“What time do you think it is?” I ask my husband, who’s usually spot on with this sort of thing. “No idea,” he mumbles. “Fourish?” He was out by two hours, it was 6pm. Because the moment we’d arrived at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House earlier that day, we had lost all sense of time. It had simply ceased to matter.

If you want to get away from it all, this is the best place to do it. Give yourself over to Gilpin for 24 hours or more and I promise you, your batteries will be recharged, and your troubles won’t seem half as bad as they were when you arrived.

After four decades of development, Gilpin Hotel & Lake House is now an AA Red Star, Relais & Châteaux country house hotel comprising 39 luxurious rooms, two spas and three restaurants across two sites. One of the restaurants, SOURCE at Gilpin Hotel, has just retained its Michelin Star.

Image credit – Deanna Thomas

Gilpin and its 21 acres of gardens and woodland near Windermere was bought by Chris and John Cunliffe in 1987 – John’s grandmother had lived there at one point but had sold it in the sixties when it became a B&B. Having both enjoyed successful careers in the hospitality industry, the couple decided to buy it back as a semi-retirement project. However, the Cunliffes simply couldn’t help themselves. Using their collective experience running hotels around the world, they invested their money and creative ideas into the business every year transforming it into the sprawling Gilpin estate it is today.

the average stay is three nights, which makes sense as there are a lot of ways to do nothing here.

We pulled into the car park around midday, clocking the odd Ferrari and a Maserati. After dropping our bags at reception, we were ushered into the plush lounge area for a chat with the current owner Zöe. (John sadly passed away in 2020, and Chris, late 2022.) Although Gilpin is now run with the help of 160 staff, it is still very much a family affair. Zöe is married to Chris and John’s son Barney, and much of the new developments have been in collaboration with Barney’s brother Ben, an architect.

Gilpin’s latest major initiative has been to add a Spa Space to the main hotel. “Surely you’ve done everything you need to do now?” I asked Zöe. “We’ve made Barney promise to wait at least a year until he has another idea,” she laughs.

Image credit – Deanna Thomas

Zöe took us on a tour of the hotel and the grounds, giving us a glimpse into some of the classic and master bedrooms, as well as the Garden and Junior Suites which come with their own patio area and cedarwood hot tubs. There’s a dizzying array of accommodation, it was hard to keep up. We viewed the large open plan Spa Lodges and Suites from a distance as they were all occupied. Each one has individually themed interiors from colourful Moroccan to Scandi minimalism, a private hot tub and their own fully equipped spa facilities and overlook a private pond. You’ll certainly leave Gilpin very clean.

Zöe dropped us off at Gilpin Spice for lunch, our first official stop on the gentle Gilpin conveyor belt of luxury. We were in their hands now.

Image credit – Deanna Thomas

This casual Pan-Asian restaurant is presided over by head chef Aakash Ohol, whose experience includes a five-star hotel in Goa, and at HRiSHi, Gilpin’s previous Michelin starred restaurant. What made them buck the English country house hotel trend and decide to open this sort of restaurant? Zöe reminded me that Cumbria has long links to the spice trade – just look at Cumberland sausage, potted shrimps, and Grasmere gingerbread.

We enjoyed a light lunch of tandoori prawns, Chalk Stream trout tartare and chilli paneer fry before heading over to the new Spa in the building to the rear.

Image credit – Deanna Thomas

After few questions about whether we wanted to feel relaxed or revitalised, what sort of treatment we’d like to experience (a facial, head or body massage) and whether we had any medical issues, we were taken into a room with two massage beds. (Couples treatments are a thing here.) After a soothing aromatherapy massage using natural ESPA products, we were slowly taken through a steam room complete with mud for self-application, a shower room with salt scrub, a relaxation area with refreshments, and finally, a private outdoor hot tub overlooking the grounds. I can’t be sure that Gilpin didn’t arrange this, but as soon as we stepped into the warm bubbles the sun came out.

