There are few places I have been, which offer quite such dramatic scenery as the Lake District – but ever since we arrived home from Cumbria, I’ve had this yearning to jot down the memories, while they’re fresh in my mind.
We did in fact, have a little taster when we stayed in a friend’s family cottage on the way up to Scotland, last year; a time when it rained constantly, leaving us wondering what splendid views crouched behind the curtain of thick grey mist, surrounding Derwent Water. We were at least able to snatch a tiny glimpse of Buttermere, which was enough to lure us back there. So we arrived at the same rustic cottage, with its crumbly white walls, surrounded by a wild landscape of bumpy grass, dry stone walls and where our only neighbours were a few cows and hundreds of sheep.
On the first day, we set out for Skiddaw – but petrified by the first sight of a razor-sharp ridge leading to an impossibly high peak, we headed for nearby Mungrisdale (convenient, considering we forgot to pack my walking boots) so with little other choice than to walk in crocs, we opted for a gentler route. But neither myself or my husband are that fit! It took a couple of hours to slog up that never-ending hill. By the time we reached the top, I thought I was going to die – though, the views up there were stunning. Piles of rocks marked the 2,400 ft peak, before we picked our way cautiously down the heather cloaked hillsides to ‘the Tongue’ and back through the valley, before finally collapsing in The Mill Inn, for a well deserved drink.
With aching calves, backs, sore feet and stiff bum muscles, we pursued day 2 at a slightly more moderate pace – starting with a visit to the stone circle known as ‘Long Meg and her Daughters,’ (Local legend claims that Long Meg was a witch who with her daughters, was turned to stone for profaning the Sabbath, as they danced wildly on the moor!)
We also explored the village of Little Salkeld and discovered its beautiful watermill and organic teashop, where we stopped for coffee and toured the mill, before purchasing a loaf of their delicious wholegrain bread, along with shortbread and treacle flapjacks. We rounded off our day with a lovely walk, passing the old railway line, a patchwork of farmland and a beautiful river, before we arrived at some unusual caves, carved from reddish brown rock.
On the 3rd day we went our separate ways, where Peter and I visited Grasmere for the day. It’s a popular area, which draws an abundance of Japanese tourists, yet we discovered ‘Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop’ a tiny kitchen, built in 1630, where we were able to purchase a few local goodies as gifts.
The highlight of our day, however, was a guided tour of Dove Cottage: home to the famous poet, William Wordsworth.
We were lucky to enjoy a day of sunshine, where his garden presented a relaxing haven, we found almost impossible to leave – a tranquil setting, filled with flowers and the chime of birdsong. We sat in a small wooden shelter, enjoying the mountain views, in between leafing through the poems – I even felt a compulsion to write something myself, in the little notebook I carry around, just so I can say “I wrote this paragraph in the garden of William Wordsworth” – hoping it might be a lucky omen.
Two days of gentle sightseeing left us restless – time to venture out for another challenging walk and this time, we drove to Borrowdale; first to view some of the local beauty spots which included Ashton Bridge and Bowder Stone; before we attempted to stop at Lodore Falls. The weather was wet for the first time this holiday, which culminated in an entire day of almost non-stop rain; but it didn’t deter us, as we resolutely made our way to Rosthwaite, before heading up to Castle Cragg: another long, uphill trudge which gradually became steeper as we struggled to reach the top.
Despite low cloud, mist and rain, the views were stunning. The homeward journey was nearly as challenging as my rain soaked boots squelched their way down the spongy, waterlogged hillsides. But a quick stop in the warming embrace of the ‘Flock In,’ teashop was a memory worth cherishing and serves sticky toffee pudding in two sizes: ramblers’ portion or plodders’ portion!
Next day, and after the gruelling ordeal of Castle Cragg, we combined a driving tour with a slightly shorter walk, where nothing could compare with the enchanting beauty of Aria Falls. A tranquil woodland walk guided us gently uphill, via a series of steps cut into the footpaths, leading to magical views of the waterfalls, tumbling from various different levels.
The rest of the day was taken up by a leisurely drive around Ullswater, taking in the stunning scenery of Kirkstone Pass and Troutbeck. We even managed a quick glance at the historic Yeoman’s farmhouse of Townend (now owned by the National Trust) though didn’t quite have enough time to visit.
The last day was special and like a gift from the Gods, the sun came out – a perfect opportunity to indulge in a boat trip around Derwent water, where the waters reflected the sapphire blue light of the sky. As it was a ‘hop on hop off’ tour, we were able to stop at various points, where we finally got to see Lodore Falls – followed by an attempt to climb ‘Catbells’ though the weather was so sunny, we were satisfied to get half way up from where the views of the lakes took our breath away.
Lastly, we had booked tickets to Keswick Beer Festival and with over 200 beers to choose from, it was difficult to know where to start. I’m not actually a big fan of tepid real ale! Though I did discover a brew known as Castle Rock ‘Screech Owl which possessed a sweet and pleasing flavour.
It really was a very nice holiday and we plan to go back. We only really explored the northern end of Cumbria, with the southern lakes yet to explore.