Take your seats for a different view of the Lake District
Our visitors come to the Lake District for the fabulous countryside, the hills and lakes, the wonderful walking terrain. But that’s all for the daytime. Did you know that we have a rich cultural life here in the Lakes, and our very own theatre just a mile away from our hotel?The Old Laundry Theatre at Bowness was established with the help of the legendary playwright Alan Ayckbourn, who still visits regularly. There’s a programme of music, comedy and occasional film nights, and throughout this summer audiences of all ages have been enjoying the musical Where is Peter Rabbit?The characters from Beatrix Potter’s stories have been brought to life with songs and puppetry, and the show this season runs until September 1.
After that the Old Laundry has a season of one-night-stands, bringing some top class drama of the highest standard. The first of these (Sept 13) is The Turn of the Screw, a new adaptation of the Henry James story which opened last year at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s the spooky tale of a governess who arrives at an isolated country estate, and finds herself engaged in a battle to protect the children from mysterious figures around them.
Then there’s an adventure story performed by Malcolm Rennie, Shackleton’s Carpenter, (Sept 18) which throws new light on the doomed expedition to Antarctica when the ship the Endurance sank and 28 crew were stranded.
Also in September (21) is a production of Orlando based on Virginia Woolf’s satirical novel, a whimsical portrait of an immortal poet whose gender can’t be pinned down, and whose spirit cannot be caged. This comes from the critically-acclaimed Dyad Productions with performer Rebecca Vaughan and writer/director Elton Townend Jones.
The full list of these one-night shows, and details of a special deal if you book to see five for just £60, can be found on the theatre website https://www.oldlaundrytheatre.co.uk/
But our favourite of all is coming for the whole month in October. We’re great fans of musicals, and we will not miss Tell me on a Sunday, the unusual one-woman show by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black. It’s the story of an ordinary English girl heading for adventures in New York, and has been performed by Sarah Brightman and Denise Van Outen, while the title song was a big hit for Marti Webb. Here we will have the gorgeous Katie Birtill, with the Chrystie Street Band.
It’s like having the West End come to Windermere, so come and stay for a few days and experience the other side of the Lake District.
Five best places to see the autumn colours in the Lakes
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run
If William Wordsworth is the poet best associated with spring, then it’s fellow Romantic John Keats who perfectly captured autumn.
It’s a favourite time of the year for many people to visit the Lake District, a season when simply looking at the landscape can be as rewarding as hiking over it or sailing into it. We’re often asked by guests what are the optimum places to visit for the grandest colours. So, while it means leaving out some wonderful locations, these are the five very best locations in our view.
1: Brantwood estate and gardens, Coniston. This was the home of artist, writer and visionary John Ruskin and anyone who’s visited the house will see where he found his inspiration. But for a stunning autumn experience, take a look at Brantwood and its grounds from the other side of the lake, by the Boating Centre. Then by all means take the launch across the water for the close-up experience. http://www.conistonboatingcentre.co.uk/
2: Langdale, High Close arboretum. This is an astonishing estate in the grounds of the YHA hostel between Grasmere and Elterwater, open to all. The garden covers 11 acres and was originally planted in the 1860s by Edward Balme and was laid out in the fashion of the day using many recently discovered exotic conifers from north America. There were also plant species which became invasive weeds, but years of work by volunteers and the International Conifer Conservation Programme is bringing the estate back to life.
One of the most charming ways to get there is to take a bus to Ambleside and walk over – or around – one of favourite little mountains, Loughrigg. Then drop down through the arboretum grounds to the village of Chapel Stile in Langdale for another bus ride back. https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/garden/32578/.
3: And while you’re in Ambleside, take a look at the single most spectacular of autumn trees, the red maple in the grounds of the University of Cumbria. It’s always the last tree to lose its leaves, holding out against wind and weather, and attracting photographers from around the world.
4: This summer the car ferry across Windermere to the western shore has been out of service after a fire. But there’s still a replacement ferry for foot passengers, and what better way to explore the delightful Claife estate near Sawrey. The woodlands are at their most lovely, and you can visit the restored Claife viewing station for a very unusual framed view of the Lake.
5: Further afield, the northern and north western Lake District is full of treasures in autumn, but we think that the very best place to see an autumn sunset is across Derwentwater in the direction of Catbells. Of course, you will have climbed the delightful little mountain earlier in the day! Or maybe you simply lazed by the shore and had a coffee at our favourite Theatre by the Lake.
(We have the theatre programme here at the hotel if you want to go and see a play. It’s only a half hour drive, and the productions this season have been hailed by national critics.)
Sustainability in the Lakes
We’re very proud of our green credentials here at the Cedar Manor, and we have become used to media attention, especially after winning the Catey award for best sustainable hotel. We were also finalists at the Cumbria Tourism Awards this week in the category for Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism.
So we were very happy to give answer a media request for an interview…from a nine year old schoolboy.
Tom Ashworth, who goes to Ambleside Primary School, has been inspired by teenage climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg and wants to raise awareness of what’s being done here in the Lake District to save the planet – and what needs to be done.
He’s on our wavelength. He’s worried about people driving around the Lakes, which is why we fitted an electric car charging point here in our grounds. And why we promote the fact that there’s a bus stop right outside our gate, which takes you into the heart of the Lakes.
