Hotel Review, mini break, Travel, Travel inspiration, UK, Uncategorized

Hotel Review: Storrs Hall Hotel, Lake Windermere, Lake District

After five months of lock-down and having to put our more adventurous travel plans on hold, we decided a change of scenery was needed. Both my husband and I have been lucky enough to continue working throughout the pandemic. Whilst we have loved having the time together and the time to be at home, it’s been exhausting and work has been intense. When there is no defining boundary between work and home, we fell into the trap of working 24/7. So, like many people this summer we set about a booking a UK staycation.

We formed a bubble with my parents at the end of July and began looking for a break close to their home in North Yorkshire. Cue, a furiously busy morning with my mum calling hotels across the north and finally finding the gem that is Storrs Hall in the Lake District. Luckily, they had two rooms available for the dates we were after. Booking confirmed we were all systems go.

Getting to Storrs Hall

We travelled over to the Lake District from Harrogate, North Yorkshire by car. We set off on Friday morning, and the journey took around two hours. The journey by road is relatively simple although there were very limited places to stop. I would suggest stocking up your car snacks and having a wee before you go. I noticed a number of the petrol stations had closed their toilet facilities due to the pandemic, this is something to bear in mind as you move away from the main roads and larger rest stops.

If you plan to travel by train, the nearest station is Windermere which is five miles from the hotel. There are direct trains to Windermere from Manchester Piccadilly, Preston and Kendal. Windermere can also be easily reached with one to two changes from Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street, Leeds, Newcastle and London Euston.

First Impressions

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited the Lakes and do know it is a hugely popular UK destination. But I have to say my levels of anxiety skyrocketed as we drove into Windermere. It was heaving. There were people everywhere and social distancing and the wearing of face coverings didn’t seem to have quite permeated the psyche of these British holidaymakers. However, as we drove out of Windermere towards the hotel, we were wrapped up with country and lakeside views. Not a tourist in sight.

Storrs Hall occupies a lakeside spot about ten minutes outside of Windermere. Close enough if you want to venture in, but far enough away to offer you some space and quiet. The Grade two listed family-owned Georgian manor house crept into view as we swept round the long-curved drive. Nestled in seventeen acres and wrapped on two sides by Lake Windermere, Storrs Hall certainly packs a punch on the first view. With the sun shining and lake glistening we were keen to get checked in and settle down for lunch with a view.

Which Room?

For a relatively small hotel, Storrs Hall has an impressive range of room options.  In the main part of the manor, you have the choice of a Classic room, Classic with a lake view, Superior, Superior with a lake view, Feature lake view, Deluxe, Deluxe with a lake view and a Master lake view bedroom. These thirty rooms have recently been refurbished and had a modern contemporary feel whilst remaining sympathetic to the grandeur and history of the building. The original architecture has been carefully preserved, so each room has a unique character and feel. This helps make your stay a truly exclusive experience for you.

In addition to the rooms in the main manor, Storrs Hall offers six lakeside suites and a boathouse. The lakeside suites are set in woodland just metres from the main building and are incredibly luxurious. With lounge space, hot tubs and sophisticated sumptuous design, these lakeside suites are the perfect hideaway. 

Finally, at the pinnacle of luxury is the boathouse. Set over two floors, the boathouse is an exclusive retreat with a hot tub, fire pit, steam room and lounge.

For our stay, we were able to secure a Classic Lake View, which my husband and I stayed in and a Deluxe room which my parents stayed in.

Classic Lake View (Room 35): What a view! South facing towards the lake and the fells was utter perfection. Even better, our bath was plinth mounted allowing some significant post-hike marinating taking it all in. Our luxurious bathroom was also furnished with a large rainfall shower. Finally, on the topic of luxurious bathrooms, Storrs Hall generously provides a gorgeous range of toiletries courtesy of Molten Brown.

Our room was well appointed with a comfortable king-size bed, tv, wifi, desk and tea and coffee facilities, robes and slippers.  

Deluxe (Room 8 & 9): In the deluxe room you sacrifice the lakeside view for a separate sitting room. The sofa in the sitting room can also be used as a sofa-bed to accommodate small children if you are travelling as a family. The room was stylishly decorated and had all the amenities of the classic lake view. The only drawback of room 8/9 was the lack of a bath. This room, however, is the only Deluxe room without a bath so it might be something worth checking when you make your booking.

Food & Drink

Our stay at Storrs Hall was a bed and breakfast deal but we opted to eat at the hotel for two of our four nights. Lunches and afternoon tea also made an appearance in our schedule. The food was incredible. Locally sourced ingredients, seasonal produce and exquisite presentation made for some sensational meals.

