-listed Storrs Hall hotel in the Lake District (above), the interior of which he describes as ‘eye-catchingly elegant and enchantingly relaxing’

Storrs Hall sits on a prime elevated plot, with epic lawns running from the main building down to the Windermere shore

Storrs Hall sits on a prime elevated plot, with epic lawns running from the main building down to the Windermere shore

Then it’s a three-mile trip south on a No.6 bus, which off-loads us by the side of a pathless busy A-road 200 metres from the entrance of the hotel. Which makes for a slightly hair-raising arrival.

I palpably feel my pulse slowing as we enter the grounds.

However, once we ensconce ourselves on the terrace at the back it speeds up rapidly when my daughter insists I leave the coffee I’m enjoying with mum and race her to the shoreline – and back. Over and over again.

The outdoor pleasures continue without pause.

In the hotel grounds we discover a rope swing on a hidden beach and investigate the ‘Temple of Heroes’, an ornamental octagonal building that stands at the end of a small causeway and offers spectacular views of the lake and its lumpy surroundings.

The temple was dedicated to Britain’s 18th-century naval heroes and constructed by the man who built Storrs Hall in 1790, Yorkshire landowner Sir John Legard.

We also enjoy a visit arranged for guests by the hotel of a bird expert, who introduces us on the lawn to a barn owl, peregrine falcon and a mighty golden eagle. We’re told that golden eagles have no fear of humans, with the ornithologist revealing that he must ‘stare him out’ to maintain dominance.

My daughter is a bit unnerved by the eagle, but friendly hound Dusty, a valued member of the SUP Watersports Lake District team that visits for a complimentary guest paddle-boarding session is a huge hit.

(In fact, after the trip, she declares that playing with Dusty is the top holiday highlight.)

In the hotel grounds Ted and his family discover a rope swing on a hidden beach and investigate the ‘Temple of Heroes’ (on the left), an ornamental octagonal building that stands at the end of a small causeway and offers spectacular views of the lake and its lumpy surroundings

In the hotel grounds Ted and his family discover a rope swing on a hidden beach and investigate the ‘Temple of Heroes’ (on the left), an ornamental octagonal building that stands at the end of a small causeway and offers spectacular views of the lake and its lumpy surroundings

Ted's nicely presented ham hock, served on the terrace

Ted’s nicely presented ham hock, served on the terrace

Instructor Calum guides my partner for a gentle paddle around the calm waters by the hotel, with my daughter joining in afterwards, kneeling down on the board as curious geese and swans look on.

All three of us take to the water on a delightful boat trip with Windermere Lake Cruises from Bowness-on-Windermere, two miles north, to charming Ambleside.

Here we gaze upon fairytale Bridge House, an impossibly cute and curious 17th-century building that stands over a river called Stock Beck. Then it’s lunch at Tacos del Sol, a tiny eatery that offers astonishingly good Mexican street food. Frequent customers include the kitchen team from nearby Michelin-star restaurant The Old Stamp House – the best restaurant in the world, according to Tripadvisor.

From Ambleside it’s north on the 599 bus to idyllic Grasmere village, which shares its name with the adjacent lake.

Here we wander past poet William Wordsworth’s grave – he lived in Grasmere, at Dove Cottage, and wrote some of his greatest poems there – stroll along the river and the little one has dollops of fun in a playground backdropped by dramatic mountains.

Dreamy: The picture above shows one of the bedrooms at Storrs Hall hotel. Ted's room is a family set-up with a sofa bed for his daughter

Dreamy: The picture above shows one of the bedrooms at Storrs Hall hotel. Ted’s room is a family set-up with a sofa bed for his daughter

Guest perk: Ted's partner and daughter enjoy a complimentary paddle-boarding session on Windermere

Guest perk: Ted’s partner and daughter enjoy a complimentary paddle-boarding session on Windermere

Historical: Storrs Hall hotel was built in 1790 by Yorkshire landowner Sir John Legard

Historical: Storrs Hall hotel was built in 1790 by Yorkshire landowner Sir John Legard

Ted and his family head north to Grasmere, above. There they enjoy tea and ice cream at the waterside Faeryland Grasmere café, which offers dreamy views across the lake

Ted and his family head north to Grasmere, above. There they enjoy tea and ice cream at the waterside Faeryland Grasmere café, which offers dreamy views across the lake

The Bridge House in Ambleside, above, is a captivating highlight of Ted's Cumbrian odyssey

The Bridge House in Ambleside, above, is a captivating highlight of Ted’s Cumbrian odyssey

The day ends with tea and ice cream at the waterside Faeryland Grasmere café, which offers dreamy views across lake Grasmere. Is there a café anywhere in Christendom with a more bucolic setting? I very much doubt it.

