The Gilpin Hotel & Lake House offers a luxury retreat with Michelin-starred dining and a level of care that feels wholly personal

The Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, near Windermere, is a two-venue luxury hotel that offers so much that’s pleasurable you risk never leaving the hotel. The main hotel has 30 beautiful bedrooms, Michelin star Source restaurant, the more casual Spice pan-Asian restaurant and a spa. It also has alpacas. And 22 of those 30 rooms have their own hot tub. Just a mile away, down a narrow winding lane, lies Gilpin Lake House, a lakeside country manor with just six rooms, its own tiny lake (with a rowing boat you can take out), two outdoor hot tubs both with fabulous views, and a spa. There’s also a tiny wooden building close to the lake, built for two to sit indoors or out, which is a very popular spot for a proposal. On our visit we actually witnessed a full on-bended-knee, ring box raised, proposal by the tarn. It was a yes, of course, all carefully filmed (from a secretive distance) by a smiling member of staff.

Great British Life: Gilpin Lake House Spa and Boat HouseGilpin Lake House Spa and Boat House (Image: c. Gilpin Hotel)

From the moment you arrive, you feel as if it’s only your absence that has been preventing the team from having their best day. They are glad to see you, to show you around the grounds, wave an expansive arm at the glorious views from the hot tub with hydro jets, point out the spa and the second hot tub (just gentle bubbles, this one), offer you a rowing boat, show off the swimming pool and present you with a deeply comfortable bedroom for the night. Book a Spa Suite and you can enjoy your own private hot tub, steam room, sauna, infrared lounge bed, and state-of-the-art automated massage chair. Go up a step further to a Spa Lodge and you may never leave.

Great British Life: Pure comfort. Photo: Neil AlexanderPure comfort. Photo: Neil Alexander

Usually a trip to the Lakes involves at least one good walk and a potter round Bowness or Ambleside. This weekend, however, was to be dedicated to food. We had a reservation for two at Source that evening, with plans to immerse ourselves in the nine-course tasting menu from Executive Chef, Ollie Bridgewater. Ollie joined The Gilpin at the start of 2023, and retained Source’s Michelin Star in March. He trained at three-Michelin starred The Fat Duck, and was sous chef to Heston Blumenthal for almost a decade before taking the role at Gilpin, so we were pretty darn excited at what might lie ahead.

Great British Life: Spice offers a wonderful ambience. Photo: Tony WestSpice offers a wonderful ambience. Photo: Tony West

Spice is beautifully designed. Purpose built, it is filled with light from huge windows and quirky interior décor immediately creates a friendly, open ambience. We were seated at the counter of the open kitchen and dived into a menu filled with dishes inspired by countries along the spice trail – the Philippines, South Asia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and China. Oh my – trust me when I say we could have wreaked havoc on that menu. The options are so varied it’s hard to know where to start – or stop. Chalk stream trout tartare with papadums, pineapple gel, Macha tea dust, ponzu; banana leaf wrapped sea bream with kung pao sauce, sweet and salty crispy ginger; crispy shredded duck with purple shiso leaves, watercress, carrot cress, soy lime dressing and plum sauce...

Great British Life: Cumbrian Saddleback Pork at Spice. c. Gilpin HotelCumbrian Saddleback Pork at Spice. c. Gilpin Hotel

Mindful of our reservation at Source, we controlled ourselves and shared the duck, edamame puri, and Cumbrian Saddleback pork belly, cooked for 48 hours and served with a Hong Kong style sweet and sour sauce and crispy crackling crumbs. So, so good. Seriously polished fast food, carefully curated into a menu to suit every whim and preference.

The remainder of our afternoon was spent sitting in two comfy chairs, reading and gazing out at the ever-changing view of Knipe Tarn, before heading to the hot tub overlooking the tarn and reclining like oligarchs while a young man brought us drinks.

Our taxi arrived on the dot, and we headed to Source, filled with anticipation for a surely marvellous experience. The décor is relaxed, the staff are happy and friendly and chatty, and they have Brambles on the cocktail menu. So far so perfect. You can choose to go a la carte, or opt for a tasting menu, there’s a plant-based option for vegans. The menus change all the time, of course, as the seasons change, as the chef wishes. After an amuse bouche of a gin and tonic served as a single sphere to pop into your mouth where it explodes on the tongue. As palette cleansers go, this one's a winner.

Great British Life: Gin and cucumber tonic, Source-styleGin and cucumber tonic, Source-style (Image: c. The Gilpin)

We moved next to game broth, bone marrow and braised shitake. Menu descriptions are always a bit of a tease, let’s face it, giving no indication of what you’re about to be presented with, and in this case it was a tiny bowl of the most flavoursome broth, studded with cubes of bone marrow and mushroom, that had autumn exploding onto our tastebuds.

One of my favourite things about a tasting menu is that I am faced with things I would never ordinarily choose, bone marrow being one, and roast quail, the fourth dish presented, being the next. Before this, a small soft loaf of bread arrived, draped in fermented garlic honey and sage, and served with freshly churned butter. Garlic honey? Luckily at this point the chef arrived so, after complimenting his work, I asked. The honey is hyper-local, raw, and is fermented with garlic to create a sweet and sticky garlicky deliciousness that had us resisting licking the plate. The sage is from The Gilpin’s very own vertical herb and salad garden, maintained by the chefs and a provider of much inspiration.

The roast quail came with braised spelt, chestnut truffle and celeriac, and I positively inhaled it. The balance of flavours and textures was so good, and as I had luckily left a little bread on the side, I was able to scoop up every last drop.

Hand dived scallops with a sauce charcuterie and verjus came next, followed by butter-poached cod. As I am not a fish fan, I asked for a swap out and mwah ha haa – was offered Iberico pork with Hispi cabbage and a classic pork sauce. Oh yes please. It was fabulous, just melt-in-the-mouth sweetly delicious, with the cabbage an umami delight.

Course seven was loin of venison with spiced beetroot, endive, kampot pepper and the smoothest, lightest liver parfait I have ever experienced. The entire dish was fabulous, but confess to enjoying the parfait most of all, it was, indeed, perfect.

Great British Life: English Strawberry compote, a lavender infused reduced milk ice cream and drizzled with an Earl Grey caramelEnglish Strawberry compote, a lavender infused reduced milk ice cream and drizzled with an Earl Grey caramel (Image: Andre Ainsworth)

Next, puddings. First a scoop of delicately flavoured liquorice ice cream with candied walnuts and huge, tart blackberries – it was much cleverer and more complexly flavoured than I can do justice here, and the perfect way to close off the richness of the venison course. This was followed by a strawberry compote with a lavender infused reduced milk ice cream and drizzled with an Earl Grey caramel. Smiles all round.

We took our coffees and handmade chocolates in the lounge, feeling completely contented – our weekend of gastronomy delights was a total success.

Great British Life: Enjoy an ESPA treatment with wonderful views. Photo: c. The GilpinEnjoy an ESPA treatment with wonderful views. Photo: c. The Gilpin

The next day saw us, incredibly, ready to eat again and we settled into the sunlight-filled dining room at the Lake House to enjoy a hearty breakfast, before heading to the spa for a massage. The spa is in a purpose-built lodge overlooking the tarn, huge windows allow light to flood in and fill the treatment rooms. The massage was marvellous, smoothing out keyboard-created knots in shoulders and placing the perfect, ESPA scented, finishing touch to a truly magnificent weekend.