For months, we’ve been counting down the days to our stay at Ambleside’s Rothay Manor. Given that the Lake District is always popular in the summer and with the addition of a national staycation frenzy, we were a little hesitant as to what we’d find. However, our concerns were unfounded, and we found time to relax, appreciate nature, unwind and treat our palates to a cornucopia of incredible flavours.
It’s rare that my wife and I get a chance to head off and do a review nowadays; instead, we let our ever-growing editorial team experience the delights of the world’s great hotels and restaurants. In fact, my wife reminded me on the drive to the Lake District that it had been nigh on three years since our last hotel review.
This trip was to be a double-header, with a stay at Rothay Manor for a night, followed by a visit to a well-regarded gastropub in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
So what was it that prompted us to go this time? There were a few reasons. Firstly, I’d spent much of 2021 writing about Staycations and the fantastic places the UK has to offer. Secondly, I’d written a couple of articles about a brilliant chef named Dan McGeorge, and he just so happens to be the head chef at Rothay Manor.
Compared to some of the places we’ve been to in the past, the Lake District is pretty much on our doorstep. From where we live in Lancashire, it’s usually just under one hours drive. I say, usually, as when we got to the outskirts of Ambleside, we were greeted by something we were quite unfamiliar with, a queue of traffic just to get into the town; it was that popular.
We could only put this down to the 1000’s of excited holidaymakers who’d decided on a Lake District staycation instead of heading overseas. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long until we reached the entrance to Rothay Manor and the welcome sight of empty parking spaces.
Rothay Manor is a beautiful white painted colonial-style property. It is fronted by a manicured stretch of lawn bordered by mature trees. Ordinarily, this would be an ideal place to sit with a refreshing drink; sadly, we’d brought some light drizzle with us from Lancashire and, after quickly admiring the greenery, hurried into the manor.
We were warmly welcomed by a young lady in reception, who we soon discovered was actually one of the owners. For us, it’s always a thrill to see the people right at the top of the tree, getting hands-on, and it’s something we believe all successful business people should be doing.
As we looked around, we could see the incredible attention to detail in the property, from the walls to the cornice and ceilings, and colours used; it was the perfect taster of what was to follow.
After checking in, we made the short walk to our room on the first floor. We opened the door to our beautifully decorated superior plus room. It had hand-painted wallpaper, stylish furniture that perfectly complemented the style and history of the property and a superbly equipped and spacious bathroom. After wandering around the suite, admiring the beautiful colours, we discovered something we weren’t expecting, and that was our own expansive balcony which overlooked the garden.
In another part of the grounds, we noticed some construction work being done. This will become the Pavilion and replaces the bungalow that housed the Loughrigg and Wansfell suites. Once completed, this multi-million-pound addition to the hotel will provide a further eight luxury guests suites, with four of the rooms on the ground floor, each having a private garden that leads onto the main gardens. The work should be completed in the near future, allowing many more to experience this delightful property in 2022.
Once we’d freshened up, unpacked and changed our clothes, we headed downstairs to take a walk around the property.
Rothay Manor has a stylish and spacious restaurant on the ground floor, with tables well-spaced out to ensure that patrons remain safe in light of the ongoing pandemic. In addition to this, there is a bar with plenty of seating and the spacious dog-friendly Brathay Lounge.
With the weather improving, we decided to head into Ambleside town centre to explore. Fortunately, Rothay Manor is superbly situated, with the shops being within easy walking distance and the lake a leisurely stroll away.
Our first port of call was the town centre. As expected, given the traffic we’d experienced upon our arrival, there was a lot of people on the streets. Fortunately, this didn’t impact our shopping expedition, and we could still find what we needed without any hassles. After dropping our shopping off at Rothay Manor, we decided to head in the opposite direction to explore the lake.
It was a level, easy walk on paths through fields by the river. The sun started to shine, which made the cattle grazing close by look absolutely picturesque, and we couldn’t stop taking photographs of their inquisitive nature and somewhat bemused faces.
Along the way, we also got to visit some Roman ruins, which is something both Natasha and I are very interested in. It is a delightful, peaceful walk that didn’t reach a crescendo as when we got to the lake; we were greeted by throngs of people and overly-excited children. As you can imagine, we did a quite rapid u-turn and headed back to the peace and tranquillity of the fields, cows and river!
