Brimstone Hotel is a special place. Unparalleled generosity, cutting-edge facilities and Cumbrian charm combined with the glorious setting of the Lake District’s Langdale Valley create a wholly matchless hospitality experience. There is no other British hotel quite like it
Words Patrick Hamilton Courtney
Enduringly popular, the Lake District remains one of Britain’s top visitor destinations. Indeed, there are few other places outside of London you will find such a concentrated saturation of selfie sticks. It’s as beautiful as ever and, to use that most irritating of buzzwords, largely unspoilt. Despite its tourism eminence towns still feel sleepy, scenery is unobstructed, and walking paths are blissfully free of overwhelming hordes.
Brimstone Hotel is enviably set within the Langdale Valley, one of the district’s most glorious. The walking is wonderful with many of the most dramatic trails accessible straight from the hotel, Lake Windermere is a ten minute drive, and beloved settlements Ambleside and Grasmere are a stone’s throw away.
The Lake District isn’t short of hotels, though they often fall into the same category; large cottages and former manor houses converted into boutique hotels. Indeed, many are lovely. But Brimstone brings something different to the table. Local stone and timbers were used in the construction of this from-scratch build, helping to effortlessly blend the contemporary design with the rugged landscape. The result resembles a smart Verbier ski lodge, and this aesthetic follows to the inside of the property: exposed stone walls, log burning fire grates, deep plush carpets, and furniture made for lounging.
Perhaps most affecting of all is the gold-standard service provided. Brimstone operates a concept where in place of designated receptionists, concierge, drivers, etc, there is instead a team of tweed-clad, energetic “hosts” who do it all. Your first interaction with them is at the train station (London to Windermere in about three hours), where they’ll pick you up in a Land Rover Defender and whisk you through twists and turns of gorgeous Cumbrian countryside back to the hotel.
The hosts do everything from lighting the fire in your room and delivering breakfast in bed to suggesting mapped walking routes and making reservations for dinner. They also man the Defender, which remains at guest’s disposal throughout their stay and can ferry you to nearby towns, lakes, or walking areas at no extra charge – an appreciated touch of hospitality. They welcome you, create a sense of comradery, and, when rescuing you at dusk on a road by a mountain four miles from the hotel, make you feel better about your pathetic hiking skills.
There are no “bad” rooms at Brimstone. Whichever of the 16 you book, you’ll love. We stayed in a mezzanine suite; which divides the sleeping and living spaces onto two floors. Décor continues the ski chalet vibe, with muted colours, stone and wood finishes, and deep leather armchairs. The lights have pre-set mood options, which include perky, lazy, and sexy. All rooms come with log burning fires, balconies, and bathtubs as standard.
Brimstone’s main restaurant Stove is rustic space which continues the theme of exposed stone and fireplaces. Divided into three areas, Stove has a bar, casual dining area, and the attractively designed Wine Room suitable for more formal or intimate suppers. The cooking is British with both rustic fare and more adventurous options available. We ate scallops, pork liver pâté, lamb shank, and lobster mac and cheese. Portions were substantial and the dishes were executed well. Stove is not a fine dining contender, and it doesn’t need to be. The setting, and no doubt the day’s activities, demand just this kind of hearty, honest food. Stove also serves breakfast, a lavish affair offering a full hot and continental buffet, as well as a la carte dishes.
Pubs & The Reading Room
The estate’s nearby pub Wainwright’s Inn is perfect for Sunday lunch or refuelling after a hike. It’s traditional – and all the better for it – so don’t come expecting a gastropub. Find homely dishes such as pie and mash, roast beef, and pork shoulder on the menu.
Another of the hotel’s feats of generosity is The Reading Room, which throughout the day serves a selection of hot and cold drinks, beers, wines, and snacks all complimentary. There’s fruit and sandwiches, cakes and scones with clotted cream and in the afternoon, and in the evening everything you need for a very good cheese board. The Reading Room even provides brown paper bags with picnics to take on walks or days out on the lakes. Hospitality like this is rarely seen, and is immensely appreciated by guests.
The spa was launched in November 2016, and is absolutely state of the art. One of the best equipped in the country, it is worth coming to Brimstone for in itself. The facilities include a half-indoor, half-outdoor bubble pool, herbal steam room, herbal sauna, Finnish sauna, thermal experience shower, mineral steam bath, Himalayan salt steam room, Laconium, ice fountain, and relaxation rooms. Treatments are by Elemis or Brimstone’s very own Pure Alchemy range, designed for deep relaxation. We had Pure Alchemy’s Enrapture shoulder and back massage, which was nothing short of bliss.
The Spa Deli offers a selection of hot and cold drinks including freshly squeezes juices, as well as cakes and snacks – again, all complimentary.
Where does one start? You have the whole of the Lake District at your disposal. As mentioned previously, the Brimstone Hotel hosts can provide maps and suggest walking routes. They also have a fully kitted out boot room with hiking footwear and jackets for guests to borrow. We did Lingmoor Fell, a hike that provided dazzling views but was cut short by the onset of nightfall – beginners should take careful note of how long the walks may take and the time of year.
There are numerous towns and villages nearby to explore, including Ambleside, which is also the best place to board a boat tour of Lake Windermere. In the summer months wiling away a few hours on a rowing boat is a magical way to spend an afternoon – with a Brimstone Hotel picnic, of course.