Family History

Gilpin Family History

Previous generations at Gilpin

There were not many decades of the 20th century when the Cunliffe family were absent from Gilpin Hotel & Lake House and the way things are shaping up the same will hold true for years to come.  Run by two generations of the Cunliffe family, this Relais & Châteaux hotel (AA 4 red stars) and restaurant (AA 3 rosettes) was first in the family in 1919 when Joseph Cunliffe needed to escape the smog of Manchester having suffered from lung damage during WW1. The Hotel is set in 22 acres of country gardens, moors and woodland, and the Lake House in 100 acres ­– far from the crowds, but just a stone’s throw from the breathtaking lakes and fells – Gilpin was then, and is now, a special place dedicated to nourishment, recuperation and relaxation.





Built as a private house in 1901, John Cunliffe’s grandmother moved to Gilpin in 1919, just four years after Beatrix Potter made nearby Hill Top her permanent home. Harriet lived at Gilpin until 1961, and John spent many happy childhood holidays in this lovely Edwardian building, as well as picnicking at the Lake House (then a fishing lodge which Harriet also owned). Two of Harriet’s sisters, Gertie and Adgie, moved to the Lakes at the same time, residing at Nine Oaks in Windermere. The Cunliffes have diaries, recipes, walks and photographs covering much of last century.



Having been sold after Harriet passed away, by 1987 Gilpin was a bed and breakfast up for sale in The Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine. Christine spotted it and John was immediately dispatched north from Bath, where they then owned and ran The Hole in the Wall. In January 1988 John and Christine reopened the doors of their new hotel. The Lake House was still in the family, lived in by John’s father Professor Tony Cunliffe.



Prior to this John and Christine had been career hoteliers with large international companies, including Trusthouse Forté and Ring & Brymer. After 4 turbulent years in Bath, with international events such as Chernobyl and the Libyan crises, they were drawn home to the Lakes and with it, a very strong UK market.

Very much a family concern, the hotel is, on all levels, a very personal business. Much originates from John and Christine’s initial philosophies in creating Gilpin, and we are immensely proud of our strong record of repeat business – by which we measure our success. Please see our visitors’ guest comments.




John and Christine’s son Barney joined Gilpin in 2002 with his wife Zoë, after 10 years in London with international hotel companies. Barney and Zoë have continued John and Chris’s beliefs and aim to meet and get to know every guest. The family strongly believes that service should reflect the guests’ style, whether it be formal or informal, attentive or discreet. Guests visit Gilpin for various reasons: anniversaries, birthdays, honeymoons, engagements, discovering new love, relighting long love, rest, de-stress, recovery, farewells. All are exceedingly important milestones and we feel that having an experienced and caring team helps enormously in ensuring these milestones are turned into cherished memories.

John and Christine’s younger son, Ben Cunliffe, is also a director of the company. An architect and builder with his own practice in Kendal, Ben has been one of the driving forces behind many of the hotels developments including the garden suites, garden room, bar and terrace and Lake House.