There has never been a bridge from the mainland to the Isle of Wight – until now. The Lakeside Park Hotel is a venue of such appealing luxury that, once word gets out, it will draw weekenders, business conferences and brides-to-be across the water as if there were a physical link.
That at least is the aim of Robert Tether, General Manager of Lakeside Park Hotel. “My personal objective is to get together with other like-minded hoteliers, the Tourist Board, and others in the Tourism industry to really promote the Island. Obviously here at Lakeside we’re in a perfect position, near the Fishbourne ferry terminal and ideally situated between Ryde and Newport. Why go to any mainland resort for a weekend break or a conference when you can come here?”
Why indeed? The hotel relaxes in its surroundings of 17 acres of parkland and 20 acres of lake. Just ten minutes from Newport or Ryde, and a stone’s throw from the ferry, it is the perfect place to discover an island of tranquillity and variety. It is the generosity of the place that strikes you. The contemporary glass and timber structure is large, but welcoming, the calm induced by the watery views making the brasserie an inviting place to drop in for a lunchtime meal or simply a sandwich.
“On sunny weekends people are sitting out on the deck with a latte or glass of wine from early morning,” says Robert. “In the summer months you can order sandwiches and drinks without moving from the lakeside deck areas.” He adds: “Our chef, Luke Holder, comes from a background in arguably one of the best restaurants in Italy. He’s absolutely passionate about food. When he’s not enthusing about Manchester United he’s talking about cooking.”
The hotel seems almost to float on the lake which provides the perfect setting for what started as a well-appointed restaurant and is now a fully-fledged hotel, conference centre and wedding venue, with a spa which puts rivals in the shade. It is the first hotel on the Island purpose-built to The AA’s 4 star standards, and what every Islander should know is that every luxurious inch of the brasserie, fine-dining restaurant (due to open in the spring) and spa is open to non-residents.
Details like nautical artwork soften but don’t detract from the firm, contemporary lines of the décor, which can easily be dressed according to client’s wishes. With the natural backdrop of the lake, with beautiful reflections of the surrounding woodland, it is hardly surprisingly there are already plenty of bookings for weddings. The pretty gazebo by the water is licensed for civil ceremonies, as is the formal restaurant and one of the largest private Function Suites on the Island, which has plasma monitor on which photographs of the day can be displayed.
Such thoughtful touches will ensure Lakeside’s success too, as a venue for conferences. If the Island has an image problem – or is remembered fondly but none-too-smartly as a place of childhood holidays of sea and sandcastles – then the unabashed luxury on offer here will come of something of a surprise. “I believe we must strive not only to be the best but to be different,” says Robert Tether.
So the bedrooms and the suites differ only in amount of accommodation – they share the same meticulous quality. There are three suites, which all have decking down to the lake, which meet different needs, depending whether you need a separate area for private business meetings or a totally open space. In both rooms and suites there is an unusual amount of storage. Drawers and wardrobes, in unostentatious matt-finished walnut, are generous, and there is a lockable laptop-sized safe – a nice touch for the conference delegate. The en suite bathroom fittings are high-end as you’d expect – but when you find the loo lid has a slow-action drop to avoid night-time disturbance, and that the bath taps run water down the side of the bath to prevent the noisy whooshing of the 6am bath, you realise that someone has thought of everything.
Even the toiletries, from the Scottish Isle of Aran, are changed to reflect the season. Lavender is the fragrance chosen for a homely feel in the winter, to be switched to something lighter as the weather warms.
Nuances such as these are what make the leap from mere luxury to a state of pampering. Approach the spa, and you get the scent of unadulterated indulgence: Kirsten Florien products used by the beauticians there are only available in 4-star-plus establishments. Treatment rooms are generously sized and beautifully appointed. You can even forgive the use of a giant magnifying glass – used to scrutinise your every pore to ensure correctly diagnosed treatment – when you see the relaxation room where you’ll be taken following your detox wrap or your facial or manicure. There you can relax on a memory-foam hydraulic bed which allows you to sit up lie down or sleep, and if you can bear to open an eyelid you can witness the herbal tea ceremony. “We bring in your own teapot and serve it in little glasses,” say the senior Therapists – just in case you felt you weren’t being looked after.
If you want a swim there is a 15m pool which is large enough for proper exercise, with a powerful water canon for an intense back massage. Following which, you might try the steam room or sauna. Whatever you do, there is no sense of rush, and locals can benefit from a lower, midweek membership.
“The Island has so much to offer to residents and mainlanders,” says Robert. “Conrad Hilton said the three essentials for the success of a hotel are location, location, location. He could be talking about this place.”
While the rest of the world is just discovering the possibilities offered by the Lakeside Park Hotel, we have our own little bit of international style right in the middle of our Island.
The Lakeside Park Hotel, High St, Wootton Bridge, Ryde, PO33 4JL. Tel: 01983 882266.