After months of toil and tension, the exams have ended and this week our summer of last hurrahs began with the first of the trips you saw me planning – a few days in the Lake District with teenagers. We were invited to stay at The Swan Hotel and Spa at Newby Bridge which is in my favourite part of the Lakes, the Western Peninsula. The Swan has always been one of my top five hotels in the Lakes but for the last few years I’ve avoided going there. Those of you who’ve been reading Midlifechic for a long time will remember the job I had at the home fragrance company that made me so unhappy. A big part of that role involved entertaining retail clients and when they came to visit, we hosted them at The Swan and so my feelings about it became inextricably entwined with that time.
It’s a shame when that happens, especially when it’s a place that you’ve previously loved so I was really pleased to have a reason to go back there. So let’s start with a bit of context. I have great admiration for the team at The Swan because for me they embody true northern grit. You may remember the terrible Cumbrian floods of 2009 – at that time The Swan often headlined the news because when the River Leven burst its banks, it was so badly hit that the whole place had to be gutted.
And then in 2015, when I was commuting past it every day, it happened again. Storm Desmond destroyed all of the work they’d done and they had to start all over again. So, let me take you with me for a couple of days of fun (and in the interests of disclosure, I should clarify that we were invited to stay free of charge and activities were arranged for us but I haven’t been paid for any coverage nor were there any expectations of a positive review).
The Lake District with teenagers – Day 1
Mr MC and I left work at lunchtime, collecting the boys on the way past; The Swan is only half an hour away from home for us and this was as we checked in. We were given a cottage or rather a ‘Nest’ as they’re called because everything at The Swan has a subtle reference to birds. There are five Nests in total, across a field from the main hotel and so they feel suitably rural.
One of the really distinctive things about The Swan is the decor and that extends to the Nests. It’s a bit like walking into a Joules press show but I mean that in a good way because in a location like this, it really works. Even the staff are dressed in the same style but it isn’t chintzy, there’s just enough colour and pattern-clashing going on to give it a sharp edge. As it’s now four years since the last refurb, it’s had a chance to wear in so it feels more homely than ‘done’. I’ll show you round our Nest so you can see for yourself.
We were under strict instructions not to touch anything until Mr MC had finished with the camera!
Freshly baked cakes and biscuits…
… good quality wine – and the white was already chilled…
… a bag filled with Swan related gifts for us to take home…
…a balcony with a barbecue – and a view over the helicopter landing pad (you never know when you might need one!)
… simple touches throughout…
Four bedrooms, two with en suite bathrooms…
… this was the bunk bed room which had a PS4 in it – much to the boys’ delight. They were giddy kippers, feeling liberated by not having revision guilt hanging over them…
… and they quickly had all of the tech working, including the Sonos speaker which soon had ‘tunes’ blasting out of it.
We wanted to make the most of our afternoon so we headed over to the gym which was big enough for us all to workout in together with a good mix of cardio and resistance machines…
… along with a few free weights.
And then I had the pleasure of going to the Spa for a massage while the others enjoyed a swim and sauna. I now make a point of opting for a deep tissue massage whenever we go away so that I can benchmark them and this was definitely one of the best I’ve had. It’s an Espa Spa so the products are lovely and the masseuse worked deep into my muscles, telling me that my shoulders were like a gravel path as she used her elbow to get rid of them. It brought tears to my eyes but I felt so much better afterwards.
There was time for a soak in the Nest’s big bath before dinner (more lovely Espa products and full marks for there being full sized bottles in every bathroom – no single use plastic here). And then it was time for dinner in the restaurant. I deviated slightly from my packing plan by adding a skirt but I’ve just bought this as part of my aim to support small businesses run by midlife women. It’s made from waxed cotton and the heavy finish means it’ll work really well in winter with a jumper and boots too. The red, orange, pink and black in the pattern give me lots of wardrobe options. Oh and it has an elasticated waist with a wide tie-belt to cover it – good when you’re eating out!
The restaurant menu is quite short but the food is really good. It’s impossible to get a photo of pristine plates in our family, someone has always dug in as you can see from the guilty faces here…
… Mr MC was no better with his prawns.
And after we’d eaten we just relaxed and chatted – it was so good not to be driven by deadlines.
The Lake District with teenagers – Day 2
If day one was all about relaxing, day two centred on action. After a bounteous breakfast in the hotel, we were collected by CBA Events for a 4×4 off-roading experience. Mr MC usually outsmarts us at everything but for once, none of us had done it before which was good. We were led by the very lovely and very patient Matt who taught us all what to do, even the youngest who at 15 didn’t have a clue how to drive.
Every so often we switched over and Matt had a challenge for each of us – you might have seen mine on Instagram Stories – I had to top a 90 degree bank which was nerve-wracking but I loved it. We stopped for a break to enjoy a view over Windermere and Matt had even packed a hamper full of snacks.
And then we set off again through the rugged terrain of The Greythwaite estate, feeling a bit more confident now as we forded streams and brooked steep inclines.
