IT HAD been a while since we had strolled along the banks of Lake Windermere – 27 years, to be precise.

The last time we had holidayed in the South Lakes was on our honeymoon.

The scenery, if not those taking it in, seemed virtually unchanged from way back when.

This enforced year of the “staycation” can also be a timely reminder of what we have on our doorstep.

The Lake District, and its natural beauty, is right at the top of that list. We had shamefully overlooked it for too long.

So, it was great to be back, drinking in the views and enjoying the chilled ambience. Once we’d got into Ambleside that is.

The August traffic ensured the last few miles were done at a crawl – with a fight for any space to park.

Fortunately, we did not have that problem as we enjoyed a weekend’s stay at the Waterhead Hotel.

You could not get any closer to the lake without jostling with the ducks. The water was almost lapping at our feet from the bar.

Situated directly over the road from the boat stop, it is a four-star boutique hotel with a location to die for.

The bar on the lawn outside, which is open to the public as well as residents, offers a great view of the promenade.

It was great for people watching, one of my wife’s favourite past times, as much as the variety of sailing vessels that criss-crossed the calm lake.

We were lucky that the sun had come out with a vengeance on the day of our arrival.

Hence the vast numbers of visitors, although it never felt cramped going out and about on foot. The roads, though, were a different story.

Typically, within 10 minutes of reaching our destination, I had bumped into a Bradford City fan!

That was before meeting the hotel receptionist whose family hail from Wibsey – and her Monday replacement whose City-supporting husband was keen to discover the identity of their next signing.

But, generally, it was easy to forget the world and lose yourself in such a relaxed environment.

The Waterhead, which was the Lake District’s first townhouse hotel, houses 41 bedrooms. We were treated to one of the classic rooms with the view of Windermere – a wonderful sight to wake up to.

There is also the added treat of free gin-and-tonic vouchers per person per night. Mrs P, the gin fan, happily snaffled all of those up.

The room was spacious and airy – with more than enough room to have brought our dogs as well. Canine companions are permitted, including at mealtimes in the bar area.

The dining room offers more of those stunning views across the water, although the sight of my plate was more alluring.

A 10oz sirloin steak, cooked to medium-rare perfection, topped with a blue cheese mousse was every bit as delicious as it sounded. My wife opted for fish and chips which, I’m told, was equally good.

That followed a generous portion of whitebait for starters and there was still just about enough room to finish off with a crème caramel. The sticky toffee pudding would have been a bit too greedy!

For those not wishing to dine formally, there is also a pizza oven outdoors which serves every day until tea-time. Not eating until late, it was a struggle not to be tempted to squeeze one in alongside an afternoon pint.

It would have been easy to have spent the whole weekend simply eating, drinking and watching the world stroll by.

But you cannot travel to the Lakes without going on the water itself and we had booked a boat trip for the next morning.

The weather was more in keeping with Windermere, threatening grey clouds with rain in the air, but that didn’t deter us – or the many others who had decided on doing the same thing.

Because of COVID restrictions, bookings for boat crossings must be made in advance online. The man in the ticket booth simply reads off the barcode to make sure you are on the correct sailing.

The key lesson here is to make sure you have a strong enough WIFI signal. We saw a few frustrated would-be passengers losing patience with their phones.

Everyone on the boat had to wear a mask, even when sat outside as we were. But it was not too uncomfortable with the temperature well down on the previous day.

You could see for miles as we pottered on the half-hour journey to Bowness, passing the pleasure craft moored up with their wine and sandwiches and the plucky paddle-boarders busy going nowhere.

On arrival, Bowness seemed even busier than Ambleside, although every shop and café was equipped for social distancing. The businesses in the area have done their homework to make the best of this current situation.

Seeing such hustle and bustle was a reassuring reminder that life still goes on and people are trying to make the most of it.

We returned to Ambleside well in time for our second evening meal. Choices were on the more sensible side this time – but I would heartily recommend the pigs in blankets starter!

Gazing over the lake one last time, it rounded off a wonderful weekend made by the surroundings.

We headed for home with a promise not to leave it another quarter of a century before our next visit!

l Waterhead Hotel, Lake Road, Ambleside. Tel. 0333 220 3106. Visit