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Gilpin Lodge Lake House Spa

Best Commercial Build
Best Innovative Design
Lake House Spa
Approaching from the woodland path
View from the lake with boathouse in foreground
Interior Plan
View from the lake
Long view from the lake

The Gilpin Lodge Country House Hotel is owned and run by the Cunliffe family. Since the early 1980’s thanks to the collaboration of efforts of the Cunliffe hoteliers, and architect son Ben Cunliffe, the hotel has been sympathetically expanded into a modern, comfortable and very elegant Hotel.
Giplin Lodge, a Relaix and Chateau hotel, which has been awarded Conde Naste- Johansens –Most Excellent Country House Hotel 2013, CATEY Awards Best Independent Hotel 2012-13, AA England Best Hotel of the year 2012.

Between the professional Hoteliers in the Family, Chris, John, Barney and Zoe, and the Architectural practice of Ben Cunliffe Architects, the collaborative drive to achieve building excellence is immense.
As a continuation of this unique family relationship; Gilpin Lodge’s new Lake House was opened in the summer of 2010, and very quickly became acknowledged as one of Britain’s most unique boutique hotels. Set in 99 acres of beautiful Lake District countryside with woodland walks, the main country house overlooks a completely private 12 acre tarn.
The woodlands were cultivated and tarn enlarged over 100 years ago by the Cunliffe’s great great Aunt, and are now a SSSI nature reserve. Red Deer come to the water’s edge to eat the lake hyacinthe. Otters, herons, wild mirror carp, all manner of birdlife, and all wildlife frequent the tarn. Yet with their protected status, have become very brave and tolerant to their human guests.
Although the Lake House guests have always been cossetted, and treatments were available, a dedicated spa treatment room did not exist upon the opening of the Lakehouse.
Design meetings to realise the new spa began in the spring of 2012, and culminated with a planning approval just prior to Christmas 2012.
The aspiration for the spa was to create a treatment space that was part of this woodland setting adjacent to the tarn with full view of the wildlife and scenery. Walking to the spa , the relaxation and treatment has already started.
The challenge was how to achieve this without damaging the very aspect that makes the Lakehouse precious and special.
Discussions with Natural England precluded a building right on the water’s edge. The woods and craggy rocks that lay immediately behind the lake path had previously been regarded as too problematic to site a building. This elevated location, surrounded by trees and 8 tonne boulders- simply had to be made to ‘happen’.
The solution and beauty of the design would be in its simplicity: ‘an elegant box in the woods’. The building would be made entirely of timber, on a rocky sloping site in amongst the spruce and the silver birch trees, at the edge of the tarn. The rear of the building would sit just above the ground. As the land sharply falls away the front of the building would be 14’ in the tree canopy.
As the ‘bonkers’ idea began to materialise with solutions, the potential beauty of a modern crisp cube ‘treehouse’ overlooking the lake from the trees became quickly infectious.
A huge credit goes to the Lake District National Park, authority and councillors who also appreciated the positive potential of such a different planning application. Their approval was phenomenal
.In order to effect the construction of this new building in a woodland setting adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, care was taken with the positioning of the building to minimise the loss of trees. A cantilevered steel ring beam was installed to provide a building platform. This elevated the building from the ground, which meant that just four concrete pads provided the platform for the four vertical posts. The spa touches the ground solely with 4 cubic metres of concrete. This eliminated the need to excavate trenches for foundations and therefore greatly reduce the impact on the forest floor.
Apart from a micro digger and micro dumper for the pads, no plant, lifting or access machinery was used in the construction of the spa. Every piece was carried onto the site by hand.
Timber frame panels were constructed on-site in a nearby makeshift workshop and were carried to the site and fitted together.
With the structure finished a rain screen cladding made from locally-sourced and milled larch formed a complete envelope to the building. The windows are Scandinavian redwood frames, clad with aluminium to provide total protection from the Cumbrian weather.
The roof cover and guttering is all hidden behind the raised larch elevation.
Construction took four months, and carcass was achieved on a budget of just £100k. This was achieved in some part by the use of local materials and suppliers, but also by using the knowledgeable construction skills of both Gilpin Lodge’s in-house maintenance team and Ben Cunliffe Architect’s staff.
Guests arrive at the spa by walking along a short woodland path from the main hotel building, and enter into a small reception area via a larch-clad access ramp. The two separate treatment rooms can become a single space for couples by retracting the clever split pocket wall. A cinematic forward view of the tarn dominates with full-sized picture windows.
The interior is completely warm, from the simple, painted tongue-and-groove wall and ceiling finishes, through to oak floor and dark wood sliding wall. The finish is deliberately rustic but elegant from furniture through to finishes.
The interior is a deliberate and unashamed nod to the original Norwegian timber hunting lodge that originally occupied the site of the Lake House. The contradiction of the modern external cube is great fun contrasting as you walk through the door, with the hunting lodge interior.
Each side of the treatment room gets its own gas-fired ‘wood-burner’ to keep things cosy in the winter months.
We believe we have created one of the most beautiful hotel spas in the country; a view echoed by the guests who have had first-hand experience of this unique facility.