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The Summer House at Hawkshead

Sarah Tierney seeks out a secluded Lake District hideaway. Photography and video by Emma Golpys

Published on May 23rd 2014.


The Summer House at Hawkshead
 

'UNFORTUNATELY, I'm going to have to upgrade you.' Now that's the kind of email you want to receive the week before you go on holiday.

We'd planned to write about glamping in the new Berber tents at the National Trust's Low Wray campsite on the banks of Windermere – a cushy assignment in itself. But they were still adding the finishing touches so asked if we 'minded' staying in a National Trust holiday cottage, The Summer House, instead.

Well, if we absolutely had to. I swapped daydreams of sleeping under canvas for ones of cute country hideaways, and along with fellow Confidentialers Emma and George, set off for a weekend of walking, eating, and sipping wine in a wood-panelled living room.

Low Wray Campsite 1Glamping

This corner of the Lake District in spring, in sunshine, is a beautiful sight. The woods were shaded with bluebells, the fields full of chubby-legged lambs, and the just-unfurled leaves were fresh on the trees. We stopped on the way at the Giggling Goose in Ambleside, a riverside cafe with its own waterwheel from its days as a mill, and had lunch outside on the terrace. The crumbly vegetable quiche was lovely but we resisted the mountains of home-baked cakes; we were 'working' and had a busy itinerary of pubs to 'research'.

The Tower Bank Arms at Near Sawrey is one of a few pubs owned by the National Trust. Step inside and you see why they thought it worthy of preservation. Slate floors, original beams, and a range fireplace transport you back to when Beatrix Potter (who lived next door) might have stopped by for a vodka and coke. It's very small which makes it very cosy but it also means that dinner reservations are booked up weeks in advance.

So after a pint in the beer garden we set off in search of The Summer House. A word of warning, this is not a place you would want to be finding after dark. It's four miles down narrow country lanes from the village of Hawkshead, then along a campsite track, through a field of cows and sheep, up a grassy bank, and through a white picket gate.

The Giggling Goose - AmblesideThe Giggling Goose - Ambleside

Believe me, it's worth the trek. The Summer House is graded 'three acorns' by the National Trust but its panoramic view should be given their top marks of five acorns, or even a whole tree's worth. Windermere glistens through the woods, gentle hills and farmland surround, and the silhouette of the Langdale Pikes rises up in the mid-distance. And that's just from the front. From the back, you look across a field at Wray Castle – an enchanting, neo-Gothic wonder also owned by the NT.


 

 

This is a very secluded spot, and the interior of The Summer House seems designed to enhance the peaceful vibes. It uses mainly natural materials (wood panelling, raffia flooring) and the whole place has a mid-century simplicity to it, enhanced by the calming colour scheme and lack of TV reception.

The main bedroom is a highlight – the white linen-covered bed looks out of a bay window at that beautiful view. The garden is another delight. Box hedges separate lawns and hidden corners, and wild flowers and ferns give it a natural rather than well-tended feel. When we visited the azaleas were in full bloom, with the rhododendrons about to flower for the next visitors. A picnic table and BBQ area make it well set up for summer outdoor eating.

It was tempting to just stay in and soak up the surroundings but we had another pub to research, and this time we were going by foot.

P1010312

I'd been given instructions by Emma and George not to plan any walks that involved going uphill (in the Lake District?) and just about managed it with this one. It was a gentle amble that took us through woodland, over stepping stones, across fields, and down quiet country lanes to the cobbled streets of Hawkshead village.

At an hour and a half, the walk was just long enough to make us feel like we'd earned a good feed, and The Queen's Head, an AA-rosette awarded inn, didn't let us down.

This is another pub that's retained its original character. Dating back to the seventeenth century, it's all latticed windows and crooked beams with tall folks lowering their heads to avoid getting bumped. The home-cooked menu features British classics such as steak and chips, and sausages and mash as well as Mediterranean-influenced dishes such as calamari and aioli, and chocolate panna cotta. It may have been a second choice after The Tower Bank Arms but we were all impressed by the food and service.

The Queens Head - HawkesheadThe Queens Head - Hawkeshead

Back at The Summer House the next morning, we explored the immediate surroundings and wished we were staying longer. The lakeshore of Windermere is just a field away, offering walks, picnic spots, and even a ferry stop if you want to head to Ambleside without driving. We also had a nosey around Low Wray campsite – a vast, wooded, quiet site (at least when we visited) with lots of tucked-away spots offering privacy. There are numerous glamping options, plus lakeside pitches, a shop, a playground, and canoe hire. 

Having seen this campsite, it was clear that both options – the cottage and the glamping – would have made for a brilliant weekend. I'm glad we got The Summer House though. It's the kind of place you become attached to. We were only there for one night but it has a peace and purity to it that quickly gets under your skin. 

Two-night short breaks at The Summer House in Hawkshead range range from £276-£647 depending on when you go. For full details, visit the National Trust Cottages website.

 

Low Wray Campsite 4Low Wray Campsite 4

Lunch At The Giggling GooseLunch At The Giggling Goose

Salt And Pepper SquidSalt And Pepper Squid

Steak And ChipsSteak And Chips

P1010337

 

The Summer House Living RoomThe Summer House Living Room

The Summer House Twin BedroomThe Summer House Twin Bedroom

The Tower Bank Arms Beer GardenThe Tower Bank Arms Beer Garden

 

 

The Tower Bank ArmsThe Tower Bank Arms

View From The Summer HouseView From The Summer House

Low Wray Campsite 2Low Wray Campsite 2

Low Wray Campsite 3Low Wray Campsite 3


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Georgina Hague shared this on Facebook on May 23rd 2014.

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