Jenny Needham, Northern Echo, January 2012
"Jenny Needham kicks off her walking boots and laps up a bit of rest and relaxation on the edge of Windermere.
It was a cold, cold day in mid-January, and the car park at Linthwaite House hotel was full. The comfortable lounges were abuzz. And that evening, almost every table in the two atmospheric dining rooms was taken. Not bad for a hotel in winter, in this country, in the middle of a recession.
So what’s the secret recipe? Well, there’s the convivial atmosphere; the efficient but unstuffy service; the absolutely scrumptious dishes cooked using locally sourced ingredients… and the lovely views of Lake Windermere from the wraparound conservatory.
There’s the location, on a quiet hillside a stone’s throw from busy Bowness; the extensive grounds with their own tarn; and the comfortable bedroom suites. On a cold, cold weekend in mid-January, it was the perfect relaxing retreat and we loved it.
The 30-bedroom hotel is owned by Mike Bevans, who says he’s been in the business “for ever”. He worked in Brighton for most of his early career, before heading for the Lakes to help develop the Langdale estate timeshare business. When that was taken over, he decided to move on.
“For the first time in my life, I was jobless and someone said, ‘Why don’t you buy your own hotel?’ So, probably quite foolishly, I sold my house and got some backers.” After looking at about 45 properties east of Windermere – “location is everything” – he stumbled upon Linthwaite. It was the perfect place: a bit out of town but with 14 acres and wonderful views of the lake.
“It was a prime site,” says Mike. “After all, we are selling peace and tranquillity, a respite for people from their busy daily lives; that’s what we do.” The hotel was originally built as a five-bedroomed house at the turn of the 20th Century, probably as a rural bolthole for a wealthy Lancashire mill owner and his family. By 1990, it had become a rather unprepossessing two-star hotel, “okay, but deadly dull,” says Mike.
“We had a budget of £250,000 and spent almost double that completely renovating it.” And what a transformation. “We didn’t want it to look like an archetypal country house hotel with swags and chintz and that was the brief to the interior designer,” says Mike. The outcome was “Raffles-meets-Ralph-Lauren”, a style which has evolved over the years into something a bit more contemporary without losing any of its charm.
As you enter the hotel, there’s a carved mahogany fireplace with crackling fire in the hall – in an effort to be green, the logs come from the woods just outside – the sitting rooms are unflashy and comfortable with huge piles of magazines and tables fashioned from old travel trunks. The little bar just off the sitting room has a fish tank embedded in the wall.
There are two dining rooms, one the former billiards room, which leads onto another. Here, two walls decorated by someone with a mirror fetish reflect back the flickering flames from the candlelit tables.
Our bedroom was neutral, calming and comfortable, with a huge dressing room squeaky-clean bathroom and enormous bed.
Upstairs again is the magnificent 56 square metre Loft Suite with glass roof for star-gazing, the perfect retreat for honeymooners. At the front, the terrace is undergoing something of an extension and decking is being added. “We want to take advantage of the views and encourage non-residents to come up and have lunch outside in the summer,” says Mike.
In the hallway there’s a row of brightly coloured wellies in different sizes which can be borrowed when you want to wander through the landscaped wood to the summer house by the tarn. It was once used as a reservoir for the
Storrs area of Bowness and is fed by natural springs. Gung-ho guests are welcome to swim here in the summer. “I’ve been in when it’s really hot,” says Mike. “The water is so pure you can drink it as you swim.”
As it was still winter, a swim didn’t really feature in our plans, so we wandered down into Bowness and took a 50p ferry ride across the lake for a walk. The Windermere Ferry – the only one in the Lakes to carry cars – takes about 15 minutes to cross from Ferry Nab just south of Bowness to Ferry House at Far Sawrey. Back in Bowness later that day, we did a spot of shopping. Naturally, every other outlet is an outdoor clothing store and the woman in Edge of the World who sold me some much needed gloves asked where we were staying. “Linthwaite,” I said. “Lucky you,” she replied.
Ironically, for a hotel in the heart of walking country, Linthwaite does everything in its power to persuade you to kick off your walking boots and forget about the great outdoors. Asked about the secret of a running a successful hotel, Mike says: “It’s so important you don’t intimidate people. Even though I hate the phrase, you have to make them feel at home. That’s why my business is called The Unstuffy Hotel Company.”"