If it’s Saturday, then it’s our last full day in the Lakes and it’s a walking one.
The route was very familiar as I’ve been using it for years, but we chose to walk under half of the usual distance and take it at a leisurely pace too.
The full route is from Ambleside to Rydal Hall then to Grasmere via the Coffin Path. After that It’s out on the road for a while before heading upwards over Red Bank before hitting the village of Elterwater.
From there it’s onward to Elter Water, Skelwith Bridge and skirt Tarn Foot Farm before going up over the back part of Loughrigg and then dropping back into Ambleside via Rothay Park.
The full route is around thirteen miles and it’s the one I used often back in my days as a gear tester as it’s a) familiar and b) has just about every surface you’re likely to encounter if you’re assessing & reviewing new boots.
Our choice, and we chose to accept it, was to wander through Ambleside, walk towards Rydal Hall, have some coffee and cake then head upwards towards Rydal Mount (former home to the Wordsworths) and then along the Coffin Path to How Top before taking the road down to Dove Cottage (the other home of the Wordworths) before walking into Grasmere itself.
The way through to Rydal Hall was the quietest I’d seen it for years and the campsite I’ve used on many occasions was quiet.
After taking some shots of the waterfalls, coffee and cake was ordered and paid for by card for a change as there was a no cash policy in operation.
Then it was up to Rydal Mount and time to hit the more rugged part of the track leading to Grasmere. This was also quiet and surprisingly so considering how many people had been wandering around Ambleside on Friday and first thing on this Saturday morning.
Dove Cottage was reached in no time, but there was no chance of heading inside as it was closed to the general public at that time.
We did get the chance to pay homage to the Wordsworths, because one place was open as a means of paying respects…
Lunch beckoned, but it wasn’t to be at the first place we sat down in. We were shown to a table, given a couple of menus and that was it. Staff came and went with food or taking orders at other tables, but not ours, so we legged it in search of another café.
And found one – Heidi’s (heidisgrasmere.co.uk). It’s a café and there’s rooms available too, but we were there for lunch and yes, it was warm enough to sit outside to eat.
Once fed, we took a look inside Sam Read Booksellers (samreadbooks.co.uk) and came away with a couple of paperbacks that I’d taken a shine to. Caroline and I had the place to ourselves as only two mask wearers at a time were being allowed in to browse and buy.
We also took a look inside a couple of art gallery shops too, but didn’t buy anything as we are running out of wall space at home due to the calendars, photos from previous travel trips and the pieces of art work that Caroline has made over the years.
Another coffee beckoned, as did a soft drink, but the soft drink may well have been one of the worst I’ve ever tasted so it was time for another double espresso to take the taste away!
We did take the easy way back to Ambleside – by bus, so we got back, had time to wash & brush up before heading out for our evening meal.
Which was at The Priest Hole once more – they were as good as their word and rang me after a table came up, so it was back there for another evening of good, unpretentious food and a bottle or two of fine local ales.
The next stop was back to Wanslea to prep for the next day, which turned out to be a quiet one. The museum we drove to turned out to be advance bookings only, so we ended up going to Booth supermarket in Kirkby Lonsdale for sandwiches, soft drinks and the chance to stock up on some unfamiliar ales and cider for home consumption.
Then it was time to head home, sort the washing out and use the phone to order a couple of curries for delivery as we didn’t feel like heading out again.
A good few days? Oh yes…
Thought that I’d lost these pics, but they were just misplaced!
Caroline, The Minstrels Gallery and a wet hire bike...
If it’s Friday, then it must be Ambleside and time to head out for an evening meal at the place we’d book a table for 8.30pm earlier in the day.
The walk from Wanslea to that establishment wasn’t as long as I thought it would be, so we arrived early and that’s where our problems started.
The person at the desk couldn’t comprehend that we’d arrived early or that we had a table booked for 8.30 in my name. After ten minutes of faffing about on the computer, the booking was found, and we were in – or so we thought.
