Honestly though, I felt like as soon as we were in England, the landscape instantly changed. Gone were the pretty rolling hills and sheep dotted valleys, and instead they were replaced with scraggly flatlands. I began to panic that I planned this 5 hour car trip for scenery that wasn’t half as good as what we could find 30 minutes west of Aberdeen. It wasn’t long before the majestic mountains of Cumbria could be spotted in the distance, and my anxiety was laid to rest at the sight.
Planning a vacation to a place you’ve never been is always hard. You usually invest a lot in a trip and you don’t want to get all the way there and find that you’re staying in the wrong places, eating in the wrong restaurants, and hiking up the wrong mountains. Sometimes, I really enjoy re-visiting a place, because you get to skip ahead to the good stuff without fumbling your way through a new location and trying to get your bearings.
Planning our Lake District trip was especially hard because there are so many options. Hotel, Bed and Breakfast, Self-catering cottage? Small town, quaint village, countryside? Derentwater, Windermere, Ullswater Lake? Since I had never been there before, it was hard to pinpoint exactly what I was looking for. My interests weren’t helping me to narrow it down either. Our main goals were to stay somewhere relaxing, with good hiking, and breath-taking scenery, which is basically covered by all of the options mentioned above.
Eventually we settled on Highfield Hotel in the town of Keswick, situated on Derentwater lake. I would definitely recommend this locale for any Lake District amateurs. It’s a larger town with plenty of shopping, nightlife, and restaurants, and it’s a very easy walk down to the lake, which is honestly just about the prettiest thing I have ever seen.
There is a theater situated on the Lake and also an old-timey movie cinema in town. On the Lake, you can rent motorboats and rowboats, and there are plenty of beach areas for picnics, dog fetching, and swimming. Yes, swimming. Brits are crazy, y’all.
Derentwater, Ullswater, and the rest of the Northern Lake District are more mountainous that the more southerly lakes. That means the hiking here is more like climbing, and a bit more challenging all around.
Jonathan and I were game for about one summit hike, and after that, our tired feet were kind of limited in our area as far as more leisurely strolling goes. After spending 2 full days in Keswick, we decided to venture out to the other lakes and towns to see what we were missing and do some research for future Lake District trips (because we are so going back again). Once you are in the region, it’s pretty easy to drive between the other areas. First we headed south to Grasmere which is rumored to be a great jumping off point for some of the best hiking.
The town itself is stinkin’ adorable. I fell in love at first sight. It’s much more quaint than Keswick, but still has adorable shops and a good selection of eating venues. The architecture is all comprised of slate buildings which just add to the English charm of the town.
I even found my dream house, which I snapped a photo of in case I ever need to show it to an architect to draw up some plans. After briefly exploring the town, we continue south to Ambleside. Ambleside is very similar to Keswick, though even bigger. It seemed like a very happening place while we were there, and full of shopping and restaurants. The town lies just north of Windermere which is the largest lake in the region. It’s a great home base to explore several of the Lake District’s many charms.
However, since it reminded me so much of Keswick, I would actually choose Keswick over Ambleside, simply because when you’re standing in Keswick, you are surrounding by mountains. Once you get a bit more south, the mountains round up and become lovely hills, and therefore aren’t as imposing and noticeable from within the town. But that’s just me being really nit-picky. You honestly can’t go wrong wherever you land in this stunning place.
On our way back to Scotland, we made one more stop to visit the lovely Ullswater lake.
The scenery surrounding this lake definitely gave Derentwater some healthy competition. The mountains were steep and rugged, the setting was otherworldly, and the towns were hardly specks along the winding country roads.
It was a very photogenic area, and we enjoyed periodically pulling off on the side of the road to snap some pictures. These pit stops also helped to curb my car sickness, since this area is a bit “off the beaten path” and therefore consists mostly of tiny mountain roads. It was also dotted with walking trails, though the 50 mph wind gusts that morning kept us confined to our car.
After we drove around the entire lake, we decided to head back home to Scotland. And this time when we crossed the border, I was ready.
This post is just a Lake District taster. Come back throughout the week for stories of summits, mountain passes, and of course, lots and lots of farm animals.