He’s worried about the number of visitors arriving by car into the Lake District, and of course we have been recommending that our guests travel by train, as we’re only a five-minute walk from the station at Windermere. And we’ve been lobbying the rail companies to improve services to the north west.
Tom’s a natural in front of the camera, a potential TV presenter in our view. And he’s very well informed, asking pertinent and sometimes difficult questions. The session was being filmed by his dad, Steve Ashworth, a professional cameraman (who’s only just got back from Scotland, where he was filming an extreme triathlon. It’s all in a day’s work…)
We were able to tell him that becoming a Green Hotel was very important for us at Cedar Manor. We love the Lake District and sharing the beauty of the National Park with our guests, but we do want to minimise the impact that we as a business has on the environment. Sustainable tourism takes the needs of our environment, local residents, their businesses and visitors into account.
We look forward to seeing Tom’s film, and have already had a sneak preview of his final message – to Donald Trump: climate change is NOT fake news. Good luck Tom, you’re a star.
Bagging the Wainwrights..... the hard way! (June 2019)
We’ve been getting out onto the hills again recently on our rare mornings off, and Jonathan has now proudly bagged 44 of the Wainwright summits. So only 170 left to go.
Imagine how we feel, then, to see that our Windermere neighbour Paul Tierney is determined to do them all. In one continuous journey of 320 miles. In just six days.
He’s done many of them already, of course. Paul is one of our local heroes, a runner with Ambleside AC who has the ability to set off running…and keep going…and going…and going.
But this time he wants the record, the one that was set by Steve Birkinshaw back in 2014 who, in turn, broke the record set by the legendary Joss Naylor in 1987. Joss’s time was 7 days 1 hour 25 minutes. Steve took that down to six days and 13 hours. Now Paul wants to see if he can do it faster still.
There’s no point asking, Why? In these parts, the fells dominate our lives every day, and no one with a soul (and a decent pair of lungs, and a decent pair of boots) can resist going up there to find the top. When Alfred Wainwright wrote his seven guidebooks to the Lakeland Fells, choosing 214 of them, he was inadvertently laying down a challenge.
Some people climb them meticulously, book by book. For others it’s a more random journey, that sudden realisation that you’ve done more than half, so why not set off to bag the rest? Some try to fit them into a timespan (usually longer than six days, though); we have a friend who took 42 years to tick them all off.
So those who are lucky enough to live in the Lakes, and those who love the Lakes, can understand the appeal. And anyone who has ever experienced the exhilaration of running fast down a mountainside will understand why Paul Tierney is hooked.
Even so, it’s an almighty challenge. Paul will have very little sleep. He’ll need people to run with him, to verify that he has indeed visited every summit, and to make sure he keeps eating all along the way. Supplies will need to be ferried out to remote valleys; running companions likewise. So it feels like a privilege to be able to help, to offer to pay for the transportation costs, as our small contribution to this giant effort.
One more motivation, for us, and for Paul, and for everyone cheering him on. Paul’s good friend and fellow athlete Chris Stirling died suddenly last month, and Paul is doing this run in honour of Chris’s memory. And raising money along the way for MIND, the mental health charity. So when you settle down to sleep, on any of those six days from June 14, spare a thought for Paul and his team of volunteers, running late into the night, snatching a couple of hours’ sleep in a van somewhere in a valley. And spare a bit of cash for the very good cause which is his driving force.
PS - who or what is a Wainwright??
Alfred Wainwright MBE was a British fellwalker, guidebook author and illustrator. His seven-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells, published between 1955 and 1966 and consisting entirely of reproductions of his manuscript, has become the standard reference work to 214 of the fells of the English Lake District. (and a fell is the Cumbrian name for a hill or mountain
Love is in the Lakes Air
It’s time to put a bit of romance back into your life.
How many couples go through the extravagance of a big wedding and an exotic honeymoon, and then wonder why life seems less than sparkling a year or so later?
Surveys both scientific and light-hearted say that a change of scene is one of the best ways to put some romance back into your life. (Don’t rely on gifts, they say. We all love chocolates and flowers, but if they’re only ever bought as an apology, the gesture wears thin!)
We’re delighted to have been voted no. 7 in the top 25 romantic hotels in the UK on TripAdvisor Travellers Choice for Romance 2019. Over the years we’ve become experts at what our romantic visitors want. These couples might be on a mini-honeymoon, taking an escape with someone special, celebrating an engagement, or even getting engaged here. And they all know that our special treats are very special indeed.
Throughout this year we’re offering a very special package for our Coach House suite, the ultimate in luxury with a private dining area and sitting room, spa bathroom and private parking.
A stay here is one of the most memorable and romantic Lake District breaks you will ever experience. The Coach House is tucked away in the Cedar Manor grounds, just a short distance from Windermere, so it offers you the best of both worlds – the full hotel experience, but with the indulgence of having your own private space.
Thanks to our award-winning interior designers, it’s an elegant and exciting hideaway which is the perfect combination of total privacy, yet with all your luxurious and high-tech home comforts – and more – at your fingertips.