The next person we spoke to couldn’t understand why we wanted to just leave our name and telephone number in line with the guidelines at the time and insisted that we scanned a QR code.
Eventually he relented when we pointed out that we’d already left a name and telephone number when we made the booking and that we’d never used a QR code ever for anything.
We were eventually shown to our table and given menus to peruse. What we hadn’t realised was that this particular establishment only offered vegetarian choices and I was looking forward to eating something a little meatier.
Given the palaver we’d already had, we left and went in search for another place to eat. The Michelin starred places didn’t appeal and the couple of nearby pubs were full, so we looked around and found The Priest Hole (thepriesthole.co.uk).
And it had a table – on a Friday night after 8.30!
Once in, names and numbers were taken and then we removed our face coverings and sat down, took a look at the drink’s menu, ordered and then examined the main menu. Both of our choices were easy to make – local lamb shank with all the trimmings and the fish special for Caroline.
After the mains were polished off, extra drinks, dessert & coffees were ordered, thoughts turned to booking in at The Priest Hole for the next night.
The small problem was that at that time, there wasn’t a table available for Saturday night, so my name and number was taken once more so I could be contacted during the day on Saturday should a table become available.
With that arrangement out of the way, it was time to head back to get some shut eye after our respective days out. Glasses of water were used to dilute the alcohol stream before turning in at a later than usual bedtime.
What we didn’t expect was the sound of car doors slamming outside at 1am and a few people congregating in front of the main door for a loud chin wag and ciggie consumption.
It was tempting to shout STFU out of the window, but I refrained because I just knew that that would not be a good idea, especially at breakfast time!
After a reasonable night’s sleep, showers and coffee made in our own cafetieres were a great way to start the day before breakfast.
Our choices had been made the night before with Caroline choosing the lighter breakfast whilst I went for my first morning full English in months.
Wearing masks into the breakfast room wasn’t a problem for us or the staff, but it appeared to be for one or two others over the few days we were there.
We were up early, largely because Caroline had booked a hire bike from Ghyllside (ghyllside.co.uk/content/12-bikehire), one of her favourite places to hire bikes from.
The forecast wasn’t that good for the first part of the day, so I was pleased that I’d opted to drive around to Hawkshead to sus out a potential lunch spot before meeting Caroline at the half-way point for the ride she was doing.
Why? Because it wasn’t long before it was hissing down and thoughts of taking quite a few photos disappeared…
After a mooch around a couple of shops in Hawkshead and buying a copy of Lakeland Walker magazine, thoughts turned to coffee and sustenance.
Which came in the form of coffee and fresh scones at Minstrel’s Gallery Tea Rooms next to the King’s Arms pub in the oldest part of the village.
The phone eventually rang when Caroline checked in to see whether or not I’d found somewhere to chill out, got directions and then entered the tea rooms in a slightly bedraggled state.
After this, Caroline headed up to Grizedale Forest whilst I headed into Langdale. The weather hadn’t improved, so I went in search of some hand gel and a couple of snacks for later on in the afternoon.
With Caroline on her way back to Ambleside (in an area that isn’t noted for good mobile phone reception), I headed back to Wanslea, parked up and wandered in to various shops to see what offers there were on footwear – Caroline’s shoes were letting in water, a sign of their age rather than the effectiveness of the waterproof membrane.
Once back at Ghyllside and the bike returned, it was rather obvious that an outside café experience was needed because of the mud and skunk stripe Caroline had acquired on her ride. After coffee and cake, we booked a table at a restaurant for that night before the search of new shoes.
Which was easier said than done. I’d seen a couple of options whilst waiting for Caroline but getting anyone to served proved difficult. Someone turned up eventually but wasn’t interested and whilst it was tempting to intervene, I wasn’t being paid to do so and after a discussion we went into John Gaynor’s and sealed the deal on a pair of Merrell shoes.
