Love, the Lakes and Laura Ashley

Try a little R&R in grand style at Laura Ashely The Belsfield hotel in the ever-restorative Lake District, writes Anne-Claire Heels


Love, the Lakes and Laura Ashley

There’s something about getting away in January or February that feels like a real treat. When the world seems weary after Christmas and all you’re hearing about is ‘dry January’ or ‘blue Monday’, there’s nothing like the prospect of heading off for a luxury weekend somewhere beautiful to put a spring back in your step.

That’s what the husband and I found ourselves doing last month – with me running excitedly around the sloped lawn of the second Laura Ashley boutique hotel, The Belsfield in Bowness-on-Windermere, trying (and failing) to get my camera to do justice to the spectacular sunset that was taking place over Lake Windermere and the mountains as we arrived.

According to recent research from the Open University on enduring love, one of the factors in helping love last is ‘marking the relationship’ by adopting rituals to celebrate milestones and special occasions. So, given that the anniversary of our first date and when my husband proposed both fall between 14 January and Valentine’s Day on 14 February, we’re three years into creating our own tradition of trying to have a weekend away together at that time of year. 

And if it’s tradition you’re after, then British fashion and home furnishings brand Laura Ashley more than fits the bill, with a heritage that goes back to the 1950s and fabric designs inspired by the Victorians. The move into hotels is more recent – the first opened in Hertfordshire in 2013 – but makes perfect sense, and in the case of the Belsfield combines classic elegance with contemporary style in a Grade II listed hotel on the shores of Lake Windermere that dates from 1845.

A new glass reception area has been added to the building, making the most of its picture-perfect lakeside location, so when I did go inside I wasn’t missing anything but the cold. The welcome from the receptionist was lovely and warm, too.

Our room also looked straight out onto the lake – the view was simply stunning. All we did for the first half hour or so was to sit on the plump sofa in the huge bay window, sipping champagne by way of toasting the aforementioned milestones, and marvelling at the changing winter sky as it went from peachy white to pinky gold to dusky purple. You could definitely see where WB Yeats was coming from, with his embroidered cloths and half-light.

When darkness finally fell, there was a roll-top bath or a huge shower to freshen up in (and the inviting prospect of a roomy four-poster to sink into later) before heading down for dinner. Whether you opt for the Belsfield Restaurant with its very reasonably priced five-course meal (£38 per head excl drinks, the Lakeland lamb was my highlight) or the Brasserie for staples like fish and chips or steak, the food was delicious, and everywhere it was served by friendly staff who were more than happy to help with wine recommendations and any other information.

There are lots of things to do around the area, which is located within the Lake District National Park. From Beatrix Potter World to lake cruises, there are activities and excursions to suit every age group and budget. We wrapped up warm and pottered round the little shops in Bowness itself, and walked into neighbouring Windermere for a wander there, too. Fortified with coffee and cake, the dense fog that had settled over night didn’t deter us and we took a boat trip around the lake’s tiny islands – it was still quality time in a new location for us and, if anything, the fog made it very atmospheric and my photography efforts were rewarded this time with a moody shot of a sailboat on the water.

When we got back, there was the grand comfort of the hotel to get cosy in all over again. Fat armchairs in pretty fabrics, sunburst mirrors, heavy drapes, soothing colours and beautiful glass lamps – the overall effect was one of being cocooned away from the elements. We came home restored, with a host of new memories made, on a blue-sky gorgeous day in the Lakes.

Double rooms, including breakfast for two, start at £150 per night in the summer season, with deals available from the autumn. To book a room at Laura Ashley The Belsfield, please visit or call 084 4736 8604

Photograph: Laura Ashley Hotels