With ever-fancier new hotels springing up in the Lake District, times are tough for the many small establishments with no spa or Michelin star as a draw. Yet Cedar Manor, within an easy walk of Lake Windermere, has managed to buck the trend, keeping rooms full and winning a constant slew of awards since Caroline and Jonathan Kaye picked up the keys 10 years ago.
The secret of the success of this Editor’s Choice in the Good Hotel Guide 2018 as well as AA Inspector’s Choice of Small Hotel in 2017, when it also won a Tripadvisor Badge of Excellence, is giving excellent service and daring to be bold. Jonathan Kaye ached to leave London for the Lake District, scene of happy childhood holidays, to pursue his passion for climbing the fells. He harnessed his experience running nightclubs to bring a certain panache to a resort where chintz has for decades dominated local hotel decor.
Electric blue features strongly in a contemporary design scheme which tempers traditional features of the 1854 gothic building like moulded ceilings and the long drapes high-ceilinged bedrooms depend on for a sense of warmth and luxury. Locally-made bespoke furniture adds class, while texture comes from a variety of tile treatments including mosaics in the bathrooms, many equipped with both walk-in showers and Jacuzzi whirlpool tubs. Thoughtful touches include not only in-room Nespresso machines, but fresh milk in the fridge for coffee which most larger hotels neglect to supply.
A proper bar is only what you expect from a former club host, and Jonathan keeps his well-stocked with leading world brands as well as local spirits from the Lakes Distillery. A warm room stuffed with smartly-upholstered sofas and armchairs, the bar seems a more social spot than the talking point “welcome lounge” with its nightclub lighting, gin bottle chandelier and display cases showcasing local products – a clever gift shop substitute dreamed up by Caroline, whose own experience retailing cosmetics adds a measure of urban flair.
Veteran chef Roger Pergl-Wilson, who has cooked in the area for decades, is another secret weapon; his food is simply excellent, earning the hotel an AA rosette if not the Michelin star it deserves, given the level of sophistication in the cooking. A chilled horseradish and cucumber gazpacho with a dollop of super-fresh crab salad was one of the best dishes this reviewer has tasted anywhere in the world this year. Locally-caught gilthead bream with Morecambe Bay shrimp and divine home-made apple doughnuts with cider ice-cream and caramel completed an outstanding feast.
Unlike other small hotels which put less effort into their breakfasts, Cedar Manor offers the freshest smoked haddock topped with a poached egg and perfectly made Hollandaise alongside the full English and the fluffy pancakes with dry cured bacon and maple syrup American visitors would hope to find on the menu.
After walking off breakfast with a stroll around the ancient cedar which dominates the hotel garden, the Lakes beckon, and those who come without a car(Windermere has its own station an easy walk from the hotel) will find buses to all major points of interest, including picturesque Grasmere, the shopping hub of Ambleside and Keswick, perched between two beautiful bodies of water, right outside the door.
Midweek winter packages of £375 per couple for two nights’ bed and breakfast with one dinner, a bottle of bubbly, a Windermere cruise and 2 for 1 admission to Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount are outstanding value, and a reason to get to Cedar Manor before the Easter rush – but it’s a no-cancellation package.
Tell me more about Cedar Manor
Cumbria LA23 1AX
Tel: 44 1539 443192
Rooms from £145 double bed and breakfast
How do I get to Windermere?
Virgin Trains serves Windermere from London Euston from £61 return.