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Holbeck Ghyll - Lake, Mountains and Glorious Food

Jonathan Schofield has a lovely time in the Lake District

Written by . Published on July 14th 2011.


Holbeck Ghyll - Lake, Mountains and Glorious Food

WE'D been in Cyprus on a family wedding trip for ten days immediately before arriving at Holbeck Ghyll for the weekend. Eastern Cyprus had proved how ugly in summer the Mediterranean can be.

The landscape was a burnt out brown of spiky scrub-bush scattered between brutal bleached limestone. Temperatures reached 45˚. At 1pm you could have cooked a full English on the pavements, let along fried an egg.

At Holbeck you get a beautiful house, beautiful views, excellent food and a killer winelist.

Two days after arriving back in the UK we went to Holbeck Ghyll. Work meant we arrived late, in the dark. In the morning we woke to such a perfect view I scratched the window to make sure it hadn't been painted on.

In the foreground were the flowers of the immaculately kept garden. These fell away, down a slope, to a meadow bounded by dry stone walls and flecked with sheep, then there was a wood of tall trees, then Windermere with pleasure boats bobbing gently in the morning sun. The landscape beyond rose and climaxed with the central Lakeland mountains, all sharp edges and wild silhouettes, the Langdales prominent.

The view was so grand, so perfectly upcountry English, so green and lush, I couldn’t help an involuntary giggle. After the hideous blasted landscape around Protaras in Cyprus, it was like someone applying a balm to the eyes. It was a mental massage. 

We were with two of the kids, two boys, on a family break. The Madison Suite where we were staying lay a few metres from the nineteenth century main house of Holbeck Ghyll and was full of the latest gadgets, chocker with comfort and not a little style, plus extravagantly plush beds.   

The main house itself is a converted hunting lodge. Lord Lonsdale acquired an older property in 1888 and produced the building we see today. Lonsdale was the first president of the Automobile Association and gave the famous Lonsdale Belt to boxing. Contemporary in the 1880s and 1890s meant Arts and Crafts Style. 

If you have a thing for Arts and Crafts design – mine borders on fetishism - the South Lakes is one of the best places to seek it out. The second half of the nineteenth century encouraged old money such as Lonsdale and new money from cities such as Liverpool and Manchester to build second homes and holiday homes in the Lakes.

A little south of Holbeck Ghyll was Manchester brewer Edward Holt’s (of Joseph Holts fame) Blackwell House designed by Baillie Scott and now open to the public. Go if you get chance.

Here at Holbeck Ghyll there is lovely stained glass, tile and brass fixtures and fittings and glorious use of chunky but crafted wood that defines the entrance areas and hall. Furniture is generally in keeping with the period and there are big fires and bigger settees to settle in.  

If it all looks familiar then maybe you saw a recent TV show. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon spent a while in Holbeck Ghyll musing on life and love during BBC2's The Trip by Michael Winterbottom. 

Forget those stars, food delivers a celestial experience at Holbeck Ghyll. 

Literally. It’s had a Michelin star for ten years courtesy of the work of chef David McLaughlin. You get style with content here, contemporary dash with hearty values. Dishes might include braised boneless oxtail with caramelised root vegetables, best end of lamb with swede purée and haggis beignets, roasted brill with apple, potato, celery and cider foam.

The attention to detail is high, the timings precise and the innovation strong. The meat is local of course, the lamb exceptional. McLaughlin, whether it’s with animal, fruit or veg, knows how to source correctly.

Hg6To sit and slowly finish off an assiette of lemon maybe or a mille feuille of rhubarb, oat and vanilla in the restaurant, while the two lads attempted to work out how on earth to play croquet on the lawn outside, was an immensely calming experience.

It was an immensely calming experience throughout the visit - which isn't always easy with ten and thirteen year-old boys.

At Holbeck you get a beautiful house, beautiful views, excellent food and a killer winelist. The kids loved the space, the scale of the suite we were in, the garden and walks nearby. As an upmarket family weekend it was all that could be desired.

So is there anything I would change?

Well, yes. The staff should relax. In a place as fine as Holbeck top level service goes with the game, but too much formality becomes a strain, this is 2011 not 1911. Staff need to be more natural - like that view from the Madison Suite.

That irk aside this is a bloody lovely place.

As stated above, staying there for a couple of days slows you right down, gives you time to contemplate the finer things in life, good food and drink, the value of good design (if you’re an Arts and Crafts fetishist like me). We never quite worked out that croquet game though. 

Holbeck Ghyll Hotel is at Holbeck Lane, Windermere, Cumbria. 015394 32375 www.holbeckghyll.com

There are a range of tariffs and special offers available. For example en-suite accommodation and three course dinner with full English breakfast starts from £122.50 per person. 

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sproutJuly 14th 2011.

and, err, what was the scran like?

ObservantJuly 14th 2011.

Sprout did you miss these paragraphs: 'It’s had a Michelin star for ten years courtesy of the work of chef David McLaughlin. You get style with content here, contemporary dash with hearty values. Dishes might include braised boneless oxtail with caramelised root vegetables, best end of lamb with swede purée and haggis beignets, roasted brill with apple, potato, celery and cider foam.

The attention to detail is high, the timings precise and the innovation strong. The meat is local of course, the lamb exceptional. McLaughlin, whether it’s with animal, fruit or veg, knows how to source correctly'

David MilnerJuly 14th 2011.

I recommend anybody who wants a gentle break in a beautiful place to get along here, lie back and relax. It's a wonderful place with great food as well.

MikeJuly 18th 2011.

We need more places like Holbeck. And I agree with the "relax a little" comment. The ethos at Northcote and the Ribble valley inns is about right for the beautiful North. Saying that.
Holbeck is great!

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