Lake District 2021

Our first proper family holiday since the COVID pandemic started. We went to the Lake District. Well, why not?

Grasmere

Stone Arthur

Rydal Mount

Stockghyll Force

Go Ape Grizedale

Borrowdale Fairy Walk

Grasmere Walk

Keswick

Lakes Distillery

Honister Pass

Bowder Stone

Easedale Tarn

The Maize Maze

Heading Up

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It’s Been a Long Time

The last time we took a “proper” family holiday was 2019, our epic driving adventure in France. That was two years ago. In fact we set off on that trip exactly two years before this one. There’s been a lot of trauma since then, which I’m sure I don’t need to explain, but we decided it was still a bit early to go abroad. Still too much risk of cancellation at the last minute. So we reverted to type and booked a trip to the Lake District. We were heading up on a Sunday, to make it a bit less stressful. I’d been away in Lincolnshire the previous weekend and it felt like a rush to get everyone ready on Friday night. Kas and me were both working all week. So Sunday it was.

Motorways

The route up to the Lake District is somewhat familiar to us. We tend just to hack up the M6 because it’s easy and, very helpfully, it goes near to the Lake District. Always advantageous to use a road that goes where you want to be. Our traditional stop on the way is at Norton Canes Services. It’s about 90 minutes from home. That’s only about a third of the way, but it’s one of the better service stations. So we set off at around 11 am to make sure we arrived at lunchtime. It was kind of full when we got there. We had to rely on our usual parking karma to find a place. I guess it’s a warm summer day and maybe quite a lot of other people were setting off on holiday on Sunday. I dunno. We didn’t really get much – just some snacks and drinks to keep us happy for the rest of the drive. We were hoping (expecting) to do the rest of the trip without stopping.

The rest of the trip was as dull and uninteresting as it ought to be, apart from a couple of flurries of wet weather. So we arrived at our chosen venue mid-afternoon, filled up the last sensible parking space, and retired indoors.

Home for the Next Week

We’d booked rooms at the The Swan in Grasmere for a week. We normally do some form of self-catering in the Lakes, but this year we picked a hotel because it was a late decision to go. Options were limited and we wanted somewhere central. It turned out to be quite expensive but it’s well placed and it included breakfast. In comparison to previous trips we were planning a fairly leisurely week, with not quite so much hill walking and plenty of eating and drinking. So that was fine.

We booked a double room and a twin. They were able to put these across the hall from each other so we weren’t separated by any great distance. The rooms were clean and tidy if a bit old-fashioned and not huge. We learned that they’d just been taken over by a new hotel chain, and that their promised refurbishment had been delayed by COVID. If we go again it’ll probably be smarter. It was fine though.

An Evening Stroll

We did a couple of things in the evening, and to be honest I can’t really remember what order we did them in, so I’ll guess. We hadn’t really decided what to do for dinner at this point.

Firstly we legged it down into Grasmere and back. It was a half-mile or so from the hotel. We found a decent place for cake and coffee just as many places were starting to close. I remember sitting outside and I think I may have partaken of an alcohol-based coffee. After this, a quick walk around the village confirmed everywhere was full for dinner, so that made the decision for us. We’d have to eat in the hotel. It proved a strange week as many places were either running reduced numbers because of COVID, or they weren’t taking bookings.

Secondly, while the ladies were getting ready for dinner and/or snoozing, I legged it up the road to grab the nearest geocache. As I do. It never takes me long to get ready, so I had plenty of time. The weather looked a bit threatening while I was out, and this became a bit of a theme for the week.

Dinner

The hotel was able to accommodate us for dinner, even though we hadn’t booked. To be fair, they didn’t have a lot of spare tables, so we were probably lucky. Anyway, they had a reasonably broad generic hotel menu of British favourites covering everything from fish ‘n’ chips, through steaks, burgers, stir-frys and curries. Something for everyone, as it were. They also did beer.