The ground floor provides a super king-sized bedroom, and a dramatic bathroom. The striking pieces of furniture have been created by skilled local craftsmen, while the generously proportioned bathroom boasts a double spa airbath, double wash-basins and a double wetroom shower area, as well as mood lighting, television and a fantastic sound system.
Upstairs it’s bright, spacious and open plan, with a lounge and dining room, complete with a 42” flat screen TV and state-of-the-art entertainment system and Wi-Fi of course. There’s also a kitchenette – perfect for chilling your champagne and strawberries or satisfying the midnight munchies.
And if you really don’t want to step outside your door, you can eat breakfast or dinner in your own private dining room.
So here’s the deal. We’re offering a 3 night stay (midweek, Sunday to Thursday inclusive) for £999, which is a massive £301 saving on our usual rates.
- a bottle of Prosecco on arrival in the suite
- room service breakfast every morning
- dinner for 2 on the night of your choice in the hotel's fine dining restaurant
And outside, on our doorstep, is the most romantic landscape in the world, our beautiful fells and valleys, lakes and becks. It might be the moment to fall in love all over again.
A sense of Adventure in the Lakes - a spring blog, 2019
Lots of our guests are happy to come to the Lake District, walk up a hill or two, admire the views, enjoy the cream teas (and our amazing breakfasts, of course).
But there’s a new generation that wants a bigger piece of the action. They don’t want to watch what’s happening around them, they want to be out there doing it, being a part of it.
So here’s our favourite adventure activities in the Lake District for those of you looking for the adrenaline rush.
1: Take to the water with a Lake District Ranger. These are the people who sail up and down Windermere keeping an eye on everyone’s safety, and helping to maintain the ecology and wildlife of the lake. This trip combines incredible views with a very different and distinctive kind of adventure. You can learn to drive the boat yourself, or just sit back and learn about the work of the Rangers and the history of Windermere.
2. Or you could jump IN the lake. Open water swimming is one of the fastest growing pastimes here in the Lake District. Once you’ve experienced the waters of our lakes and rivers, you’ll never be happy with a chlorine-filled pool again. You can try long distance challenges, or if you’re new to the sport, there’s plenty of help available, along with kit to keep you a bit warmer in the water! Ambleside-based Swim the Lakes run training sessions and a wide range of activity days. We like the sound of the adventure swim to one of Ullswater’s more intriguing features – Devil’s Chimney, plus some of the less visited islands of Ullswater. This one is suitable for swimmers who can comfortably swim two miles in open water. And you get tea and cake as well.
3. Want to stay on dry land but get a real sense of adventure? Head to Honister and the Lake District’s own Via Ferrata, which uses a series of rungs, ladders and bridges along an old Victorian miners’ footpath to give you a high level thrill. It’s different from traditional rock climbing but still gives a sense of exposure on a rock face, while you’re securely clipped on. High? The Via Ferrata Extreme is twice as high as the Shard, and seven times the height of Big Ben. Skywalkers, step forward.
4. Prefer to be a bit closer to the ground? Why not try horse riding while you’re here in the Lakes. If you have some experience already, there’s a wonderful series of guided treks on fell ponies, using bridleways and fell paths, with different options for those who can already walk and trot, and even canter.
5. If you’re always drawn back to the water, the latest craze here and throughout the UK is SUP – stand-up paddle boarding. The boards look like surf boards and are paddled using a single blade paddle from a standing position. The simplicity and versatility of SUP means they can be ridden easily on our lakes and rivers. It’s easy to learn and great fun as well as being an excellent core muscle workout
But what would WE choose ourselves? To be honest, there’s nothing finer than to try the most basic but most satisfying adventure of all. Get yourself a map, a Wainwright guide, a compass, decent walking shoes and a few extra layers, and DIY it. Head up into the hills, under your own steam, for the ultimate sense of satisfaction.
And ALWAYS be adventure smart: the best advice comes together here in a new campaign launched in the Lakes.
Book Directly with us for your Staycation - a blog from Spring 2019
Wise travellers are realising that the best deals for a staycation are no longer found with the big multi-national booking agencies.
It’s common sense really. How can a web-based system, hosted in another country, know what’s the perfect room for a couple coming to stay for a weekend in Windermere?
How can they explain about our breakfast menu, about the valuable knowledge we have of the local fells, about the attention our staff will pay to their very individual needs, from their choice of peppermint tea at bedtime to the strength of their coffee in the morning?
We have always encouraged prospective guests to book direct with us, and that’s where they will get the very best deal … because we’re not having to pay commission fees.
Here in the Lakes our local Cumbria Tourism has set up a Fair Booking scheme which encourages visitors to book direct with accommodation providers. The campaign aims to help businesses be less dependent on multi-national Online Travel Agents (OTAs), so we can avoid the high commission fees they have to pay when advertising on these channels, and YOU get the best rate available.
There’s much more to it than that. Fair Booking assures customers that with
every direct booking a donation is made to an approved good cause that supports destinations, such as a woodland/wildlife conservation group or a rescue service.
You also get the local welcome, with visitor experiences and added value, while supporting the local economy and environment of your chosen destination.
Here at the Cedar Manor we are very proud of the help we give to the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, to the mountain rescuers and the red squirrel protectors, and to the very critical work being done by our local Fix the Fells team.
