Howe to have a great time; CHERYL MULLIN relives her childhood, walking in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit.
As familiar as I am with the much-loved tales, I know precious little about the woman behind them - children's author Beatrix Potter.
To mark the 150th anniversary of Potter's birth, a year-long programme of special anniversary events is being held in the Lake District.
And it's the perfect excuse to explore the area's rich links with Beatrix and her woodland friends.
We arrived in glorious sunshine, winding our way down a country lane and popping out into a clearing to find our home for the weekend.
The Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel and Restaurant sits on the hillside above Windermere for all to see, yet it felt as if we'd stumbled upon a beautiful little secret.
Fittingly, the property was once owned by Beatrix, who bought it for her mother at the turn of the century, and the author is said to have illustrated Timmy Tiptoes and Pigling Bland here.
Greeted in the hotel's impressive lobby, we were given a brief tour of the amenities - including a beautiful indoor swimming pool - before being shown to our room - one of the Lindeth Howe's suites, The Westmorland, which commands impressive views across the hotel's gardens, the lake and Cumbrian fells beyond.
It's a huge room, divided into a living area and bedroom - easily one of the nicest rooms I've stayed in.
Bags unpacked, we booked our evening meal at the hotel's restaurant and took a stroll down to the lake.
It's a good stretch of the legs to the waterfront, but it took us through some beautiful scenery and along a shoreline perfect for a bright, still evening.
Back at the hotel we changed and ambled downstairs for or meal.We ordered drinks from the bar, and were presented with hors d'oeuvres to whet our appetites while we perused the menu.
The hotel has a reputation for its food, with a mouth-watering selection of dishes on offer, all lovingly put together by head chef Christopher Davis.
My husband eventually settled on the chicken liver parfait with fig & cinnamon chutney, and toasted ciabatta; to be followed by roast pork confit, crushed sweet root vegetables, apricot and Wordsworth ale jus. As a vegetarian, my selection was smaller, especially as I don't like mushrooms.
I opted for ravioli of butternut squash to begin, and marinated artichoke, roast heritage potatoes and hen's eggs in a Caesar dressing.
Our starters were delicious, and the mains equally good - but there's always room for dessert. I went for the dark chocolate delice, with sour cherry parfait - stunningly good - while my husband enjoyed an iced blueberry torte with candied pistachio sponge.
Stuffed to the gills, we retired for the night and set our alarms for a busy day of exploring.
After a cooked breakfast at the hotel, we visited the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere. This family attraction features cute tableaux of her characters, some animated, some interactive, and all delightful.
The exhibition's Peter Rabbit Garden faithfully recreates some of the scenes drawn in Beatrix's books and was a delight to wander around.
We drove to Near Sawrey for a tour of Beatrix's home, Hill Top, and were lucky enough to bag a parking space in the tiny car park.
Hill Top, as the name suggests, sits on top of a hill which overlooks the quaint village of Near Sawrey. The house itself has been lovingly preserved by the National Trust, and as we explored the property, looking out across the fields, it was not hard to see how Beatrix could be so inspired to write there.
We were allowed to wander the house at our own pace, with staff placed at various points around the property to answer questions and give added insight into the the life of the author.
So inspired were we, that when we left the house, we decided to pause for a drink at the Tower Bank Arms, the pub which sits next to Hill Top and was Beatrix's local.
Coffees drunk, it was on to the beautiful village of Hawkshead for a look around the shops before they closed for the evening.
Feeling energised by the glorious sunshine, (and the hour-long queue of cars) we decided not to get the ferry across to Bowness-on-Windermere, and instead took a leisurely drive through the countryside back to the Lindeth Howe.
On the way, we stopped at a restaurant which had caught our eye, The Wild Boar. This inn, grill and smokehouse was stunning inside and the food was fabulous. I had the home-made vegetarian burger, with smoked cheese, Quorn bacon and onion rings, while my husband tucked into pan fried fillet of hake on a bed of smoked mashed potato.
It was a delicious end to a glorious weekend. Beatrix would have approved.
NEED TO KNOW | CHERYL MULLIN stayed at Lindeth Howe, Country House Hotel, which has 34 rooms from PS75 to PS210 per person per night.
To plan your visit to The Lake District visit golakes.co.uk Beatrix Potter's local, the Tower Bank Arms The Lindeth Howe Country Hotel and, below, the Westmorland Suite Hill Top, the home of Beatrix Potter in Near Sawrey, and, inset, Peter Rabbit, from World of Beatrix Potter exhibition in Bownesson-Windermere