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…

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

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

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