When you’re ready (no rush) you’ll find your luggage has been deposited in a purpose-built changing area. For those who would like to take some Gilpin spa luxury home, Spa Boxes are available to purchase from £60 packed with handmade scrubs, masks, sprays and lotions from the award-winning PURE LAKES natural skincare brand.

Knipe Tarn and gardens at Gilpin Lake House – Image Credit Patrick Thomas

Our lodgings were at Gilpin Lake House, around a mile away. This second site opened in 2010 and sits within 100 acres on the banks of Knipe Tarn, a private lake. Guests have access to the jetty and the use of a private rowing boat. There’s also a private swimming pool and sauna, which guests can book by the hour. There’s the Jetty Spa trail, hot tubs dotted around the place, a plush lounge, a bar and the recently opened Knipe Grill at Gilpin Lake House headed by Tom Westerland, former National Chef of the Year for Wales, who recently appeared on Great British Menu 2023. The six bedroom Lake House is available to hire for exclusive use (the only exception to Gilpin’s ‘no children under the age of seven’ stipulation).

Image credit – Deanna Thomas

Our bedroom was incredible, large enough for my younger self to do cartwheels, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the lake, a coffee machine and underfloor heating in the vast bathroom. I would have loved to have spent longer there, but we had reservations for dinner at Source – it’s a hard life.

The restaurant, formerly known as HRiSHi, has only recently been renamed Source at Gilpin Hotel after award-winning chef Hrishikesh Desai left to become chef patron at Farlam Hall. Exec Chef is now Ollie Bridgewater, who previously worked under Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck in Bray.

Source at Gilpin – Roast loin of monkfish, almond, asparagus, roe, jamon. Image credit: Deanna Thomas

Under Ollie, new head chef Jack Bond (previously at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay), and team, Gilpin’s Michelin Star for 2023 is secure. Now with three high-profile chefs in three different restaurants on site, Gilpin has become an essential stop on any gastronomic tour of the Lakes (there are a further nine Michelin Star restaurants in the region.)

I’d love nothing more than to devote 800-1000 words on the tasting menu alone (£120pp) from the globular gin, tonic and cucumber spheres, to the handmade chocolates ten courses later. But I’m trying to cram in all the sensory wonders on offer at Gilpin. What I’ll say is that Ollie seems respectful of Hrishi’s legacy whilst making his own mark. He marries touches of spice and Asian influences with the best local ingredients and seasonal delights grown on their own vertical farm. Check out the current menu on the SOURCE at Gilpin Hotel website but I’m really looking forward to returning in a year or so to see how this story develops.

Image credit – Deanna Thomas

After the accompanying wine flight, we were thankful that Gilpin provides a concierge service to run guests between the two sites. We just about managed to stumble from the minibus to our suite in one piece after putting our bodies through a whole luxurious detox/retox experience.

After a dip in the pool, a full Cumbrian breakfast overlooking the gardens at Knipe Grill at Gilpin Lake House sorted us out the next morning and then that was the finale to our Gilpin Hotel & Lake House retreat.

Gilpin’s main shtick is that it’s an ideal place for couples to come and relax and re-connect with various experiences they can enjoy in privacy. Zöe had told us that the average stay was three nights which makes sense as there are a lot of ways to do nothing here. As one reviewer from The Telegraph put it, you’ll want for nothing at Gilpin, except perhaps deeper pockets…’

Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Crook Road, Windermere, Cumbria (015394 88818) 

  • Spa Suites start from £890 per night in summer / £670 per night in winter 
  • Spa Lodges start at £690 per night in summer / £520 per night in winter 
  • Garden Suites start from £520 per night in summer / £390 per night in winter 
  • Junior Suites start from £470 per night in summer / £355 per night in winter 
  • Master Bedrooms start from £365 per night in summer / £275 per night in winter 
  • Classic Bedrooms start from £295 per night in summer / £220 per night in winter 
  • Spa treatments start at £75 per person 


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