IF ever a town suited its name, it's got to be Ambleside. The word itself almost defines it, conjuring up an image of quaintness, lending itself perfectly to a relaxing stroll – or amble – around its winding streets.

The Lake District is a region of delights, and Ambleside is one of its most delightful attractions – and that's perhaps why my partner Frances and I found ourselves back there for the third time in just over a year.

I'm sure we're not the only ones drawn to its charms; there's just something about it that's impossible not to like. Small, but perfectly formed, it offers the perfect base from which to explore the national park and has much to offer in its own right.

There are plenty of accommodation options for a stay in Ambleside and for this trip, we were treated to a touch of class. When a hotel restaurant promises to serve up an amuse-bouche, you have to hope there's going to be something special about the place. And my bouche was certainly amused by the dinner menu at Rothay Manor, the lavish country house retreat in Ambleside in which we recently enjoyed an overnight stay.

Reeking of old world elegance, Rothay Manor is like an oasis perched on its own little island on the edge of a Lake District jewel. We knew as soon as we drove through the gates that we were in for a rare treat.

Our room was one of two in the hotel's 'superior plus' category – and it had all of the touches you would expect of a premium pad. A spacious and relaxing seating area, enormous bed you can lose yourself in and a cavernous en-suite bathroom with all of the complimentary luxuries – we were not disappointed.

We could have readily spent the whole day in that room and easily fulfilled our brief of having a relaxing break away from the hustle and bustle of our normal daily lives. But you can't come to Ambleside without at least having a stroll around town, which is exactly what we decided to do on the afternoon before our evening booking in the hotel restaurant.

There is plenty to do in and around town. Ambleside is one of the premium centres in the Lakes for climbing and walking and there are plenty of routes to choose and ample places in the town to help you make that choice.

One of our favourite walks is the easy trek to Stock Ghyll Force, a small but beautiful waterfall just a short distance from the edge of town. There are many other charming towns a short drive away from Ambleside – Hawkshead and Coniston spring to mind – or you could take a cruise on Lake Windermere to nearby Bowness. Ambleside's most famous attraction, Bridge House, is a must-see. Literally a house on a bridge – the tiny 17th century building which once housed a family of eight is still open to visitors to this day.

This time, however, with little time to spare, we contented ourselves with a slow walk around town, exploring the many interesting nooks and quirky crannies which abound there. It's a great place to just have a wander without having a specific agenda. We bought a print at the art shop, paused for a while to admire the town's famous waterwheel and called into a couple of the town's many curious and interesting pubs for a pint.

We decided to try The Unicorn Inn, Ambleside's oldest pub with a great choice of ales and quirky and eclectic decor, followed by a pint of triple chocolate beer seated outside the White Lion Hotel where we watched the world go by.

Our Ambleside amble over, we made the short walk back from town to Rothay Manor for our evening meal. After enjoying our pre-dinner Prosecco cocktails and mouthwatering canapes – the best of which was the trout tartare – we selected a bottle of wine and made our way to be seated. The dining room was immaculate, the service polite and precise and the food superb. Menu choices which we opted for included starters of beef tartare and scallop with squid ink, followed by mains of turbot for Frances and venison for myself and desserts of spiced autumn fruits and – my personal highlight – an indulgent chocolate dome with raspberry and rose textures.

The three courses – plus the amuse-bouche and pre-dessert – were flawless and more than lived up to the fine dining billing they were given. It's a meal I won't forget in a hurry.

The Rothay Hotel exudes an air of exclusivity and is the perfect retreat for anyone who wants to get away from it all and take some time out. A little touch of luxury in an idyllic spot.

Unwrap a spa day

One of North-East’s most luxurious spas is taking the pain out of Christmas shopping with a selection of festive gift vouchers. The Spa at Ramside, at Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa has a limited number of vouchers available to purchase, but some are already close to selling out.

  • The Twilight for Two deal, which includes an evening in the spa, with dinner on arrival, use of facilities and Mud Rasul ritual for two, at £110. This can be used Sunday to Thursday, from January 2 to March 31. The Make My Day voucher gives the flexibility to design their own spa day. Priced at £140, it offers a choice of 60-minute treatment along with a choice of brunch, lunch or Asian afternoon tea. For couples there is a Stay Sunday, Lazy Monday spa break for two, which includes a Sunday night stay in one of the hotel’s new premier rooms, use of the spa from 3pm Sunday until 5pm Monday, a two-course dinner on Sunday and a 45-minute treatment. This offer costs £309 for two.
  • Finally, the spa is offering a three month spa membership voucher for £399. This includes unlimited use of all spa facilities along with access to more than 40 exercise classes a week, plus support from the fitness team.

Full details on the website: ramsidespa.co.uk