Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guide Through the District of the Lakes

This past Bank Holiday weekend Keenan and I had to the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful corners of England – the Lake District. Located in the modern county of Cumbria in Northwest England, the Lake District is a haven for hikers thanks to the fantastic scenery of fells and lakes.
We left Saturday morning from London Euston to Windermere via Lancaster for a weekend of hiking and fresh mountain air. The train ride was a long one (4 hours with several changes) but it was comfortable and definitely more relaxing than flying. We based ourselves in Windermere, a small town a mile uphill from Lake Windermere, and had a lovely stay at the Laurel Cottage. Proprietors Wayne and Alison are excellent hosts and always eager to share their knowledge of the Lake District.
 After the rain died down, we made our way to Bowness-on-Windermere, the sister city located on the shore of Lake Windermere. Instead of taking the main road 1.5 mile down to Bowness, Wayne suggested we take the scenic route via Brant Fell to take advantage of views and partially sunny afternoon. A relatively easy hike, Brant Fell affords you with amazing panoramic views of Bowness, Lake Windermere, and the Langdale Pikes in the distance. Scenic, mountainous, and amazingly green, this is exactly how I imagined the Lake District. 
View from Brant Fell:
Bowness is a quaint little village lined with numerous teashops and bakeries, mountaineering stores, and little shops selling all things Peter Rabbit as author Beatrix Potter drew inspiration for her famous children’s book from her summer holidays in the Lake District. Bustling Bowness is perfect for a leisurely stroll along the Promenade of picturesque Lake Windermere or a picnic on its numerous open space. You can also visit nearby Victorian estates, many of which are converted to hotels, take afternoon tea, or have lunch at a historic pub. With numerous end-of-season sales, we spent the afternoon hopping between outdoor stores in search for a new men’s rucksack for our upcoming trip to Sri Lanka. Happy with our purchase from the Mountain Warehouse, we were then off to sample local ale at The Albert whilst soaking up the last ray of sunshine before walking back to Windermere.

That Saturday evening, we were caught in the rain and without advanced dinner reservations. We wandered around town looking for a decent place to eat and ended up at Mojo’s Bistro, a modern British restaurant, for a nice meal. We hit the sack early, excited for another day of exploring the Lake District. 
The next morning, after a hearty English breakfast, we set out to conquer our next destination: Ambleside via Orrest Head and Wanfell Pike. Armed with Wayne’s trusty directions and map, we were well on our way, first to Orrest Head, which had another amazing viewpoint of the entire 10.5 mile length of Lake Windermere.  We made good progress, enjoying the pastoral landscape dotted with countless numbers of white sheep (and an occasional black sheep too!) and snapping some scenic photos until we got off-track and ended up on the main road.
 View from Orrest Head:
We got confused somewhere from “climb over the stone wall to the left next to the big tree, then go through the gate and go through field to another gate, then climb over the stone wall where there will be yellow sign, cross the farm and to the rear of the farm, climb over the stone wall.” By that time, we were so lost that none of the directions made sense to us. Not to worry though, we eventually found our way back on the trail once we got to Troutbeck and from here, we made our ascend to Wansfell Pike. Up until this point, we didn’t see a single person on the trail, but here loads of people, young and old, joined us on the path to Ambleside. It was getting windier by the minute, making the hike a bit more challenging. But the view alone from Wansfell Pike was worth the hike – see for yourself.

Ambleside is also a nice village with the same mix of commercial retail shops, but much larger and busier than Windermere. There is even a 70 foot waterfall (Stock Ghyll Force) nearby, but we couldn’t muster enough energy to walk to the waterfalls after our long and steep 8 mile hike.  The architecture is primarily Victorian with nice church adjacent to an old cemetry. After meandering around Ambleside for a few hours, we hopped on the bus back to Windermere and rewarded ourselves with a meaty pizza at Giottos.
The next day, with sore thighs and calves, we originally wanted to spend the afternoon kayaking on the lake, but alas, the high winds spoiled our plans. Instead we had a light lunch and afternoon tea in Bowness, which is my favourite of the three towns we visited, and then did one last short hike to Queen Adelaide’s Hill, which was named after King William IV’s widow after a royal visit in 1840, for another scenic viewpoint. Had we plan our day better and checked the forecast beforehead, we would have taken the bus up to Grasmere, then onwards to the Castlerigg Stone Circles, just outside of Keswick. Next time, I hope. Maybe next time, we’ll visit in March and witness “a host of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze” and “my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils” like William Wandsworth famously wrote in his poem about the Lake District, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee;
A poet could not be but gay,
In such a jocund company!
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

by William Wandsworth

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