Short break - The Leathes Head, Borrowdale Valley

Leathes Head Country Hotel

Leathes Head Country Hotel - Credit: Archant

A day walking in the Lakeland hills is a soul-satisfying experience, so finding a modern, luxury country house hotel such as Leathes Head at the end of it adds a sumptuous cherry to an already rich cake. Susan Riley writes.

The entry hall

The entry hall - Credit: Archant

After a long hike there’s nothing better than a pie and a pint in a hostelry within limping distance of a bed for the night…unless it’s a night in a fabulous country house hotel, the opportunity to tuck into a farro grain risotto with slow cooked egg yolk, samphire, wild nettles, rocket and baby carrot after a long spa bath in a bathroom with wonderful views of the hills climbed earlier in the day, that is.

Leathes Head Country Hotel offers all of the above in a glorious location in the heart of the Borrowdale Valley, looking out to Catbells, with glimpses of Derwentwater and low-lying fields where Herdwicks in lamb graze during the late spring. It’s a place to relax, reflect on nature and enjoy the peace and quiet of being completely and utterly in the country.

Within a short but hair-raising drive of Buttermere, an elegant Edwardian house has been transformed into a comfortable hotel with newly refurbished bedrooms full of modern touches. Keswick, just a few miles away, is one of those places that still attracts walkers and outdoor enthusiasts of all types: many with state-of-the art equipment, but there’s still a handful clothed in nothing more than a warm jumper and decades of experience.

Apart from all the walking opportunities the town is also a place of festivals and activities and the Theatre on the Lake with its varied arts programme is always worth a look. This year Keswick Brewery celebrates its 10th anniversary and the distillery at Bassenthwaite is a more recent attraction; as is the nearby Matterdale Valley, which farmer and writer James Rebanks has made famous in his bestselling book The Shepherd’s Life.

Pan Fried Salmon

Pan Fried Salmon - Credit: Archant

If the weather’s dry the Lakeland hills will always be full of tourists on a summer’s day, which makes a place like Leathes Head a joy to return to as you can reflect on the stunning views you’ve seen in complete solitude. The hotel has a resolute no dogs and no children policy; it’s aimed strictly at adults, particularly couples, wanting some time to themselves. With a small restaurant (the kitchen is run by chef Daniel Hopkins); two lounges, which look over three acres of gardens to the mountains beyond; and a newly refurbished bar there’s lots of places to find a sofa to sit and reflect. The thoughtful owners have even supplied sketch books and pencils should the romantic views that have inspired so many artists over the centuries evoke the same feelings in their guests.

Jane Cleary and Jamie Adamson have run the place for the past five years and they’re perfectly suited to it. Jane, from New Zealand, and Jamie, a Scot, are currently planning their own wedding in December so romance is definitely on their mind. ‘We offer luxury stays particularly aimed at couples, romantic weekends and honeymooners,’ says Jamie.

They run the hotel on behalf of a local family who have been slowly updating it since they purchased the house and put them in charge. It’s changed from a hotel where everyone had to sit down at 7pm to eat a set menu into a stylish modern affair slowly attracting a new, younger, clientele. ‘We have put in a lot of energy and we are now seeing the reward with people coming back again and again,’ says Jamie, who oversaw the modernisation programme, which included installing luxury spa bathrooms in some of the rooms and updating others. The changes have seen the hotel win a host of awards – they have twice been nominated for Small Hotel of the Year and the restaurant recently received a two star AA rosette.

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On a beautiful sunny day there’s really no better place to be in the UK than the Borrowdale Valley – seen by many as quintessential Lake District…and if you can stay in one of the 11 bedrooms at the Leathes Head your stay is likely to be even more memorable.

The bar

The bar - Credit: Archant

The Leathes Head, Borrowdale Valley, Keswick