Last weekend it was my birthday (I know, hold the applause). I turned 22, which is kind of a boring one if you ask me. Everyone knows 21 is the big blow out, and 22 just feels like, meh. That said, I had a fantastic time celebrating, mainly thanks to my wonderful friends & family. My birthday wasn’t until the Sunday but Dave and I took the Friday off to turn it into a long weekend, he put me in the car Friday morning (I say put, I can enter / exit a car myself) and drove me to a surprise destination. I was studying road signs the entire way, trying to figure out where we were heading. I soon guessed we were on our way to the Lake District, however the whereabouts exactly was still unknown.
It was all still a mystery until the Sat Nav piped up “YOU HAVE ARRIVED AT WINDERMERE”. We hadn’t actually reached the destination yet, so clearly the guy in the phone was just getting excited. Much to Dave’s appreciation.
It turned out he had arranged a spa day and lunch at the beautiful Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel. We had gluten free sandwiches, home cut chips and herbal teas. All suitable for coeliacs of course. We then made our way to the spa, I had a neck and back massage, followed by an Elemis facial and a manicure. I felt well and truly pampered. We then hit the sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub.
After a great day of relaxation we checked into our room. We were staying at the cutest little place in Ambleside called The Log House, which I would highly recommend if you are visiting. It was quaint with only a few rooms upstairs, a homely restaurant / bar on the ground floor and a sort of fairy tale looking exterior, with flowers in the foreground and mountains in the background. The room was spacious, clean and traditional.
The hotel was really well located, just 5 minutes walk from Ambleside centre. We headed for dinner at Zeffirellis, which happened to be an independent cinema with a pizzeria and jazz bar attached. The atmosphere was lively but classy, it was quite large and the decor reminded me of that of an American diner or a large Indian restaurant. The menu was entirely vegetarian and had all gluten free and vegan options clearly marked on the menu. I had Arancini (rice balls stuff with mozzarella) to start, followed by the Rain Forest pizza. It was all delicious! See the full menu HERE. As the evening drew on, we headed to what appeared to be the liveliest looking place in town The Lily Bar, which had live music, we sat and enjoyed some acoustic classics while the night drew to a close.
The next morning, the hotel had arranged a gluten free cooked breakfast (you have to warn them the day before that you are coeliac, but they will even get you in GF bread). This fueled us up for wandering around Ambleside in the morning, we found lots of places to investigate, including art galleries, chocolate shops and cute cafés by the river. One particular café we found, called The Rattle Gill Café, had a gluten free bread options listed on its menu for its sandwiches which was nice to see, even though we only stopped for a drink. Overall they were very clued up and prepared for coeliacs, which was very reassuring.
We then drove up past Kirkstone Pass to get a better view of the hillside, just a drive around that neck of the woods is worth doing as you get some stunning views.
We then headed to Bowness-on-Windermere as I had heard about a gluten free fish and chip place that of course, I needed to check out. It was called Vinegar Jones and although not listed on the menu, it serves gluten free fish, chips and mushy peas. I just had chips on this occasion, but it really was lovely. The place was absolutely packed (it was a Saturday lunchtime in school holidays but still), so it was clearly the best in the business!
We walked off our lunch down by the lake and met some of the locals, it was very busy as a children’s carnival appeared to be on, but it was a good family atmosphere. We lay on the grass in the sun and soaked up the heat… not sure how much more we Brits will get this summer!
All in all, Windermere is a truly beautiful place, it felt like an escape from everyday life whilst still being close to home. Next time we go we will be sure to hire ourselves a boat to explore the lake some more, that was the only thing we get enough time to do.
I hope this inspired you to visit and helped you identify some gluten free places if you too are coeliac and heading that way! It really is a gem of the Lake District, despite being quite touristy in central parts, there’s some wonderful places stay and plenty to keep you entertained, so I think it would be an ideal retreat for just about anyone.