Location: Lake Ullswater, the Lake District, Cumbria
Perfect for: Blissfully isolated romance
Perched atop the beautiful Ullswater Lake (a nine-mile stretch of water and Cumbria’s second largest lake), is the Duke of Portland Boathouse. This 17th century one-bedroom boathouse is a magical place to be; rustic and homely, it offers unadulterated romance and blissful isolation over and above luxury and opulence. Outside, there’s plenty of watersports fun to be had and fine dining at the 2 AA Rosette Sharrow Bay Restaurant a little further up the lake. Explore by foot, or ask the local lesbian cab firm to take you…
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“I hope you packed your waders!” the lovely lady cab driver who meets us at Penrith station says jovially. We’ve possibly not picked the best weekend to visit the Lake District. The whole UK has been deluged with rain, swathes of the country are flooded, and roads are blocked. Getting to our destination could be as watery an escapade as The Poseidon Adventure.
“Never mind waders,” sighs Monsieur 2 as we arrive at the Duke Of Portland Boathouse, “it looks like we might need a dinghy!” He’s exaggerating, but there’s no ignoring the slightly perilous way in which the water is lapping at the stairs up to the front door…
As we let ourselves in though we immediately feel safe and sound; the long open-plan space is homely, welcoming – and dry!
It only takes a few minutes to look around but we’re impressed with what we see. Various paintings and photos of the house by different artists line the walls, there’s a large fireplace complete with shaggy rug, and the high beamed ceiling makes the living space feel bigger than it actually is. There’s also a very friendly ‘enjoy’ sign, which we both agree is a rather nice touch.
I put the kettle on (it’s a proper stove-top whistling kettle too, which is fun) while Monsieur 2 fiddles with remote controls to get the TV, concealed in a smart corner cabinet, working. Tea made, we collapse onto the huge squashy cow-hide sofa.
While Monsieur 2 channel surfs, I read up on the history of the house. “It’s been here since the 17th century,” I inform my beloved, “so I don’t think we’re in any danger of being washed away!”
“Well that’s a relief,” he replies, comforted. “And does the Duke of Portland own it?”
“Hang on,” I say, skimming through the guidebook, “no – he did, but the 3rd Duke had to sell it along with his Cumberland estates to pay his legal bills, the poor duck.”
“His loss is our gain I’d say!” and looking around at the gorgeous room, I have to agree.
I’m making dinner and I’m glad that I hadn’t planned anything elaborate – the facilities in the kitchenette are very limited, just a couple of gas rings and a combined microwave, oven and grill. It’s fine for our purposes but if you’re not used to the combi-microwave, you may struggle to make much of a meal here.
We eat our dinner sprawled picnic-style on the rug in front of the fire. With a glass of wine and the sound of rain falling on the skylights above our heads, it couldn’t be more romantic.
“You know that dinghy I said we might want?” asks Monsieur 2, coming back from the bathroom, “I think we’ve got it!” Not quite catching his meaning I stick my head round the bathroom door and sure enough, the bath-tub, which is long, deep, and made of wood, is very boat-like. Naturally we decide to see if she’s sea-worthy and get the taps running, taking care to make plenty or oar-related jokes which we’ve voted not to subject you to, on this occasion.
After a lovely long soak in HMS Bath we decide to turn in for the night. The bedroom, through double doors from the main living area, is gorgeous; the bed’s big and soft and an arched door leads out onto the balcony. We don’t venture out in the dark but as we drift off to sleep we hope it’ll be dry enough to enjoy in the morning…
We’re up with the lark and as we pull back the curtains we’re delighted to see that our wish has been granted – the rain has stopped and the lake is calm.
The balcony is suspended over the lake like the prow of a ship, and we step out onto it as the sun peeks out behind the hills in the distance. Ullswater is the second largest of ‘the lakes’, and stretches as far as the eye can see. There are hardly words to describe the view; instead we both let out a long, very-much soothed, sigh – it’s just magical.
Showered and coffeed, we are all set to explore the surrounding area. And for the first time we’re also able to properly appreciate just how beautiful the Boathouse is from outside as well as in. Set right by the water’s edge, the natural stone and wood exterior of the Boathouse blends so seamlessly into its surroundings that it appears almost to be rising out of the lake itself.
Just ten minutes stroll away is the village of Pooley Bridge, where we find Granny Dowbekin’s Tearooms already open for business. The breakfast menu’s mouth-watering and we tuck into a huge full English for Monsieur 2 and a massive triple-decker Cumberland sausage and fried egg sandwich for me. It’s an indulgent but marvellous start to the day!
As we have to check out at 10am we walk back to the Boathouse, pausing to admire the view of it and Ullswater from the jetty which steamer tours of the lake leave from. It must have really pained the poor old Duke of Portland to part with such a beautiful place – but selfishly, we find ourselves being thankful that he did, because if he hadn’t we’d never have got the chance to experience this little pocket of paradise.
Don’t forget to mention les Deux Messieurs if you book a stay here!
We were spoiled rotten by Virgin Trains when we travelled with them from London Euston to Penrith.
Remember to mention les Deux Messieurs when you book!
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