Grasmere, England

Photo: alh1 via flickr

It’s time to get away. You don’t need a long vacation right now. A few days will do. But they’re necessary. You just need to get out of the city. Plus you need a cute town in a picturesque setting. Plus you need a romantic hotel, a cozy bedroom, and locally sourced food. You’re not asking for much.

It sounds like you should return to the Lake District, a part of Cumbria with high peaks and large lakes in North West England. The area was turned into the Lake District National Park, one of the oldest national parks in the United Kingdom. It’s where the village of Grasmere sits near a small lake with the same name. Plus it’s home to quiet, hidden hotels. It’s exactly, perhaps more than, what you were hoping for.

Grasmere is lovely. The little village is completely walkable. Its crooked lanes are lined with slate cottages that are now filled with galleries and shops. Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum are the biggest tourist draws. The cottage is where William Wordsworth lived and wrote some of his most famous poems. The modern museum displays his original manuscripts and 19th-century Romantic-era watercolor paintings. The poet is buried along the River Rothay at St. Oswald’s Church. From the graveyard, you’ll probably start to smell gingerbread. It’s coming from the nearby Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, where a secret recipe has been baked in this cramped cottage since 1854. The Grasmere Chocolate Cottage, Heidi’s (for coffee and jars of local chutney), and Tweedies Bar (to try Cumbria’s best beers) are also in the center of town. Hiking trails, including a popular path up to Helm Crag overlooking Grasmere, fan out from there.

Photo: The Forest Side

The only thing that’s not in the center of town is your hotel. The Forest Side looks it’s straight out of a fairytale. In 1853, the stone Gothic mansion was built outside of Grasmere. Its 43 acres were covered with elaborate gardens and thick woodlands, roe deer and red squirrels. But by the early 20th century, the house was dilapidated and the gardens were overgrown. The property no longer felt grand. It was finally revived and turned into a hotel in 2014. Old floors were replaced with wide oak boards. Larger bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms, and new windows were added. A restaurant and a stone terrace were, too. The original Victorian fireplace remained in the lounge, though.

But back to the bedrooms. There are 20 elegant rooms in the hotel. The Cosy Bedrooms are decorated with fancy wallpaper, pastel colors, and really comfortable beds. Superb Bedrooms add soaking tubs and views of the well-manicured grounds. While Master Bedrooms have bathtubs for two and views that extend over the Lake District. Plus furry friends are welcomed with their own bed, food and water bowls, and treats.

The restaurant is just as stylish as the bedrooms. Wooden tables and leather chairs are scattered across the light-filled space. Chef Kevin Tickle, who grew up on the coast of Cumbria, is committed to local, sustainable produce. Ninety percent of the ingredients he uses are grown or produced within 10 miles of the hotel. He then cures, smokes, and salts charcuterie meat. He pickles everything from wild garlic to apples to walnuts. He grows 25 types of herbs and more than 100 different vegetables in the kitchen garden. He even forages wild ingredients that are used in cordials, emulsions, and garnishes. The results are six- and ten-course tasting menus. No wonder the restaurant has a Michelin star. So how quickly can you get away?

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