Escape to the Lakes: A guide to eating in Wordsworth Country

forest sideIt’s the time of year when we begin to plan our holidays for the summer. But instead of jetting off somewhere exotic, perhaps consider a food-focused stay-cation? The Lake District – and the county of Cumbria – is blessed with not only areas of outstanding natural beauty, but also some of the best produce in the British Isles. Now that the crucial A591 link road has been repaired (ahead of schedule no less!) there’s no better time to visit Wordsworth country and we have plenty of suggestions on where to dine, where to stay and what to see…



If you’re looking for true Wordsworth Country then Grasmere should be your destination. This is where the poet and his sister spied ‘a host of golden daffodils’ (in fact there is a daffodil garden by the town’s ancient church) and it is also the location of Dove Cottage where Wordsworth resided with his wife, sister and children – and, when he was fighting with his wife, Samuel Taylor Coleridge too. The Jerwood Visitors Centre, with a fascinating collection of letters and first editions, as well as hourly tours of the cottage, is well worth detouring out of the town to see. Unfortunately (due to the efforts of Wordsworth during his later years!) there is no train station at Grasmere, but it is just a short car journey from Windermere.

Wine, Dine & Recline

Forest Side RestaurantForest Side, Grasmere

Dinner, bed & breakfast: From £299 per couple. This rate includes dinner from the à la carte menu, guests can upgrade to the tasting menu for an extra £20 per person on the night, or add it as an extra on booking.

Harden’s says: Part of the Wildsmith Hotel collection (Hipping Hall, The Ryebeck) this beautifully-restored 19th-century Victorian hotel opened minutes from Grasmere in the Lake District this winter after an extensive year-long, £4million renovation. It vaunts 20 bedrooms and a 50-cover restaurant, helmed by Kevin Tickle (former chef and head forager at L’Enclume), where many ingredients are picked from the kitchen garden. We can vouch for the fact that his tasting menu is extraordinary! Have you been in the last 12 months? Review Forest Side in our latest survey.


Wine & Dine

The Jumble Room, Grasmere

Three course dinner with wine and service: £47 pp approx

“Quirky menu, quirky service, quirky ambience”… whilst “such a combination can often mean disaster”, in this case it “all seems to work” – resulting in a “vibrant, chatty dining room that makes for a fun night out”.



Wine, dine & Recline

gilpin hotelGilpin Hotel, Windermere

Dinner, bed & breakfast: From £335 per couple. They also have a range of packages for their beautiful new spa lodges and exclusive use of the stunning lake house.

Harden’s says: “The décor is stunning, and the views beautiful” at this well-known Lakeland dining room, set in a “lovely” country house hotel. Service “can vary”, but no-one has anything other than enthusiastic praise for chef Hrishikesh Desai’s “brilliant” cuisine.


Wine & Dine

Hooked, Windermere

Three course dinner with wine and service: £46 pp approx

Harden’s says: “For absolutely fresh, beautifully cooked fish”, “this is your place” – a “small” and “stylish” venue, “on the fringe of Windermere town”, where the “charming” owner “makes everyone feel very special” too.



Wine & Dine

Screenshot 2016-05-12 11.50.04Lake Road Kitchen, Ambleside

Three course dinner with wine and service: £86 pp approx

Harden’s says: Expect a “dining experience of the highest order”, at this ambitious “Scandi-inspired” yearling, from chef-owner James Cross, ex-of Noma; like the latter, this no-frills spot’s “emphasis on foraging” leads to some “absolutely fantastic” dishes from its tasting menus.


The Lake Road Kitchen is absolutely our top pick for eating out in Ambleside, however there are a few other establishments well worth seeking out on your culinary tour of the Lakes. Including Ryan Blackburn’s “outstanding” new basement venture The Old Stamp House, vegetarian favourite with adjacent cinema Fellini’s, and “top quality” Thai Doi Intanon.


Wine, Dine & Recline

CIvfDsPWoAAIq9N.jpg-largeThe Drunken Duck, Ambleside

Bed & breakfast: From £105 per couple

Three course dinner with wine and service: £50 pp approx

Harden’s says: “An institution in the Lakes” – this “quintessential” country pub and microbrewery enjoys a “terrific location” with great views, and makes “a handy pitstop after a long walk”, where you can enjoy “delicious locally sourced food”, “washed down with a pint of excellent homebrewed ale”.



Wine, Dine & Recline

IMG_6097 copyL’Enclume, Cartmel

The Cartmel Escape: £450 per couple.

