Sunday 16 October 2016

#LakeDistrictSeries: Keswick - getting away from it all

Sometimes, I'm such a contradiction to myself. Here I am, writing a post about getting away from it all, the beauty of escaping busy life and chilling right out, but at the same time feeling at a loss because my phone is broken.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the impact not having my phone has had on me. The top three emotions I feel are paranoid, isolated and really disconnected from everything. And yet, last week, feeling disconnected was exactly what I wanted. So, I guess I'm writing this for my present self, to look back on last week and try and think a bit bigger, to think outside of the iPhone box.

So. To take you back with me... Last Friday after work, James & I drove up to The Lakes to Keswick, to stay at the Highfield Hotel.

We arrived bang on 8.30, just as the kitchen were taking their last orders, and so we scrambled through to the dining room to quickly place our orders. I'd tried (and failed) to order over the phone, but the phone signal was pretty bad. The hotel manager was really accommodating and ushered us straight through so we could place our order. Living in Manchester, where food is pretty much 24/7 ‘on’, you forget that more remote places don’t have the need to function until really late on in the evening. 

The dining room is split over two rooms, and we were in the quieter of the two, with just one other couple. We were definitely the louder couple, and it did feel like we had the room to ourselves, which was nice. I thought it might be a bit awkward but actually it felt like we had hired caterers into our house! The staff were really lovely and despite the initial rush, let us settle down and set the pace for a really relaxed meal. 

Scallops & King Prawns
Wood Pigeon
We started off with a really rich bottle of Rioja, and gorgeous canap├ęs - including a lovely paprika hummus crisp bread. For our first courses, I opted for wood pigeon, and James had the scallops and king prawns. The kitchen at the Highfield pride themselves on using locally sourced, seasonal food, which is always a winning act with me.

My pigeon was amazing. The meat was so tender it almost melted in your mouth, and the chorizo and vegetables that accompanied it were gorgeous. 

We swapped half way through (much to my dismay), but I wasn’t disappointed with James’s choice. It was light and fresh, very easy on the ‘palate’ and the prawns were a) huge and b) really, really juicy. You could tell a lot of care had gone into the presentation of the food, and it didn’t go unnoticed. 

We were then brought a sorbet to cleanse our palates, which was a nice, refreshing twist (and the first of three sorbets over the two days… I think it’s a Lake District thing?!). 

When our waitress brought the mains out, I couldn’t believe the size of our portions - hearty to say the least! It would definitely set you right after a long day’s walking in the Lakes. I always associate high end restaurants with small portion sizes but this blew expectations out the window. 

Anyway. I went for the beef with sticky red cabbage, mash root vegetables and carrots.The mash was incredible, rich but not overpoweringly so, and the gravy was perfect - excellent shout with the wine too, it went down a treat! I'd describe mine as a really good, ’posh roast’. Beautifully presented, and with substantial portion size to boast.

Roast Beef
James went for the Venison, with dauphinoise potatoes, carrots and green beans. Again, we halved it, and I was so glad we did - this was insane. The meat was beautiful and tender, and the crunchy green beans worked well with the creamy potato layers.

I was so full after the two courses, but James was swayed by the Thunder & Lightening ice-cream, so he got that. Again, this was huge, with a decent helping of a hot chocolate bomb (with delicious molten hot chocolate sauce in the middle), ice-cream and berries. 

I instead ordered coffee, which came with a little selection of petit fours; Lake District specialties including tiny bites of flapjack and fudge - which was just enough for me. 

The Highfield Restaurant has won lots of national awards and it's easy to see why. I love the fact they use locally sourced, seasonal food (the dinner menu changes daily - but you can view a sample menu on the website). 

Our room was gorgeous. We were told by the manager our views were something incredible, and arriving at night gave it that extra special feeling, wondering what was beyond the dark. The room itself was done up really nicely. 

It was your typical old English style (it was built in 1885!), cute bed and breakfast hotel, with a big bay windows, high turrets, and balconies in the front rooms (one of them being ours!). Our room had been nicely re-done, with a huge bed at the centre piece. 

I found some info on the hotel in the welcome pack - in the 1950s it functioned as a Vegetarian hotel (?!?) but before its use as a hotel, the property was two houses bought for two sisters. The character of the hotel didn’t disappoint in this respect, and I had a newfound appreciation for its quirky stairs and ‘homely’ feel. I'd definitely recommend staying here if you're looking for an independently run, homely feeling hotel. The food is absolutely outstanding, too.

Our bed was beautifully comfy. But before it was time for shut eye, I had a present for James! Debenhams had got in touch a few weeks before to ask if I’d like to promote their men’s gift guide, and I thought it would be a really nice idea to get James a present. The present was to say thanks in advance for having to take a load of photos of me in the Lakes for the blog (Instagram girls, and blogging pals whose boyfriend's take pics, you know...). The team let me choose a gift for James and I got a bit silly and ordered a really (really really) big remote control red La Ferrari (he loves cars).

He got it up and running in no time (it was soo loud and we did wonder whether the staff would be up to check on us..), and it's now happily on our dining room table. Ha. Anyway. Thanks to Debenhams for keeping James happy as I spent ages snapping our food for Insta before we were allowed to eat it...

THIS was the view we woke up to!

You can see right out onto Derwentwater and the valleys either side. How beautiful is that? It was absolutely stunning and the photos really don't do it justice. It felt like we were in the middle of the alps. 

Breakfast was a hurried affair, on our behalf, as we overslept and wanted to do the Keswick Park Run which started at 9. James still managed two rounds of cereals and fruit, and a hot kipper and toast. I opted for granola and yoghurt, which hit the spot as a pre-workout treat!

Keswick park run is beautiful by the way. Really picturesque and not too hilly - as I expected. It was a gorgeous dry morning and a perfect way to see Keswick. The run is along Keswick Railway Path and if you don't fancy jogging it, would also make a really nice walk (it's 5km in total and you turn round at the 2.5km mark).

We ran back and packed up, and then it was on to Windermere via a walk round Buttermere... the adventure continues!

The Highfield Hotel kindly paid for my accommodation and food for this review, but as ever, all views, thoughts and opinions are my own. Debenhams very kindly gifted me with the present for James, again - opinions are my own - you should check out their guide if you're stuck on present ideas for your partner / dad / brother.

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