Armathwaite Hall Hotel and Spa review: luxury, lakes and lemurs
Escape to a countryside retreat and visit the residents of the Lake District Wildlife Park
Little did I know, as I walked through the grand trappings of the reception area at Armathwaite Hall, that we were just weeks away from a nationwide lockdown and unimaginably life-changing year. It was early spring, frost glittering in the grass, and after a long journey from London, I was ready to dive into the comfort offered by this countryside retreat.
The moment I entered Armathwaite Hall, I knew things were special. The ornate surroundings had barely been taken in before I was being offered a glass of sherry - a warm measure to chase off the last remaining chill. You often find with beautiful hotels that the beauty is a blanket of defence for imperfectness elsewhere: shoddy service, disappointing meals, basic amenities. Not so here, with each element of my stay meeting the expectations set before it.
The room, a deluxe, was well-sized and decorated, matched by a glorious bathroom and dressing room. While my partner and I unpacked, a note popped through the door apologising that the freeview wasn’t working - a considerate thought that would be overlooked elsewhere. In truth, to search for anything to criticise with the room would lead to just one possible shortcoming. That is the front door’s location on a long, thin corridor - a scenario that required careful timing to avoid being blocked by other patrons. Perhaps this was the earliest sign I had yet noticed of the virtues of social distancing.
Into the spa - and the wild
Still, these were pre-Covid times, and so there was no hesitation in darting down the hallway in order to visit the spa. Already, it felt busy: a hubbub of visitors flitting from sauna to steam room, aroma room to pool, indoor hot tub to outdoor hot tub. It would be easy to while away hours there, and we did, enjoying the thrill of racing through the cold air to submerge ourselves in the bubbling hot waters, and then steaming off in the dry heat of the sauna. Indeed, the following morning, we realised that we must have resembled gibbons, sidestepping at speed and looking rather ridiculous.
Yes, you read that right, gibbons. Not the most expected of neighbours at a countryside manor hotel, I know, yet their presence was rather pleasing the following day as we slipped and slid on a muddy track that connects Armathwaite to its nearest attraction: the Lake District Wildlife Park. Situated barely five minutes’ walk away, it feels like an extension of the hall’s grounds, and is well worth the visit. We were off to visit some of the other furry residents, and in one of the most severe handbrake turns I’ve ever experienced at a luxury hotel, we went from relaxing in a jacuzzi to hand feeding a troop of lemurs overnight.
Relaxation and entertainment
This is the most ego-puncturing yet hilarity-inducing of animal encounters imaginable, as the cast of DreamWorks’ Madagascar make themselves well and truly at home on your shoulders, head, lap and hands, grasping for fresh fruit and chomping lazily, mouths wide open, breath fogging as they exhale. Our host, a zookeeper from the park, was incredibly well-informed about the different members of the troops and their various friendships and rivalries, and the whole experience was unexpectedly memorable. The partnership between Armathwaite and the Lake District Wildlife Park is a savvy one – the two go together like a mismatched couple, combining luxury with quirk, relaxation with entertainment. A good night’s sleep peps you up for a morning in the wickedly cold sunshine; the few hours spent outside with the animals only makes the hot waters of the spa seem all the more enticing.
Indeed, for all of its luxury, relaxing surroundings and sumptuous offerings, for me Armathwaite Hall will best be remembered as the home of the lemurs. This experience alone makes a trip to the hotel and the Lake District a memorable one.
Room rates at Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa start at £230 with offers regularly posted on social media or via the hotel’s mailing list; armathwaite-hall.com