Great British boltholes: If you want a hotel room with sweeping views from end to end of the longest lake in England, THIS is the place to stay…
- Alan Copps checks into The Ro, perched high on a terrace above Bowness-on-Windermere
- His lake-view room with a balcony is ideal for a couple and boasts a ‘wonderfully comfortable’ bed
- He says the food is ‘special’ and adds that his shank of Cumbrian lamb is ‘melt-in-the-mouth succulent’
Perched high on a terrace above Bowness-on-Windermere, The Ro is a grand Victorian building that has been welcoming visitors to the Lake District for well over a century.
Its best rooms command sweeping views from end to end of the longest lake in England and beyond to the mountains that offer something for everyone, from the casual stroller to the serious climber.
It’s a five-minute walk downhill into the centre of the town with its busy shops – plenty specialising in the outdoor gear essential for exploring the lakes – and a World Of Beatrix Potter attraction to entertain younger visitors.
Looking grand: Alan Copps checks into The Ro, above, which has been welcoming visitors to the Lake District for well over a century
The hotel’s best rooms command sweeping views from end to end of the longest lake in England, Windermere (above)
Another five minutes brings you to the lake shore where a ‘steamer’ or launch will take you cruising north to the pretty town of Ambleside, south to Fell Foot with its watersports centre, or round the islands that dot Windermere.
A ten-minute car ferry across the lake puts you on the road towards Coniston and an hour’s drive will get you to the wilder western lakes set amid the higher peaks.
This all makes The Ro a comfortable base for exploring the largest and most-visited national park in England. Once known as the Hydro, a revamp has swept away any lingering formality and given the public spaces of this imposing building a functional, unfussy, modern feel. It is backed by friendly staff who offer a warm welcome and plentiful advice on where to go and what to see.
Rooms range from cosy to spacious, if you choose a suite for the whole family. Regardless of size, they all offer good wi-fi, a work desk and a large flat-screen TV. Our lake-view room with a balcony for a scenic sundowner was ideal for a couple, the en suite had an excellent shower, there was bags of space and a wonderfully comfortable bed. Who needs artwork on the walls when the landscape offers such variety and grandeur?
The restaurant is practical and comfortable rather than self- consciously luxurious, but the food would grace far grander surroundings. Ingredients are local wherever possible and the main courses are special. A shank of Cumbrian lamb with caramelised shallots and a red wine jus was melt-in-the-mouth succulent, while breast of chicken with a mushroom and smoked pancetta sauce was similarly delicious.
When it came to desserts, an orange posset with Yorkshire rhubarb was good enough to eat two nights running, though the sticky toffee pudding ran it close.
Above is one of the hotel’s neat bedrooms. ‘Regardless of size, they all offer good wi-fi, a work desk and a large flat-screen TV,’ says Alan
Alan describes the restaurant (pictured) as ‘practical and comfortable rather than self-consciously luxurious’. He adds that the food would ‘grace far grander surroundings’
The wine list is comprehensive and there’s a busy bar that stocks umpteen kinds of gin. The buffet breakfast covers the whole range from cereal or continental to black pudding, sausage and bacon.
If you feel the need to add a bit of culture to the healthy outdoor activity, it’s a short drive to William Wordsworth’s home Dove Cottage overlooking tranquil Grasmere. The ferry is a good shortcut to Beatrix Potter’s beloved farmhouse at Hill Top and on to Coniston. Here, the eclectic Ruskin Museum celebrates the life and works of John Ruskin, the Victorian artist and critic.
It has a wing devoted to the record-breaking feats of Sir Donald Campbell, who was killed in 1967 when his 300 mph boat Bluebird somersaulted on Coniston Water, and also displays one of the original sailing dinghies that inspired Arthur Ransome’s much-loved children’s stories of Swallows And Amazons that celebrate life in the Lake District.
The Ro, Bowness-on-Windermere. B&B from £166 per room, per night (therohotel.com).