Due to the pandemic, the hotel is offering a reduced menu. However, there is still plenty of choices, and the carefully selected menu should provide something for all tastes and dietary requirements.  

Breakfast: The range of breakfast options on offer was brilliant. Cooked breakfast, toast, cereal, croissants, eggs, whatever your preference nothing was too much trouble. I can thoroughly recommend the vegetarian breakfast; it was the perfect set up for a day hiking through the fells.

Lunch/ Light Bites: Despite a reduced menu due to the pandemic there was plenty on offer for lunch. Sandwiches, salmon plate, burger or just a bowl of chips. Nothing was too much trouble and the service was fabulous.

Dinner: Every dish looked spectacular but my recommendation goes to the Heritage Beetroot starter (There’s a gooey ball of fried goats’ cheese…job done) The pan-fried sea bass and the chocolate slice with sticky honeycomb and cherry sorbet. Whilst the menu is subject to seasonal and producer change it is clear that the quality of kitchen staff will remain. The food was flawlessly prepared and beautifully presented. Dinner at Storrs Hall was perfection.

Afternoon tea: What’s not to love about a hot beverage and cake? The only way to make that combo better is to add finger sandwiches and warm fluffy scones. Coupled with a magnificent view and you’re on to a belter of an afternoon. The Storrs Hall afternoon tea is a must if you are visiting, just make sure you book in advance.

COVID 19 Response

It stands to reason that in the current climate I should outline everything the hotel has put in place to ensure that safety and comfort of the guests. From the moment of my booking, the staff were in contact every couple of days with updates following the latest advice. The main essential of further  information was the requirement for face coverings in all communal parts of the hotel. Once you were sat down with drinks or food of course these could be removed. This open communication from the outset put my mind at ease before we even checked in.

Check-in & check-out: The hotel requested that only one person from the group check-in for each room. This minimised the number of guests in the reception area at any one time. Before check-out, I was emailed a copy of my invoice for checking. Again, this reduced the need to spend additional time in the reception area. In terms of your luggage, the reception staff are happy to help you to your room. However, they will leave the luggage at the door to minimise the number of people coming into contact with the freshly cleaned room.

Sanitising & Social Distancing: Throughout the hotel, there were sanitising stations and signage encouraging you to use them and reminding guests of the two-metre distance requirement. After the checking in the staff talked us through the one-way system in operation throughout the communal areas of the hotel. As a Grade Two listed Georgian manor house, the hotel has space in abundance and social distancing was easily accomplished with the support and planning of the staff. Although the hotel was at maximum occupancy when we checked out, we never felt anxious about running into other guests. Even in corridors and on the stairs, guests and staff were conscious of each other and always moved aside or waited until you had moved on.

Dining: Like many places, the hotel was enforcing a prior booking policy concerning mealtimes. It was no great hardship to pre-book dinner and breakfast. The hotel has a brilliant service system in place. Having reduced the number of tables in the dining room each table was equipped with a ‘service’ table. The restaurant staff would serve the dishes and drinks to the service table and you help yourself from the service table. Once you were finished, you returned your dishes to the service table from which they were collected. This system ensured the staff could stick to the two-metre social distancing guidelines. This new system of dining genuinely didn’t detract from the experience or the high level of service.  

Your room: Aside from no turn-down service there wasn’t any great change to how your room was looked after or your use of it. In the room, there was a comprehensive two-sided document outlining everything the hotel is doing to ensure the safety of the guests. The main thing you needed to do as a guest was to ensure you hung the green service sign on your door each morning. Without the sign, the cleaning staff would not enter your room. Again, this measure ensures a minimal number of people accessing your room, thus reducing risk.

Final Thoughts

Our stay at Storrs Hall felt like a little slice of luxury and calm in what has been a very turbulent time. We felt safe throughout our stay, and the service was impeccable. We really couldn’t have asked for more. If you are considering getting away in the next couple of months, I can’t extol the virtues of Storrs Hall enough. Our short trip has left me planning a return, and I’m looking forward to a more walking focused trip to the Lakes in the future.

Travelling at home and putting money back into our economy has never been more important. So, let’s support local business, private hotels, guesthouses and b n b’s. Everyone is doing all they can to comply with government guidelines to keep us safe. If we want our hospitality and tourism sector to recover then we must invest in it’s future now.