All of these are organisations whose work will enhance your visit to Windermere and the Lake District.
And there’s the added flexibility for you by booking direct, if something goes wrong and you have to change your plans.
So please, before you go ahead and book online, just pick up the phone and give us a call. If you’ve been before, you’ll know how approachable we are. If you’ve not, then of course you might want to check what others have been saying about us on review sites. But use them as a guide, and then book direct with us.
All the travel experts will now advise that the best room, rate, service and stay come from booking with the hotel directly. There’s the issue of accountability: when the reservation relationship is between the guest and the hotel only, it's clean and easy because there are only two parties involved: the customer and the business. So give us a call. We will talk about our rooms, about which one will suit you best, about how to get here easily by train so you can relax and leave the car at home. We can even tell you what the weather’s doing right now! We’re really looking forward to meeting you.
Backgammon in the Lake District (March 2019)
Board champion takes Lakes and Cumbria title
The Lake District backgammon championship title went to David Gallagher from Silloth in West Cumbria.
In the sixth annual tournament here at the Cedar Manor Hotel, Gallagher defeated Zohrab Yoncali in the final.
The event attracted 16 top players from across the UK. Another Cumbrian, Alan Farrell, beat Martin Barkwill in the consolation final. Farrell, who comes from Whitehaven, lived for many years in Windermere.
The winner took a cash prize and a two night stay at the hotel. There was also a cash prize for the runner up.
The championship, which has the backing of the UK Backgammon Federation and the British Isles Backgammon Association, was launched by Cedar Manor owner Jonathan Kaye who said: “It was a great day with some thrilling matches.”
He added: “We are now recognised as one of the major tournaments on the UK calendar.”
Up for Auction - a piece of Fell-Running history!!!
The map used at mission control for Paul Tierney’s record-breaking run round the Lakeland fells is to be auctioned for charity.
We asked if it could be done…but we still want to put in a bid ourselves, for this piece of Lakeland history.
The special map, printed for the occasion by Harvey Map Services, has the line of the route over the 214 Wainwrights outlined in red. It has been signed by Paul Tierney who set a new record of six days, six hours and five minutes for the run.
After sponsoring Paul’s run, providing funds to transport his supporters and his food supplies, we watched the whole challenge on the tracker, and still can’t quite believe how anyone could move so fast!
The map was used throughout the run at the Ambleside HQ from where Paul’s run was monitored, and from where his supplies – and his team of pacers – were co-ordinated.
Harvey Map Services have given their blessing for the auction which will raise further funds of the mental health charity MIND. Paul’s run has already brought in more than £30,000, in memory of his friend and fellow runner Chris Stirling who died earlier this year.
Chris Beacock of Harvey’s said that the whole staff had avidly followed Paul’s progress on the online tracker and were very happy that the map had been useful.
As runners ourselves…and we’re ticking off the Wainwrights, one at a time… we know that this challenge gripped the imagination of everyone who loves the Lakeland hills.
It was a truly remarkable piece of fell-running history. And we really want to support the charity to raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly among the fit and active.
The online auction will take place on August 5 and 6, hosted and lived streamed by 1818 auctioneers. https://www.1818auctioneers.co.uk/auctions/two-day-catalogued-specialist-auction-5/
Photo: Record-breaker Paul Tierney signing the map of his route
Cumbria County Fairs
There are strange happenings in the Lakeland valleys in the summer time.
Grown men…often very large grown men….can be seen in an unusual costume, comprising white long johns underneath brightly embroidered shorts. And thus attired, they grapple with one another in the middle of a field.
Meanwhile, the betting booths are open not for horse racing, but for dog races the like of which you’ve never seen before. The trail hounds leaping around the fellside for miles, on steep and rocky ground, is a spectacle like no other.
But if neither Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling , nor hound trails, take your fancy, how about watching the very antithesis of the Tour de France, grass track sprint cycling? And then there’s always the fell races, where mere mortals (from the age of 8 upwards) run as fast as possible up a steep hillside and then plummet down again.
It’s showtime in the Lakes, from the small but perfectly formed Coniston Country Fair this weekend, to the massive Westmorland County Show in September.
But our favourite is on next week, Ambleside Sports, always staged on the last Thursday of July at Rydal Park, about five miles north from here (and on the bus route). This is the oldest and most traditional of the Lakes’ sporting events, running for well over 130 years.
There are craft stalls and local produce for sale, a beer tent, and plenty of opportunities to eat Cumberland sausage, but the sports themselves are the real attraction. As well as the guides races – that’s the short dash up and down a steep slope – there’s also the gruelling nine mile chase of the Rydal Round, over all the summits in the Fairfield Horseshoe. Come and see some of the country’s top athletes in action.
The grass cycle track racing is held in the central arena, with a spectacularly exciting event called Devil Take the Hindmost. And in the wrestling arena, this year they are hosting the world championship for juniors.
It’s a brilliant day out, and if you’re coming to stay we can provide you with plenty more information about this and other country fairs throughout Cumbria. You might even be tempted to join in if you’re a good sport!
Why is Windermere popular?
