It’s hard not to fall in love with Beatrix Potter’s charming children’s stories: naughty Peter Rabbit getting caught in Mr McGregor’s garden, the very busy Mrs Tiggy-Winkle working hard to wash and iron everyone’s clothes, and the determined Jemima Puddle-Duck, so desperate to hatch her own eggs.
The stories are set in rolling hills, thick woods and pretty gardens close to a farm – locations inspired by the glorious Lake District, where Potter made her home.
She’d spent many childhood holidays in the Lakes before finally buying Hill Top Farm with the profits from her books, written in the early 1900s.
The year 2013 marked the 100-year anniversary of The Tale Of Pigling Bland – a story she had illustrated while staying at Lindeth Howe, on one of her family trips, before buying the property for her mum.
The old country house has been sold to numerous families since, and now the hotel makes a great base for exploring the area.
I checked into The Westmorland Suite and was pleasantly surprised. The main areas within the hotel are traditional – as you’d expect in a country house hotel. The suite, however, opened after refurbishments in 2009 (along with the other deluxe suite, The Potter Room, which is rumoured to be the bedroom that Mrs Potter slept in), and is very stylish.
Floral wallpaper frames a lounge area equipped with everything you need, and the large, sumptuous bed is begging to be bounced on. The bedroom area can be handily segregated from the rest of the room, perfect if you’re staying with children, and the modern bathroom has an enormous shower, his and hers sinks and a bath deep enough to swamp my 188cm husband.
The hotel is also well positioned for visiting some of the region’s best attractions. For families, The World Of Beatrix Potter is a must. Beautiful scenes from the picture books come to life as you work your way around.
My little girl adored peeking into every corner of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s kitchen and spotting Peter Rabbit’s pale blue coat on a great big stick in Mr McGregor’s garden.
For those without a car and keen to explore as much of the Lake District as possible, the Mountain Goat is a minibus which takes visitors to a good range of places. The Beatrix Potter Favourite Countryside tour starts at Hill Top Farm, where the author wrote many of her children’s stories, before heading to Hawkshead (where you can buy an array of local gifts), Tarn Hows (stunning scenery) and Coniston for the lake cruise to Brantwood.
For those who prefer their own pace, the electric bikes – available for hire from the hotel – provide a great form of transport. I’d probably advise against riding into the busy town of Windermere, as we did, particularly if you’re as wobbly on a bike as I am. But they are perfect for meandering through country lanes and soaking up the surroundings, without any of the pain of actual cycling.
Taking a seat in the lounge before dinner, we were served some delicious aperitifs, and the lively 2AA Rosette restaurant has a great menu, with decisive staff who can help you choose the perfect dish. I opted for the divine duck egg, asparagus and leek ash, followed by a caramelised onion tarte tatin, as recommended by my waiter.
The assiette of desserts was never going to disappoint, since they’ve been created by chef Marc Guibert, who holds the record for the world’s most expensive dessert ever to be created (STG22,000 ($A39,664.65), if you were wondering).
There was a lonely piano in the middle of the room, but for nights when the ivories are tinkled, I can imagine a real after-dinner knees-up.
As we say goodbye to the lush green hillside and head for the city smoke, one thing’s for sure – Peter Rabbit has become a firm favourite in our household. And so the Lakes-inspired imagination of Beatrix Potter lives on in yet another generation.