Nestled in the heart of the Lake District, The Belsfield hotel is the latest hospitality venture for interior brand, Laura Ashley. Promising a sophisticated Victorian exterior with all the throw cushions your heart could desire, take a look to see if we thought this 4-star boutique hotel was up to scratch…
Sat at the top of Windermere overlooking the longest lake in the UK, The Belsfield’s views were undoubtably second to none. You merely needed to glance out to the lake from the hotel’s picturesque grand dining room to understand how it inspired a generation of England’s finest poets.
These sublime views can be seen from either of the hotel’s restaurants, as well as the drawing rooms, garden terrace, and lake-view rooms. Although the hotel also offers garden-view rooms, a stay away from the lake would be a missed opportunity in our eyes.
Alas, if the views aren’t enough to take your breath away, the building itself certainly will be.
Built in 1845 as a private residence for Baroness Von Sternberg before being acquired by the steel magnate Henry Schnieder in 1869, The Belsfield is the architectural equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Around each corner lies another hidden library, nook or drawing room, each one featuring yet more stunning examples of the Victorians' finest architecture through its high ceilings, ceiling roses, and wall panels – all furnished with Laura Ashley’s finest armchairs, sofas and lighting, of course.
The rooms themselves are the perfect blend of traditional furnishings and décor along with all the modern amenities you’d expect. Flat screen televisions stand adjacent to dramatic floor-to-ceiling drapes, and high-tech espresso machines sit atop the interior brand’s best-selling mid-Century side cabinets; everywhere you look there are examples of Laura Ashley’s regal colour palettes and fabrics working in perfect harmony with the building’s period features.
Though the ensuite was impressively laden with state-of-the-art technology, we did find it slightly out of place in a setting so traditional. A luxurious freestanding roll top bath could have been more in keeping than the room’s sleek and sharp square tub. The Smart self-washing toilet was a particularly… interesting moment as well; but guests need not fear it too much – you can still use it the old-fashioned way!
When it comes to food, The Belsfield offers two dining experiences: The Belsfield restaurant and The Brasserie. The main restaurant – situated in an impressive ballroom-style room – promises a fine dining experience, and while this isn’t too far from the truth, it didn’t quite meet the mark. High-quality food it most certainly was, despite being somewhat under-seasoned at times, and the setting was indeed that of a fine dining restaurant, but branding it specifically as fine dining was a bit problematic. When calling an experience by such a term, you expect to not lift a finger throughout your meal and sadly that wasn’t the case. Clumsy mistakes were made, such as having to ask for the wine list and staff noticeably setting up for breakfast before the last guests had left. Though these examples may seem small, in terms of fine dining, they shouldn't happen.
The Brasserie, however, was quite a different situation. After dining in this area on the second night, I can whole-heartedly state that it was some of the best food I’ve had. Again, under-seasoning became a slight issue, but without the pressure of the fine dining tag the restaurant relaxed into a casual atmosphere, serving great informal and delicious dishes. The sticky toffee pudding in particular sits proudly in my dessert hall of fame!
No trip to The Belsfield would be complete without a wander into the Windermere's nearby towns and villages. The quaint town of Ambleside is a short drive away and a great spot for accessing the area’s best walking trails. Featuring a myriad of sweet shops, boutique delicatessens and one of the most quintessential English pubs (The Golden Rule), it’s definitely worth a visit!
Plus, just 10-minutes drive away lies Grasmere, home to William Wordsworth’s daffodil garden and resting place, as well as Sarah Nelson’s famous Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. Serving the original gingerbread recipe from 1854, it’s a must-see – just be mindful of tourism traffic during peak times!
When viewing The Belsfield in light of its picturesque surroundings, it’s beauty is plain to see. From the Victorian architecture to the old-fashioned cage-style elevator, every aspect is seamlessly in-keeping with its heritage. Laura Ashley’s delicate pastel soft furnishings and luxuriously comfortable furniture pieces only seek to enhance the rooms' exsiting features, making the entire experience one of total ease. Though the restaurant may have experienced some minor teething issues, this was merely a fly on the windscreen of an exceptional stay.
To find out more about The Belsfield, or to book your stay, visit www.lauraashleyhotels.com/thebelsfield.