The demise of the British seaside resort and the rise in cheap air travel abroad, has seen most Brits jet off to sunnier climbs for their summer break. You can’t blame them really, as virtually guaranteed sunshine is hard to find at home. However we shouldn’t, no mustn’t, consider a foreign holiday as a first option. There is so much on offer in the UK, and if you’re lucky you’ll get the weather too.
This year my wife and I decided to head to the Lake District. It’s an area I know a little, but my wife didn’t know at all. Situated just south of the England Scotland border, it’s an area with dramatic mountain landscapes interspersed with some of the largest lakes in the UK. It’s a mecca for walkers and cyclists, although we choose the more sedate option of driving.
We’d tried to make it to the Lake District last June, but had to call a halt to our holiday after two days after a family emergency. This time we aimed a driving to Bakewell in the Peak District, before heading up to Bowness-on-Windermere. We’d stayed in nearby Matlock in June and had briefly visited Bakewell, after visiting Chatsworth House. We liked what we saw, so we decided to stay there on the way up this time.
Bakewell is home of the Bakewell Pudding, an oddity not to be confused with the Bakewell Tart that you’ll find in just about every UK supermarket and cafe. Our hotel claimed to be the place where the recipe was first conceived, but then so did at least three other establishments in the town! The hotel was also the first place I’ve cone across where they disallowed mobile devices in the restaurant, a policy that is sure to devide opinion.
We spent the day wondering around the market town, and along the banks River Wye thanks to some thoughtfully landscaped paths. Before returning to our hotel, we stopped off at a pub with outside seating overlooking the river. Ordering drinks was an experience, as you had to stand on a glass panel with the stream that originally fed the water wheel running beneath your feet. It was just about warm enough to sit outside in shirtsleeves, so two very quaffable pints later we returned to the hotel for dinner.
The Lake District
From the moment we stepped from the car and checked into our hotel, we knew we’d made a good decision coming here. I mean, just check out the view from our room!
It got better. Lake Windermere, the ten mile long lake that acts as a magnet for all visitors was little more than ten minutes walk away. From there we made good use of the ferries to Ambleside at the north end of the lake, and Lakeside in the south.
Ambleside and Lakeside were VERY different. Ambleside is a busy town full of climbers, walkers, and outdoor types. It is at the heart of the Lake District, with many good walks around it. Lakeside in comparison is a small sleepy village that most people don’t even know is there. Instead they pass it by on the road towards Broughton-in-Furness. That’s a real shame, as it has stunning views and some very peaceful hotels right on the lake’s banks.
Whilst Lake Windermere acts as the major tourist draw to the area, the other lakes do their bit too. Among them are:
- Coniston Water where Donald Campbell broke the water speed record. It is also near the Old Man of Coniston, arguably the highest peak in the Lake District.
- Ullswater situated in the east is a popular sailing destination, and has a 20 mile walking trail nearby.
- Derwent Water south of Keswick in the north. Keswick’s a smaller version of Ambleside, but without the charm. It does have the lack on it’s doorstep though, and that’s reason enough to visit it.
Other places that should be on your list to visit are:
- The beautiful village of Grasmere, described by William Wordsworth as, “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found. That probably explains why he set up home there at Dove Cottage. If you’re there and fancy a meal in a Michelin Star restaurant, I’d thoroughly recommend The Dining Room at the Oak Bank Hotel.
- The Honiston Pass, a narrow road just south of Keswick that goes through the highest point in the Lake District. It’s a road best tackled on foot or two wheels, unless you’re happy with numerous sharp bends, blind crescents, and nothing to stop you dropping a couple of hundred foot down the mountain if you’re not paying attention! It is a stunning drive, even if the weather isn’t great.
Before we left the Lake District, there was just enough time to soak in the views from the hill overlooking Lake Windermere. It was a view neither of us wanted to leave, but the journey south beckoned.
On our way home, we stopped off in Telford. Our idea was to visit the Ironbridge Gorge Bridge, but it was undergoing repairs and was completely under plastic sheets. So instead we went to nearby Shrewsbury on the banks of the River Severn.
The first thing you notice about Shrewsbury is it’s history. There are Tudor buildings everywhere and some quaint alleys and courtyards that are well worth exploring.