Five-star luxury in the Lake District

Finding a decent five-star hotel can be more difficult than you’d think. I’ve stayed in plenty of mediocre hotels, a few bad ones, and then every so often I find a gem. The Gilpin Hotel, near Lake Windermere, falls firmly into the latter category.

Gilpin is a beautiful slate country house turned intimate hotel, with fantastic views of the national park and an array of lounges to hide in when the traditional Cumbrian weather interrupts play.

The property has been run by the Cunliffe family for the last 25 years and they have created something very different to the chintz-filled establishments one usually associates with Lake District hotels.

Stylish interiors, spacious bedrooms with large beds, and modern bathrooms compare well with the best you’ll find in any part of England.

As well as the main building, the property also includes a gorgeous six-bedroom boutique called the Lake House, which was converted from the Cunliffes’ own family home three years ago.

This offshoot is located a mile away from the main building on the banks of a private tarn, offering beautiful views over the water – and the chance to get much closer if you’d like. Guests can borrow a rowing boat or go for a swim if they’re brave enough.

Lake House, Lake DistrinctThose who prefer their watersports to be a bit less chilly can just take in the view from the comfort of the hot tub, or go for a dip in the indoor pool.

The latest attraction is a magnificent, brand new spa located in the forest with a glass front looking out over the tarn. Book in for a treatment and the therapists will hand-mix spa products to match your mood and requirements.

At dinner time, you’ll have to head back to Gilpin for food – but there’s a chauffeur on hand to take you and it’s worth the trip. This is one of those few restaurants where I could merrily eat my way through the entire menu. My only minor complaint was that some of the portions could be larger. Two tablespoons of an utterly magnificent cauliflower cheese risotto simply isn’t enough.

Prices start from £485 for a room at the Lake House, including breakfast and a five-course dinner. Spa treatments start from £70. For further information, visit the website at www.thegilpin.co.uk or call 015394-88818.

A striking design vision in slate and glass

Brimstone Hotel, Lake DistrictA nearby alternative to Gilpin is the newly opened Brimstone hotel. This striking vision of slate and glass has been nominated for a design award and certainly goes all out to impress.

The bedrooms are enormous, with feature baths, balconies and, in some cases, bedrooms on mezzanine levels. All have seating areas with a wood-burning stove and are decorated to a high standard, with gorgeous soft furnishings and lighting systems that allow you to light the room in a variety of moods.

However, service was less impressive. On arrival, I faced a locked door and few signs explaining where to go or what to do. After ringing the buzzer, I was let in, but spent 15 minutes hunting for anybody who could check me in.

After finding a member of staff, I was shown to my room, an impressive mezzanine suite – but was disappointed to have my suitcase dumped by the door rather than taken up to the bedroom.

After that, things went more smoothly – except for the point when the fire alarm went off and neither of the staff members in attendance knew how to switch it off.

These may seem trivial issues, but at £250 per night, guests should expect top-quality service. As a result, I suggest waiting until the overall experience has had time to rise to the standard of the design before booking a stay. Find out more at www.brimstonehotel.co.uk.