Whilst enjoying dinner we had a chat with the proprietress. She told us about the lack of refurbishment and also mentioned that the hotel was normally full in the early evening because people tend to pop in for a drink and a bite after they’ve been walking, but then it gets quieter later on in the evening. That’s good to know. When we came back from our walk the car park was significantly emptier than when we’d arrived.

And that was more or less it. We ate a variety of things, all of which was decent, before heading up to bed. A fairly relaxing start to the holiday, given that it involved 4 hours in the car.


Grasmere

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The Morning

So the first full day of our week in Grasmere. Time to go and investigate the hotel breakfast. It consisted of fairly typical hotel options. There was a table full of cereals and fruit, and from the kitchen, they supplied cooked breakfasts with copious amounts of toast and coffee. It was good except, as we discovered on subsequent days, taking one or two things off the full breakfast didn’t mean you got more of the other things. Anyway, it was a “tester” session, so we tested.

We’d decided the previous day to split up in the morning. Ami wanted to walk up a hill. Izzy didn’t. Not a big one, anyway. So Kas took Ami in one direction and I took Izzy in another. Some human Brownian motion, in fact.

Stone Arthur

The closest hill of note to the hotel was Stone Arthur. It seems debatable whether it is or isn’t a different hill to its parent, Great Rigg. But for this purpose we shall concur with Alfred Wainwright, even though that means two of us have completed a Wainwright that the other two haven’t.

Obviously, not having been there myself, I don’t have a lot to say. Kas reported that Ami was off like a proverbial rat up a drainpipe, at least for the first stretch. Their walk took them up an initial straight slope and then around more of a gradual slope around a “noggin” to reach the fairly well-disguised summit point.

By the look of the photo here, the view from the top was acceptably good.

Rydal Hall

Izzy and me chose to visit Rydal. There were a couple of physical caches and a set of Adventure Labs that we could do whilst having a pleasant walk around. It was uphill from where we parked (just off the main road) but not as far uphill as a proper hill walk.

I squeezed into Pelter Bridge Car Park, which nestles in the valley where the River Rothay flows from Rydal Water on its way down to Windermere. From here we had a short walk through woods and over the main road before climbing up on the road towards Rydal Hall and Rydal Mount. We were doing a geocache whilst walking up, collecting clues from around the church and up the road.

Rydal Hall has a big house that’s not accessible to Joe Public, as well as free-to-access gardens. It also has quite a lot of camping space, much of which was full. It was quite late in the morning but people in the campsite still seemed to be very much in “breakfast” mode. I thought campers got up early.

Back at the plot, we walked around the gardens finishing off Adventure Labs and finding caches for an hour or so and then I got hit by the need to make a comfort break. So we retreated over to the nearby Rydal Mount to see what was what.

Rydal Mount

Rydal Mount is the former home of William Wordsworth. You know, the bloke who wandered around this area finding and writing poems about daffodils. The building and gardens are still owned by his descendants and they make a meagre few groats by charging people to look around. They make a few more groats by charging people for coffee, cake and ice cream, so we allowed them to extract some money for that before anything else.

Our food and drinks were delivered to a cast-iron circular table on the patio at the front of the building. It was pretty decent weather so we were happy enough. We also allowed them to take enough money off us to cover two entry tickets for tours of the house. Well, we might as well.

The house was maybe a little disappointing. Much of the upstairs is inaccessible because members of the family still live there. Indeed they use the downstairs during the day too. But upstairs you could see one small bedroom and an attic room that was being set up for an art display. Downstairs we were given a fairly long talk covering the two main rooms at the front of the house. First was the original (and only) living room of what was a very small cottage. Second was the somewhat grander living room of the extension. Is it still an extension if it’s three times the size of the original?

I think Izzy enjoyed it more than I did, even though it was tricky because, somewhere, she’d dropped her facemask. I only had one, so I couldn’t help unless we did the tour separately. For me, the tour was a bit dull, to be honest. Maybe that is because it was about a subject that doesn’t interest me very much. I maybe also wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I’m glad I went though.

On the way back to the car we stopped in a couple of places to see if we could find Izzy’s facemask. Eventually we found it at the side of the road about 100m from the car.

