Don’t be deceived by its slightly bland exterior when you arrive at the North Lakes Hotel and Spa. Stepping through the door is rather like entering a modern day Narnia where Cumbrian rustic charm meets Scandinavian style. After a multi million pound refurbishment the hotel has achieved a unique combination of light and space featuring traditional crafts with modern touches.
But the jewel in its crown is the Open Fire Grill Restaurant, the first in Cumbria. Here the chefs take centre stage as spellbound patrons watch their food being cooked over flames.
The hotel is following the growing demand and has dog- friendly rooms and facilities. In most lounges there are dog beds, designer water bowls and treats giving a homely ambience to the spaces.
Location: Just off the M6 and only a five-minute walk from Penrith Station, the hotel is situated at the gateway to the Lake District Dales National Park in the beautiful Eden Valley. A former capital of Cumbria, Penrith is home to a myriad of legends and lore and it’s just a 20-minute drive to Ullswater or 30 minutes to Helvellyn if you’re feeling energetic and fancy a hike.
Ambience: The interior is cleverly and beautifully planned with oak exposed beams, slate slatted walls, wooden and tiled floors, baskets of logs and large open fireplaces that blend exquisitely with large internal glass windows and screens. Its ingenious design on different levels give it light and ultra-spacious feel. With several luxurious lounges, a sun terrace and conservatory, there’s always a quiet corner in this peaceful and relaxed environment.
Accommodation: The 84 rooms include double and family rooms, and dog-friendly doubles and suites. Our ground-floor four-poster suite was comfortable and well planned. The power shower, fluffy bathrobes and slippers added a touch of luxury and the fresh milk and capsule coffee machine were a much-appreciated touch.
Food and drink: The newly opened FYR (pronounced Fire) has got everything right from the skilful planning of the seating areas to its menu that has something for everyone. It is amazing to watch the chefs cooking each individual dish exactly to the customer’s requirements.
The taste table is particularly appealing either as a starter or main course, with a selection of fresh seafood, meats and salad. Local produce takes pride of place here and I particularly liked the fact the cheese trolley included Cumbrian cheese and local chutney.
Worth writing home about: A basket of blankets in the conservatory labelled “Fair Enough to sit out but just a bit chilly” and I must confess I did use one in the late evening.
What to do: Visit Penrith Castle or Lowther Castle and Gardens to soak up some of Cumbria’s local history or Brougham Hall, dubbed the Windsor of the North by the Victorians. Aira Force waterfall is well worth taking in as is a steamer cruise on Ullswater. The Rheged Centre and Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre are nearby and run various events and family activities.
To book: The North Lakes Hotel and Spa, Ullswater Road, Penrith. Tel: 01768 868111. Prices per person for B&B and use of spa start at £50 but for details of special rates, weekend breaks etc visit www.northlakeshotel.com