THE last time I visited the stunning Lakes I forced myself out of my cozy hotel bed at 6.30am to continue with my pre-marathon training regime.

The nearby picturesque country lanes were like running up and down a big dipper and nearly half killed me.

This time around things would be very different. A couple of weeks prior to our visit, I had somehow found the resolve to successfully complete my second marathon in as many years and now I had only one thing on my mind - good food, beer and relaxation.

And our luxurious room at boutique hotel The Waterhead, in Ambleside, made the latter a piece of cake.

Following the all too common stop/start journey up the M6 from Chester to the Lake District, our first glimpse of the beautifully appointed en-suite room, complete with a glorious lake view, made it all worth while.

The large space featured a separate lounge with a comfy sofa and wall mounted TV and the main bedroom area had a fancy coffee maker and super stylish illuminated glass shelving on one wall - home to two miniature bottles of Lakes gin with accompanying tonic and two outrageously tasty Grasmere ginger biscuits.

Neither my wife or I put up much of an argument to a suggestion that we fix ourselves with the local gin and tuck into our biscuits before heading down to dinner at 7.30pm.

It was the first time in weeks since I had drank and eaten anything other than water and superfoods, so the ginger and gin combination, while lazing on a gargantuan bed listening to some Friday night tunes, was pure bliss.

After an invigorating shower, we took a short street-lit walk along the lake shore opposite the hotel before sitting down in the lounge and bar area ahead of our meal.

The Waterhead offer an impressive range of gins and my wife opted for a gin cocktail, following some welcome advice from the well informed bar manager, while I did not hesitate in ordering a long awaited pint of the amber nectar.

The pleasant bar area was busy with couples unwinding from the week’s stresses and young families, getting away from it all for the weekend.

We set about deciding what we were going to do during our stay, with both quickly agreeing that would not comprise of a whole lot. We were both keen to leave the car parked up as much as possible and get out and about on foot.

We were shown to our table in the stylish dining area and well looked after by the attentive, but not overbearing, dining team.

Neither of us had really eaten all day, so plumped for a starter and main.

I was lured in by the ham hock terrine, followed by the catch of the day - on this occasion in the form of hearty fish cakes.

My wife went all in with the whole baked camembert and then the pan fried sea bass for her main.

The food was a delight, especially my ice hockey puck sized fish cakes, which were crispy, flavoursome and packed with large fresh flakes of salmon and fluffy potato.

They were accompanied by a basket full of beautifully cooked, golden brown chunky chips - the nicest I have sampled in a long time.

After both enduring a hectic day in work and less than straight forward journey, our meal, in a lovely relaxed environment, was the perfect way to embark on ‘Operation Unwind’.

My wife’s sea bass dish was beautifully presented and she informed me between mouthfuls that it tasted divine.

Despite being full to the brim, I convinced myself that I could handle and deserved a sweet of sticky toffee pudding, accompanied by another pint. As I have come to expect from this neck of the woods, the pudding was immense.

Following an interesting chat with one of the restaurant managers about the hotel, which is one of a handful in the Lakes and Lancashire, operated by a family-run company, we decided to take a pew back at the bar and watch the world go by.

A great night’s sleep was followed by breakfast back in the dining area and despite eating my own body weight in food only a few hours earlier, all the recent running had left me with one hell of an appetite.

Within the space of five minutes I had made two successful raids on the breakfast buffet, first opting for muesli with fresh fruit and then two Danish pastries soon after.

When asked what I would like to order from the menu, I replied the American style pancakes with maple syrup! My wife ordered an omelette and mixed toast and coffee for the table.

After devouring my stack of syrup soaked fluffy pancakes, we picked up our warm clothing and waterproofs from the room and set off on foot for Ambleside.

From The Waterhead, the quaint town is only a leisurely 10 minute walk away.

Over the years Ambleside has become a firm favourite of the Barnetts - with its plethora of quality cafes and coffee shops, galleries and independent stores, as well as a few national outdoor clothing store chains.

We mooched about for most of the morning and thanks mainly to the fine weather and energy from our monster breakfast, we decided to head up above the town to tackle the 488m Wansfell Pike.

Admittedly, hiking off into the hills hadn’t really formed the basis of my idea of ‘Operation Unwind’, but the bright sunshine and blue skies softened the blow.

The scenery at the top was breathtaking and before long we had the summit all to ourselves. We sat and soaked up the views, until a sudden drop in temperature and fierce wind spurred us to head back down to civilisation - namely the nearest coffee shop.

The large number of outdoor wear shops did their best to lure me into parting with my hard earned cash, but I remained strong, backed away from the sale rails, and we slowly walked out of town, this time taking the alternative and longer road back, making just one more stop for a pint and a glass of white wine.

After deliberating whether to walk another three miles or so to The Waterhead’s sister hotel, Low Wood Bay, to use the spa facilities, we opted to sit back in the bar for a couple before dinner.

The food again on our second night was a triumph and breakfast the following morning - this time a full English - was superb.

Before making the journey home, we decided to make the short drive to take one of the trails to the stunning Loughrigg Tarn on yet another glorious sunny day.

We also drove to Grasmere to join a crazy queue for a box of the heavenly ginger biscuits - introduced to us by the hotel.

And despite everything I had vowed not to do, I couldn’t resist getting up just after 7am for a bracing four-mile blast around Ambleside!

More information...

The Waterhead, Lake Road, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 0ER - Email:

Reservations: 0333 4141 312

Hotel Reception: 015394 32566