Small inns dot the famous Lake District in England; here are T+L’s top picks.
Gilpin Lodge, Windermere
The Best Inns of England's Lake District
Gilpin Lodge, Windermere
In the summer, boats lazily ferry visitors around Lake Windermere, and canoeists paddle among its tiny islands. The town itself is buzzing with restaurants, cafés, and shops. Just outside of town, Gilpin Lodge (doubles from $725 including dinner and breakfast), a family-run Victorian hotel, has added six new garden suites that have a bit more privacy than the 14 rooms in the main house. The suites’ bathrooms are huge, with dinner plate–size showerheads; rooms come with beds that are wider than they are long.
The Lake District is famed for its rugged beauty. The area is a beguiling combination of windswept, heather-clad mountains and moors, clusters of silver-blue lakes, and mottled green forests. It also contains Britain’s largest national park, making it an adventurer’s dream.
The region encompasses about 200 peaks (known locally as fells), great to scale on foot or mountain bike—including Scafell Pike, at 3,210 feet England’s highest mountain—and more than 80 lakes and tarns. Wastwater lake was recently honored as “Britain’s Favourite View” on the English TV show of the same name.
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Along the shores of these lakes, visitors will find no shortage of quaint stone cottages, grand Victorian mansions, and out-of-the-past little towns. Grasmere Village was described by the poet Wordsworth, a resident here in the 19th century, as “the loveliest place on earth.” Little has changed, from the ducks that waddle across the village green to the ancient church and the tiny (but legendary) Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, which has been making cookies using the same secret recipe since 1854.
The Lake District became the most fashionable vacation destination in the U.K. in Victorian times, when the advent of the railroad made it accessible to wealthy Londoners. Many of the buildings, inns, and expanses of land, unchanged for more than 100 years, are now protected and are a constant reminder of the destination’s heyday. It’s this charm that continues to draw tourists today.
And thanks to the region’s own brand of small-scale local tourism (there are no large hotel or restaurant chains here, and most buildings are Victorian or older), a clutch of intimate and stylish places are available for eating, drinking, and sound sleeping after a day of sightseeing.
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In Cartmel, in the southern part of the district, L’Enclume opened seven years ago in a converted blacksmith’s workshop. Chef-owner Simon Rogan’s creative recipes have since earned a Michelin star for the restaurant—the same honor bestowed on Holbeck Ghyll in Windermere, a cozy 19th-century hunting lodge complete with a croquet lawn.
Today’s Lake District chefs and hoteliers alike are championing local produce and crafts, ensuring unique establishments that reflect their idyllic surroundings. Here, six places to stay where style and great food are found in abundance.