We've stayed in a lot of hotels, but I don't think we've ever stayed anywhere that made us feel as welcome or looked after us as well as the Shap Wells Hotel.
We booked a two night break for my wife's birthday with a gift voucher that she'd been given for her previous birthday, and the Shap Wells gave us the option of a 2 nights for the price of one break (with us paying the difference in price), with the intention of doing some hill walking in the Lake District. Not only did it turn out to be an ideal base from which to do this, but it delivered much more after I contacted the hotel prior to us travelling with the intention of surprising my wife for her birthday.
After driving up from Yorkshire and walking up Skiddaw, we made our way to the hotel, down a long, private lane, with the hotel appearing in the dip at the bottom. The first thing that struck us was the peace and quiet when we got out of the car. The next thing we realised was the amount of cars in the car park. This was a very busy hotel. Despite this, and despite there being 3 coach loads of American High School students staying there (thankfully they were impeccably behaved), the atmosphere was very calm and quiet, and after having such a long and arduous day, we were glad to get to our room and have a very welcome cup of tea.
The room was well appointed, large but cosy, with a very comfortable bed and a sofa. There’s nothing better than having a sofa in a hotel room so you’re not forced to spend all your time on the bed. The room was warm and welcoming and had incredible views.
My wife was delighted to find a bottle of wine (a very tasty Chilean red), some local chocolates and a large bunch of her favourite daffodils in the room waiting for her, and enjoyed a glass of wine while soaking the aches of the walk away in a very relaxing bubble bath!
We spent the evening in the bar and had a burger and chips and a chicken burger and chips, which was plentiful and tasty, and the beer was well priced and thirst quenching. Our sleep wasn’t brilliant the first night. We’re used to a super-kingsized bed, so we struggled in an ordinary double, but it was plenty comfortable. We slept much better the second night once we were a bit more used to it.
Breakfast the following morning was excellent, and set us up for the day, which included a long and very high walk from Mardale Head up to High Street, around to Kidsty Pike and back down through Kidsty Howes. Epic views, epic weather, epic day. I did manage to go for a bit of a run through the squirrel woods (up the side of the Bath House annexe) while my wife had a snooze when we got back from the walk, and did intend to walk up there again the following morning to see the squirrels and the almost Harry Potter-like tree tunnel, but we didn’t find the time. I would thoroughly recommend it though.
Just as an aside regarding the breakfast service, it was testament to the experience of the staff that when the restaurant became very busy with the students, they ensured that other guests had their breakfasts served to them at their tables rather than being forced to queue amongst the kids! A minor detail, but one that made a lot of difference.
I’d booked a table in the restaurant for that night, for my wife’s birthday. Once again, the hotel didn’t disappoint, the food was excellent and great value for money, and the complimentary bottle of Prosecco was just the icing on the cake. We ate fairly late, so being very tired after another long day, we were in bed fairly early too. Despite the American kids organising some sort of weird hotel based murder mystery in the hotel, we heard nothing, and being a bit more used to the bed, slept very well.
Breakfast was again excellent on Sunday morning, we ate well again after deciding not to go shopping in Kendal as initially planned, but to drive to Pooley Bridge and walk again, along the side of Ullswater (epic views again) and up on to Barton Fell. So another wholesome and filling breakfast later we checked out and said goodbye.
It’s easy to be dismissive of hotel staff, but on this occasion I think the Shap Wells staff deserve a special mention. We didn’t meet Jim, the manager, only corresponding via email, but he did an excellent job with my wife’s birthday surprise, and we’re unendingly grateful. The reception staff were friendly, attentive and informative, the bar and restaurant staff equally so, and they deserve recognition for the long hours they work and the service they provide. Well done, you managed to help make this, potentially, the best weekend away we've ever had. And we've had some good ones! less