Thursday, 27 September 2012

Lake District

When we went to the Lake District last autumn, I had no idea how much my mind would dwell on coming back here in the year to come. This means that for every long weekend we have had over the last twelve months, I have hoped to make a return to the place that absolutely enchanted me. Despite the fact that the Lakes get the most wet weather in all of England (that says an awful lot), most people who travel there do it in spite of this fact - risking rain in the hopes that a few passing clear skies will allow them to experience the charm and beauty that is so unique to this area. 

a small collection of Peter Rabbit stories was waiting next to  Isabella's bunk bed
 Driving up north, just past Manchester, it is almost immediately clear where the Lake District boundary begins because the landscape becomes a deep green color, and you leave the main motorway in favor of the treacherous single lanes. Those curvy roads wind their way between ancient stone walls and tall hedgerows, over which you can see the charming little stone cottages...and the smell of wood-burning fireplaces comes through the car windows to greet you.  It's magical. So I was very giddy when we got to our spot: The Cuckoo Brow Inn - "muddy boots, wet dogs, and children welcome." We had a hearty and really delicious meal of locally sourced fish and pork (the fish is even traced back to The Albion fishing boat off of Blackpool - loved that!). Then I dragged the family on a little hike that took us into dusk.

Like Scotland, there seems to be water dripping everywhere. We stayed in the south part of the Lakes on this trip. We had only two full days, and the four hour drive for that amount of time is just about my limit. Because we were there for such short time, I really wanted to be out walking the countryside as much as possible - and we did!

the footpath in Sawrey leading to Beatrix Potter's cottage at the bottom

 close-up of the stone most cottages are made from here

reaching the Moss Eccles Tarn - a little mountain lake

After our long drive, we tucked in for the night. The next morning we awoke to a king's feast for breakfast - there was an astounding selection to choose from. I say "astounding" because the breakfast was included in the price and the choices went far beyond cereals and orange juice. The two mornings we stayed at the Cuckoo Brow we had smoked haddock with poached eggs, thick honeyed porridge, and of course, the fare that comes with a traditional full English breakfast (bacon, eggs, mushrooms, friend tomato, sausage, beans, and fried toast - if you were wondering).

Moss Eccles Tarn

Isabella and Peter Rabbit

We did go into Beatrix Potter's cottage, of course. Isabella admired her sweet little doll house and I ogled her handmade quilt, still on the bed. It was here that Peter Rabbit himself joined our expedition.

We returned from Potter's Cottage ("Hill Top") for lunch, then borrowed a map to check out what we wanted to see next. Just by looking at the landscape on the map, I knew I wanted to head toward higher elevation - more lakes, and many promising hiking trails. We did two big walks that day, including Moss Eccles and Tom Gill - the latter being a waterfall walk that was absolutely perfect for our little family, since Isabella had to walk it all too. 

Yew Tree Tarn

Galloway Banded Cows
 Isabella fell asleep in the car after our first long walk, so Pedro stayed with her while I walked around the small lake near Yew Tree. I braved my way through some dubious looking cows - curly haired, with a white band around their middles. Coming into this scene was - as I say - magical. The trees, the cows, the water, the fresh air, and the quiet - so perfect.

gotta love the timed snapshot

After walking for two hours that morning, Isabella was less than enthused to be going for another walk again.  But once we coaxed her out of the car, there was no going back for her - walking uphill toward a lake is kind of surreal for me - it doesn't seem like it should be that way, since water flows down and lakes are usually at the bottom of a mountain. This whole area had some cool glacial movement though, that carved out these little basins at higher elevation, which of course became lakes because of all the rainfall this region gets. The walk was dreamy and by the end of it, we were ready for dinner once again.

It was a full day and so very good. We ended it by having a gourmet feast with some friends of ours (Kat & Tim) who were also vacationing up in the Lakes. We met up at a place outside of Coniston called The Drunken Duck - seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but where people flock to nonetheless. That place alone is worth making the trip - they have an adventurous menu and even a whisky tasting menu.

Our last day would only be until Sunday afternoon. We decided on walking the footpaths around Wray Castle on Lake Windermere before heading up for a last peek at Grasmere Lake. 

The area isn't terribly unlike the region where we live, but the biggest difference is the lushness of the greens and the quaintness of each and every cottage you pass. Of course, this area was home to England's romantic poets - Wordsworth and Coleridge, and their poetry certainly sums up the beauty of the place.

Walking to Beatrix Potter's home, and it took a beautiful little hike to get there.

 lovely pastoral views around every turn

Even if it were raining the whole time, I would have enjoyed myself. I will patiently await the next trip to the Lakes - hopefully next time we'll have bikes!

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