The Forest Side, Grasmere, Cumbria - Scotland on Sunday travel

A gothic mansion that’s boutique as well as dog-friendly, the ideal Lakeside retreat

The Forest Side, on the edge of Grasmere is surrounded by 43 acres of woodland, in which red squirrels can be spotted

Budget or boutique?

The Forest Side has a sweeping drive to rival Manderley which delivers you to a Gothic mansion, built in 1853 following the arrival of the railway to Windermere in 1847. The 20 boutique rooms and six dog-friendly rooms mean there are enough guests to make the place buzzy without being impersonal.

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Room service

One of the spacious and comfortable bedrooms in the Gothic mansion that dates from 1853

Rooms designed by James Mackie are superb, luxurious and spacious. We stayed in a dog-friendly room with our hyperactive spaniel, Jed. He was welcomed with his own rug, bowls and homemade dog treats. There was shortbread for the humans served alongside coffees teas and ice cold tap water. The bathroom and walk-in shower were ideal for hosing Jed down post-hike. A Cape Cod Duravit bath provided a relaxing soak for us too, having braved the tail end of Storm Freya to work up an appetite for dinner.

Wining and dining

The most important meal of the day set the tone. The breakfast of wild mushrooms and poached eggs on toast was not only beautifully presented, it tasted divine. The coffee was mellow, hot and plentiful, and the service chatty and relaxed, recommending walks and things to do and see in the day ahead.

Dinner was exceptional. The presence of chef Kevin Tickle means Forest Side can boast a Michelin star and inclusion in The Good Food Guide’s Top 50 Restaurants in the UK. And his contribution is obvious, even to a vegetarian and a pescatarian who aren’t straightforward to cater for, especially over an 11-course tasting with accompanying wine.

The menus were witty and the food unpretentious, and included a course called “Quite possibly the best bag of cheese and onion crisps I ever ate – according to Katie from Huddersfield.”

Produce is sourced locally and you can visit the kitchen garden yourself to marvel at the array of herbs and veg. It was just starting to peek through in March – I suspect it would be a sensory overload by May.

Worth getting out of bed for

Poet William Wordsworth lived in Grasmere for 14 years and described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”.

The staff at Forest Side had plenty of recommendations for walks and we circuited Easedale Tarn – a six-mile amble with great views and visibility of sheep well in advance so Jed could be off the lead most of the time. We also did an easier walk along the bank of Grasmere and the River Rothay – about three miles and exceptionally pretty.

Grasmere has a thriving restaurant and pub scene – even in March it was a popular place for visitors. Summer is exceptionally busy, so book soon.

Little extras

The Forest Side is a cracking hotel. Steeped in history, it’s great to see a prominent house continue to play its part in the Lake District’s story. Just ten minutes’ walk from Grasmere village centre, it sits in its own dappled forest at the foot of the Lake District fells. Red squirrels are actively supported by the hotel and locals, so keep an eye out when exploring the 43 acres of woodland surrounding the property for a rare glimpse.

Guest Book Comments

The fact that dogs are welcomed and not simply tolerated is a big plus. Staff fussed over Jed and offered additional old towels to protect the inside of our car given the weather was so grim. Local knowledge was top class and nothing was too much trouble for the team. I hope to go back and explore more.

Clare Smith

Standard nightly rates at The Forest Side start from £229 per room per night in a Double Room, based on two adults sharing, including breakfast. The dinner tasting menu changes regularly, prices start from £80.

The Forest Side Hotel, Keswick Road, Grasmere, Cumbria LA22 9RN, (015394 35250,