Lake Windermere is the largest lake in the Lake District at 14.8 square kilometres, and the largest natural lake in England. It has been one of the country’s most popular places for holidays since the Kendal and Windermere railway branch line arrived in 1847. There are two distinct towns near Lake Windermere – Bowness-on-Windermere, situated on the shores of Lake Windermere, and the town of Windermere, which is about half a mile away from the Lake itself. Cedar Manor is situated in the town of Windermere, just 5 minutes walk from the train station.
Cedar Manor is ideally located for exploring, with footpaths to the lake shore (Miller Ground) and to the top of our local hill; Orrest Head for a fabulous view.
The bus stop is just outside our gates with buses going to Grasmere, Coniston, Ambleside, Keswick, Ullswater and beyond - we have the timetables and routes to help you plan your days.
Which is better, Windermere or Keswick?
It depends on your needs, but both are beautiful lakeside towns.
Windermere is more developed for tourism and has a large selection of accommodation, in particular at the luxury end of the market. Local attractions and activities include the World of Beatrix Potter, Brockhole, Holehird Gardens, sailing and canoe hire, plus Windermere Cruises.
Keswick is a bit further to travel to, and may not suit daytrippers and coach parties but has access to more rugged scenery. Local attractions and activities include the pencil museum, the jazz and mountain festivals, the theatre by the lake, two parks, a cinema and Keswick launch for trips round the lake or boat hire.
What to do in Windermere when it rains?
If the weather is wet, why not take a trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, including an optional section by boat. https://www.lakesiderailway.co.uk/
See Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs. Tiggy-winkle and all their friends at the definitive Beatrix Potter Attraction. http://www.hop-skip-jump.com/
Enjoy close encounters with hundreds of amazing creatures including trout, eels, pike, perch, giant crabs, rays and many more at the Aquarium of the Lakes in Windermere. https://lakesaquarium.co.uk/
Or visit the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, a unique place combining Library and Museum, scholarship and fun, art and entertainment. http://armitt.com/
Launch of the boating season in the Lakes
Easter sees the launch of the boating season in the Lakes, and the best reminder of why we’re called the “Lake” District.
And with Easter being later than usual this year, there’s a really good chance of some good boating weather to enjoy being out on the water, or next to it.
So here’s our top five boating experiences in the Lakes:
1. We have to start with our brand new Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories. It’s been a long time in the planning and building, but we’re really excited by what we’ve seen so far. The whole place is a celebration of Windermere’s importance in the Lake District, one of the world’s most important collections of boats related to a single location. There’s working steamers, a conservation workshop, exhibitions, regular events and, of course, a Lakeside café. See the website to plan your whole day there.
Windermere Lake Cruises will also be calling at the Jetty on the regular service from Bowness to Ambleside. You should also look at all the cruises on Windermere including our favourite the Walkers Ticket.
Cruises connect to some of the most famous and iconic walking routes in the National Park, and if you are lucky you might still catch a glimpse of Wordsworth's Daffodils on the west shore of the lake.
2. If we were forced to name our favourite Lake, it would be hard to ignore Ullswater. Its serpentine shape and stunning position with high ranges of fells on either side make this an artist’s dream location, and a great place for dreamers, too. The Ullswater steamers provide the best way to see the lake itself, and the best view of the surrounding mountains. They have been operating for more than 150 years with one of the largest heritage vessel fleets in the world.
Onboard there are open and covered deck seating areas, licensed bars and toilets. The steamers actually operate an all year service with varying timetable connections between Glenridding, Howtown, Pooley Bridge Piers and between Glenridding and National Trust Aira Force Pier. Cruise times vary from 20 – 120 minutes.
3. After a winter out of the water for maintenance, the historic steam yacht Gondola is back sailing on Coniston now. It’s a re-built Victorian vessel that offers the chance of an experience that takes you back to a more leisurely era, riding in style in the opulent saloons or relaxing in the sun on the open deck. We love Coniston for its connections with Donald Campbell, the hero of the Lake District who died here attempting the world water speed record. And for the stories of Arthur Ransome in the Swallows and Amazons series which are set on the lake itself, and on the fell territory all around. The “Wild Cat Island” of the stories lies at the foot of the lake, while the majestic Old Man of Coniston (which the children in the books rename Kanchenchunga) can be seen at its best from the water.
4. On Derwentwater the Keswick Launch Company offers the best way to see the fabulous hills of the northern Lake District. Derwentwater, which is three miles long, can be cruised in a 50 minute round boat trip from Keswick. But you can also use the boats as a water-bus service, disembarking at one of the eight jetties en-route and walk back via well-marked paths to famous landmarks such as Ashness Bridge, Lodore Falls, Grange in Borrowdale, Brandelhow and Lingholm, the holiday home of Beatrix Potter. The cruises sail past four islands, now owned by the National Trust and each with its own special history: Derwent Island, Lord’s Island, Rampsholme and St Herbert’s Island.
The four launches have open and covered decks and operate on a regular timetable throughout the year. Rowing boats and motor cruisers are also available for hire so you can explore the lake at your own pace.
5. This is the smallest, and quirkiest of all boating experiences, a visit to the magical Faeryland at Grasmere. It’s a tiny bay on the north shore of the lake, a five minute walk from the village centre, which has a handful of pretty rowing boats for hire. There’s a tea garden, with a vast range of teas on offer (try their Faery blend) and a basic menu of scones and cakes. And there are fairies galore in the garden if you go looking for them.