Next up was back to Wanslea for showers and a change of clothes before exiting for our evening meal – which wasn’t taken at the place we’d booked!
As I mentioned on Monday, both Caroline & I have visited the Lake District on several occasions and know the main areas pretty well.
We’d not stayed in Ambleside for a few years though and that’s why we chose it for our first post-lockdown visit to the National Park as we could wander around the village, head off on foot to other villages or as in Caroline’s case, hire a bike and explore on two wheels.
Getting there from home was easy and didn’t involve maps, route cards or any form of tech to get there, just good old-fashioned nous, memory and familiarity with the roads.
As Caroline had been on twelve-hour nursing shifts on two of the three days before we headed off, we didn’t have an early start.
We made a brief stop at the Rohan shop in Long Preston for a retail therapy raid on both sale and previous season’s offerings before heading to Wilf’s Café in Staveley for lunch and a couple of cold drinks.
Which was great in theory, but we weren’t expecting the car park to be that full, so we headed off in the direction of Ambleside to park up, have lunch, explore some more and then head to the B&B we were staying in.
After one circuit of the village, we parked up and walked out to Fresher’s Café (fresherscafe.co.uk) at The Courtyard on Rothay Road.
Ordering a full English with a cold Coke was a no-brainer for me whilst Caroline chose the Quiche Lorraine and sparking water. Coffee followed, as did a wander around before coffee and cake beckoned at Zeffirelli’s.
With the car park ticket running out, we headed for Wanslea Guest House on Lake Road to park up, check in, unpack, snooze and change before we took a walk into the centre in search of food first and a pub visit afterwards.
We looked at quite a few places on our way through the centre. Some were closed, others far too expensive for our budget (and not to our tastes either having looked at the menus) and then we came across Sheila’s Cottage (sheilascottage.co.uk), a place I’d visited before – in the 1970s when killing time at the end of a school trip to the Lakes.
After a couple of very good mains, desserts, mineral water and coffee, it was time to head to one of my favourite pubs in Ambleside – The Golden Rule.
Rules were in place for choosing and serving, but with a good selection of ales and ciders to choose from, neither of us were disappointed at our respective choices of ale for me and good cider for C.
It may have been a long day, but as the food and drink had been so good, it was time to walk back to Wanslea and do a very important task – fill in the breakfast order!
After Lockdown 1 and that first escape to Oxford in July 2020, our second escape took us back to very familiar territory – the Lake District.
As both of us have visited the area on many occasions, you might think that packing our bags for the trip would be an easy one, but there were complications thanks to the weather and the potential activities over the course of the four days we were there.
We’d taken a close look at the forecast and whilst there was a favourable outlook, Friday looked like it was going to be wet – and it was!
Whilst I was up for a walk or two, Caroline wanted to get an off-road ride in if she could hire a bike for at least a day (the new car’s a bit small to get her hybrid in the back and we weren’t sure that there would be secure storage at our B&B to keep the bike safe and sound).
There was also the little matter of being a bit smarter on an evening when searching for places to eat in and yes, there were post-lockdown rules to follow too… like mask wearing.
So for the day times it was a mix of smartish t-shirts plus practical trousers, a thin fleece and a choice of either a softshell jacket (all from Rohan) or waterproof (TNF for me, Berghaus for Caroline) that went into the bags for walks and mooches.
Shoe choices for the walks were simple – Oboz approach shoes or Clarks sports sandals for me and a pair of TNF Hedgehogs plus a pair of Ecco sandals for Caroline.
As a bike had already been booked for her Friday ride Caroline packed a Rohan tech t-shirt, a Cycology bike shirt, a pair of Altura leggings, an Endura waterproof plus her Salomon Gore-tex lined shoes – and boy, did she need some waterproof stuff…
Choice for the restaurants, pubs and cafes mostly came from Rohan (although we’d packed, a few items were added after visits to Rohan’s clearance floor at their Long Preston shop and their Ambleside store.
