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Macdonald Swan Hotel, the Lake District

Macdonald Swan Hotel

The Macdonald Swan Hotel provides a quiet retreat in the heart of the Lake District National Park. This inviting hotel was built in 1650, making it one of the oldest in the Lake District. It has played host to the famed poets Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth, the latter mentioning it in his 1805 poem The Waggoner: ‘Who does not know the famous SWAN?’. Its log fires are welcoming in winter, and in summer the views extend far across the gardens to the local landmark of Helm Crag. 

The rooms at the Macdonald Swan Hotel are comfortable and infused with character. The restaurant features in-season ingredients and traditional dishes.

Our rating: Medium

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The Macdonald Swan Hotel offers four types of comfortable rooms, with the option to choose a garden view or a four-poster bed. All the rooms have en suite bathrooms and come with complimentary Wi-Fi and tea- and coffee-making facilities. The executive and feature room categories also offer a bathrobe and slippers, as well as a fruit bowl in the feature rooms. Interconnecting rooms are also available.


In the heart of the Lake District National Park, the Macdonald Swan Hotel is ideally situated for exploring the surrounding fells (hills) and lakes. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the picturesque village of Grasmere, and a 15-minute drive from the town of Ambleside.

Food and drink

The Waggoner’s Restaurant offers traditional food made with modern flare, and creates its dinner menu using in-season ingredients. The hotel’s traditional English breakfast is also served here. The relaxed Walkers’ Bar offers a lunch and dinner menu of British dishes as well as afternoon tea. Both places are happy to cater for any dietary needs.

Facilities and activities

Although there isn’t a pool or spa at the hotel, the spa at its sister property, the Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa, is open for guests to use as they please. It’s a 20-minute drive away, located on Lake Windermere.

Our opinion

Although the decor is a little tired in places, this is a wonderfully warm and welcoming pub-style hotel, offering great value.

Lake District tour ideas

Nearby accommodation

Nearby places

Places & hotels on the map

    Alternative places to stay nearby

    Where possible, we like to offer a range of accommodation for each stop of your trip, chosen by our specialists as some of their favorite places to stay. To help you make the right choice, we give each property a rating based on its facilities and service, but we also look for hotels with distinct character or a location that can’t be bettered.

    • Forest Side, Grasmere

      Forest Side Hotel

      First Class

      Tucked away among the trees in the Lake District town of Grasmere, the Forest Side Hotel is full of Victorian charm.

    • Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Bowness-on-Windermere

      Gilpin Hotel & Lake House

      First Class

      The sophisticated Gilpin Hotel & Lake House offers characterful guest rooms, luxurious spa services and fine dining in the heart of the scenic Lake District.

    • Macdonald Old England, Bowness-on-Windermere

      Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa

      First Class

      Overlooking the Lake Windermere of William Wordsworth’s poetry, Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa is a quiet retreat surrounded by nature, located in the Lake District town of Bowness-on-Windermere.

    • Waterhead Hotel, Ambleside

      The Waterhead

      First Class

      The Waterhead is a boutique hotel on the edge of Lake Windermere. Its beautiful design is complemented by the staff’s attentive service and delicious meals served either in the stylish bar or on the hotel’s stunning lakeside garden terrace.

    • The Wild Boar, Bowness-on-Windermere

      The Wild Boar


      The Wild Boar offers exceptional cuisine and service in a welcoming, characterful setting. Guests will feel right at home at this traditional inn, which boasts unique features such as its own on-site smokehouse and microbrewery.

    Experiences while staying here

    The following activities are designed to give you the most authentic experiences of the area where you’re staying. We work with local guides, who use their knowledge and often a resident’s eye to show you the main sights and more out-of-the-way attractions. Our specialists can also suggest outdoor pursuits and activities, such as cooking classes, that will introduce you to the traditions of the area’s inhabitants.

    • Hardknott Roman Fort, Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and Muncaster Castle
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      Hardknott Roman Fort, Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and Muncaster Castle

      Hardknott Roman Fort, Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and Muncaster Castle

      Your driver-guide can navigate Cumbria’s steep and winding roads while you admire the looming mountains and sweeping sea views. The tour also stops at Muncaster Castle, the Roman-era Hardknott Fort and the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, a Victorian steam train line.

      View details
    • Lake District farm experience
      Lake District farm experience , The Lake District

      Lake District farm experience

      Lake District farm experience

      Experience life on a traditional Lake District fell farm where you'll get a chance to meet the hardy Herdwick sheep, learn about farm practices and local lifestyles and get to try your hand at dry stone walling.

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    • North Lakes explorer

      North Lakes explorer

      North Lakes explorer

      Your driver-guide will create a tour of the North Lakes area based around your interests. You can take your time exploring the unspoiled lakes, sheep-dotted mountains, and tiny towns at an unhurried pace, with pauses for walks in the countryside or taking photographs.

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    • Tea at Beatrix Potter's cottage

      Tea at Beatrix Potter's cottage

      Tea at Beatrix Potter's cottage

      Discover the land that Beatrix Potter loved and helped to preserve on this tour of her Lake District home. Cross Lake Windermere before having a tour and tea with a Potter expert at the author’s marital house, Castle Cottage.

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    • Wordsworth's Lake District
      Rydal dining room

      Wordsworth's Lake District

      Wordsworth's Lake District

      Explore the landscape that inspired one of Britain’s most renowned poets. Your guide will bring you to two of Wordsworth’s homes, Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage, to learn about his life and family. You can also explore nearby Grasmere village.

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