Every year, some 15 million people pitch up to explore the craggy fells and gleaming mountain tarns of the Lake District National Park. But this place – once just a collection of remote Cumberland counties, bordered by the Irish Sea and the Pennines – didn’t even get its name until 1730.
But ever since the romantic poets arrived in the 19th century, Lakeland (as it’s known by locals) has been a cultural phenomenon, beloved by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Ransome and, of course, Beatrix Potter, who lived and wrote in the Lakes. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, it’s as popular as ever, meaning you’ll need a restful spot to kick back in and escape the crowds with a soothing spa session.
Here’s our pick of the best spa hotels in the Lake District.
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Arguably the sultriest hotel in the Lakes, the chalet-style Brimstone comes with neutral-hued suites, side-by-side slipper baths, moody lighting and a private spa just for two. Set on the original site of a gunpowder works at the foot of a million-year-old volcano, it’s part of the picturesque Langdale Estate, surrounded by brooding fens, sinuous lakes and owl-flecked forests. Choose from candlelit massages and body treatments, get invigorated via the networks of foot baths, ice showers, steam rooms and saunas, then float on your back in the heated rooftop pool as the moon casts its glow across the water.
Spa suites from £490 per night
The folks at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House have built their brand on the ethos of “kicking back”. The Swedish-style Jetty Spa comprises a series of soothingly Scandi wooden buildings designed so you take a “spa trail” winding through the deer-speckled forest, popping into private pools and spa suites, where you can get your knots kneaded in front of a roaring fire, and cabins for aromatherapy treatments overlooking the water. Try hot stone massages in the early evening as the mists roll in, then chill out at the boat house for cream tea and Lakeland views. If you want something more energetic, there’s fishing, shooting, horse-riding, mountain biking and paintballing, too.
Classic rooms from £180 per night
There’s nothing fussy about this lodge-style Victorian building, with its central tower, tall gables and a light touch and contemporary feel throughout. But its Falls Spa – overlooking the beautiful waterfalls, lakes and mountains of Derwentwater – is surprisingly swish, with a champagne bar, outdoor hydrotherapy pool, thermal suite and free boot hire so you can pound the surrounding walking trails with muddy glee. There’s also a private Rasul room for Arabian wellness rituals and unusual “liquid gold” scalp massages.
Spa suites from £460 per night
Rothay is a homely hotel, strictly for grown-ups, where wholesome wellness goes hand in hand with a floor-to-ceiling-windows kind of luxury. The intimate, light-filled spa comes with views across the fells to sparkling waters beyond and is the ideal space for easing walk-weary limbs. Choose between a dip in the circular whirlpool tub (or a watery lounge on the sunken beds) or warming your muscles in the infrared loungers, before putting your feet first with some reflexology on the hot stone walkway.
From £120 per night including a four-course dinner and breakfast
With candle lanterns, fibre-optic lighting, brushed concrete walls and pops of abstract art, the spa at The Daffodil – on the shores of Grasmere, across the road from Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage – is modern and slinky. At its centre is a bubbly thermal pool enclaved by a sauna, steam room and tepidarium. The treatment menu is comprehensive – including mud Rasul treatments, regenerative massages and botanical facials using Germaine de Capuccini products. Rooms here are crisp and contemporary and most come with staggering lake or valley views.
From £118 per night
Tucked away on the first floor of the bijou Swan Hotel, which sits on the forest-fringed southern tip of lake Windermere, you’ll find a little spa haven. Here, treatments range from ESPA Swedish massages and bespoke intensive facials, to invigorating Indian head massages and detoxifying algae mud wraps. Apres-spa (definitely a thing), kick back in the river-view relaxation room or take a dip in the pool, flanked by colourful deckchairs and a little juice bar. Restless sorts can hill hike or potter around the local marina, before returning to saintly Buddha Bowls and afternoon tea at The Swan Inn.
From £110 per night
Georgian grandeur meets contemporary chic at Another Place, an outdoors-in sort of hotel, where windows open up onto views of sweeping fells and sails nosing their way across Ullswater lake. There are watery views from almost all of the 40 rooms and the Swim Club spa has an impressive water-facing infinity pool clad within sculptural glass-lined walls. The spa is a soothing sanctuary with two treatment rooms for massages, body scrubs, wraps and facials, and a snug for indulgent manicures and pedicures. Outside you’ll find a hot tub, perfect for stargazing in (given this national park has two Dark Sky Discovery areas).
From £235 per night
This creeper-covered 18th-century coaching inn – with monochrome furniture and pops of tangerine – has just had a splashy £20m refurb, adding a leisure centre and an entirely new bedroom wing to its offering. Once a working farm, it’s now home to a snazzy spa overlooking blustery Lake Windermere. With Himalayan salt scrubs; face, feet and scalp massages; and detoxifying hip and thigh massages using ESPA products (ideal for soothing weary hike-fatigued muscles), it’s perfect for those with indulgence in mind. The leisure centre houses a gym, indoor and outdoor infinity pools and an outdoor sauna, and guests receive a 10 per cent discount at the on-site watersports centre.
From £158 per night
With garden-view hot tubs on the patio, sultry steam rooms and a tranquil, glass-encased indoor pool, Aphrodites does indulgence really rather well. Set on sparklingly-manicured private grounds overlooking Windermere, most suites come with fancy Villeroy & Boch “spa bathrooms” with couple-sized air massage baths, log burning fires and a complimentary mini-bar (the Tranquil Retreat Suite even comes with its own Swedish barrel sauna). Treatments range from Hopi ear candle sessions, to cleansing back exfoliations, and there are tennis courts, hiking trails and blustery bike rides on your doorstep should you want something a tad sweatier.
From £270 per night
From its elevated position on the shores of Lake Windermere, Holbeck Ghyll looks out towards the Old Man of Coniston, Crinkle Crags and Langdale Pikes – all places that sound like they should be in a Tolkien novel. Fires blaze in the cosy panelled sitting room while the restaurant serves up satisfying British grub, from pig’s cheek to Gigha halibut. The spa here is small but perfectly formed, offering Swedish massages, hot and cold stone treatments, reiki, reflexology and leg and back massages to cater to the tight hamstrings of ardent fell walkers.
From £140 per night