Lancashire Life Luncheon - The Hydro Hotel, Windermere

Rump of lamb

Rump of lamb - Credit: Archant

With stunning views over Windermere, the Hydro Hotel has been lovingly restored by its new owners

The reception welcomes guests

The reception welcomes guests - Credit: Archant

LANCASHIRE industrialists, fresh from making a fortune from their mills, looked north when they switched from work to play and that resulted in the creation of several landmark Lake District hotels catering to their every whim.

One of the more interesting establishments from that time is The Hydro in Bowness, built in the Italianate style in the late 1800s at ‘such an elevation to secure dryness and bracing mountain air,’ according to an advert at the time.

It claimed a heating system for its Turkish Baths that was unique to Britain along with an array of treatments that sound like they were administered by large, enthusiastic ladies in starched white coats. ‘Russian, electro-magnetic, vapour, wave, ascending and descending douches, needle sprays and sitz,’ which is something to do with your sit-upon apparently.

Today, Lancastrians continue to head north in large numbers and what was once known as The Windermere Hydropathic Establishment continues to welcome them. The more extreme forms of ‘treatment’ have been replaced by a more modest heated pool and a small gym.

However, the two stand-out features are the views out across Windermere, which are just as breathtaking as when they first opened for business in 1881, and the outstanding public rooms which have been lovingly – and lavishly – restored by the new owners, Squire Hotels.

The group, which also has the Samlesbury Hotel, near Preston, and Etrop Grange, a short hop from Manchester Airport, took over a building that had not been upgraded for two decades and you suspect the restoration has been far from cheap. But, goodness, it has been worth it.

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The restaurant and bar, named 1881 for obvious reasons, made a striking venue for our latest Lancashire Life luncheon. These rooms make a real statement and display a lot more than mere restoration and retention of original features – a lot of thought has gone into creating unique wall covering and fabrics which hark back to the building’s origins. It would make a memorable venue for a wedding and there are also conference facilities.

The food also showed a sure-footed knowledge of the culinary arts with gin cured trout to start with followed by roast rump of lamb. An excellent lunch ended with a grand finale of chocolate and orange cheesecake.

General manager Stefan Rae said the refurbishment of the bedrooms continued apce with club doubles and many suites complete. A rolling programme of renovations would continue until 78 were complete. In some cases, two rooms had to be knocked into two.

‘We are very pleased with the end result,’ he said. ‘We are hoping to change the perceptions that hotels in the Lake District are very expensive. We want to offer rooms that are competitively priced and appeal to a wide range of people. We are also looking at all inclusive packages. We want to break the mould with the Hydro.’