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A Lakes gem for all seasons

The scenery might wear a different cloak, but the Lake District in winter is still jaw-droppingly beautiful. Norman Wright find a winter way of appreciating Ambleside

Snow drapes the surrounding fells and a freshening breeze chases through the streets of Ambleside, but we are settled in comfortable chairs next to an open fire choosing out gourmet dinner with a glass of red wine in hand. The Lake district in winter? We're all for it.

this is one of England's jewels in all seasons; it's just a matter of adapting how you enjoy it. In late spring, summer and early autumn you might opt for a more outdoor break, either with a serious hike or a gentle stroll on Lake Windemere's shores or one of the nearby lakes like Grasmere, Rydal Water or Esthwaite Water. In winter the scenery wears a different cloak but is still breathtaking- you might kust like to see it on a drive, as we did.

In summer your pre-dinner drinks might be taken on the patio or your balcony. From my armchair now it feels a pity to miss out on the fire. Tonight's blaze is a beauty, with the coal banked up a bit and perfect to warm you after a day around the southern Lakes.

There's another coal fire in the adjacent sitting room of the Rothay Manor country house hotel, with several parties examining the menu like us. 

The food at the hotel is one of its many attractions. When a gourmet menu is offered anywhere, you only have to have watched MasterChef to know what to expect. Each dish at the Rothay Manor is a work of art, even the Cumbrian Breakfast with plenty of swooshes on the plate and vertically presented garnished (including the triangle of fried bread at breakfast).

Sometimes in restaurants the balance of flavours loses out to the appearance. Not here. The taste is just as good as the look, and that is excellent.

Head chef Dan McGeorge more than deserves his double AA rosette and award wins: he has worked both in the UK and France. Most ingredients are locally sourced. I checked that out by picking the Ambleside Herdwick lamb. Photographer Clive Nicholls opted for Turbot.

Diners can go for an eight-source tasting menu for a supplement of £15 is you on a dinner, bed and breakfast visit.

From canapes in the sitting room to coffee and petits fours back in front of the fire, the service was impeccable. The cheese selection and presentation was especially good. Located in Ambleside beside Lake Windemere, Rothay Manor was converted into a hotel in 1936, and many of the original Regency features are still in place.

The 19 rooms are individually decorated and many include personal balconies to enjoy the views. Accessibility rooms can be found on the first floor. Both of our rooms were identically luxurious.

From the hotel it is a short walk to the lake shore and its ferried in season or into the busting town centre. The views of the surrounding peaks from t he hotel are wonderful in clear conditions.

Weather was appalling on our journey up to the southern Lakes but despite torrential rain on the M6 around Lancaster and Preston there was a small hope of a break later on.

So we decided to drive into the fells and find a good spot to get a big landscape shot and wait to see if some sun showed up.

Around Ambleside we were spoiled for choice- everywhere there is a wonderful landscape. In the end we tried Kirkstone Pass. The lane winds up through the outskirts of the town and emerges into the hills. When we were there, in December, the pass had been closed due to snow but the road was clear and snow was only on the higher slopes. A little lay-by looked a good spot for a picture.

Water rushing down through a culvert under the road provided an idyllic soundtrack. Sheep grazed in the field next to the road as it headed down.

Patches of blue sky started to appear behind us and suddenly the sun came and highlighted the drystone walls, the meadows and the hills beyond. A tree a way down the road lit up like a golden lamp.

The rewards of the beautiful district are not just restricted to perfect weather. Whichever direction you head on foot or by car you will find a view to remember. 

Have you visited the Lake District? What did you think? 

Let us know what you think and share your experiences with us and others. And for more health news, follow us on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, Instagram and YouTube

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