There's a "Rate us on Tripadvisor" sign prominently displayed on the reception desk at the Hillthwaite. You have to give them credit for recognising the importance of Tripadvisor while also setting themselves up as easy prey for the self-styled "Hotel Inspector" type of guest. We are a family of 4 with two boys aged 6 and 8 and stayed for 5 nights over the half term break. The trip was booked as we hadn't been to the Lake District before and also to spend some quality time together as a family as we had been working very hard recently. Neither the Lake District or the Hillthwaite let us down, we had a truly fantastic time. The scenery is just jaw-droppingly spectacular, especially with the Autumn colours and armed with our "short walks in the Lake District" book we made the most of it. We booked a hotel rather than a holiday let or self-catering because we wanted to be looked after - have someone else do the washing up and making the beds etc. for a change.
From arrival onwards we were very well looked after at the Hillthwaite. The Hotel is in a great position, perched on a hill overlooking the nearby streets and houses down to Lake Windermere in the distance. Anyone walking to the Hotel needs to appreciate it is on a hill and a reasonably steep climb from the road. Anyone booking a "Lake View" room gets a superb vista of the lake and hills but remember that this is a hotel set way back from the lake, not on the shore. I would call the rooms "Panoramic View" rather than Lake View as the lake is some distance away. But to moan about the view is just churlish, it's lovely, or should I say Louvly but more on that later!
The Hotel is perfectly clean and comfortable. The Lounge and reception/bar area are nice spaces to relax in and read a book or chat politely to fellow guests. The decor is best described as "safe" - not bland but not stylish either but then style is very personal isn't it, you can't please everyone all the time. To call it "dated" is too harsh. It's the sort of decor my Mother would like. And that probably best sums up the key issue at the Hillthwaite - who is it set up to cater for? I would suggest retired couples. There were plenty of these type of guests while we were there. Lots of copies of "The Daily Mail" on display and lots of discussions about Strictly Come Dancing! So as a reasonably boisterous family we did feel a bit out of place and had to make an extra effort to ensure the kids kept it down. On two separate occasions we were complimented on how well the boys behaved at dinner so we must have been doing something right. All this adds up to the fact that the Hotel isn't particularly child-friendly but then that's probably music to the ears of those that want a nice break away from noisy families. I think the Hotel needs to be bold enough to suggest that young families are not its target market but in these difficult economic times its difficult to turn away any type of customer. To be fair to the Hillthwaite, all the staff went out of their way to ensure the whole family was well looked after so I wouldn't want to accuse them of being actively child unfriendly. That is definitely not the case, it is more that the main demographic of the guests seems to be retired couples looking for peace and quiet!
This brings me on to the dining experience. Again the comfortable but formal restaurant is very quiet. The decorum was shattered on the first night by one of my kids who announced in too-loud a voice that he "needed to go for a poo". The food is superb and there is a new menu every day. It's perfectly reasonable to ask people to choose their selections in advance , it just adds to the anticipation of the meal. The hotel offers for kids to eat earlier in the day (the formal dining starts at 7pm) but what are we supposed to do with them if they do eat earlier? Let them loose on the poor souls talking about Strictly in the Lounge while we tuck into our 5 course meal? A more workable alternative is needed - perhaps have families in to dine an hour earlier? The Restaurant Manager Marco and his team work very hard. Marco has the strangest accent - part Italian and part Cumbrian hence the spelling in my title. He finishes his sentences with "Louvly" in a broad northern accent which we thought was funny. You can't fault the whole team for being very attentive but I think they do need to work on their communication. Each member of the team clearly has specific roles and if you ask the waiter for a drink there's a look of panic. I should be asking the Pawel, the Food and Beverage Manager! Likewise if I asked Pawel for tomato ketchup then I got the distinct feeling that was beneath him and I should have asked a waiter. On occasion this led to delays or the communication going astray and the requested item turning up late or not at all. But these are minor issues. The food was excellent and we were well looked after. In fact the only major criticism I have of the restaurant is the odd collection of car-boot-sale pottery they have on the plate rail around the wall. Why? It's not even just one collection. Just an assortment of different pots and plates. Bizarre. Get them off the wall and the restaurant is a nice understated pleasant space with the best tables (those paying for the best rooms?) getting the bay windows and the great view.
Our kids loved the swimming pool which is a great facility and the sauna and steam room are very welcome after a long day walking. All in all I would say that the Hillthwaite is a superb well run hotel with just a few very minor niggles. If you are a couple looking for a nice relaxed and quiet break in Windermere then I think you would struggle to do better. I'm going to book my Mother in for a treat for her, she'd love it. And I promise not to bring the kids.....
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- You will find Hillthwaite House Hotel is the most ideal accommodation for all types of breaks including short breaks or for use as a base for your walking holiday in the Lake District National Park. Impeccable service and comfort, lovely food sourced from local produce, friendly, attentive staff and the many guests that return to us time after time speak for itself. For Lake District Hotels please look no further than Hillthwaite House Hotel. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hillthwaite Hotel Windermere, Lake District
- Hillthwaite House Hotel