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Borrowdale Hotel

Hotel History

Since 1866


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The Borrowdale Hotel History

The Borrowdale Hotel has been taking guests since 1866 and was one of the first coaching inns built in the Borrowdale valley, remaining a favourite for returning guests ever since. The Graves family bought the hotel in 2008 starting a new era in the hotel's history. Many old features still exist in the hotel, most notibly the old bells opposite the reception.

Previously the hotel was owned and run by Peter Fidrmuc, his parents Jean and Günter Fidrmuc purchased the hotel in 1973. Peter reflected on his time with the hotel and said “When we took over, there were no phones in the bedrooms and no central heating!”


The hotel still has copies of adverts from the hotels first 20 years in which they proudly advertise “hot, cold and shower baths and collection by Omnibus from Keswick station!”. We have pictures throughout the hotels 140 year history and some original invoices too. One of the earliest adverts for the hotel can be found in an 1879 publication “Gates Ewe Shepherds Guide for Cumberland and Westmorland and Lancashire”.

The gardens were created at the same time as the hotel and the Cherry and Magnolia trees, planted the same year, can still be seen today. “Rarely do they both flower at the same time but it seems that the Magnolia tree has quite a following” said Kit Graves, Director. “In April and May we have quite a few lunchtime visitors who come specially to see the Magnolia in bloom. While it never flowers for long, it is a beautiful sight while it does!”.


It is the history of the hotel that is fascinating. In its early days the hotel was patronised by “H.R.H. Prince Arthur, The Prince of Wales and other leading nobility of Great Britain”.

The Borrowdale Hotel has passed through several owners. The first were the Italian Cesari family who moved to the Lake District from Inverness, Scotland. The hotel is in possession of an article from 1908 which discusses a fire that caused £60 of damage, which amounts to £9,045.55 today!

The Askew family ran the hotel and a coaching company that took guests to and from the station, and the original coaching timetable is part of the hotels collection. The Coward family and the Goodfellow’s have also been proprietors – some old photographs of the hotel highlight the name changes.


During the early part of the 20th century two well known sisters were in charge - Mabel Leyland and Elsie Whittaker who ran the hotel during the Second World War. Elsie’s son Peter Whittaker (a previous owner of Treeby and Bolton, Keswick) took over before passing it to his brother Michael. It was Michael who then sold it to Jean and Gunter Fidrmuc at 5pm on 19th April 1973. Their son Peter took over running the hotel in 1991 until 2008.

“When we took over, there were no phones in the bedrooms and no central heating. One of the first projects was the extension to the bar lounge area, closely followed by improving the dining room. More recently the conservatory was added, and soon became a favourite location for lunchtime guests - especially in the spring.”
Peter Fidrmuc

Kit & Charles Graves purchased the hotel in 2008, as part of the Lake District Hotels Group. Over the years the hotel has been extensively refurbished, but in-keeping with the hotels charm.

We are always interested in the history of our hotels so if you know something please do let us know, email us marketing@lakedistricthotels.net


Edward Barron Goodfellow appears in the 1881 census as the hotel keeper of the Borrowdale Hotel. He had married Hannah Armstrong in 1875 when he was 25 and she was 21. Hannah's parents, who are buried in Borrowdale cemetery, also ran the hotel before Edward appears as the hotel keeper. Edward had left by 1887.

During this period the Askew family ran the hotel and a coaching company. The Coward family and the Goodfellow’s have also been proprietors.

In the early part of the 20th century the hotel was owned by Albert Hearfield and his family. It is believed that Albert sold the hotel to Thomas Bownass.

1922 - 1926
The Borrowdale Hotel was closed

Former hotelier, Thomas Bownass came out of retirement when he drove his pony and cart past the Borrowdale Hotel which had then been empty for 4 years. Thomas bought it and called his daughter Mabel Leyland (nee Bownass), who was recently widowed and running the Imperial in Blackpool, back to help run it.

Thomas installed a petrol pump and sold petrol to guests from a wind-up pump after the local council widened the road using some of the field he owned. People came for a fortnight at a time in those days. There was also an aviary for the popular pet budgerigars next to the veranda!

1928 - 1950
Mabel Leyland and sister, Elsie Whitaker took over when Thomas Bownass died. Post-war the over mantles were taken down from the hall and lounge fireplaces and burned on Bonfire Night to be replaced by brick. In the early 1940’s during the 2nd World War, self evacuee’s and visiting friends used the garden passage shutters to act as a dug out in case of bombing.

Traditionally at Christmas, Mabel made a large portion of mincemeat and all the guests stirred it in the hall before Christmas pudding was made.

1950's until today

1950 - 1956
Peter Whitaker took over the hotel for a short while before the other side of the Whitaker family took over.

1956 - 1973
Family members, Michael and Francis Whitaker started to run the hotel. Reception used to be where the ladies toilet is, but that was moved to its current location which was previously a Cocktail Bar – that can be seen in an old colour brochure we have kept. Electricity was installed in 1960’s which is when they had to cut through the bell cabling we still see today

1973 - Oct 1991
Gunter and Jean Fidrmuc bought the hotel at 5pm 19th April 1973. They made extensive changes the hotel and during this time extended the bar, lounge and restaurant, added on the conservatory and veranda. They also stopped selling petrol!

Oct 1991 - 2008
Peter Fidrmuc took over running of the hotel from his parents

2008 – Present
The hotel was taken over and is still run by the Graves family as part of the Lake District Hotels Group. Over the years, the building has received a complete ground floor refurbishment including restaurant, lounges, reception, and bar. The bedrooms are also beautifully refurbished.

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