Have I mentioned the time we accidentally became a family of eco-warriors? Two months ago, we were walking to the shopping centre to pick up something plastic when – in the park between us and Argos – we stumbled upon the local branch of Extinction Rebellion.
“Are you here for the protest?” someone asked. “Absolutely,” I lied, fixing the kids with the steely glare familiar from moments when I tell hairdressers they do not have nits.
Actually, it was fun. The kids learnt some games (bellow “Extinction… REBELLION!” until one parent gets a headache) and we considered some sobering facts. Staycations used to preserve your bank balance. Now they seem essential to protect the planet.
If you don’t need to pay too much heed to the former, but are increasingly niggled by the latter, I have four words for you: Another Place, The Lake.
Created in 2017 by the team behind the ultra-successful Cornish family hotel Watergate Bay, this haven, perched on the shores of Ullswater, has quickly become every bit as cultish. Its 40 rooms are booked nearly back-to-back for the summer season. The hotel is brainstorming more accommodation in the grounds, but in the meantime they have just opened a new Joules suite in the Georgian building.
Yes, Joules. In a collaboration perhaps more comforting than cool, the wholesome costumier-to-the-middle-classes now dresses all hotel staff in cheerful chinos and snazzy stripes, while the brand’s art director Hannah Coates has also kitted out the entirety of one bedroom.
It is a riot of colour, all dark blue-grey walls (Farrow & Ball, obviously) yellow velvet armchairs (Joules’s own DFS range), matching Anglepoise lamps and cheery floral bedding on the four-poster and sofa bed.
If this sounds more migraine inducing than the Extinction Rebellion chant, then bear with me.
The room is vast with an original domed ceiling and sash windows overlooking England’s second-largest lake. And it really is all about the lake.
Other expensive country house hotels adopt a similar algorithm to lure ‘Londoners who need lattes’ (scattered sheepskins, wellies to borrow, vintage nods). The Soho House chain, deified by this demographic, does so with much more attention to décor and dining. At Another Place, food at the Rampsbeck restaurant was delicious – poached hake at supper and waffle machines at the bountiful buffet breakfast. Lunches at the more casual Living Space were significantly more… meh.
Décor wobbles on the high wire between Scandi and just a little scant. My husband’s enthusiastic enquiries about local ales were dampened by the verbal equivalent of a shrug. Half the menu comes with fries, yet our waiters were repeatedly stumped by requests for mayonnaise. Mayo doth not maketh the hotel, but it can drag a fabulous one down from a 10 to a nine.
Still, they perform better on eco measurements, with a biomass boiler, big refillable toiletries in bathrooms and ongoing efforts to cut food waste and single-use plastics. Sure, they have a stunning indoor infinity pool with views across the fells, but they don’t just want you to view nature as a pretty backdrop. They want you to dive right into it. If Babington House is about pouting and posing, Another Place is for splashing and climbing.
At the lakeside ‘Sheep Shed’, there are wetsuits and boots in every size, plus flotation aids and towels in changing cubicles, so guests can bob in the crystal clear water.
After a term of waking to frantic school runs, there is something life-affirming about opening your curtains to majestic mountains and a stretch of mirror-like water, broken by sails and families floating by the jetty.
All four of us took a kayaking lesson across the lake. The eight-year-old and I learnt to paddleboard, his face breaking into an awed grin as he rose, wobbling, to standing.
While the children were woodworking and slime-making in the kids’ club, my husband and I went wild swimming with Colin Hill, one of Britain’s leading open-water swimmers. He sped us up the lake to a tiny sheltered beach from which we swam what felt like miles and jumped – squealing like kids – from the ledges he pointed out.
Another Place is rightly named. It feels a world apart. The scenery is so improbably beautiful you might have flown across the world. It is impossible not to be wowed, Wordsworth-like, by nature here, and realise a renewed determination to protect it. But it’s also extremely nice to come inside to an oat milk latte and a spa treatment.
Hattie and her family travelled to Penrith with Virgin Trains. A family of four can stay in the Joules suite from £375 a night, B&B; other suites from £295.
Read the full review: Another Place, The Lake