Have we all recovered from half term? Or are some of you reading this from under a coat in Alicante airport, having given up on easyJet ever rescheduling your flight and resolved to salvage what is left of your sanity by making peace with the situation and relocating permanently to gate 11?
For those of you who did make it home, I bring hope. I have discovered the perfect family holiday – and it is right here in the UK. I have raved about Another Place, The Lake before. Perched right on the fringes of epic Ullswater, it is possessed of a private jetty, canoes, paddleboards and, for the more sedate, an indoor infinity pool seemingly stretching, gloriously and glassily, into the operatic fells beyond.
According to my children, it also has one of Britain’s best buffet breakfasts (the waffle machines won it) and, in the excellent Rampsbeck restaurant, kids’ menus (including, impressively, a scallop starter). So it has long had a comfortable place in the staycation shortlist I hand out to friends. Now, though, it has had a monumental upgrade.
Time for an upgrade
The first clue comes at the “sheep shed”, where, back in 2019, we squirmed into wetsuits hanging on racks and shivered our way down to the jetty. The free swimming togs remain (in all shapes and sizes), but the shed has been jazzed up with underfloor heating, luxurious showers and roomy changing cubicles. It is suddenly, very evidently, not for sheep.
The same goes for an architectural new treehouse suite – soon to be completed, but already poles apart from the leaky, makeshift dens of my childhood memories – and the hotel’s six new shepherd’s huts, dotted around the grounds, overlooking the lake and built to solid sustainability standards. On closer inspection, the huts are pairs of conjoined twins, attached by a glazed wedge, so that ours comfortably houses our family of four (five, with the dog).
The first “hut” houses a bijou sitting room with a log burner, sofa seats, a kettle, enamel mugs and a mini fridge. A sliding door reveals a sweet sliver of a bunk room, which the kids loved (older, ganglier teenagers might have to fold themselves in, so the hotel recommends them for the under-10s).
It is the adjoining hut that houses the real prizes, though: a cloud-soft king-size bed under a star-gazing window, covered in tasselled throws and an embarrassment of plump scatter cushions. Farrow & Ball colour schemes reflect the fells outside and, in the small but sophisticated en-suite bathroom, there are fluffy robes, plus the hotel’s signature Land & Water toiletries.
There is Wi-Fi (but no telly), daily housekeeping and, outside, luxuries to turn herdsmen green. Bulbs are strung above giant beanbags on rocking-chair frames, and there is a private firepit.
Call of nature
Another Place was always designed to nudge you outside and into nature – each day, new activities go up on the blackboard, encouraging you to try archery, kayaking, walking or wild swimming together. Families of wetsuits hang from the balconies of bedrooms, like limp Russian dolls. Groups splash constantly from the lake into the warmth of the Living Space – a laid-back café and bar where the food is good and the cocktails excellent, but the service could use a little polish and pace, the décor a smidgeon more warmth and wow factor.
Still, out in the grounds, a stunning Victorian-style glasshouse is currently being finished, which will house a new pizza restaurant, as well as yoga classes. Its clear walls dissolve into a kitchen garden, wildflower meadows and the water itself. It all feels unexpectedly poignant. Maybe because it reminds us of the best things we learnt from the past two years – that nature really can stop us going gaga and that you don’t have to leave the UK to be awed by it.
But Another Place is also somewhere to recover some of what we lost in the pandemic, including school swimming lessons. An “endless pool” has been added to the grounds, where Colin Hill, one of Britain’s most renowned open-water swimmers, provides individual tuition, complete with underwater cameras and mirrors, so you can watch your stroke later on an iPad as he explains how to improve. Our kids made more progress in a hour than they have in a term of group lessons.
It is also a brilliant place to recover the spontaneity and sense of adventure that were curtailed for so long but lit up my eight-year-old’s face when she wobbled on a paddleboard for the first time. One evening – the kids playing air hockey under supervision in the kids’ zone – my husband and I joined a “star-gazing swim” led by Hill. Roped to illuminated flotation aids, our little group looked like glow-worms as we bobbed, exhilarated, in the darkening lake, looking up at the emerging stars. Magic.
How to do it
Family shepherd’s huts at Another Place (01768 486442, another.place) cost from £475, including breakfast, with daily kids’-zone sessions included