By the way, want to know why Easter is so much later this year? Well, the holiday, in the Christian church celebrating Christ’s resurrection, can actually occur on any Sunday between March 22 and April 25.
It's set to coincide with the vernal equinox, a day when the sun shines directly on the equator and the majority of the earth experiences nearly equal hours of sunlight and night-time, which signals the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere
Because Christ's death and resurrection happened after the Jewish Passover, which is celebrated on the first full moon after the equinox, early Christians wanted Easter to always take place following Passover, so Easter falls on a different date each year because it, like Passover, is tied to solar and lunar cycles.
The Top 5 Golf Courses in the Lake District:
(including a couple just outside the Lakes but within Cumbria)
The Lake District offers a lot of extreme sporting adventures, from mountain biking to fell running and climbing, there’s something for all sporting backgrounds. The Lakes landscape also lends itself to other, non-extreme sports, such as golf, some of the most beautiful courses in the North of England being here. The beautiful backdrops of the Fells and Lakes, along with some great clubhouses, and stunning 18-hole courses, create the atmosphere for a perfect game of golf, here in the Lake District.
1. Windermere Golf Club
Windermere Golf Club was established in 1891, and is one of the oldest clubs in Cumbria. It is in the heart of the Lake District, offering breath-taking views of Windermere and the surrounding fells. The course is described as “unique”, “challenging” and as having a “joyous layout” (http://www.windermeregolfclub.co.uk).
The 18-hole course has no man-made bunkers, due to the course being in the centre of the Lakes, a world heritage site, and uses natural hazards, created by heather and bracken. It also features rocky outcrops, natural water hazards, and narrow fairways to create a challenge for all levels.
On a clear day, there is 360° views of Morecambe Bay to the south, Coniston old man to the west, Langdale and Fairfield horseshoe to the north, the high Street to the north-east and Pennines to the east.
There is a similar, simple online booking system to Carus Green, and prices range from £20 - £25 for adults, and £12.50 for juniors. It can also be booked on the day, at the clubhouse on the course.
2. Carus Green Golf Course
This 18 hole, parkland, golf course is described as a “stiff but fair test” on their website (http://www.carusgreen.co.uk). It is located on the edge of the Lake District, about 1 mile away from the historic town of Kendal, the gateway to the Lakes.
Carus Green is surround by idyllic views of the surrounding Cumbria countryside and Kentmere Fells, and the beautiful views only add to the game. There are three rivers which run through the course; the River Kent, the River Mint and the River Sprint, adding variety and interest to the course and creating natural water hazards across five different holes.
Though it was opened in 1996, it was recently remodelled, and is quickly becoming a favourite of the locals and visitors alike. It is a very hospitable course, with a newly remodelled clubhouse with bar and restaurant, and hospitable rules, such as its unrestricted guest policy, for the club. The course is quickly becoming one of the most popular in Cumbria and the North West, hosting Northern PGA events each year.
Visitors, and members, are able to easily book online a “tee time”, as well as booking in person at the course. Online booking costs around £18 for one player, £36 for two, £54 for three, and £72 for four players.
3. Kirkby Lonsdale Golf Club
The Kirkby Lonsdale Golf Club offers players men’s and women’s 18-hole courses set in the beautiful Lune Valley, on the border between the Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales. Set across 160 acres, the course is designed to follow the natural, rolling terrain of the Valley and surrounding fells, creating an extremely exciting experience for the players.
The courses are described as a challenge but enjoyable, with a mixture of short and long holes, with well-kept, lush fairways. The scenic location, allows for a peaceful game, alone or with friends, and provides beautiful views as a backdrop.
Prices vary depending on the time of day, but range between £12 and £15 for a single player, £24 and £30 for two, £36-£45 for three, and £48-£60 for four people. You can book online through the website (http://www.kirkbylonsdalegolfclub.com) or can book at the club.
There is a pro shop, bar and restaurant available in the clubhouse. Club hire, trolley hire, and buggy hire is also available upon request.
4. Keswick Golf Club
Set in the heart of the northern Lakes, Keswick Golf Club offers beautiful 18-hole parkland course. It offers players a challenge, measuring just over 6200 yards, and is very well-laid out, offering a stunning golfing experience.
The views surrounding the course have been described as breath-taking, and often taking the players attention away from the golf so that they can admire the scenery. The course offers panoramic views of the Fells surrounding Keswick, such as Blencathra, Skiddaw, and the Helvellyn range.
The beautiful course uses features from the natural landscape surrounding the course, having tight, tree-lined fairways, and strategically placed bunkers to create an enjoyable and exciting experience for players. It also offers practice facilities for all abilities, including a putting green, two pitching greens, and a 300-yard practice fairway, close to the first hole’s tee.
Booking is available online and rates start at £12.50, for a single player, for the whole 18-hole course.
5. Eskdale Golf Course
Eskdale Golf Course, near the small costal village of Ravenglass, in the Eskdale Valley, is a secluded 18-hole parkland course, measuring just under 5500 yards. It is enjoyable for all levels experience, and offers stunning views.
