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.
Holbeck Ghyll, Windermere
Overlooking Lake Windermere and the hills, Holbeck Ghyll (doubles from $300 including breakfast), a cozy 19th-century hunting lodge, is full of traditional English touches: oak paneling, wing chairs, a croquet lawn, and two black Labradors. The Michelin-starred restaurant does fresh takes on British classics, such as roast loin of venison with herbed gnocchi, and a mille-feuille of rhubarb, oat, and vanilla. Most rooms have water views, but the one you really want to book is the Miss Potter suite—a nod to Beatrix Potter, who summered in the area—with its deep hot tub on a private balcony.
Punch Bowl Inn, Windermere
Great Value Just five miles outside of town, the Punch Bowl Inn (doubles from $181 including breakfast) has nine romantic rooms that feel like home, only better, with exposed beams, plum-hued walls, deep rolltop baths, and freshly baked cookies delivered to your room upon arrival. Downstairs at the restaurant, ask for the table beside the open log fire for a dinner of traditional favorites, such as Lancashire hot pot or Cumberland sausages, with a pint of locally brewed Tag Lag Ale.
Courtesy of Dove Cottage/Wordsworth Trust
Dove Cottage, Grasmere
William Wordsworth lived in Grasmere, which he described as the “prettiest village in England.” Its town green, central church, small tranquil lake, and diminutive cottages create a quintessential picture-postcard scene. Wordsworth’s home, Dove Cottage, is now a museum with original manuscripts by the poet as well as a vast collection of watercolor paintings from the 19th-century Romantic movement.
Courtesy of The Moss Grove Organic Hotel
Moss Grove, Grasmere
In the village center, the eco-aware Moss Grove (doubles from $250 including breakfast), which opened in mid 2007, is as sustainable as possible, with native woods and stone, organic toiletries, and fair-trade linens. The 11 rooms have chunky wooden beds, leather tub chairs, and flat-screen televisions. Breakfast (organic, of course) is a help-yourself affair.
Sharrow Bay, Ullswater Lake
As you drive north of Grasmere, the landscape becomes more rugged and wild: steep crags stretch upward, with scrubby heather and bracken clinging to the moors. The countryside here is crisscrossed with walking trails. Along a winding road lies the remote Sharrow Bay (doubles from $735 including dinner and breakfast). Though rooms may feel a touch old-fashioned—sherry in the bedrooms, floral-scented toiletries, pastel walls, and swag curtains—this is sumptuous English country-house living at its best. The lounges, library, and restaurant are a cosseting cocktail of antique furniture, plush couches, and warm, attentive service. And the location can’t be beat: the lake laps on one side of the property, while hiking trails head up into the hills from the other.