THE countless millions who’ve enjoyed a break in the Lake District have always known it was special.
How special, though? Very, as it was awarded Unesco World Heritage status in July.
That puts it in the company of the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal and Machu Picchu, which is pretty special in anyone’s books.
And on the subject of special – had I mentioned that word already? – the base for our exploration is pretty darn decent.
Armathwaite Hall is a super-luxurious hotel, a vibe we get from the moment we walk into the panelled reception and are offered a welcoming glass of sherry. It used to be such a seriously stately pile, it feels like a good old chunk of the Lake District sits within the grounds. There are, in fact, 400 acres of deer park and parkland, sitting right on stunning Bassenthwaite Lake.
That means you’re guaranteed a room – there are 46 – with a view and our Deluxe Room was a cracker. Each room has either lake, park or garden views and luckily the vista that lay before us was that glorious expanse of water.
Mind you, the look inside the room was giving the view outside some pretty serious competition. Everything had a real touch of class about it, from the Bose music player to the telly built into the wall at the end of the bath.
Even the armchairs, complete with comfy footstools, had been thoughtfully placed side by side, looking out at Bassenthwaite. The whole feel at Armathwaite is classy yet far from stuffy.
And whether you’re a walker, explorer or need some pampering, it’s the perfect place.
Whatever you decide, you can be sure of some fabulous food to top and tail your day.
Breakfasts were top notch and there were a couple of fab evening options. The Courtyard Brasserie is your more informal choice for the likes of seafood linguine or a nice steak. The fajitas went down particularly well.
The Lake View is a fine dining two rosette treat where the Cartmel Quail and Guinea Fowl were just two of the dishes presented to perfection.
We can’t be this close to Bassenthwaite and not have a look, so we took the five-minute walk through the grounds right to the shore of the lake; the branches of the trees on the ‘autumnal turn’ reflected on the water.
Tearing ourselves away wasn’t easy, it has to be said, but there was too much temptation not to.
Keswick is just minutes away and there was somewhere a bit out of the ordinary.
Come on, where else would you find a museum dedicated to a pencil? The Derwent Pencil Museum is packed with fascinating facts, like how tiny maps were smuggled inside pencils for RAF aircrew downed over Germany during World War Two. Or how graphite became more valuable than gold in the 17th Century.
And right in the centre stands the world’s longest pencil, all eight metres of it.
You get a teasing little quiz to complete on the way round, so I won’t give away the answers. After a good stretch of the legs round the rest of Keswick, a relaxing session in the gorgeous Spa was a muscle-reviving delight. The full body massage was an hour of sheer indulgence.
And the room’s “TV bath” treat was topped by a soak in the outdoor hot pool with a glass of wine – yes, just press a buzzer and they deliver your tipple to your bubbles!
Finally there was just a little more time left for a bit of last-minute Lakes fun.
Virtually right on the doorstep is the Lake District Wildlife Park.
We had owls and vultures sitting on the bench beside us during one of the entertaining, frequent displays.
A special end to a very special visit.
Armathwaite Hall Hotel and Spa is a member of the Pride of Britain hotels.
An overnight stay costs from £210 per room (two sharing), including full Cumbrian breakfast and use of the Spa.
To book call Pride of Britain hotels on 0800 089 3929 or visit prideofbritainhotels.com
Find info on all the Lake District had to offer at www.golakes.co.uk