After half a day in the car I got a huge surge of excitement as we approached the Lake District. There, nestled in soft undulating hills and perfect woods rolling down to Lake Windermere, is the Samling. You couldn’t ask for a more ideal location – right on the water, but still secluded. It’s no wonder so many celebrities have chosen to stay to escape to it. As we arrived, the manager appeared from nowhere like Mr Benn. He showed us to our own ranch-style abode, told us everything we needed to know and then vanished.
We’d booked into Lethera, our own three-storey cottage. At the bottom was a huge bathroom, stocked with candles and goodies; it left a lot to the imagination – in a good way. Next floor up was our chill-out room. A comfy worn-in sofa, telly, sound system and realistic-looking gas fire made it as cosy as can be. But, better than all the mod cons that money can buy, we were astonished by the most incredible view of the lake. At the top was a bed with big fluffy pillows, and, even more fantastic, another chance to get a load of that vista.
Having arranged with the manager when we wanted to have dinner, we popped down to the main house for an aperitif. Here, in the drawing room, you choose supper from three menus. For those who find navigating their way through the à la carte and tasting menus for vegetarians and carnivores a little challenging, staff soon jump to the rescue. And while they were helping us to choose an excellent bottle of red, some delicious canapés arrived: quail’s eggs, duck confit, Iberico ham – even a frog’s leg. Just as I was coveting the sofa by the open fire (snapped up by couples who get down there before 8pm), the manager came to distract us with news of all the activities available. Whether you want to fish, walk or go boating on the lake, Mr Benn can arrange it. I knocked my champagne back and declared that tomorrow we would be learning to fly-fish.
The restaurant was a little more formal than we’d expected, but none of the other couples batted an eyelid at my combats and loud shirt, and it was to the happy clinking sound of a lot of lead crystal that we enjoyed a delicious meal. Full from organic chicken baked in straw, we felt gluttonous thinking of our next meal straight after dinner, but they like you to order breakfast the night before. With the choice of a four-course sit-in or a cup-of-tea wake-up call and your food brought in later, we chose a 9am kick-off in the main house.
Sat at the table by the window, with a fantastic view over the lake once again, we were glad we’d been greedy and requested all that we could. A full English polished off and belts loosened, it was time for a walk. The beauty of the Samling’s woodland location is that you can step outside your room and start walking – we soon found ourselves in forest as lush and dense as a Malaysian jungle. We made our way back just in time for our fly-fishing lesson.
We’d never been fishing before, but Patrick Arnold soon had us on the fast track to learning the true art of casting, and after an hour’s expert tuition on the bank he let us loose on the lake. Wow! Catching my first fish ever was a real moment. In fact, I’ve since splashed out on my own rod, and I’m still boring people with the story.
What an ideal escape our Samling stay turned out to be – the chance to recharge our batteries, and an adventure to boot. As we were packing up to leave, I was almost relieved to find a flat tyre on the car, in the hope we’d have to stay another night. But, of course, a resourceful Nigel jumped to the rescue with a portable pump and (somewhat begrudgingly) we were on our way.
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Smith extra at Samling
A glass of champagne each on arrival