Baukjen breton (SS18); Skinny jeans
After lunch at the hotel, we headed into Grizedale Forest for our next adventure which was mountain biking with Grizedale Mountain Bikes. I’d mentioned on Instagram the night before that I like cycling… but not up mountains – so you can imagine my delight when they produced an E-Bike for me. Mr MC was less delighted when they brought one out for him too – he’s not coping well with the thought of being 50 next year and by the time we’d gone round the first corner he’d swapped with the middle son who was more than happy to have a bike with turbo power.
And off we went with a suggested route map… and before too long we were very lost.
The boys swapped bikes and the middle one now on a standard bike rather unusually decided to take the lead at speed. We had to follow him even when we realised he’d gone completely off track and headed down a walking trail through the forest which took us on a terrifying narrow descent through streams and across narrow ledges.
It wasn’t long before the three of us who were trailing decided to get off and push, hoping that the boy ahead had done the same. He hadn’t and we found him in a hollow having hit a tree and gone over the handlebars. He now has a very sore shoulder and skinned thigh but thankfully he was otherwise ok – the bike less so. A huge thank you to the team at Grizedale for being so understanding about the twisted handlebars.
And here he is feeling sorry for himself when we stopped for a much needed drink on the way back to our cottage. However apart from the gruelling detour, we really enjoyed our cycling afternoon and I have to say those E-bikes are a revelation. I only used the power on the steepest hills but oh how I laughed as I had my own Road Runner moment, cruising past Mr MC as he regretted his burst of machismo.
Back at the Nest we left the middle one nursing his bruises in a warm bath while we popped out for a cocktail on the hotel terrace.
And when we returned he was feeling a bit better – although still open to a cuddle with his mum.
Anticipating our weariness, the hotel offered to bring dinner to our Nest which was just what we wanted – a huge bowl of lasagne with salad and garlic bread followed by one of everything from the dessert menu.
The Lake District with teenagers – Day 3
After another night in our comfortable beds with the sound of the river rushing by, it was time to go home. As the boys packed the car I managed to slope off with a magazine for a while until they found me.
We checked out and headed into Ulverston which is a ten minute drive away. A pretty little market town, it’s always had interesting independent shops but it’s changed since I was last there a couple of years ago. Thanks to the proximity of large companies such as BAE and GSK and the workforce that they attract, it’s a place that’s on the up.
The quirky little shops are lovely, we only had half an hour but I could have browsed for a lot longer (excuse the frizzy hair – similar looking products in the shower resulted in me washing my hair with shower gel instead of shampoo).
Who remembers Noel Streatfield and her Ballet Shoes book from their childhood? Ah the Fossil sisters – and I’ll never forget the way she described dresses made from organdie and poplin… she went into such enticing detail.
Thanks to the eldest’s Nike internship last year, the boys seem to have nothing but sportswear in their wardrobes and so I was happy to do a bit of shopping with them.
And what’s in my bag? A new doormat (but it is a very nice one!).
By this point we had to head back for a meeting so it was time to go but I hope you enjoyed coming with us. And I have good news. If you’d like to have a break like ours, The Swan are offering readers of Midlifechic 40% off a 2 night midweek stay in one of the nests until 17th October (but the offer does exclude school holidays). I’m not benefitting in any way from this but they’ve given me my own code which is NIKKI40 and you can book online here. There are four family-sized nests and one that is just big enough for two, appropriately called The Love Nest. If you’re feeling the need to reconnect with post-exam teens or even just your other half, I can’t recommend it enough. You don’t have to pack in everything that we did, you could just relax. It’s a lovely, lovely place and I’m happy to recommend it with all my heart.
We’re now heading off to Nice for a different kind of break with teens so there won’t be a post next Tuesday but I may brave Instagram Stories again – the boys seem to enjoy it even if I don’t! Have a good week and I’ll be back next Friday.
Disclosure: ‘Lake District with teenagers’ is not a sponsored post. We were invited to stay at The Swan Hotel, Newby Bridge free of charge for the purpose of an honest review.
New summer sales
Hush – started yesterday, everything here
Boden – starts today, everything here
Me + Em started Monday – some great reductions on investment buys here
Zara – starts today here
Uterque – starts today here
And M&S have launched their limited edition Summer Beauty Box here, worth £110 it’s only £15 when you spend £40 on clothing, beauty or homeware.
John Lewis & Partners price match hub here
And Other Stories everything here
Disclosure: ‘Travel with teenagers #1 – The Lake District’ is not a sponsored post, we were gifted our stay and activities with no obligation to post.
Recent posts you may have missed
Disclaimer: as with the majority of blogs, products featured on Midlifechic sometimes (but not always) include affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase, you are helping to support the site because a small referral commission may be paid. This contributes towards hosting fees, software costs, site maintenance and other plug-ins. Midlifechic could not exist without these small payments, so every contribution makes a big difference.