The views and the challenging, and interesting, layout attract golfers each year, as it is designed for to create difficulty for even the most skilled player. Henry Cotton, three times open champion in the 1940s helped in the course development and layout, to create a skilful and exciting game for all golfers.
They have a signature 14th hole, which is 151 yards long with an elevated tee looking across the green, which is set within a vast trout pond. Golfers will need an accurate shot to stay out of trouble.
The Esk Café is run from the club house and offers a wide selection of homemade cakes and snacks, and hot and cold drinks at the end of the course.
Booking is available via email, or over the phone, as there is no online booking system. However, booking a ‘tee time’ is well worth the phone call, as this beautiful course will be a great game for all.
Top Five Places to Go Mountain Biking in the Lake District
Remember the joy when you got your first bike? We think mountain bikers are just big kids who never found anything better than whizzing down a hill on two wheels. The Lake District offers the perfect terrain, and lots of great facilities, for cyclists who want a thrill.
1: Claife Heights: Windermere
This stunning route runs alongside Lake Windermere. It runs through the surrounding woodland, full of steep uphill climbs and brisk descents. With amazing views and plenty of places to stop for refreshments along the way, this is the ideal trail for junior riders and newcomers to the world of mountain biking.
The ride starts at Sawrey, and up the tracks across Claife Heights, leading you into the beautiful and lively village of Hawkshead. Once you’ve passed through the village, the trail returns into the woodland areas of Grizedale Forest, full of exciting woodland tracks, before returning to the lakeside.
2: The Nan Bield Loop, Staveley
A route for the more experienced mountain bikers visiting the area, this trail offers some of the most astonishing views that the Lakes have to offer. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, as it one of the more difficult rides in the area.
Just shy of being 10 miles long, this route starts at the end of Longsleddale valley, in a place called Sadgill, which is an area popular amongst walkers as well. Following along the valley, the ride continues along heading toward Gatesgarth Pass, a steady climb which quickly transforms into a tougher series of rocky zig-zagged tracks. Once at the top of the Pass, you begin a descent down to Haweswater. This section of the trail allows for some breath-taking views of the Lake District.
The climb begins again at the bottom, leading past the beautiful waterfall, on the left hand side of the valley. This is the start of the Nan Bield Pass, a very technical mountain bike trail. After reaching the top of this Pass, the descent is more difficult. There are areas of steep and technical tracks, leading to boulder tracks, above Kentmere reservoir. After passing this area, the descent become slightly easier and more gradual, a lot less challenging than before, and allows time for you to take in the idyllic scenery. You’ll eventually end up in Kentmere village, which has a track back to Sadgill, where the route began.
3: The Borrowdale Bash
One of the favourites for mountain bikers around the Lakes, and those coming to visit, the Borrowdale Bash is rideable for all abilities of mountain biking. At around 18 miles long, the trail involves lots of climbing.
The trail involves a road climb towards Honister Slate Mines, with multiple descents towards the beautiful town, and starting point of the trail, Keswick, which is surrounded by Cat Bels fell. After starting in Keswick, the trail moves along the east bank of Derwent Water and up the hill towards Ashness Bridge and Watendlath Tarn. This quickly leads to unmissable views of Borrowdale Valley, which create a perfect setting for one of the best trials in the Lakes.
According to the experts (lakesmtb.co.uk), this is one of the most rewarding tracks in the Lakes. The trail follows alongside the east shore of Ullswater, but is far from an easy flat-shore ride.
A rarely flat, single track trail, with a lot of surprises along the way including rock steps, steep slabs and boulder fields, it is described as a test of skill and nerve. There are reasons to ride the track in both directions, however, starting at the south of Ullswater means you get to experience the amazing descent to Silver point, passing between the east side of Silver Crag and Birk Fell. The epic final descent back to Ullswater from Boredale Hause, finishes the trail off perfectly, with stunning views, technical single-track trails, and the beautiful finish line is in sight all the way down.
5: Walna Scar
One of the classic, and most challenging routes in the Lake District, it is very popular among experienced mountain bikers who visit and live in the area. The trail leads over the high mountain pass on Walna Scar, and descends to the beautiful starting point of Coniston.
The starting point is Torver, just south of Coniston, a small village with a lovely pub and deli to get refreshments at the beginning and end of the journey. From Torver, the trail follows the main road from m the village, and leads to an uphill climb, and into a wooded area on the right near the top. This then leads to a descent along the fire trail, until you hit another windy road climb on the other side of the woods, which leads up onto the fells over Coniston. Following this section of the trail, there is a brilliant single-track segment which leads to the Seathwaite descent, which is a very technical and fast descent towards the daunting Walna Scar road.
The Walna Scar road is very difficult and requires a high level of fitness, but it leads to an easier section near the quarry buildings, which is easier to ride in comparison to Walna Scar road. Then you’re on your way to the summit of the fell, which has the fun and technical descent back down to Coniston and Torver on the other side.
The top five drives in the Lake District
1. The thrill-seeker
This one’s for the adrenaline-junkie and is the quickest route to hilltop heaven from our front gate. In fact, a recent visitor who came in a Caterham sports car, wrote that: “I knew it was going to be fun. In actual fact it was so much fun that I drove back up again to have another go.”
