When the Trout Hotel in Cockermouth was voted Large Hotel of the Year by Cumbria Tourism, it confirmed what the staff had always known – theirs was at the top of the hospitality tree. It has one of the highest ratings in the 4-star AA class. Pat and I were invited to stay as business guests and Assistant Manager James Briggs told us: “The hotel is on the edge of the National Park yet just a short drive away from Britain’s Energy Coast – the perfect place for mid-week business visitors. Some arrive from overseas to take up executive positions in Cumbrian Industry and they stay for weeks, even months while they find a permanent residence. Our accommodation reflects this with rooms graded up to Executive Suites with River View.” We had a lovely room with a view overlooking the River Derwent furnished and fitted to a high standard. The award-winning Derwent Restaurant is ideal for a romantic dinner, decadent yet informal. To quote: ‘The ornate marble fireplace, debonair embellishments and pristine snow-white table linen add a touch of elegance. The chandeliers and the bold, beautiful embossed print designs, maximise the glamour.’ The food reflects this affordable opulence. We were welcomed by head waiter Paul whose recommendations on dishes and wine were sound. I had the Lobster and Crayfish Salad and a giant Sirloin Steak. Pat had the Pan-fried Scallops and line-caught Wild Sea Bass. When available the Cumbrian Lobster has pride of place. Head Chef Alex Hartley has a dedicated team. He and manager Sue Eccles regularly visit their local suppliers to guarantee quality. Each has a little write-up in a booklet describing who and what they are. Alex prepares his food using only their freshest seasonal ingredients and devises every dish so it’s in perfect harmony with its surroundings. He creates menus with passion, inspiration and a magic wand. There is a busy weekend tourist trade and the local clientele who enjoy casual dining in the Terrace Bar and Bistro. This mix of leisure and business sustains the hotel throughout the year so there is no low period. There was a car rally on during our stay with everyone enjoying the bustle and banter. We checked out the facilities for business meetings in the Wordsworth Room and the Dining Room which can be partitioned for private dining, and media equipment can be hired. The rooms have internet access and there is WiFi in the public areas. The facilities at the Cockermouth Leisure Centre are free to hotel guests. The Trout is a perfect venue for weddings. Guests are so enamoured by their stay they are keen to see their sons and daughters married here. Everything is so perfect you start looking for the smallest thing out of place, maybe a tiny blemish – but you won’t find any.