Audrey and I stayed at the The Waterhead Hotel, Ambleside in April 2018. I paid £127 plus £20 dog fee, which is a nightly charge.
- Dog Friendly: 9/10
- Solo Friendly: 9/10
- Comfort/Design: 6/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Room: 6/10
- Service: 5/10
- Wifi: 3/10
- Parking: 4/10
- Value for Money: 5/10 (it’s location is the saving grace)
- Blog On A Dog Approval Score: 6/10
The Waterhead Hotel is situated on the shores of Windermere in the Lake District, just over half a mile from the town of Ambleside. A part of the English Lakes hotel group, it is a 4 star boutique hotel, housing 41 bedrooms, at 3 different levels: house, classic and luxury lake view. Bus and ferry stops are within metres of the hotel, in addition to pubs, cafes, a fish and chip shop and a pet shop. So location wise, the hotel enjoys a fabulous position. Here is the scene that greeted us mere steps from the hotel, as you can see it’s pretty special.
Dog Friendly and Solo Friendly Score
Waiting in the room was a dog bed, as well as a bag of good quality dog treats, a large dog towel, and 2 bowls on a mat. Thumbs up so far. The £20 per night dog charge feels excessive. I do understand why there needs to be a charge, and at least we did get some extras to show for it. But ultimately, all it does is put me off a longer stay.
The breakfast set up was very good for dogs and their owners. We ate in the lovely bar area which had views of the lake. There’s no door between the bar and the restaurant so that makes it easier to leave Audrey alone by the table while I go up to the breakfast buffet. Another thumbs up.
Parking at The Waterhead Hotel
Those of you with a keen memory may remember me talking about poor hotel parking in my last post. The Waterhead Hotel was the culprit I’m afraid. I do concede that space in the Lake District is at a premium, so perhaps there is not a lot that can be done.
But, the main hotel car park is made up of randomly spaced full height concrete pillars, narrow spaces, and as many spaces a possible squashed in. There were 2 ‘spaces’ available when I arrived, but both were very awkward (no doubt the reason they were still empty) and small, with cars, pillars or walls on either side. Given the lack of space for manouvering I decided against them. After what felt like a 100 point turn to exit the car park, I paid to park in the public car park next door.
It’s worth bearing in mind that I drive a small car. They would be better off to have less spaces that are more accessible. There are additional spaces at the front of the hotel, but these required reversing out onto an A road, and were all full anyway. In my Pawfect Weekend post, I did state that ease of parking was one of my top criteria for hotels, and the Waterhead Hotel did fall short in this regard.
Comfort/Design and Room
I’ll start with the room, which had a delightful view of Windermere. It was a real showstopper, and as my room was a ‘house double’ was a nice surprise. I did book directly with the hotel, which in my experience often gets you a better room. The rooms with windows to other sides of the hotel looked out over a car park or main road, so I was lucky. It would definitely be worth requesting a lake view room.
Aside from the view and provisions (delicious Grasmere Gingerbread and plentiful tea and coffee), the room itself was only okay, which given what I paid was disappointing. It was spacious, with a dedicated seating area in addition to a desk, but the wooden furniture was heavy, which gave it a business like, and slightly dated feel in my opinion. The plug socket next to the bed was not close enough, and the mattress topper (the bed had been carelessly made at the top so this was on show when I moved a pillow) looked old and a bit discoloured. Just little things but still worth noting given what I had paid.
In the bathroom there was an odd vertical spiral towel rail that was just bizarre and frankly unusable. Now, I am very aware that I am not blessed with great height, however, I’m not so short that I shouldn’t be able to reach the towel hooks on the back of the bathroom door. Yet here, I couldn’t.
The biggest let down is the corridors and communal areas. They just felt a bit cheap and soulless to me, which I’m sure isn’t the effect they are going for. I certainly was expecting more given the price tag of rooms at this hotel.
All was nearly forgiven by an excellent breakfast experience. The setting in the hotel bar was light and spacious, with lovely views of the lake. We were only steps from the buffet despite not being in the actual restaurant, and service was attentive. As is usually the case, there was a cold buffet and table service for a hot option.
I’m very keen to point out that I was served a generous pot of tea with an additional pot of hot water. This was very welcome! In my experience, you are often given a pot that holds only one cup which is not enough for breakfast in my humble opinion.
Service and Wifi
Until breakfast, the service I received was lacklustre. My welcome was to stand and wait at an empty reception desk for a few minutes, even though there was someone in the office alongside. After receiving my key, I enquired about breakfast, to be vaguely told ‘it’s downstairs’, and I was on my way. Compared to the warm welcome I had at The Old Stocks Inn, where I was given a tour of the hotel, this felt distinctly lacking.
From the score, you’ll know that the wifi was poor. It worked on my phone for social media etc, but the numerous times I tried to use my laptop it was not up to the job.
Useful Area Information
If you walk out of the lake side of the hotel and turn right along the road, Borrans Park is extremely close. It is only a small park, however it is perfect for morning or evening walkies, and has a beautiful lake frontage. I felt comfortable letting Audrey off lead along the lake shore and it is a gorgeous spot.
There is a fish and chip shop diagonally opposite the hotel, with nice outdoor seating which is dog friendly. The Waterhead Cafe has a lovely location right on the waterfront and is dog friendly inside and out. There is a fabulous covered veranda looking out over Windermere, a perfect spot for people/boat watching.
Final Thoughts on The Waterhead Hotel
There’s no denying that the position of this hotel, and the view from some of the rooms is stunning. Being right on the lakefront really is lovely, and with excellent wifi and perfect service they could be onto a winner here. Sadly that wasn’t my experience, and as a result, the hotel itself was in no way on a par with previous hotels I have reviewed here on Blog On A Dog.
I purposely started with some top rated dog friendly hotels to give me a proper reference point for these reviews. Perhaps if this had been my first hotel, I would have been much more impressed. But, given that I know what is on offer, the location is not enough to save my opinion. Indeed, the next night I stayed at The Cuckoo Brow Inn (review coming on Wednesday), in Far Sawrey on the other side of Windermere and had a much better experience.
Waterhead, Lake Road, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0ER
Phone: 015394 32566