Nick Westby and his young family follow in Beatrix’s footsteps on a luxury weekend break in the heart of the Lake District.
It is 4pm on a typically overcast Lake District day and the misty rain that falls appears set for the afternoon. The view over Derwentwater is grey and there is a chill in the air, and yet there is something soothing about what lies before us.
Above it, Skiddaw rises like an inquisitive relative, peering down on the serenity of the scene below. The snow on the tops of one of the Lake District’s most famous peaks betrays the late wintery scene and yet the charm of these parts is that it could be any time of year.
The Lake District’s own micro-climate means the millions of visitors to the national park each year long gave up on expecting sunshine, even in the height of summer. But whether it be adventure in the hills or relaxation alongside the picturesque waters that you are after, the Lakes has something for everyone.
Even for this young family, standingout on a jetty that becomes more submerged by the minute as the water laps over the wooden walkway. There is a calmness about the whole scene, an isolation from the madness of the rest of the world that it is difficult to find in other places.
As the water continues to encroach, my family and I (wife, three-year-old son and five-month-old daughter) retreat to the sanctuary of the treeline and begin the descent back to our lodgings for the weekend. We are staying at the Lingholm Estate on the western shore of Derwentwater, a stunning Victorian house that rises out of the treetops.
The estate itself is vast but full of quaint touches, from the narrow entrance off the main road out of Keswick to the shore of Derwentwater, right up to the famous Walled Garden, the centrepiece of the site.
It is here where the estate’s history comes to life. For Lingholm was the holiday home of Beatrix Potter, and much of the surroundings were the inspiration for many stories and elements in the Peter Rabbit books.
The Lingholm Kitchen Garden as it was known then provided Potter with the creative spark to think up Mr McGregor’s Garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and she wrote The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle while looking out from the house’s Victorian bay windows onto Derwentwater below.
The octagonal walled garden has an outdoor gallery devoted to the history of Beatrix Potter and the years she spent holidaying on the estate. It is a herbaceous and vegetable garden that provides fresh ingredients for the Lingholm Kitchen, the new cafe that sits on a shelf just below the main house.
Open to rambling visitors as well as residents, the cafe is in an idyllic setting, with views out onto Derwentwater and up to Skiddaw and beyond.
The locally-sourced food is befitting of the heritage of the area and reasonably priced given the grandeur of the region.
Tables spill outside onto a terrace and also inside towards a gift shop which has local art at its core.
Even this does not live up to the splendour of the apartments inside the main house. Remodelled in the last three years to a modern and high specification, these inviting suites are the perfect place to either take the weight off after a day of exploring, or relax in luxury.
Huge rooms with big ceilings are the hallmarks of the apartments in the Grade II-Listed house, which was originally built in 1873 by the architect Alfred Waterhouse.
Much of the authentic woodwork from a century and a half ago is retained inside, with the many wings turned into the luxurious holiday homes, be it the old library – which was our resting place for a weekend – or the former staff kitchen.
Other buildings on the estate have been turned into holidays cottages, each with a unique feel and housing as many as 12 guests.
Work continues on improving and updating other aspects of the estate but the footprint is so vast that you hardly notice at all.
The man responsible for turning this charming house into a welcoming holiday centre is West Yorkshire businessman David Seymour, who, along with his daughter Jenny, has rededicated his life to bringing the estate to life through the house, Beatrix Potter’s heritage, the walled garden and the Lingholm Kitchen, all while staying true to Waterhouse’s original vision.
The Lingholm Estate is ideal for couples, young or old, and even for young families such as mine, with the abundant nature the moment you step out of the front door of your apartment giving the little ones something to explore.
Further afield, the market town of Keswick is a five-minute drive away.
If you want to swim, and the lake is too choppy for your liking, Lingholm has teamed up with Armathwaite Hall on Bassenthwaite Lake, 20 minutes up the road, where vouchers for the indoor pool are available.
After that, it’s a drive back down the lakeside to your luxury apartment to plot what’s to come on the next day, when who knows in the Lake District, the sun will probably be beating through the trees onto the serenity below.
■ For prices and more information go to thelingholmestate.co.uk