Ambleside

Back at the car, we’d got a message from Kas to say they were on their way back down. So we drove back to Grasmere to meet them and discuss lunch.

The agreed approach for lunch was to go to Ambleside, and we were ready to go more or less immediately. That meant trying to find somewhere to park, which proved troublesome and time-consuming. Lunch was provided by a branch of a chain coffee shop. The one that rhymes with Hosta and roster. There was a bit of an issue because the payment transaction failed and it wasn’t clear whether we’d been charged or not. When the system came back we paid again and we were invited to check or banking app in the week and go back if we’d been charged twice.

After lunch we did a bit of walking around. I was trying to work on another set of Adventure Labs and Izzy wanted to buy some rocks. There’s a specialist rock shop, so that was her happy for a while. I was less than happy because I could get a stable signal. Every time I was in the right zone to answer a question I lost signal and couldn’t answer it. So I had to do a series of repetitive shuffles around the town to try to find signal. Annoying. A 10-minute exercise took over half an hour.

After all this I requested that we walk up to Stockghyll Force to finsih the Ad Labs series. We’d been up there on our previous holiday in the Lakes (in 2019). On that day it was a brief couple of hours of dry weather on a day when otherwise it rained all day. Today was a bit drier. Again I couldn’t do the Adventure Lab stage as I had no phone signal, so I was in a bit of a grump. This became a running theme for the holiday. I’d already got the coordinates for the bonus cache so that was OK, and as it turned out, phone signal returned halfway down the hill and once you’ve been into the right zone with the app running you can answer later. So I was able to complete the series.

It was getting late in the afternoon by the time we’d done all this, so we jumped in the car and went back to the hotel.

Dinner in Grasmere

We’d decided to walk into Grasmere for dinner to see what was what.

We found Harley’s, a nice little bistro in a converted church building. They were able to accommodate us without booking but were closing quite early. That’s a thing in Grasmere apparently. People turn up on busses during the day to wander around the church and a Wordsworth museum. They have a coffee in the afternoon, then they get back on the bus and go home. So Grasmere has little nightlife. Even the people staying in the village tend to stay in their hotel to eat. Back at the plot, they did beer which was cold and wet. And they did a range of pizzas, pastas, salads and other stuff. Everything we had was good, so that was a bit of a result.

The walk back to the hotel involved putting one foot in front of the other. That can be complex and strenuous, so we sat in the bar for a while and had a drink before going to bed. It had been a fairly full day.


Grizedale

A Slow Morning

We’d booked an early afternoon session at Go Ape over in Grizedale, so we were in no particular hurry. We took a leisurely breakfast in the hotel again.

The drive around to Grizedale was fairly painless. It’s a bit of a twisty road and, much as happened in 2019 when we came here, we got lost. The sat nav was all but useless, mainly because the postcode for the site covers a large area and the sat nav takes you to the wrong part. We had a flash of recognition at one point and knew we were more or less there, but not before we’d driven 5-6 miles along tiny roads in the wrong direction. To be honest, I don’t think there are any “good” roads into the place.

Apeing Around

This time around I’d booked tickets for all four of us to go around. I thought I’d give it a go, and soon regretted it.

Back at the plot, we waited for a while before our slot so we took a service break had a drink.

When it was time, we were ushered through quickly and joined the group at the base of the first step for our induction / training. They were running a bit late, but it wasn’t really a problem.

All four of us went around the beginner’s loop. It was rather slow because a group of quite small children has got in front of us and they were going rather slowly. We all got round this fairly easily, but I have to say I didn’t enjoy it at all. I didn’t like the sensation of things moving beneath my feet as I was walking. Obviously I was fastened on so I couldn’t fall, but balance isn’t a strong point of mine. I just didn’t feel secure at all.

After the first loop we started up the second one and I spied some parts I really didn’t fancy. At about the same moment Izzy expressed some concern about going on the larger one too. So she and I decided not to bother going further. If you’re going back, decide so at the start. So we back-tracked out and left Kas and Izzy to do it. Izzy fancied another go around the smaller circuit, so off she went while I sat at the bottom. Maybe next time I’ll remember and just not buy myself a ticket.

