A weekend at the Haweswater Hotel, Lake District
We arrived at the Haweswater Hotel on a Friday evening for a weekend break. It’s an easy drive north from Yorkshire. Haweswater is about as secluded as England gets yet it’s still readily accessible from the M6. It’s an ideal location for romantic getaways or outdoor pursuits. There were autumnal colours, the lake a shining mirror. The only sounds were from nature; wind in the trees, rushing waterfalls and chattering birds. Haweswater is a reservoir, created during the thirties by the enlargement of two natural lakes in the Mardale valley. Once a controversial development, this Lakeland Dale has returned to nature and is a haven for rare wildlife.
There is only one road into Haweswater. The scenery transforms from rolling Cumbrian farmland into spectacular mountainsides. The Haweswater Hotel is half-way along the eastern shore, the only building in the entire valley. Built in 1937, it provides glorious views for all guests and has 22 rooms. A refurbishment has brought the facilities up to modern expectations. However, it has also preserved the glamorous Art Deco interior detail. Our comfortable room facing the lake was contemporary, with excellent en-suite facilities.
After the warmest of welcomes, we sat outside on our balcony as the sun dipped. Though there were plenty of other guests, it felt as if we had the entire lake to ourselves. The mountains gradually assumed an orange hue before becoming silhouetted against a starry background. Time to dine.
Breakfasts are also excellent, with plenty of choice on offer. If the weather closes in, then hunker down with books, papers, a roaring fire and friendly service. The Walkers Bar provides lunchtime bar meals and afternoon tea. Tranquillity guaranteed.
However, the primary attraction here is, of course, the Lakeland countryside. There is plenty to do in the immediate vicinity. There are red squirrels in the hotel garden, along with owls and woodpeckers in the surrounding woodland. Mountains such as High Street beckon the fit. However, gentler excursions such as spotting Kingfishers along Haweswater Beck are just as satisfying. Activities can be as mild or as strenuous as you’d like but do make sure you work up an appetite.
Le Mardale is the restaurant. This grand dining room is relaxing and informal. Cooking is artful yet unpretentious, the portions generous. As the name suggests, the cuisine has a French feel and majors on local and seasonal produce.
You might encounter Sea Trout or asparagus, venison or black pudding. The starters are delicious, whether potted trout, fishcakes or pork and apple terrine. Main courses include Lakeland lamb, sea bass fillets and a succulent chargrilled rib-eye steak. The slow-cooked Cumbrian belly pork is equally good. Wash it all down with wine, such as an Argentinean Malbec by Finca Flichman. If you still have room then don’t overlook dessert. Highlights are a vanilla crème brûlée with rhubarb compote and white chocolate and pecan parfait.
It’s an easy yet dramatic walk around the lake to reach the RSPB Reserve viewing point in Riggindale to see England’s only wild Golden Eagle. There was no sighting on our first visit, but persistence paid off the following day. We witnessed this magnificent creature soaring above us. It came closer, patrolling the upper crags before being a squadron of Ravens saw it off. Moments to cherish for a lifetime. There are plenty of other species to delight Twitchers too.
Our Sunday morning departure came all too soon. The consolation was with visits to nearby picturesque Bampton for a pint at the Mardale Inn (featured in the cult film Withnail and I) and thence to Shap Abbey, a monument to peace and solitude. Kennedy’s handmade chocolates from Orton provided a final treat for the journey home.
If you are thinking of taking a Lakeland break, the Haweswater Hotel should be at the top of your list.