DISCOVER THE LAKES IN SEVEN IDYLLIC DAYS
How can you make the most of your precious week in the Lake District? Dixe Wills creates a daily action plan of spectacular walks, atmospheric tours and a waterside picnic, among other adventures…
One short week, one vast national park... Dixe Wills makes every moment count with an action-packed plan of stirring hikes, relaxing boat trips, castle visits, lakeside picnics, cool digs and more.
The Lake District, eh? A place so special that last year the national park attained UNESCO World Heritage status. But with 912 square miles of fells, meres (call them lakes at your peril), footpaths, country houses, museums, galleries, pubs, restaurants, tearooms, cafés and myriad other attractions, it can be rather overwhelming. I can’t possibly experience it all in a week, but by spending each day getting to know a distinct area, I hope to spend more time exploring and less time dashing about like a gadfly. So I hop on a train, leave the city behind, and begin my Lakeland adventure.
DAY 1 GRASMERE
I celebrate my arrival in the Lake District with lunch at Grasmere’s Mathilde’s, the Heaton Cooper Studio’s light and airy café. Wholesome Scandinavian dishes are its thing so I indulge in a delicious vegetarian smørrebrød. After a turn around the gallery, I join a queue of customers drawn to the irresistible aroma issuing from the tiny Grasmere Gingerbread shop, an institution since Sarah Nelson began selling the sweetmeat here in 1854.
Pockets filled, I make my way to Dove Cottage, former home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. Beautifully preserved and full of Wordsworthiana, it feels as if either sibling might walk in at any moment. Following in their footsteps, I stride outside and up to the summit of the neighbouring fell, Loughrigg, enjoying cracking views down Grasmere on the way. Descending, I complete a circuit of Rydal Water, taking in Rydal Mount, the Wordsworths’ final home. When the stars come out by twos and threes, I hie away to the Traveller’s Rest for a warming three-bean chilli and a melon sorbet that melts in the glow of a blazing fire. And just a five-minute walk away is
my cosy pod, and bed. Broadrayne Farm,
DAY 2 ESKDALE
A female sparrowhawk watches me with elaborate nonchalance as I go to pick up a mountain bike in the picturesque village of Boot. The bicycle’s reassuringly fat tyres speed me down the muddy track of the Eskdale Trail, the 8.5-mile cycle path that runs nearly the length of this quiet western Lakeland valley to the sea at Ravenglass. Freewheeling down the trail’s solitary hill to the rosy-hued Muncaster Castle, I find myself ducking to avoid too close an encounter with a Verreaux’s eagle owl, one of the many large birds in the castle’s conservation programme.
The day takes a decidedly Roman turn when I am shown a mysterious Latinengraved stone recently unearthed in the castle grounds. Five minutes’ further pedalling leads me to the ruins of a Roman bath house near Ravenglass. The trail ends at the coastal terminus of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, whose tiny narrow gauge trains now carry bicycles. After a look in at the station’s jaunty museum and
“BY SPENDING EACH DAY IN A DISTINCT AREA, I HOPE TO SPEND MORE TIME EXPLORING”
TOP Allegedly haunted, Muncaster Castle is set in 77 acres of woodland above the Ravenglass estuary ABOVE RIGHT Rydal Mount was William Wordsworth’s family home from 1813 to his death in 1850 ABOVE LEFT Hardknott Roman Fort was founded under Hadrian’s rule in the 2nd century AD