On a side note, if you’re a fan of entomology like me, the Lake District is an incredible place to head to see species you wouldn’t usually see anywhere in the country. For the first time ever, I got up close to an exquisite example of Tabanus Sudeticus, which seemed more than happy for me to take a few photos whilst showing complete disinterest in me.
After getting our fill of fresh air, admiring the hills in the distance and watching the cows, it was getting closer to the Dan McGeorge restaurant experience. So, we headed back to Rothay Manor, where I put on my best ‘bib and tucker’ with Natasha opting for a classic dress.
Being the owners of Luxurious Magazine, Natasha and I have had the pleasure of dining in some very highly-rated restaurants. However, I can count the number of times my palate has been truly wowed on just one hand. When I think back, I can recall one dessert made for me by an Italian chef called Giuseppe in Malaysia, some traditional street food in St Petersburgh and an exquisite tasting menu at the Torridon in the Scottish Highlands, and that’s probably it. I was hoping that the expert skills of the Rothay Manor kitchen team would be added to what is a rather scant list.
Now dressed for action and with a rumble in our tummies, we headed down to the restaurant. Our table was by the window overlooking the garden, and the dim lighting in the room was a beautiful mood setter.
Rather than going into each of the flavours and textures we experienced, I am instead going to write about the overall experience. The first thing I should mention is the superb staff in the restaurant who went above and beyond with us and the other guests to make the dining experience feel very special.
From the freshly baked bread and hand-churned butter to the beautiful tableware, the overall feeling is of quality. Each of the dishes was interspersed with amuse-bouche, and everything we tasted was incredible, so much so that not only is Rothay Manor added to my scant list, it actually tops it. It really is that good!
Everything through to the desserts was a triumph, and I could now see first-hand why Dan McGeorge walked away as the winner of the Great British Menu Competition 2021. I was so thrilled with my meal that I insisted on thanking Dan personally once I finished. I realise that this wasn’t customary, but having experienced the culinary skills of some of the very best chefs in the world, I felt it my duty to give him my personal feedback.
After a few minutes, I was invited to the kitchen door and was told that Dan was a little embarrassed as his workwear wasn’t pristine. Given how much effort the man puts into his work, this was no surprise to us. I told Dan that he and his team had made a meal that was probably the best I had ever experienced, and I asked him how it feels to now be regarded as one of the best following his huge win on national TV?
It was very clear to me that Dan doesn’t crave glitz and glamour. He was obviously proud of winning, but he’d prefer to stay out of the limelight and instead wants his food to be the star.
It was hugely refreshing to meet someone who has culinary stardom at his fingertips whose only interest was pursuing his passion, and that is cooking. It was a marked difference to some of the chefs we regularly write about who seem to think their personality is more important than their culinary creations.
As Natasha and I walked back to our room, we were still excitedly discussing the meal we’d just eaten. Both of us were quite simply blown away by the quality of the food, the presentation and how perfectly cooked and flavoursome each dish was. We were both in agreement that it was the best meal we’d ever experienced.
After what had been an excellent day, we headed to bed in our beautifully decorated room.
Following a good night sleep, we headed down for breakfast in the restaurant, with both of us opting for the Rothay Manor cooked breakfast. This too was expertly cooked and ordinarily would be among the best we’d tasted, but given the gastronomic feast we’d experienced, everything we tasted from hereon would never be able to reach the highs we were treated to the previous night.
After finishing our breakfast and with the sun shining, we checked out and thanked the staff for what was an excellent stay. Before we headed off on the next part of our gastronomic adventure, we decided to have another walk along the river and a wander into town yes, we did manage to find some bargains in the shops!
Final thoughts on Rothay Manor
Our stay at Rothay Manor was superb. It is a beautiful property filled with charm and friendly, attentive staff. Admittedly it doesn’t have all the bells and whistle’s that some other hotels offer; However, it more than makes up for it in its charm, location and overall quality.
If I did have a criticism, it would be that the restaurant prices are too low! For food as magnificent as what they are offering, they should be charging more, and this tight-fisted middle-aged man would be happy to pay the extra!
Rothay Manor Hotel – Where and How?
Rothay Manor Hotel
Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0EH
Telephone: 01539 433605
For more information on Rothay Manor, the current menu’s and hotel facilities, please visit www.rothaymanor.co.uk.