A Quiet Evening

Driving back was fine, but we couldn’t be bothered with much in the evening, so we went back to the hotel.

One of the other hotels in Grasmere had suffered a COVID outbreak amongst its kitchen staff, apparently. As a result, everyone was wandering around trying to find tables for dinner. Our hotel had allocated a few but had also decided that they were going to keep aside enough tables for all residents to have dinner if they wanted to. So that’s what we did. The food was functional and substantial again. I think the girls had more or less the same thing every night we ate there.


Borrowdale

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The Morning

Another fairly easy-paced morning involving some breakfast in the hotel. The weather was a bit grey, but not too bad. Our plan for the day was to go to Borrowdale to attempt the “Fairy Walk.” I’m not sure why it’s called that, but it’s worth a go. Izzy didn’t fancy any massive walks but a shortish walk on the flat was deemed acceptable.

So after breakfast we saddled up and made our way around through Keswick and into Borrowdale, supposedly the wettest place in England. The walk required us to park in Rosthwaite, where there’s a handy National Trust Car Park. And of course, we can park in those free of charge.

Fairy Walk

We’d read beforehand a brief description of a walk up the Stonethwaite Beck and past Galleny Force to some rock pools where the Langstrath Beck joins. It was only a mile and a half or so. The walk was mainly flat and there was a handful of geocaches on the way to keep me occupied while the ladies walked. At the rock pools there was a particularly troublesome cache that I decided wasn’t there. I started preparing a replacement and messaging the owner to check, and just as I was about to place it I spotted the real cache. D’oh!

All the while I’d been doing this, the ladies had made their way down to the water and started paddling. I joined them eventually and got my boots off for a quick dip. There was a nice and relatively shallow bit with decent rocks that we could sit on, so we sat there for a while, plodged, and generally soaked up the atmosphere. It was a lovely spot, even if the weather was a bit average.

The walk back, down the other side of the beck, seemed to take much longer. Maybe we’d had enough of walking. Anyway, the car park also had a cafe nearby. So we availed ourselves of some drinks and lunch while we were there.

We hadn’t really planned anything for the afternoon and Izzy was done, so we went back to the hotel.

Legging It

A general lack of enthusiasm for more exercise amongst the ladies lead to a decision by them to just chill at the hotel.

I wasn’t quite so tired, so I stole away to walk my way around Grasmere, picking up a few caches on the way.

I started by walking down the main road towards Ambleside. At Town End I went off the main road and onto the local road around White Moss. This eventually bought me out quite close to Rydal Water and I walked back through the woods and along the little river that drains Grasmere into Rydal Water.

I crossed the river onto the far side and walked my way around the west side of Grasmere and back into the village. I was getting a bit parched so I grabbed a drink from the Co-Op on the way past.

By the time I got back to the hotel I’d walked just over 8km and I’d been outside for an hour and three-quarters.

A Night on the Town

The girls had saved enough energy to go out in the evening rather than stay at the hotel. So when I got back from the walk I had a quick shower and we headed to Ambleside. We’d seen a few decent-looking places when we were there two days earlier. Our favourite-looking one was a brew-pub right next to the car park. They had a bit of a queue and said it might take about half an hour before we’d a table. So the girls went and sat on a wall by the river while Kas and me stood in the queue.

It eventually took a little under half an hour, partly because some people just walked away.

Once we got inside we were treated to some nice, fresh beer (well, I was) and a menu that had a bit of everything. I think we ordered a lot of pizzas, amongst other things. It was really busy, which was rare for this holiday. The hotel restaurant had been quiet every night we’d eaten there and the one night we went out we were in a quiet restaurant too. This place was busy. All the tables were full and the wait-staff were running around like blue-arsed flies, only more efficient.

Back at the hotel Kas and me retired to the bar for a swift half while the girls went up to sleep. It had been the busiest day so far.


Bassenthwaite


Honister


Easedale


Maize Maze


Sunderland


Derwenthaugh


Newcastle University