Why the Gilpin is the Lake District’s ultimate Covid-secure retreat

In a nutshell: Luxury private lodges for the ultimate romantic Lake District retreat

Price point: ££££

The neighbourhood

In the heart of the Cumbrian countryside, a five-minute drive from Lake Windermere, sit sister hotels The Gilpin and Gilpin Lake House. The former offers contemporary spa lodges set in 21 acres of land, and the latter cosy country house vibes perched on the edge of a pine-framed private lake. Both are family-run and gloriously child, wedding and conference free. A local walk to nearby Gummers Howe offers panoramic views of the lake and mountains and the quaint town of Windermere is a 10-minute drive away.  

The look

The spa suites are slick, vast and luxurious – and an Instagrammer’s heaven. Each one is 100sqm, open plan and complete with multi-aspect floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the mountains to the west and woodlands to the east, while welcoming in the ‘golden hour’ light from all angles. The décor is indoor-meets-outdoor, with the natural landscape brought inside via copious greenery (some of which is fake), bark, concrete-style walls and a large light well in the centre.  

The vibe

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The Gilpin is a family-owned hotel, run by the Cunliffes for more than three decades. Staff are eager and friendly with a clear love for the place – many of them having worked there for years. The hotel itself feels a little dated compared with the spa lodges, with eighties interiors a tad incongruous next to the hard-edged modernity, but open fires, endless piles of magazines and helpful information on the best local walks make it feel welcoming. Visitors are often locals down for the weekend and many are regulars, with a few loved-up honeymooners emerging from their lodges for dinner.

Bed and bath

The spa suites are luxury hideaways like no other. An airy, open-plan layout places rainfall showers and a circular stone bathtub at one side, opposite a sitting room where a 65” smart TV and suspended gas fire create a cosy lounge area. A Sonos sound system fills the lodge with music of your choice.

A perfect spot for honeymooners, each suite is like an exclusive spa, exposed yet intimate and entirely private, shielded from the outside world (ideal for a pandemic escape). In winter, the lodges make for the ultimate hygge weekend away and, in summer, the wood decking area with hot tub and plunge pond offers calm tranquillity.

Everything is designed to be shared, from the side-by-side rain showers to the spacious steam room and sauna, infra-red bed and state of the art Japanese massage chair that will pummel your aching muscles into submission. A Spa Suite Trail has been created specifically for the lodges, with salt scrubs, detoxifying masks and conditioning treatments tailored for two paired with a bento platter of flavours to complement the products and facilities. Nori rolls, fresh salads and mojito lollies are all provided to be nibbled between treatments; we gobbled ours in one and opted to do the treatments in our own time, but the process was no less enjoyable.

Food drink

The Gilpin has two restaurants, both overseen by head chef Hrishikesh Desai. Hrishi is a Michelin-starred multi-course affair. Three courses are priced at £70, or there’s an extravagant eight-course tasting menu for £90 per head.  

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The food uses local produce to create British classics with a twist. We went for the vegan tasting menu which was delicious – but the atmosphere is a bit hushed and stuffy with every course requiring a slowly drizzled jus. By contrast, Gilpin Spice is a more laid-back affair, with an open kitchen and vibrant wallpaper, low-hanging wicker lighting and plush cushions. Taking inspiration from Cumbria’s former spice trade and Desai’s Indian heritage, it offers tapas-style pan-Asian dishes, each costing around £9. The food is novel, with sweet tastes and strong spices. Breakfast is the same across both restaurants and offers all the classics, from pastries to eggs Florentine and even a Welsh rarebit, as well as fresh juices to boot.  

Public areas

The bar in the main hotel offers a cosy country hotel setting with comfortable sofas in front of open fires. The Lake House has an après-ski feel with an indoor pool and outdoor hot tubs and saunas and a boat house snug for cream teas overlooking the lake. A raised canopy treatment room offers lake views.

Nuts and bolts

Room count: 25 bedrooms in the main hotel including 5 Spa Lodges, 3 Spa Suites and 6 rooms in the lake house

Wifi: Complimentary

Freebies: Complimentary passes are available to all guests for Choices Health Club in Troutbeck Bridge, where there’s a gym, swimming pool, sauna, steam room and indoor hot tub.

Disability access:  The ground floor of the hotel is accessible (apart from one of three dining rooms), with a dedicated ground floor WC.  One of the Garden Suites is accessible with a hoist for the hot tub and dedicated parking just outside. 

Bottom line

Best thing: The spa lodges. Nothing says luxury like your own private steam room, and it sets the bar for all future hotels.

Worst thing: The main hotels don’t quite live up to the luxury of the lodges, leaving you feeling like you’re stepping back to the eighties.  

Perfect for: Honeymooners.

Not right for: A family getaway or a weekend with a friend (unless you’re happy to shower next to each other…)

Instagram from: Every angle of your spa lodge.

Room rate: Spa Suites start from £850 per night based on two sharing.


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