In my case it was jeans and travel linen polo shirts that made the cut along with a soft shell for the after-dark walk back to the B&B once meals had been downed and some fine ales quaffed afterwards (yes, even Caroline sampled the local beers rather than her usual ciders).
Did it all work? Yes.
Friday was as wet as the forecast promised and whilst I had the luxury of driving around in the car hoping for breaks in the weather in order to get some good photos, Caroline was a bit wet when she arrived in Hawkshead and joined me in Minstrel’s Gallery Tea Rooms.
By the time she got back to Ambleside and returned the bike to the hire shop, she was both wet and muddy…
“Looks like you had a good ride!’ was the comment from a passing American lady – to which Caroline replied, “Oh yes!!!”.
But it took two washes to get the mud out of her cycling clothes…
Wheybrigg Hall Hotel
Well, we got to our destination, even though we had a flat tyre to contend with near the end of the journey between Patterdale Youth Hostel and Wheybrigg Hall Hotel.
Was I going to change the tyre when we’d just got there? Was I heck as like!
Coffee, freshening up and fodder were the respective orders of the day once we’d checked in, found our room and flopped for a few minutes.
After a good meal, cider or beer and a shared sweet, we retreated to our room to flop some more and unwound with Yesterday channel’s latest in a re-run of guitar players in action at the studios of the BBC.
Sunday morning came around a bit too soon, but I wasn’t going to pass up the chance to try a bit of haggis as part of my breakfast platter!
Quick enquiries at the hotel regarding a tyre supplier came to nothing, so it was time to pack, put the bags on the back seat and then try to get the wheel changed.
Which was easier said than done. The wheel nuts wouldn’t even budge as I tried to ease them before putting the jack under the car to raise it up to facilitate changing the wheel.
So it was time to call out the road rescue service. “Someone will be with you in about an hour” was the verdict when I made the call, but a van pulled into the car park just twenty minutes later and did the deed – although the chap that came to do said deed had a fair bit of trouble in getting those darn wheel nuts shifted too…
As expected, there wasn’t a tyre place open in Wigton on a Sunday, so it was time to head over to Workington in search of the local Kwik-Fit.
I hadn’t been to Workington for about 27 years (to Cumbria Rock Festival to be precise), so finding Kwik-Fit was always going to be a case of winging it. Or was it?
Caroline’s phone gizmo came into action once more and Kwik-Fit was found, entered and the problem explained.
The wait was an hour, so we wandered into the town centre in search of coffee and a Sunday paper. Finding a copy of The Observer and a couple of cups of Greggs coffee was easy, but what I didn’t expect to find in Greggs was a guilty pleasure that was last tasted about fifteen years ago when I lived in the North East.
Peach melbas. A cake that has to be tried at least once – fondant icing on the outside, cream on the inside and a piece of peach inside the bottom crust. Naughty, but nice!
Polishing off the coffee in Kwik-Fit’s waiting area happened at the same time as the car was ready, so our stuff was taken off the back seat and packed into the boot in readiness for setting off to do the rest of the planned route.
Which is when it started to rain. And then some. I’d thought about having lunch in St. Bees, but the combination of rain and lack of parking put paid to that idea. We kept on going and tried in vain to find the airfield that was signposted with a brown tourist sign.
No dice there, so we kept on going and headed into Broughton-in-Furness to try our luck there. No dice again there as all of the parking places surrounding the cafe we’d spotted were full.
We kept on going though and then I had an idea. Have a late lunch at Wilf’s Cafe, an old haunt over in Staveley. It took a while to get there, but the big breakfast roll I had at 3pm went down well, as did the big bowl of veggie chilli that Caroline ordered. And the coffee? Probably some of the best coffee we’ve had in a cafe for years!
As I’d done so much driving, an on foot diversion into Wheelbase cycle emporium was always going to be on the cards once we’d decided on heading to Staveley. Caroline took a look at a few mountain bikes and then bought some socks (decidedly cheaper!) whilst I looked at and handed over a copy of Stephen Frear’s film about one Lance Armstrong.
