Rothay Manor re-born - the Ambleside hotel has a new lease of life

Rothay Manor hotel

Rothay Manor hotel - Credit: Milton Haworth

Family holidays in the Lake District sparked a love affair with the Rothay Manor Hotel which has now been re-kindled.

Jamie and Jenna have big plans

Jamie and Jenna have big plans - Credit: Milton Haworth

Jamie Shail never forgot his stay at Ambleside's Rothay Manor Hotel at the tender age of four. 'It's strange what you remember from that long ago, I very clearly remember sitting on the stairs (after being put to bed) and listening to the adults having dinner. I was sitting just far enough down to occasionally hear my father's voice,' he recalls.

Nearly four decades later the hotel came up for sale for £2.4 million, and Jamie, by then aged 40, and his wife Jenna, decided it was the perfect business to buy.

The couple had been running a luxury chalet catering business in Chamonix in the French Alps for 15 years, but wanted to return to the UK to further their careers.

Jamie had been coming back to the Lake District every year, with his mother Irene's passion for the area rubbing off on him. And when he met Jenna, he took her to the Lake District. The couple are outdoorsy types and love the running, cycling, swimming, walking on offer in the area.

Ambleside is a popular destination all year round

Ambleside is a popular destination all year round - Credit: Milton Haworth

'In those far off days, Rothay Manor was considered one of the three fine dining hotels of the Lake District, up there with Miller Howe and Sharrow Bay. We hope to reach those standards again,' Jamie says.

Their first move was to spend more than £1 million renovating the dining room, lounges, kitchens and 19 bedrooms. They have also put in a new terrace. Being a Grade II listed building, dating back to 1823, means the outside is only allowed a fresh lick of paint.

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As Lancashire Life went to press, the Shails were waiting to see if they get planning permission for an expansion. They have already moved from being a three-star to a four-star hotel, and from having two AA Rosettes to three - making it one of only a handful of establishments to hold the accolade.

'We are aiming for an elegant modern country house feel,' Jenna says. 'We are pushing towards a much more boutique hotel experience with a much more personal service.'

Don McGeorge leads the kitchen team

Dan McGeorge leads the kitchen team at Rothay Manor - Credit: Milton Haworth

And Jamie adds: 'It's been a long road for us to get to this stage. We wanted the hotel to be as beautiful inside as the surrounding area outside and made it our mission to achieve that goal from the moment we bought the hotel back in 2016.'

The success for the kitchen isdown to the work of chef Don McGeorge, originally from Liverpool who came to Rothay Manor from the Lawns Restaurant at Thornton Hotel and Spa on the Wirral.

The hotel also offers special interest breaks, as well as accommodating dogs well - Jamie and Jenna have Springer Spaniel, Bailey and Cocker, Wren. Next month (November 15th-20th) former Sotheby's auctioneer and lecturer Nicholas Merchant is hosting a special event designed for guests with an interest in fine art and antiques.

Jamie's mum, Irene, passed away in December 2014, but his dad, Richard, whose voice he listened to from the stairs all those years ago, still visits the hotel regularly from the family home in Essex.

The grey stone buildings of Ambleside are surrounded by beautiful countryside

The grey stone buildings of Ambleside are surrounded by beautiful countryside - Credit: Milton Haworth