Stay safe & happy travels

Jess

life lessons, Travel, Travel inspiration, Uncategorized

10 Life Lessons to be Learnt from Independent Travel as a Young Adult

Without a doubt, travel has shaped who I am as a person and given me so many hugely treasured experiences. I am completely intoxicated by the whole process of travel. From planning to those first giddy moments of arrival in a new place. I love it. As a teacher by trade, I take such joy from immersing myself in a new culture or the history of a place, but I strongly believe that my travel experiences go deeper than my appreciation of a new place. The independent journeys and opportunities I sought out, particularly in my early twenties have truly formed the adult I am now. So, here are some of the most important life lessons travel has taught me.

1. Budgeting & the value of money

As a young adult or university student, you don’t tend to have huge reserves of disposable cash. Therefore, if you want to travel you’ll need to budget and work for it. I remember taking bar jobs in university and working as a nanny and nursery assistant to earn some extra cash to fund my trips.

Travel is brilliant for helping you to budget. If you’re travelling for four weeks, you’ll need money set aside for food, transport, excursions, tips, accommodation and always, always, always keep some cash for emergencies.

Remote travel is equally perfect for encouraging you to stick to your budget. If you know there will be no access to a cash point or bank then you’ll have to carefully consider spending limits each day.

Travel, in addition, gives you an unprecedented understanding of the value of money. Think how far your money goes in places like Thailand compared to Iceland. The cost of living varies hugely across the world. So, when you are haggling with a street seller over two hundred rupees think to yourself how much that is in UK Sterling. Is it worth haggling over £1? Particularly if that money would make a big difference for that individual.

Travel and money can also come with a few nasty surprises, which most young travelers will only fall foul of once. Bank charges for using your UK bank card, astronomical mobile-phone bills, medical charges if you’ve not bothered with insurance can all be a financial wake-up call. Make sure you do your research and speak to your bank before you travel if you have any concerns.

2. Get out of your comfort zone

Travel will undoubtedly put you in situations you never thought you’d find yourself in. Whether that is standing atop a cliff, digging deep for the courage to jump into frigid waters or desperately holding it together whilst rescuing a seven-year-old from notoriously big kayak spiders, seriously they are huge. Or a personal favourite closing your eyes and hoping nothing bites you as you try to pee in a hole in the ground in Kenya.

There will always be something new or unknown when you’re travelling. The best thing you can do is embrace it. When you approach a situation with an open mind and a positive attitude there will always be something encouraging to take from the experience.

Travel is about broadening your experiences. How can you say you don’t like a thing if you’ve never tried it? How can you say its not your type of thing if you haven’t given it a go? My husband’s response to white water rafting is the perfect example. He was sceptical, a little moany and very much like this is not my thing. I will not enjoy it. Cue fifteen minutes into paddling; he’s right at the font, bossing every rapid and living his best life.

What have you got to lose?

3. Working & interacting with new people

You can’t avoid it, whether you’re a people person or not you will spend your whole life working with and having to interact with people. Travel is one of those things that makes you strike up a conversation. Group travel particularly is brilliant. The one thing you all have in common is your choice to travel; that’s a pretty good starting point.

Travel also gives you the ideal opportunity to test out your language skills. I am always ashamed by my poor linguistical skills. So many people across the globe possess a phenomenal grasp of English and I can just about muster ‘hello’ and mime my way through ordering a meal. But these interactions are priceless.

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

One of the steepest learning curves I found was work in a different country. Nothing prepares you better for the working world than throwing yourself into a job in another country. I landed in Canada five days before I was due to start work at a summer camp teaching outdoor sport. Three of my five days were taken up with a first aid course to gain the appropriately recognised qualification, and two days were devoted to travelling. Suddenly I was working with a team of strangers, welcoming children from the age of seven to sixteen and taking full responsibility for my group 24/7. In those situations, you bond quickly, forge strong relationships and you get your head down and do the job in front of you.

4. Perseverance

As a teacher, one of my biggest niggles is that students give up so easily and seem to lack a deeper layer of resilience. Don’t give up. Whatever you are doing see it through to the end. The sense of accomplishment you feel at the end will completely outweigh any negative sections of the journey. The parts of our journey we find the hardest are often the parts we look back on most fondly. Language will be a barrier, you will have setbacks and plans will get changed, but stick with it.

I remember taking a group of eleven-year-olds on a kayak trip in Canada. As one of two adults in charge, I felt such a weight of responsibility for the children’s safety and well-being. So, despite the choppy water and toeing one of the less confident paddlers, I pushed through. The combination of responsibility and the physical challenge was a real test of my perseverance.