And that was about it as we pointed the car in a homeward direction. Plans on visiting our local farm shop to get something for tea though went out of the window as we hit a five mile or so tailback of stationary traffic near Long Preston. Caroline’s gizmo came in useful once more as it got us around the accident blockage and back home.
The eventual evening meal? A good old Yorkshire favourite – a curry out!
Next week’s posts – some all-time top tens!
Ullswater from the steamer pier
First visited in the 1970’s…
Watch out, there’s squirrels about!
The return of Tufty?
Ullswater on a grey day
Same day, but with added sun!
With three days to spare, a couple of last minute accommodation bookings were made, the car tanked up with unleaded and a couple of bags packed for a Cumbrian road trip.
Despite spending so much time in the Lake District since my first visit back in 1973, there are parts of the Lakes and the surrounding area that I don’t know that well, even after my years as an outdoor instructor and gear tester for a number of climbing, walking and cycling magazines.
Although I’d run off a route card from the AA’s Route Planner software, it wasn’t needed as the car was pointed towards Skipton, Kirkby Lonsdale, Windermere and the right turn that took us to Troutbeck for a drinks stop at The Mortal Man.
Once refreshed, the car was pointed towards Kirkstone Pass, Brotherswater and then into the car park at Patterdale Youth Hostel. We’d got a room for the night, arrived earlier than anticipated, checked in, dumped the bags and then went a wandering.
Which is why we ended up in Glenridding. I’ve used Gillside Farm campsite on more occasions than I care to remember and it would have been a good place to overnight had we been in camping mode (Caroline was getting physio for a back problem at the time, so it would not have been a good idea to break out the camping gear for the weekend).
I did show Caroline the campsite though before we made our way around the top of the village to have a drinks stop at The Traveller’s Rest, a pub first visited back in the summer of 1975 when a few of us were over in the Lakes for a spot of walking, sightseeing and sword fencing.
It was tempting to stay at The Traveller’s Rest for another pint, but that would have been a bad move given that I tend to stick with one drink per night at the best of times. So it was back to the hostel and to the member’s kitchen to cook up some posh meatballs and accoutrements bought at Booths in Kirkby Lonsdale earlier in the day.
Although we were checking out of the hostel on Saturday morning, we were allowed to leave the car there whilst we went exploring. The plan was to head somewhere that I’d passed through on several occasions, but had never stopped in and taken a walk around.
I’d been on the Ullswater Steamers before, but only as far as Howtown before. Getting the steamer to Pooley Bridge was therefore a new experience, especially as that was the village I’d never stopped in.
The steamer was busy, but not packed out. Pooley Bridge on the other hand was busy with quite a few Geordies and Mackems in evidence (I recognised the accents after working in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and three years living in Sunderland whilst taking my degree course).
Other accents and languages were also evident – Punjabi, Hindi, American and a variety of Eastern European accents were amongst those heard.
With the £ exchange rates being what they are at the moment, all parts of the UK are coming into play as tourist destinations once more. How long it stays that way after March 2019 remains to be seen!
As Pooley Bridge is a small place, walking around didn’t take too long. Lunch was easily found in a local deli and eaten in the village square. The wait for the steamer back was taken up with a conversation with an American family on the merits of visiting Durham over York and the merits of an orange coloured politician!
Once back at the car, it was time to Boo Boo * and get going towards the hotel we were staying in near Wigton.
We did need a route card for this one, but there was a small problem near the end of the drive that meant that the navigation tool on Caroline’s phone was brought into play.
After a little bit of driving around, we found our hotel for the night, but realised that we had a small problem. I’d heard a not-quite-familiar sound coming from behind me on my side of the car and the reason was evident when I pulled into the hotel car park.
One very flat tyre!
The origin of Boo Boo? Watch The World’s End!