Taking a deep breath, I bravely stepped through the sliding doors of the spa and out into the freezing evening. Snow fell on my cringing bare skin as I hastily submerged myself in the blood-warm depths of the infinity pool. As I swam to and fro, periodically dipping my face beneath the steam-blanketed surface to defrost, I gazed at the heart-stoppingly beautiful vista that surrounded me: above, the snow-capped heights; below, their images, perfectly reflected in the mirror-smooth expanse of a dark, silent lake.
It was a scene of positively Alpine magnificence; but in fact, we had travelled a mere three hours by train from home to reach the Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa, in the heart of the Lake District. It stands on the shores of Derwentwater and behind it, a spectacular waterfall tumbles 100 feet down the craggy hillside with a perpetual roar – ‘A sight to delight in; / Confounding, astounding, / Dizzying and deafening the ear with its sound’, as Robert Southey put it in his poem ‘The Cataract of Lodore’.
With such a glorious setting, it’s no surprise that there has been a hotel standing on the spot for the past 150 years. Now, the gabled and turreted Victorian slate building (which itself bears more than a passing resemblance to a Swiss mountain retreat) has been augmented with a luxurious new spa and a collection of chic modern suites in a separate lodge. The main hotel, meanwhile, retains a solidly traditional appeal, with panelled walls, vintage photographs, velvet sofas, and hordes of dogs and children scampering around as their parents peacefully consume scones and cream, or peruse the extensive gin and tonic menu. (The hotel is notably dog-friendly, offering free treats and canine cuisine in the library lounge area for four-legged companions.)
As we were only staying a single night, every moment was precious. So although we arrived just as the rain began to fall and the wind to rise, we wasted no time in getting outside, in the smart new walking boots loaned to us by the hotel.
Matt, the hotel’s affable manager, recommended a walk up Catbells as a picturesque spot for a ramble, and I was reassured to read Alfred Wainwright’s description of it as ‘a family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together’. All I can say is, they are born hardier round here. Indeed, as we puffed and panted our way to the top, lashed by what now felt like a howling gale, we were rather embarrassed to pass a pair of little girls in wellies on their way back down. Up at the top, we caught brief, tantalising glimpses of glorious vistas before they were blotted out by the lowering clouds.
By the time we made it back to Lodore’s warm embrace, our teeth were chattering, our hands numb, and we were soaked to the skin. A long soak in a hot bath and an hour’s nap restored us to top form, and, by now ravenous, we descended to the Lake View restaurant for a multi-course meal of local specialities, starting with a tiny bowl of intensely flavoured carrot soup, followed by a smoked-salmon amuse bouche and a rich but dainty serving of pork belly with apple, which left us too full for pudding.
Our room was one of the modern spa suites, with a view over water from both sides: the mysterious lake from our balcony, and the rushing Falls from our bedroom window. I flung up the sash and, snuggling down under our bed’s faux-fur throw, allowed its soothing roar to lull us to sleep.
The following morning, we woke to glorious sunshine. After a hearty Cumbrian breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon, tomato and black pudding, my husband and I decided on radically different approaches to how we would spend the rest of the day. He put on his running shoes and shorts, and pelted off up Bleaberry Fell, above the snow line. Meanwhile, I changed into a swimming costume and descended two flights to the luxurious spa, where I was ushered into a private room for the signature Akwaterrra massage (it seemed appropriate, given our watery surroundings). A nagging pain in my shoulders and neck that had hung around for months gave way in the face of a combination of La Sultane de Saba oils, applied using warmed ergonomic ceramic tools. Afterwards, I lay for an hour in a relaxed trance on a day bed, drinking herbal tea, before I could even summon up the energy to sample the delights of the thermal suite, with its various steam-rooms, herbal sauna and heated loungers. It came as a rude shock when my husband arrived to collect me, red-faced and splattered with mud to the eyebrows.
Once we were both presentable, we sought fortification in the pan-Asian restaurant Mizu, whose menu offers a sophisticated and delicious mix of Japanese, Malaysian and Thai favourites. We feasted on scallops and sashimi salad, scattered with flowers and micro-herbs, and raised cups of green tea to this sophisticated, revitalising and rather unexpected oasis in the Lakes.
New Spa Suites at Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa start from £460 a night on a bed and breakfast basis, based on two people sharing. For hotel reservations and more information, visit www.lakedistrictspa.co.uk, email email@example.com or ring 0800 840 1246. For spa reservations, ring 017687 87704.