About the Editor“The Travel Editor of The Telegraph has asked me to stay in a few hotels and write reviews about them,” Paddy told me, “and take you!” I spent the next eighteen years as ‘my husband’, never named, driver, bag carrier and shower tester. When we had travelled enough motorway miles, slept in enough hotel beds and eaten in enough restaurants, Paddy and I decided that a website using journalists’ hotel reviews to describe the hotels would be popular and useful. I am delighted you are a reader and hope that you might become a contributor by writing to us.
Ambleside, Lake District, Cumbria, Northwest
I get so many letters from women saying: "It's all right for you, you always stay with your husband, you should try travelling without him and see how you're treated." Well, I did - twice. The last time was a while ago, and maybe I was lucky, but I had a hilarious time at both places.
At the first hotel I was given a restaurant table in pole position because "it's nice for 'ones' to see what's going on". The same scenario was repeated at breakfast.
At the second, a smart Scottish townhouse, I wanted to watch a TV programme that began at 9.30; and so pudding and the remainder of my wine were ceremoniously brought to my room on a white-clothed tray. My only disappointment was that the tray bearer wasn't wearing a kilt.
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But I digress. At Rothay Manor we're checked in by one of the Bros Nixon and taken to our room via a coral-carpeted staircase. The room is luxurious in a "hotelish" way: comfortable, with a large, lavish bed with a sheet and cellular blanket, padded headboard, fitted carpet, a cream-painted, built-in wardrobe, a dressing table with frilly bits and funny bandy legs, as if it were half-curtseying, flowery curtains and a view of a small patch of grass and a quiet road beyond.
In the bathroom, the deep cream fittings are decorated with garlands of flowers. When we can't get the TV to work, the bearded Mr Nixon is up here in a twinkling and, at the touch of an unseen switch, has it on in seconds.
Dinner will be an occasion, it's that sort of place. In anticipation, I haven't eaten all day. Downstairs, we park ourselves in the lounge area, which is very traditional country house hotel - they haven't leapt onto the style bandwagon here, that's for sure.
We spot a handsome couple with a tiny baby and a large family party. Most of the other guests are past tiny-baby age, one couple positively cross-looking and unappreciative. Good thing the food is of the simple-with-a-flourish variety. Grumps don't like fancy food, do they?
Looking through to the restaurant beyond, I can see that almost all of its highly polished tables are occupied. One isn't. That must be ours. The lack of starched white cloths in here lends an informal air, but the service, though friendly, is anything but informal.
This is true country house hotel dining. First off, we're offered a delicious selection of flavoured breads. The Nixon brothers hover, efficient, unobtrusive, yet there.
And the food's perfect! A fan of honeydew melon with a compote of lychees and a passion fruit sorbet; a game terrine of wood pigeon, guinea fowl and pork with a Cumberland sauce; roast rack of Cumbrian fell-bred lamb served medium rare with pea and mint puree and a rosemary jus; fillet of salmon on a potato pancake with a spring onion and crème fraîche topping, garnished with fresh herbs and a herb oil. All served with flair and a smile. Puds are delicate, highly decorative affairs.
I'd half-expected Rothay to have a health club or spa, almost obligatory in this very competitive business, but they've got the next best thing - complimentary spa cards for a nearby leisure club.
The hotel is full. How do the brothers do it? By dedication I'd say, and a meticulous eye for detail. One of the questions on the guest survey form is about background music in the lounges or dining room. "If we were to have some . . . ?" etc. Why not? Silence isn't always golden.
This element of personal concern is also evident in their brochure. Boasting a little, they say: "It perhaps explains that elusive quality, remarked upon by so many guests, which sets Rothay Manor in the class of a true Country House Hotel . . . " I get the gist and echo it.
Rothay Manor Hotel, Rothay Bridge, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0EH
This piece,as you can see, was written after our stay in 2003. Since then, one of the brothers, Stephen, has retired, leaving Nigel in sole charge.
That means he can enjoy his hobby of scuba diving, "Now I can go to some of the more far flung places in the world, places I could never manage in a just a two week holiday," he tells us.
The owners of the hotel were delighted theirs was the only hotel restaurant to be shortlisted for the Cumbria Tourism 2008 'Taste' Award. It has been listed in the Good Food Guide for 40 years, so it was excellent to have this recognition. There is a lot of competition in Cumbria.
They have been listed consistently in the Good Food Guide for 9 years
and are one of only 6 hotels to have been listed in the Good Hotel
Guide since it began.
In 2006, Rothay Manor was named Cumbria for Excellence 'Small Hotel of
BREAKFAST - the most important meal of the day!
When you're on holiday, breakfast is a relaxed meal to be enjoyed and savoured - a far cry from the rushed breakfasts at home or taken 'on the run'.
Rothay Manor is renowned for its breakfast and is delighted to have recently been awarded the VisitEngland 'Breakfast Award' for Hotels & Guest Accommodation for the 'high quality and excellent choice, plus service and hospitality that exceeds what would be expected at their star rating'.
There really is a wide range of both hot and cold food available - from freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli made 'in-house', home-made jam and croissants to rich, creamy porridge, finnan haddock or a full Cumberland Platter. There are Healthy Options such as fresh fruit, low fat yoghurt, prunes, apricots etc as well as a Vegetarian Grill.
All the hot food is 'cooked to order' and served to the table, not kept hot for you to serve yourself.
Rothay Manor managed to escape the worst floods ever seen in the country! Although they had a new ‘lake’ in the garden, the hotel remained dry.
For guests on the Bridge holiday, it is certainly one they won’t forget in a hurry.
Sadly, the Christmas Light Procession through Ambleside had to be cancelled.
For current local news see this link for more information.
Paddy and her husband stayed at this pub in 1996. So you might think that the review which appears below is a bit out...