A snap decision had me looking for a secluded hotel, an inspiring location and somewhere where I could enjoy a bit of self-indulgence and the great outdoors. I'd pretty much decided on the Scilly Isles, could get a flight, but couldn't find a hotel with availability - a lucky break as it turned out.
Swinside has a perfect location at the entrance to the Newlands Valley, at the foot of Catbells, a few minute’s walk from Derwentwater, the jetty for the Keswick launch, and an hour's flat stroll into Keswick. It stands in its own Lakeland greenery with few other residences dotted around the landscape - you'll need to look hard to find them. To add some icing, there's a good old fashioned real ale pub just ten minutes’ walk away - the sort that readily welcomes muddy boots onto clean carpets.
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect - perhaps it would be a bit too high class and formal for me, and I'd feel uneasy in a hotel winning such accolades? No worries. Mike met me when I arrived, and he was welcoming, interested and keen to make sure I felt completely at home.
I stayed in the Chestnut, one of the smaller rooms. It's not the best room I've ever stayed in, but for context better than the vast majority and perfectly comfortable. The decor was good, and the view of Catbells and the Newlands great. My judge of a hotel room tends to be the shower - very good in this case. I did get to see one of the rooms at the front, facing Skiddaw and Blencathra. I'd definitely recommend for couples - serious brownie points.
Dinner. I'd read the reviews and knew the food would be special but found that my expectations weren't high enough. Four nights of consistently brilliant and different food. I didn't know mushroom soup could be such a delicacy. Both Kath and Laurent were attentive and personable - no stuffy formality. For a Frenchman, Laurent has a great sense of English humour ;-). It is high class dining, but if you've seen Pretty Woman you'll be quite at home and able to work out which cutlery to use.
The wine list is extensive, but if you want beer with your meal, that's ok.
Kath was very knowledgeable about the local area, providing both advice and maps on walking routes and information about places to visit. Particularly memorable will be her demonstration one night, of the correct way to use walking poles.
I could say lots more. The whole experience is welcoming, the decor in the common areas fantastic and the two lounges comfortable and restful. I didn't get to meet Clive, the chef, but would like to use this review as a virtual shake of the hand, and would like to thank Kath, Laurent and Mike for ensuring that my stay was so wonderful.
I started this review with and explanation of how I came by Swinside. Uncharacteristically, and because of circumstance, I didn’t check TripAdvisor. Now back home, I’ve looked at other guest comments. There are five which rate this hotel as average. Of course Swinside may have had an off-week, but I’ve been around a bit – I’d suggest that these people take the time to take a real good look at themselves. I expected a good experience, good food and a good location, and I got more than I expected.
I'll have absolutely no reservation about recommending Swinside to anyone, and hopefully will be back when the occasion calls.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Small luxury hotel in the heart of the English Lake District personally owned and run by Mike and Kath Bilton. A warm welcome awaits - hospitality and food are our passions, and the hotel has recently been voted in the top three Fine Dining Restaurants in Cumbria with an AA 2 Rosette Restaurant supplemented by a 75 bin wine list. Local wildlife including red squirrels can be seen in abundance in the gardens, and spectacular walks and drives start from the hotel's door. Seven bedrooms all with beautiful mountain views. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Swinside Hotel Newlands
- Swinside Hotel Keswick
- Swinside Lodge Hotel Keswick/Newlands, Lake District