WHEN I was young my family holidayed every year in the Lake District.

Not once did we visit Windermere, as my dad condemned the area around England’s longest lake as too low-lying, busy and commercialised.

In recent years, having explored this part of the Lakes with my mother, he revised his opinion, and was keen to tell me why.

He described lovely, secluded valleys, hills that are easy to climb but offer great views, charming country houses and pretty villages with delightful tea shops.

All true, I found out, on a recent short break, when my husband Andrew and I were bowled over by this beautiful area, the only downside being we were not there for long enough.

We both agreed we had never seen so many lush meadows alive with wild flowers, nor so many magnificent trees, and handsome homes set amid acres of rhododendrons and azaleas.

We stayed at The Wild Boar, an early 19th century Lakeland inn set among 72 acres of private woodland in the Gilpin Valley three miles east of Windermere. “It’s like a Tardis,” said the friendly member of staff who greeted us, as we marvelled over its many rooms (34, all individually styled).

The Wild Boar takes its name from the local legend of Sir Richard de Gilpin, who bravely fought and killed a particularly ferocious wild boar close by.

With a stuffed boar’s head above the roaring log fire - which was cosy to sit beside - another in the restaurant, and bedrooms named after breeds of pig, you cannot easily forget the tale.

Our huge room was luxuriously furnished, with a canopy bed, comfortable seating area and freestanding roll-top bath with a separate shower and washroom. Some rooms have wood-burning stoves, we were told.

The view onto trees and the garden was lovely, and as a bonus, swallows were nesting under the eaves - I’ve never seen so many darting around.

The multi-award-winning hotel - part of the English Lakes Hotels group - has its own smokehouse and micro-brewery: the Mad Pig Ale is lovely, as well as many eco-friendly credentials.

We half expected to see boars on one of the inn’s wonderful woodland trails which we followed not long after arriving, but were thrilled to see a herd of deer instead. Enjoyed by many visitors, the trails are described in a free leaflet. There’s a history trail too, outlined in a booklet available to buy.

There is so much to see in the area. On our first afternoon we visited Blackwell, one of England’s finest Arts and Crafts houses. It was designed by the British architect MH Baillie Scott and built between 1898 and 1900, as a holiday home for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy Manchester brewer. Original drawings by Beatrix Potter hang in the hall.

We later climbed Orrest Head, the hill that, in 1930, was the first climbed by 23 year old Alfred Wainwright visiting the Lake District for the first time from his home in Blackburn. So inspired was he by the panoramic view of Windermere and the distant fells that he soon began his now world famous pictorial guides.

The easy - 20 minute - walk to the top is certainly worth it. As the signpost directing us up here claims, it offers ‘unrivalled views of the Lake District Fells, Lake Windermere, Morecambe Bay and the Pennines.’ An information plaque indicates what sits where, from Scafell Pike to Wetherlam, Crinkle Craggs and the Kirkstone Pass. As Wainwright rightly commented, “a truly magnificent view.”

We dined that evening in The Wild Boar’s softly-lit, oak beamed restaurant, whose historic coaching-inn ambience and country-style fare made, where possible, from locally-sourced ingredients, is clearly popular with both visitors and locals. A variety of smoked meats are all prepared at the inn’s smokehouse.

Diners can watch head chef Miroslav Likus and his talented team work their magic in the open, but inconspicuous, kitchen.

My husband began with wild boar Scotch egg wrapped in wild boar and apple sausage meat, followed by grilled fillet of lemon sole on a bed of mashed sweet potato and kale, topped with Morecambe Bay shrimps in a cream and garlic sauce. He said it was “exquisite” and could not remember enjoying a meal so much.

My deep-fried fish and chips battered in Mad Pig Ale was a treat, which I topped with delicious berry crumble and custard while Andrew enjoyed the cheeseboard including in-house smoked Cheddar.

Breakfasts, served by friendly staff from all corners of the world, were equally memorable - “delicious” smoked haddock with poached eggs for Andrew and a simple but filling egg and tomato on a crusty roll for me.

The area is brimming with attractions - William Wordsworth’s homes at Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, Beatrix Potter’s former home at Hill Top House, The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in nearby Bowness-on-Windermere and, of course, Windermere cruises.

We took the car ferry to visit a little-know gem, Hawkshead Grammar School, which Wordsworth attended. With original desks, one bearing what is believed to be his name carved out, it is fascinating.

A climb up the lakeside fell Latterbarrow followed, with cloudless skies giving outstanding views across to the Langdale Pikes.

Before returning to the Wild Boar we fitted in another country residence, Townend, acquired by the National Trust along with all its contents in 1947.

In its enchanting setting near the village of Troutbeck, the 17th century house - previously lived in by wealthy Lakeland farmers the Browne family - offers a captivating glimpse into life as it was, with its vast cooking range on which demonstrations are held - and sturdy carved oak furniture.

Elizabeth Birkett, who married Ben Browne, of Townend in 1702, diligently wrote recipes in a book, in her small but distinctive handwriting. By the time it was complete, her commonplace book contained 57 numbered pages with over 80 cookery and medicinal recipes and 25 household ones.

The story it tells about life at the time is one of sophisticated tastes against a backdrop of rural tradition and superstition.

Elizabeth’s book is on display and many of her dishes have been recreated for display on the fine oak table in the dining room.

Every Thursday staff and volunteers cook many of her cooking - a treat for visitors.

It was interesting to learn about the family from the informative guides.

A captivating area, a wonderful place to stay. I just wish it had been longer.

The Wild Boar Inn, Crook Road, Windermere, Cumbria LA23 3NF. W: englishlakes.co.uk T: Room reservations 0333 220 3108; General enquiries 015394 45225 E:thewildboar@englishlakes.co.uk

Guests have complimentary access to the leisure club at the Wild Boar’s nearby sister hotel Low Wood Bay in Windermere.