The Rampsbeck Hotel in Ullswater set for £3 million makeover

Rampsbeck Hotel

Rampsbeck Hotel - Credit: Archant

It’s already an exceptional hotel and now it is set for a multi-million pound transformation, writes Roger Borrell

Rampsbeck Hotel

Rampsbeck Hotel - Credit: Archant

Ask people for their favourite five UK holiday destinations and there’s a good chance Cornwall and the Lake District will feature somewhere on the list. Bring together the best of both places and you’d have an irresistible combination.

In a way, that’s the plan Will Ashworth and his team have for the Rampsbeck Hotel, which sits on the north shore of Ullswater at Watermillock.

This grand, 19-bedroom hotel, parts of which date back to the 18th century, already has a great track record. It was Lancashire Life’s Lake District Hotel of the Year back in 2011, it has a 4 red-star status with a two AA Rosettes restaurant and it is set in 18 acres of national park with terrific views and a spectacular quarter of a mile lake frontage.

How do you improve on that? ‘We bought the hotel at the end of May and the previous owners had done a remarkable job renovating the place,’ says Will Ashworth, MD and founder of a hotel company called Another Place.

‘We already have the Watergate Bay Hotel in north Cornwall. I took over the running of this from my parents when it was a bucket and spade family hotel and we soon realised we needed to create a year-round experience for guests. We decided to have what’s basically a ski resort on a Cornish beach.’

Instead of ski-slopes, they used their own natural feature – the coast – to create a hotel where people could enjoy a mixture of active, social and relaxing hospitality in whatever quantities suited them.

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‘The lifestyle we created was so enjoyed by our guests we wanted to do it again in other beautiful locations,’ adds Will. ‘Rampsbeck has a great proximity to the hills and lakes and the facilities mean we will be able to give people a fabulous experience in terms of hospitality that is warm and generous.’

Rampsbeck will play to the strengths of its location with guided open-water swimming, canoeing, walking, boarding and climbing a central part of the hotel’s offering.

In September work starts on a £3 million project to add another 20 bedrooms, open a new and more casual restaurant to complement the current fine dining, and generally have the sort of facilities you would expect après ski or after a day surfing. These include treatment rooms, a clubhouse and a 25 metre swimming pool.

‘We want to offer everything you would expect from a brilliant, year-round destination,’ he adds. ‘While the Rampsbeck will be different in 16 months time we will be keeping all the features that have made it such as success under general manager Alison Mathewson and head chef Ben Wilkinson. We don’t want to change that – the quality of what they do now is superb.’

It’s hard to disagree with his assessment. The Rampsbeck is an oasis of calm in the hurly-burly of the Lakes. The imposing entrance hall with its open fires and large sofas immediately flag up the fact that comfort and relaxation are watchwords. There is also a snug bar and a formal lounge with a substantial collection of Lake District oil paintings.

Most of the bedrooms have lake views and they combine chic modern twists with traditional furnishing, neither of which look out of place in a building of this age and the bathrooms are, of course, shiny and opulent.

The dining room is at the heart of everything they do. The service is friendly and informative and the menu is sophisticated but not so sophisticated you need a user-guide to understand it.

A white pudding made from rabbit and a salad of local crab made for memorable first courses, while a main of Cumbrian sirloin with a beef cheek and smoked marrow fritter showed confidence and creativity. A fillet of turbot received the care and attention it deserved.

Desserts were equally accomplished. Baked rice pudding would only evoke memories of school dinners if you had been educated at Le Cordon Bleu and a roast fig and cream cheese mousse with liquorice sherbet was exquisitely delicious.

If they really are hoping to make the Rampsbeck even better, they’ve got quite a job on their hands.

Rampsbeck Hotel, Watermillock, Ullswater, CA11 0LP. 01637 861232