At first glance, the Grand Canyon, Taj Majal, and Machu Picchu don't have much in common with the United Kingdom's Lake District. However, as of last week, all four bucket-list sites share the same prestigious title. In early July, the Lake District was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, making it the 31st place in the U.K. to earn this designation. Other UNESCO sites in the U.K. include Stonehenge, Durham Castle and Cathedral, and the city of Bath. The World Heritage Committee praised the 885-square-mile area's beauty, farming, and inspiration it had on writers and artists. Home to England's largest natural lake and highest mountain -- Lake Windermere and Scafell Pike, respectively -- it's not hard to see why the Lake District made the cut, though it's not the first time it has tried to obtain a spot on the UNESCO list. (In fact, it has been 30 years in the making.) Status or not, the region welcomes about 18 million visitors annually. So, for those who are visiting and want to stay close to the action, we rounded up a list of great Lake District hotels right in the heart of it all.
Gilpin Hotel & Lake House
Everything about the Gilpin Hotel & Lake House is elegant. For starters, expensive fabrics, quality furniture, and unique ornamentation make all the common areas seem luxurious but still comfortable. Plus, the lounge area in the main hotel features crushed velvet couches, a wood-burning fireplace, stacked bookshelves, and collectible plates, giving the feeling that you're actually in someone's personal living room. Located in Lake District National Park, the family owned-and-operated property is built into two luxury country houses. Guest rooms are spacious with huge picture windows and exceptionally tasteful decor. Flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, Nespresso coffeemakers, and stocked minibars add modern conveniences to the country escape. Private hot tubs and patios can be found in some suites, and an on-site spa is available as well. A made-to-order free breakfast is offered daily, but the highly-rated restaurant (open for dinner only) is pricey.
This 41-room, upscale hotel near Ambleside is modern yet cozy. With expansive lawns that run down to the shores of Lake Windermere, this stone structure gives off a classic English town home vibe. Plus, the surrounding scenery can't be beat. Rooms are spacious and bright with high ceilings, wood furnishings, large bathrooms, and comfy beds. The modern on-site Bar and Grill offers casual dining with lots of windows and comfy leather couches. Romantic, idyllic, and relaxing -- that's Waterhead.
Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa
In 1745, the Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa opened its doors to guests for the first time. The hotel has since, according to estimates, served over three million people. Sitting on a large property with green lawns that overlook the idyllic Lake Windermere, the hotel has kept some of its old-world charm and added a bit of modernity. It has a spa with a nail salon, a cafe, treatment rooms, a heated pool, and a gym. The 106 rooms have classic decor and flat-screen TVs, and many feature superb lake views. Overall, the atmosphere is peaceful and relaxing, though perhaps lacking a bit of polish.
There's a special kind of magic at Armathwaite Hall, which feels a bit like a mix between Downton Abbey and Hogwarts. Situated on 400 acres of woodlands, this elegant retreat overlooks the picturesque Bassenthwaite Lake. A classic English aesthetic permeates the property, with quirky touches giving spaces an unexpected charm. The stunning exterior looks like a castle; interior common areas are richly decorated with oak-wood paneling, dark colors (think: maroon, reds, and deep blues), and classic details like grandfather clocks, pewter accents, antique photos, and lots of armchairs. A billiards room looks every bit the part and roaring fireplaces add warmth to grand spaces. Each of the 46 rooms are uniquely laid out and decorated; some spaces feature fireplaces, patios, and hot tubs. The full-service spa is top-notch and offers a variety of treatments as well as an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, and fitness center. To top it off, the outdoor hot tub overlooking the garden is simply exquisite.
The Wordsworth Hotel
Located in the heart of the Lake District, The Wordsworth is an upscale, 39-room hotel housed in a 19th-century hunting lodge. Its quaint Grasmere Village location is a destination in itself, but also an excellent base for exploring the picturesque surroundings, which include riverside gardens with pretty flower beds, tidy lawns, and assorted shrubbery. Upon entering the lobby, the mood is homey and welcoming, like stepping into a traditional English home with mantelpiece knick-knacks, a crackling log fire, and framed family photos. The rest of the hotel follows suit, with floral tasseled curtains, patterned carpets, and plaid-upholstered sofas, giving a slightly jumbled yet provincial feel to the place. On-site dining is particularly noteworthy and spa facilities (with an indoor pool, hot tub, and sauna) are nice perks. And in case you're wondering about the name, it's an homage to the renowned poet who is buried nearby and described the area as "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found."
The 74-room Lakeside Hotel sits on the banks of Lake Windermere, with a private jetty and gardens that offer couples and families quiet, outdoor sitting areas and picturesque waterfront views. Built in the 17th century, the property was originally a coaching inn. Today, the hotel is a mix of rustic and contemporary designs. There's an all-glass conservatory that serves afternoon tea, a restaurant, a pub, a brasserie, and a spa with an indoor pool, sauna, and a small gym. Classic and charming plaid decor fills upgraded rooms that also have flat-screen TVs and views of the misty lake. There are more places to relax outside, too, including sitting areas with wood patio furniture surrounded by lush gardens and overlooking the lake.
Lodore Falls Hotel
There are few hotels in the Lake District that have such impressive and picturesque grounds as the landmark Lodore Falls Hotel. Built almost entirely of slate, the hotel has been an imposing presence overlooking Lake Derwentwater since the early 19th century and maintains a firmly old-fashioned and thoroughly traditional vibe throughout. Quintessentially English interiors give the place a cozy and traditional vibe, while health and relaxation facilities are extensive and up-to-date. Excellent dining is another big plus, however it's the hotel's surroundings -- including a wonderful waterfall -- that really steal the show.
The Cranleigh Boutique
It would be easy to drive past The Cranleigh Boutique without a clue that it's one of the most luxurious hotels in the area. The 18-room, adult-only hotel is spread over a couple of typical stone-built houses in the popular Lake District town of Bowness-on-Windermere. Individually designed rooms are beautifully finished with luxurious touches like goose-down duvets and underfloor heating, while higher-end rooms even have whirlpool soaking tubs and bathroom TVs. Guests also have access to nearby spa facilities, and the stunning lake and walking paths are just minutes away. Rates are pretty high, but this hotel is all about splashing out on a couple nights of romantic indulgence.
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