Available Sunday-Friday. Includes a half bottle of the Cuvée Classic sparkling wine from Nyetimber Estate, homemade nibbles in your room upon arrival, dinner for two from L’Enclume’s full menu, and an overnight stay in a superior room with breakfast the following morning at sister restaurant Rogan & Company.

Harden’s says: “At the top of UK gastronomy” (No. 3 in our Top-100 Restaurants this year); Simon Rogan’s converted smithy in a “hard-to-find” Lakeland riverside village provides an “exciting and unique” venue, “full of Cumbrian stone, Scandinavian furnishing and eye-catching art”. The “exquisite” menu is “ever-changing to reflect the seasons”; presentation is “worthy of a Turner prize”; and “no-one uses way-out ingredients to such eye-opening effect” (although nowadays “a foraging ethos now prevails, with no foams to be seen, thank goodness)!”. “Genuine” staff led by “star of a maître d’”, Sam Ward, “prove the English can do high-end service as well as the French or the Italians” (although the run-down of each dish can risk appearing as something of “a well-practiced spiel”). Stop Press – In July 2015, long-standing chef, Mark Birchall, quit to open his own restaurant.



Take the train to Oxenholme ‘Gateway to the Lake District’ and you’ll find there’s not an enormous amount nearby – save a very good sourdough bakery by the station Lovingly Artisan. Top tip: Go on a Monday for the best, freshest bread. Instead of staying in the town itself, we suggest you hop in a cab or take your car to one of these fabulous retreats.

Wine, Dine & Recline

HIPPING HALL003Hipping Hall, Kirkby Lonsdale

Two Night Tasty: From £299 per night

This special rate includes a half bottle of chilled champagne in your room on arrival, dinner from the daily changing 5-course à la carte menu on one night of your stay and then an upgrade to Hipping Hall’s superb 7-course tasting menu on the other.

Harden’s says: From the “superb” cuisine, to the “outstanding” service and “extensive biodynamic wine list”, reporters “could fault nothing” about this “peaceful and idyllic” hotel with a 15th-century hall; “an overnight stay in the excellent bedrooms is well worth it” too.


pb-ext-02The Punch Bowl, Lyth Valley

Rooms: From £105 per night

Three course dinner with wine and service: £50 pp approx

Harden’s says: It may inhabit a tiny village in “a hidden corner of the Lakes”, but this “warm, welcoming and stylish” pub/hotel is “well worth seeking out”. “The level of hospitality is exceptional”, the “short but interesting menu” is “consistently excellent and keenly priced” and they serve “remarkable real ales”.



Wine, Dine & Recline

cottage in the woodThe Cottage in the Wood, Keswick

Foodie Midweek Getaway: Two nights from £210 per person

Their dinner bed and breakfast rates are available throughout most of the year and include the hotel’s  highly acclaimed Tasting Menu.

Harden’s says: “A cosy, tucked away” restaurant in a boutique hotel with “great views of the Whinlatter Forest and mountains” from the window seats; it “stands out” thanks to the “adventurous and interesting” tasting menu and the “eclectic choice of wines”.


lyzzick hallLyzzick Hall Country House Hotel, Keswick

Dinner, bed & breakfast: From £105 per night

Harden’s says: “This family-run hotel near Keswick ticks all the right boxes”, from food that “seems to get better and better” to a “magnificent range of Spanish and Portuguese wines”; “the expansion of a few years ago hasn’t taken away any of the qualities that make this a Spanish retreat in the Lakes”.



Much like Withnail & I when they finally located Uncle Monty’s cottage, you may find Penrith beautiful but remote, with not much in the way of restaurants (although there are a few decent places like Four & Twenty). We suggest you head out of the town slightly to one of these top notch foodie destinations.

Wine, Dine & Recline

george dragonGeorge & Dragon, Clifton

Rooms: From £95 per night

Three course dinner with wine and service: £48 pp approx

Harden’s says: None of the many reports has a bad word to say about this “good all-rounder with an emphasis on local produce”, plus a “friendly atmosphere”; “for anyone who stays overnight the breakfast is exceptional” too.


rampsbeckRampsbeck Hotel, Watermillock

Dinner, bed & breakfast: From £270 per couple

Harden’s says: A “marvellous” country house “gem”, with a “lovely setting on the shore of Ullswater”, that “epitomises everything good about the Lake District”; the food “has ambition and delivers interest and flavour”, while nice rooms make it “a great place for a weekend away with a loved one”.


If you fancy eating in Penrith itself try Four & Twenty – a new rustic eatery with an open kitchen located on the site of an old bank – which is hailed by some (if not quite all) Harden’s reporters as “easily the best foodie option in town”. Three course dinner with wine and service: £46 pp approx.

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