Challenge yourself, set ambitious goals and reflect on your success. You might surprise yourself with grit you didn’t even know you had.

5. Confidence & self-belief

Travel presents you with so many opportunities to learn and grow. Only when you stop can, you reflect on all the things you got right, or how you were able to learn from a particular situation. Making your flights, planning excursions, ordering in a different language, sharing your shower with local reptiles or even your Imodium lasting you an eight-hour bus ride across Rajasthan. Take confidence from the small wins.  Whether it was your careful planning or your mental attitude, you did those things. You made them happen and came out on top.  

6. Organisational skills

I remember sitting on my bedroom floor in 2008 and again in 2009 carefully laying out every item I would need for four weeks in India and seven weeks working in Canada. I wrote lists, researched and added more things to my list. My trip to India was my first big independent adventure without my parents, so I wanted to prove that I could do it. I wanted to get it right. Being gifted the opportunity to go and explore this fabulous country with my best friend was incredible. As newly turned twenty-year-olds we were so naïve but with naivety comes enthusiasm, we certainly weren’t short of that. Throughout the planning process, packing and even when we were away, the organisation played such a key part to the success of our trip. Clothing, money, visa’s, transport and connections from our group tour to the second part of the trip all had to be carefully thought about.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Without the opportunity to take responsibility I would never have unearthed my love for a planning spreadsheet or colour coded budgeting.

7. Adapt. Change. Go with the flow

Change is inevitable and perfectly laid plans are great. But travel doesn’t always fit into your carefully crafted schedule or itinerary. Flights get cancelled, transport is delayed, miserable weather scuppers your outdoor adventures or the world goes into lockdown forcing you to move your adventures closer to home or indulge your wanderlust via Instagram.

 I can honestly say, I struggle with big changes but I love spontaneity when I travel. An odd mix, I know. However, when I do make plans, I like sticking to them. But for every situation that hasn’t gone as I’d hoped, I’ve learnt, grown and ultimately, it’s all turned out ok, if not better.

 The ability to adapt and change your plans at a moments notice is a crucial life lesson. Being flexible will not only improve your travel experiences, but it’s vital in the wider world. Embracing the unknown when travelling truly is part of the whole experience, so don’t sweat the small stuff, think on your feet and roll with it.

8. Appreciation

Travel will leave you with a newfound appreciation of different cultures, cuisine and the natural environment. Standing at the bottom of Victoria falls in Zambia listening to the water pound the rocks or sitting in the sunshine on the shores of Lake Windermere listening to nothing but bird song it’s hard not to be in awe of mother nature.

During my time in India, we stayed with a local family in Bellary. The family were so welcoming and generous with the little they had. Despite three generations living in the house, we were offered a whole room and use of the bathroom to ourselves. Everything in that family was shared but they were the most joyful people who appreciated everything. I left their home after two weeks feeling humble and buoyantly thankful for their kindness.

9. Experiences out-weigh possessions

What is more valuable? Is the photograph taken straight after your first exhilarating cliff dive? Or a small tourist souvenir that will be destined for a cupboard before making its way to the charity shop? Travel has taught me that experiences outweigh stuff, every time. Experiences and memories will stay with you so much longer than a tourist souvenir bought for the sake of it.

Meaningful experiences help you get under the skin of a place and its culture. I remember visiting a wood carving workshop in rural Bali. Whilst my parents bought the most fabulous carved elephant from the roots of a mahogany tree.  I remember wandering around the back. Air thick with smoke. Men and women hunched on bamboo mats completely engrossed in their work. I was transfixed on their dexterous and skillful working of the wood. Animals, Gods and Goddesses materialised before my eyes. So, although the elephant is a gorgeous and beguiling thing, it is the memory of the place and the people that have stayed with me.

10. Unforgettable experiences and interactions

My travels have taken me to some incredible places, and I hold those experiences close. Travel is inspirational, the more you do the more you yearn for more.

Some of the best experiences are those which cannot be repeated or recreated. The magic of adventure is in the culmination of circumstances. Combine sheer exhaustion with sitting on the banks of the Zambezi watching elephants drink from the other side and a moderately strong mojito and you’ve got a perfect moment.

Transient relationships and interactions with people from all walks of life are special nuggets that enrich your journeys. I remember taking a local train India with my ginger best friend. With gorgeous Scottish milky skin and fiery red hair, she was an absolute novelty and the brilliant catalyst for conversation.

I would love to know your travel stories and how travel has impacted you.

Stay safe & Happy travels.

Jess