Arriving at Sharrow Bay my wife and I expected a premier room inside the main building, however we were informed that for reasons that suited the hotel we had been upgraded to the Cottage Suite. As we had two heavy bags with us the short walk to the Cottage door from the nearby car port was appreciated. On entering we issued several 'Wows' as we surveyed the beautiful lounge, bedroom and views over the lake. The biggest 'Wow' however was reserved for what was probably the biggest bathroom we have ever used anywhere in the world. So far ten out of ten for accommodation.
The area to rear of the hotel is given over to formal gardens and fabulous does not do them justice. Having just driven from a hotel in Scotland that had ignored its gardens for years they were a pleasure to behold. My wife, being a keen gardener was truly taken aback. These sit in front of the cottage and front the unrestricted view of Ullswater and the hills beyond.
After exploring the grounds we settled on the terrace for a pre dinner drink. I can honestly say the view on a warm and sunny evening equalled anything the Italian lakes could offer....without having to drive through France to get there.
Dinner was booked for seven p.m. and our drinks and menus were presented in the lounge. Dress code for dinner is quoted as smart casual with no sport clothing but it was evident from other diners that tradition has been maintained over the years and that jackets and ties are still very much favored. Perhaps it might be fair to say that this is not a hotel that the young and fashionable might be totally comfortable in. If you value the principles and traditions of years gone by then you will feel very much at home.
Ladies fashions ranged from modern to some that seemed straight out of the past. I am not sure if wearing ones 'coming out' dress from the fifties is common, but it seemed quite normal at Sharrow Bay.
The menu was a little restrictive for anyone not fond of seafood but a couple of meat courses were offered and we chose the lamb. The wine list however was something else. Extensive and wide ranging not only for type but for price. Errant footballers and their WAG's who might stumble upon the hotel may fancy the Jeroboam of Cristal champagne at £20,000 and for the corporate warrior wishing to flex his Amex in front of a client several wines are available rising to £800 a bottle. That said, to the hotels credit there were plenty of 'normal' wines to choose from that would not break a family budget.
Taking a table at the rear corner of the restaurant my wife and I enjoyed our meals but with the sun having warmed the room through the day the temperature became very hot. Asking for the air conditioner to be turned on produced a compliant response, however this was countered by howls of protest by ladies of a certain vintage who emphasised their displeasure by animatedly wrapping their pashminas around their shoulders to ward off the icy blast. Needless to say the air conditioner was turned off and the meal endured in sauna conditions.
On retiring for bed the hotel suffered a power cut but after a few minutes standby generators were brought on line before normal operation was resumed. Sadly not before we had spent some minutes wandering around in our night clothing outside looking for a circuit breaker board. Our Asian tourist neighbours probably thought this standard practise for a British power cut.
Breakfast was a similar story of warmth in the restaurant. Again the room was very warm without air conditioning but our main, and only real complaint was that after serving our cereal and fruit the staff forgot about our main cooked course. As we sat patiently watching three other couples entering, eating and leaving we noted that an hour and a half had gone by. Asking when our breakfasts would arrive brought reactions of genuine shock and apologies which prompted our meals to appear within a few minutes. Sadly whilst my wife's omelette had been freshly prepared my full English had taken on the consistency of plastic photo props with solid and hard fried eggs accompanying leather like bacon. Frankly not something I had hoped for given the standard of hotel. However, rather than complain, as we had lost so much time over breakfast we paid our bill and left.
Put simply Sharrow Bay is unique and very beautiful but for anyone under fifty it may appear very dowdy and rather stuffy. Whilst new to my wife and I, it seems to be a national institution and that's to its credit.
Our impression was of a hotel frozen in time somewhere around the fifties and my comment to my wife on rising from breakfast probably summed things up best. 'Come on dear. Let's find the Tardis and return to 2017'.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sharrow Bay is unique; the epitome of English country living in an unrivalled location surrounded by snow-topped mountains and fells, right on the shores of Lake Ullswater, widely regarded as the most beautiful lake in the country. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sharrow Bay Country Hotel
- Sharrow Bay Country Penrith