RO, Ro, Ro your boat – yes, expect a wet and wild time at Bowness-on-Windermere.
But the welcome at perfect Lake District hotel The Ro will soon warm you up.
Dating to 1881 and formerly known as The Hydro, it is one of Windermere’s oldest hotels.
It reopened as The Ro in July after 18 months, having undergone a multi-million pound makeover.
And the tasteful refurbishment has put a modern contemporary twist on a much-loved piece of Cumbrian history.
The polite and professional staff were always accommodating and friendly towards my sometimes challenging four children — Isobel, 12, glued to her mobile, Casper, ten, a slapstick comedian in the making, Harvey, nine, who talks non-stop about football, and Luella, six, a kid who loves to regale us with stories about bodily functions — usually at dinner.
With the car on the blink, the trip was nearly over before it had begun. Thankfully Avanti West Coast’s Glasgow Central train service rode to the rescue, whisking us from London Euston to Oxenholme in under three hours.
A half-hour taxi ride later and we were at The Ro, situated in the heart of Bowness village, with stunning views of Lake Windermere.
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This is Beatrix Potter country and Cumbria and Bowness-on-Windermere are proud of this fact.
To celebrate the author, our first point of call was The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, handily located just across the road from the hotel.
Armed with Peter Rabbit Activity Trail booklets, the children enjoyed exploring the interactive museum, learning interesting facts about the author and her books, from The Tale Of Peter Rabbit, to lesser-known titles such as The Tale Of Mr Todd.
Mr McGregor’s garden, complete with Peter Rabbit’s famous blue jacket and shoes being used as a scarecrow, was a big hit with the kids who ran around trying to find names of characters engraved on the paving stones or various miniature animals from the books, hidden in the shrubbery.
It had been raining almost non-stop since we arrived, but with a break in the weather we decided to try out our sea legs — or at least lake legs.
There are numerous boat companies offering trips around the lake but the self-drive option caught our eye.
We pulled on our lifejackets and after a brief safety talk were let loose on Lake Windermere in our own motor boat named Robyn.
With very little boating experience, I thought this could have been a foolhardy move.
There was no need to worry. Robyn was easy to handle and not very fast, perfect for a family pootling around the lake.
We even allowed the kids to have a go at steering, although they seemed more intent on performing slow-moving doughnuts than getting anywhere.
Tired but happy, we headed back to The Ro and that evening enjoyed delicious braised shanks of Cumbrian lamb and slow-cooked pork belly. The kids were also well catered for with a comprehensive children’s menu.
It was easy to get lost in this mazy, characterful hotel, with its nooks and crannies but it managed to accommodate our family of six with two beautifully bright and airy connecting rooms.
The next morning we decided to try out The Ro’s Explorer package which sees the hotel send you off on one of its recommended walks with a packed lunch “to fuel the adventure”.
There were a number of hikes to choose from including Beatrix Potter’s former home Hill Top Farm, Wray Castle, or a circular walk of Lake Windermere starting at Cockshott Point.
We plumped for Hill Top Farm and were helpfully pointed in the direction of the Cumbria County Council-run ferry, which took us from Ferry Nab across the lake to Windermere West shore for a bargain £1 per person.
The ferry runs every 20 minutes and after a ten-minute journey we set off on our mission to find Beatrix Potter’s house.
Along the way we stopped off at Claife Viewing Station, providing picture-postcard views of Lake Windermere.
From there we pushed on, following signs for Far Sawrey and trekking across rolling hills and lush farmland, past quaint cottages and ancient churches.
Upon reaching Hill Top, we rewarded ourselves by devouring a packed lunch of ham-and-cheese sandwiches, pastries and energy bars. And although we did not make it inside Beatrix Potter’s house after running out of time, the walk itself gave us a real feel for the beautiful countryside that inspired the author.
The rain had finally stopped, the sun peeked out and a giant rainbow arching across the lake seemed to be gently mocking us as if to say: “Look what it could be like if you stayed for longer.”
Bedraggled and windswept but exhilarated and inspired, we reluctantly set off for home.
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