The café was once frequented by Henry, who died in 2022 aged 57 as Britain’s oldest swan.

A blue plaque at the cafe dedicated to the bird describes him as a ‘hardcore legend’. One of the café staff members elaborates on this, saying that he was much loved, but a bit of a nuisance, with a habit of stealing food and fronting up to pet dogs.

Storrs Hall serves as a superb base for these lake-themed forays.

On the outside it’s grand-looking but slightly shabby in places – not surprising given the Lakeland weather it has to endure – with a decorator there during our stay touching up the masonry.

But inside, as mentioned, it’s a timeless joy.

Step across the threshold and one follows in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter – who lived on the opposite shore and attended several parties at the property in the 19th century when it was a private house – and Wordsworth, who was a guest at a Storrs Hall regatta bash in 1825.

Our room is gigantic, with a plush king-sized bed, comfy sofa bed for the little one and a bathroom with a tub big enough for a small regatta of its own, and a walk-in rain shower with dual showers. Other mod cons include a flatscreen TV and a Dualit coffee machine.

Our quarters have elegance, too, thanks to an antique desk and drawers and luxuriously thick curtains. 

Sadly, though, there’s no lake view – our vista contains the car park, a kaleidoscope of trees and shrubs and the A-road ploughed by the No.6. 

The hotel has a two-AA-Rosette restaurant, but it’s adults only, so we dine at the Tower Bar – which features a spectacular bar bought and extracted from Blackpool’s Winter Gardens in 1943 – and out on the terrace, with the same menu offered at both locations.

Beatrix Potter attended several parties at Storrs Hall hotel in the 19th-century when it was a private house. Above is the hotel's Tower Bar, which features a spectacular bar bought and extracted from Blackpool’s Winter Gardens in 1943

Beatrix Potter attended several parties at Storrs Hall hotel in the 19th-century when it was a private house. Above is the hotel’s Tower Bar, which features a spectacular bar bought and extracted from Blackpool’s Winter Gardens in 1943

A stunning aerial shot of Windermere, looking north. Bowness-on-Windermere is on the right. Storrs Hall is just out of shot

A stunning aerial shot of Windermere, looking north. Bowness-on-Windermere is on the right. Storrs Hall is just out of shot  

Ted travels to the Lake District using an Avanti Pendolino service from London Euston. Above is an Avanti Pendolino crossing the Docker Viaduct in Cumbria

Ted travels to the Lake District using an Avanti Pendolino service from London Euston. Above is an Avanti Pendolino crossing the Docker Viaduct in Cumbria

The food hasn’t attracted any rosettes but it’s still impressive and beautifully presented, with the Ham Hock, potted shrimps with toasted sourdough and chicken escalope all going down an absolute treat.

Breakfast is a pleasure, too – especially the porridge with honey, the kippers and poached eggs and the supersized pots of smooth coffee.

Service? Generally snappy, always friendly.

Storrs Hall in many ways is an illusion – an officially four-star hotel that feels five-star. In a location that’s off the scale.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Ted is hosted by Storrs Hall hotel, where rooms start from around £260. Visit www.storrshall.com.

PROS: Stunning location, interior that’s plush and elegant, impressive food, friendly staff. Four-star by name, five-star by nature.

CONS: Very few. A slight hassle to reach without a car as local taxis can get booked up in advance at peak times and buses are infrequent. Plus, access from the south-bound bus drop-off point means crossing an A-road. Exterior, in places, needs a lick of paint.

Rating out of five: **** 

Avanti West Coast

Ted uses Avanti West Coast to reach the Lake District from London, travelling between London Euston and Oxenholme Lake District. Visit www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk.

Taxis

Windermere-based Ace Taxi has very friendly drivers (and accepts card payments without a grumble). Visit acetaxiwindermere.co.uk.

Buses

Click here for information on the local bus service.



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