by Julie Tickner

IF you were setting up a photograph to promote the beauty of the Lake District, you’d probably look for an idyllic scene with bobbing boats and sunlight glistening on the water, a crisp, blue sky and deep green woodland surrounded by craggy snow-topped hills.

That was the exact view from the bedroom window of our town house hotel near Ambleside. Well, almost, replace the blue sky with grey, and it was heavy raindrops rather than sunlight dancing off the water, but it was still a stunning and calming sight.

The four star Waterhead - Boutique Hotel & Dining escaped lightly compared to some places when torrential rain and flooding hit Cumbria in December, but the water still lapped to the second step of its lakeside restaurant entrance and Storm Desmond ripped tiles from the roof.

Now the repairs have been made, everywhere is immaculate and staff are keen to return to normal. But although many businesses are back up and running, others are still closed and a big concern for people who work and live in the area is the impact on their businesses and livelihoods. There’s a perception the Lake District is still under water, putting off tourists and leading to one of the quietest Januarys in memory.

At Waterhead our large, light and traditional room had a huge, fluffy bed for flopping on after a day’s walking, a lounge area and a modern bathroom with The White Company toiletries. There was also a picnic’s worth of tasty goodies, including a gin and tonic each - helping promote The Waterhead’s gin ‘library’. The hotel has more than 40 premium gins on offer with garnishes such as fresh fruit, herbs and pink peppercorns.

Another boast the hotel can make is its restaurant, The Bar and Grill. The head chef, Nick Martin, has a passion for using local produce and his abilities have led to him being placed in the top ten Hall of Fame by the AA.

A whipped goats cheese mousse and delicious pink lamb, followed by apple crumble and vanilla custard left me full and happy and my husband’s sea bass was ‘one of the best’ he’d tasted.

The next day, after a huge breakfast (where the porridge was even served with whisky) we seriously needed to work off some calories so set off to explore the area on foot. One of the walks in a guide we bought, handily, started from Waterhead and led us up through woodland to Jenkin's Crag which offered the most stunning views over Windermere.

After passing through a few fields of sheep and along winding lanes, we arrived at Brockhole, which would be a great place to visit with children. Activities include woodland trails, an adventure playground and boat hire. There’s also a private jetty so if you’ve had enough of walking, you can catch a Windermere Lake Cruises boat back to Waterhead for under £4.

We took the latter option which gave us time for afternoon tea in the hotel before heading to a sister property to use the pool, steam room, sauna and ice plunge pool - which was actually far more enjoyable that it sounds.

During our trip we visited a few different towns and villages and saw varying levels of the aftermath of the floods. In Glenridding at Ullswater - the starting point for hiking Helvellyn – the power of the water brought boulders crashing into the water and heavy rain burst the river’s banks. Parts of the village were cordoned off when we visited as repair work continued and the tourist information office was closed. But car park fees have been temporarily scrapped there, and elsewhere in the Lakes, to encourage people to return.

In Grasmere, famous for its gingerbread shop and Wordsworth links and a short drive from Waterhead, there was the odd sandbag on the pavement and a chocolate shop owner described how the water had been knee-high. But only one café was closed because of electrical faults caused by the flooding.

An hourly bus service had just started to connect people to Keswick, which was effectively shut off when a cavernous hole opened on the A591, and its introduction was welcomed.

Waterhead is a five to ten minute drive to Bowness and its shops, restaurants and bars. We spent an evening there and indulged in more gorgeous food at a place called Porto.

Heading the opposite way from Waterhead, a 15-minute walk takes you to the centre of Ambleside, which again has plenty of places to eat and shop and is the starting point for many walks.

But whatever you choose to see in the Lakes, a must-do is the drive over Kirkstone Pass. It was recommended we visit the district’s highest, and reportedly haunted, pub the Kirkstone Inn.

We drove up a steep, narrow and curving road, rather worryingly called The Struggle. As we climbed, the rolling fields around us turned from green to white and the temperatures dropped.

The slightly hairy drive was worth it though. When we reached the top we were surrounded by thick snow and more fabulous postcard-worthy views. A perfect end to a relaxing few days.

* For more information about the hotel and booking, visit