Open the photo gallery >>

Setting the Scene

It had been a couple of busy days in the Gardner household leading up to the start of the holiday. The day for driving up was a Saturday, but there’d been some running around going on beforehand. In fact, I’d been off from work since Wednesday night.

On Thursday, I’d been given the chance to attend a hospitality day at Lord’s Cricket Ground to watch the second day of an England vs Australia men’s test match. This was weird for me, because a couple of weeks previously I’d also been for a (rainy) day at Edgbaston. Anyway, Lord’s was a hospitality day that had been postponed from the previous year. That year, I was supposed to be going to England vs South Africa at The Oval but we had the misfortune to be scheduled the day following the day on which The Queen passed away. The result was that the cricket was canceled for the day, but the trains were also canceled, so I couldn’t have got there even if they’d been playing.

That’s all ancient history though. Back at the plot, I was in London all day Thursday, and Daughterus Minimus had her school prom in the evening, having just finished her GCSEs. The prom was put on the middle evening between two mandatory taster sessions the school had organised for sixth form. That meant Minimus has a long day in school, then a long night out, then another long day at school. And it also meant she needed to be packed for the holiday by Wednesday night, more or less.

I also had the Friday off, and I spent it packing, preparing, and generally doing. In the middle of the afternoon I decided I was a bit hacked off with trousers being too small, so I went out to buy some new ones.

The Motorways of the English Midlands

We were all ready to rock by about 10:30am. We had planned to take both cars. Kas needed to go to Swansea for a triathlon event on the Sunday after the holiday, so she took her triathlon gear, bike, and other stuff in her own car. Casual gear, and everyone else’s luggage went into my car. The kids split themselves between the two cars so both drivers had some company for the drive. That also meant we could drop the back seats in my car, and hence have room for enough luggage to keep Napoleon’s armies happy for a fortnight.

We stopped for the mandatory coffee on the way out. I didn’t need fuel, because I’d done that the previous afternoon, but I did need coffee.

The drive up the M1, M6 and M6 Toll was as boring as you could hope for. Traffic wasn’t bad and the weather was good. When we got around the far end of the toll road it was time for a lunch break, so we stopped at Norton Canes. I had hoped it wouldn’t be too busy, because we weren’t quite in the school holidays. But it was heaving. Me and Ami weren’t very hungry so we just took drinks and snacks for the car. Kas and Venus were more hungry, so they had some “proper” food.

Back on the road, the M6 around Stafford, Stoke and Manchester was pretty bad, as usual.

We stopped again at Burton-in-Kendal for a service break and to swap passengers. Venus had been riding with Kas, but Kas wanted Ami with her for the final stretch in case any interpretation of maps was needed. I have a good memory for driving to places I’ve been before, so I was comfortable to get to Ambleside unassisted. Anyway, we always have the satnav onboard if needed.

And here we are

Having said the M6 was a bit slow, we actually arrived in Ambleside at 4pm. Given that we didn’t set off until 10:30am, that’s decent progress.

Arriving at 4pm meant we were able to collect the keys for our cottage from an open office rather than having to use the out-of-hours key-safe-in-the-garage method. We’d booked through Sykes Cottages and the property was managed by Heart of the Lakes. Judging by the similarities in their two websites, I am suspected the two are related. Anyway, Heart of the Lakes have an office on the south side of Ambleside, conveniently just off the road we were using to drive in.

Keys were duly acquired and we set off to find the property, which was very conveniently located right in the middle of Ambleside. This had the advantage that most nights we’d be able to go out to eat without taing a car.

Moving In

The property itself was probably roughly what I expected. In my experience, places are always a bit smaller than thery appear in the brochures. In this case, the property was a mid-terrace on a residential street. We knew this, of course. What’s not obvious, though, is that it was quite narrow. It evidently used to be a proverbial two-up-two-down. Since then, it had been converted with the addition of a third floor bedroom and bathroom and a big extension to the rear which contained a large kitchen area. Overall it was good, but the sleeping and living rooms were a little small.

So once we’d done the allocation of rooms, the next job was to go and buy enough food to see us through breakfast. We’d already decided we’d do a “proper” shop on Sunday, as we weren’t planning to leave Ambleside. We’d also decided we were eating out. That meant we just needed some basics to tide us over. All of those could be found at the Co-Op, which was literally round the corner.

We also attempted a bit of shopping but realised quickly that most of the souvenir shops close at 5pm. We ended up buying a set of Ordnance Survey maps of the area. This was partly because we somehow lost the previous set. We also plumped for the laminated ones so that (theoretically) we could carry them with us and use them even in the wet. In practice, I don’t think they made it out of the cottage until we came home.

Dinner Time

After our previous trip in 2021, we all had good memories of eating at The Tap Yard, so we thought we’d give it a go. We were able to get a table quite early, so availed ourselves of some quality comestibles and beverages. We couldn’t stay long though. Apparently they do take advance bookings on 50% of the tables and ours was one of the ones they wanted back. In fact, we finished eating by 7:30pm anyway, so all was good.

Too Early to Stop

Kas and Venus wanted to go crash in the house but me and Ami were up for a bit of a leg-stretch, having spent much of the day in the car. We decided it would be useful to survey central Ambleside for nice-looking restaurants, so we wandered around taking photos of every menu we could find. Into the mix we also found a few local art galleries and had a walk around Rothay Park.

We spent a very pleasant hour or so walking. Eventually though, the day caught up with us and we joined the other two for some industrial-grade doing of nothing. And maybe some beer.