Defining exactly what constitutes a hotel isn’t easy and when it’s in the UK Lake District it’s harder still. This article attempts to do just that with an example of the perfect Lake District Hotel.
What defines a hotel, as distinct from any other type of accommodation in the Lake District? It’s an odd question isn’t it? and difficult to answer, yet we all know what a hotel is and what isn’t.
The Inland Revenue helpfully point us to a definition given in the hotel proprietors act of 1956 being “…an establishment held out by the proprietor as offering food and drink and, if so required, sleeping accommodation, without special contract, to any traveller presenting himself who appears able and willing to pay a reasonable sum for the services and facilities provided and who is in a fit state to be received.”
Clear as mud then, as a bed and breakfast could fit those criteria if they wanted to, yet clearly it wouldn’t be a hotel in the minds of most people.
Defining a Lake District hotel adds a further layer of complexity.
Establishments many centuries old that may have fitted the label when Wordsworth was a boy, still retain the title but no longer fit with modern perceptions.
I’ll attempt my own definition for a Lake District hotel, see if you agree.
A Lake District hotel should have a minimum of a dozen guest rooms, a public licensed bar, a residents lounge/bar, a car park, a restaurant and preferably a night porter.
Why a dozen rooms? Well there has to be a minimum number and one just doesn’t cut it. Ten might but its decimal, and as we’re talking about the Lake District an English dozen does the trick. In Addition, a hotel should have a certain ambience and that’s only created by having a critical mass of people.
This demotes for example, the Bay Horse Hotel in Ulverston which has only nine rooms to Inn, or Pub. All the other criteria are met, but they’re a little light on the accommodation front.
Similarly a public bar invites transient customers into the establishment which adds a little diversity to the mix. However the residents lounge/bar is a sanctuary for those who choose to stay at the hotel and usually confers some privilege to the residents, for example the ability to purchase drinks after the public bar has closed.
A car park takes the place of perhaps stables in the case of an older establishment. Without sufficient space to park your transport, preferably in the hotel grounds, a little credibility is lost.
That those who seek to rest their heads would prefer to do so on a full belly (or at least a satiated palette) is natural. Standards of food may vary from pretentious to practical and everything in between, but having a restaurant to serve it up is a must for my criteria.
A night porter completes my list. It adds a layer of security helping the residents to sleep soundly and means that assistance is at hand should there be any problems with the room or anything else.
My idea of the perfect Lake District hotel would be the Old Dungeon Ghyll in the Langdale valley. Known to locals as “the old” it just sneaks in on the bedrooms count with a bakers dozen.
The public bar is as lively a place as you could wish to find, populated as it is with locals, fell walkers, climbers and people from the nearby campsite. If you find that all a little too busy, a resident’s lounge and residents bar offer quieter surroundings.
There’s an ample car park and a fine restaurant serving excellent home cooked food backed up by a fine wine list, which complete the picture perfectly.
A night porter? You’ll just have to book and find out for yourself.