The Samling

Weekend swim retreat: The Samling Hotel, Lake District

At The Samling Hotel in the Lake District, Ella Foote enjoys a cool dip in Windermere followed by an award-winning warming meal

Madonna, Brad Pitt and William Wordsworth are all known to have visited Dove Nest, the former name of award winning The Samling Hotel. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand why. Perched on the edge of Lake Windermere in the Lake District, The Samling offers luxury accommodation with panoramic lake views. As well as exceptional service, comfort and fine dining, a weekend here is ideal for those who like to plunge into cool water, walk in the hills and end the day with an incredible meal. 

The Lake District is a perfect escape for wild water and an opportunity to immerse into the landscape. With great access to lakes, rivers and waterfall pools, as a swimmer Cumbria offers a beautiful playground for self-led adventure. There is an abundance of places to stay in the Lake District but picking a place to rest between outdoor adventures can be a challenge. The area is vast and knowing where to best to get into the water can be daunting. Finding a hotel that offers water access is a great place to start. 

Where we stayed 

As a former home the hotel is small, offering 12 bedrooms, suites and cottages. On arrival you feel like you are being welcomed into a family home with squishy sofas, tins of chocolates and piles of magazines.

The Samling

Each room is named after a Lake District location and are individual in design. We stayed in the aptly named Windermere suite, one of the more luxury spaces. Located at the top of the estate it is adjacent to the hot tub (more on that later) and is split over two floors. The bathroom has a freestanding copper-clad bathtub as well as a walk-in shower. There are beautiful character features like slate walls and the bed, with a Hypnos mattress, offers even the most restless sleeper the perfect place to rest. Waking up to gentle rain patter on the skylight windows was meditative. 

Where we swam 

The jetty at The Samling offers the opportunity to arrive by boat, but it is also the perfect place to swim from. A short walk down the driveway, behind a small wooden gate are stone steps that lead you to the water. When we visited the water level was high and so easing into the lake from the end of the jetty was simple. Tucked into a corner of the north-east end of Windermere, the jetty sits in a quiet bay that offers a sheltered place to swim for all levels. You could stay within your depth or plot a longer swim and remain out of the boat traffic. There are simple stone steps bedside the jetty where you could also enter and exit. 

Not quite swimming, but a must-do while you’re there is to book into the private hot tub. Hidden under trees, tucked into the hillside there is a hot tub which is bookable by guests in one-hour slots. Drinks can be delivered while you sink into hot bubbling water taking in the views. We visited a dusk which meant we had twinkling lights, stars in the sky and hot steam rising above us.    

What we ate 

In 2023, The Samling was awarded its first Michelin star, 4 AA Rosettes and Winner of Best Boutique Hotel Restaurant. There is good reason for its award-winning credentials. Fine dining in such a brilliant location means that the food is sourced, where possible, from the greenhouse, gardens and woodland surrounding the hotel. If not home-grown the food is locally sourced and some of the best available in the UK. The menu changes seasonally and is curated by Executive Head Chef Robby Jenks.

It was one of the best meals I have ever eaten, and I am lucky enough to have eaten in some incredible places before. We had the seven-course tasting menu and every course was incredibly designed and thoughtfully delivered. The Wagu beef was one of the best things I have put in my mouth and the creativity of flavours in each dish was mind-blowing. It isn’t a cheap meal – £150 per person, but it is worth every penny. Take up one of the food and stay packages, or if you are in the Lake District just book in for dinner. It is utterly wonderful. 

What else you can do 

Brilliantly located just off the main road between Windermere and Ambleside you are perfectly positioned to visit much of the central Lake District area. When we visited, Kendal Mountain Film Festival was on, so a short drive away we were immersed into the vibrant festival spirit. We ate and mooched in Windermere town, Ambleside is equally brilliant for this. If you want more swimming adventure Pete Kelly at Swim the Lakes can offer guided swimming in the area. There are also boat trips that run the length of Windermere so you can see The Samling from a different viewpoint. The hotel also offers wine tasting, afternoon tea and wilderness adventures.

Our fave thing 

Swimming in a cold Windermere followed by a brilliant hot tub experience then eating one of the best meals ever.  

With thanks to Massey Travel and The Samling Hotel. For more information visit: 

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Ella is renowned outdoor swimmer and journalist. As well as leading the editorial, digital and experiential outputs for Outdoor Swimmer she is also Director of Dip Advisor, a swim guiding business helping people enjoy wild water. Ella also teaches swimming to children and adults, is an Open Water Coach and RLSS Open Water Lifeguard.