It’s the Kirkstone Pass of course, and you can do a mini round trip from Windermere and back via Ambleside by taking this route. From Cook’s roundabout on the A591, turn right and head up through Troutbeck village till you emerge onto a high-level road through bleak fell country. At the summit of the pass, you’ll find the Kirkstone Pass Inn, at 1500ft the highest inhabited building in Cumbria and the third highest Inn in England.
Stop off for a coffee if your pulse isn’t racing fast enough yet. Then take the left turn down hill, a winding road with awesome view of Windermere down below, in places with a gradient of 1 in 3. The steepest sections and tightest corners are near the bottom; you’ll see now why it’s known as The Struggle.
Down in Ambleside, take a left back onto the A591 and a sedate journey back to the Cedar Manor.
Approx 14 miles.
Playlist: Key to the highway
2. The one to take your granny on a Sunday afternoon
No hairpins, no sudden gear changes, but a delightful circular tour of Windermere with terrific lake views, and plenty of interesting places to stop along the way. From the hotel, turn left onto the main road, then left again at the roundabout and head down Rayrigg Road to Bowness.
This is the sweetest of all the Lake District honeypots, tourists buzzing like bees around the jetties and moorings. But don’t stop here; follow the road south into quieter, wooded countryside, where millionaires’ homes are hidden behind tall gates and tall hedges. There are tantalising glimpses of the water as you get near to Fell Foot park, and this is a good place to stop on a sunny day, take a gentle stroll down to the lake shore, and watch the sailors, rowers and open water swimmers in action.
At Newby Bridge turn right at the roundabout, then immediately right again and come back north up the winding road which brings you eventually to Hawkshead, another great place to park for an hour, wander round the gift shops, maybe see the school where William Wordsworth learned to write.
Then for extra entertainment, head back south along the far shore of Esthwaite Water to the lakeshore just beyond Sawrey (home of Beatrix Potter) and take the car ferry back to Bowness.
Approx. 30 miles.
Playlist: Baby you can drive my car
3. The one that Storm Desmond washed away
Seems hard to imagine now, but for five long months in 2016, the main road north to Keswick was closed beyond Grasmere after torrential rain brought tons of rock down the mountainside, and washed away some of the road’s surface. The drive now gives a microscopic view of the miracles of modern engineering, and some of the best views in the whole of England, according to several surveys. We won’t argue with that, and we often advise guests to go there and back again, maybe to the Theatre by the Lake on the shore of Derwentwater, or to Keswick’s lively street market (Thursday and Saturday). But actually, the best thrill isn’t in a car. It’s sitting on the front seat upstairs on the bus for the return journey; folk pay a premium for adventure rides like this at theme parks.
Approx 42 miles
Playlist: Cars hiss by my window
4. The full monty
You want to see the whole of the Lakes, in a day? We advise setting off early on this one, so that you can get over the passes before the roads get too busy.
What passes? Wrynose and Hardknott, of course, and we’re going to throw in the Blea Tarn Road for good measure. So head north, take the road around the head of the lake at Waterhead, and follow the signs for Langdale.
Once past the Old Dungeon Ghyll, you’d be forgiven for imagining this was road’s end. But at Stool End the road turns right and takes you on a delightful drive past one of several Blea Tarns, to a very rural looking junction. Here’s where the faint-hearted turn left and come home through Little Langdale (and it IS very lovely) but you’ve got adventure in your soul and an urge in your wheels, so turn right and start climbing over Wrynose.
It’s a single track road climbing to 1,281 feet, and just before the summit you’ll see the Three Shires Stone, marking the old boundary between the three counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire. The descent to Wrynose Bottom is bleak and uncompromising; the fun has yet to start.
Instead of taking the left turn to the Duddon Valley (also very lovely) you’ll go ahead over Hardknott Pass, at 1,289 ft only a tad higher than Wrynose, but with the tightest bends, steepest corners and adverse camber of any road in England. Much of it is 1 in 3, and even once you’re over the top and heading down into Eskdale, there’s no chance to relax, though your passengers might enjoy the view of the Roman fort on the right.
Take the rest of the day at your own pace, through Eskdale to the coast, north on the A 595 through St Bees and Whitehaven, and then pick up the A66 and head back here via Keswick. We’ll have a cocktail waiting for you; you’ll have earned it.
Approx 90 miles
Playlist: Drive all night
5. A tribute to the speed king
Here’s a circular tour of Coniston Water where you drive at a safe and sedate pace while playing tribute to Donald Campbell, the British speed record breaker who broke eight absolute world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s. He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year (1964).
It was in 1967 during an attempt on the water speed record that Campbell’s boat, Bluebird, somersaulted and sank after reaching a peak speed of 328 mph. Campbell’s body wasn’t recovered till 2001.
The lake today is a peaceful and calm place, and we’ll suggest you take the road first to Hawkshead, turning right just before the village to head over past Tarn Hows, to a left turn that will take you along the eastern shore of the lake. You’ll pass Bank Ground Farm, where Arthur Ransome set his Swallows and Amazons stories, and Brantwood, the home of artist, writer and visionary John Ruskin.
After Nibthwaite at the southern end, turn right and head back north via Torver till you reach the village of Coniston. A detour (right, before the petrol station ) will take you to the boat landings and the Bluebird Café, named after Campbell’s craft. The return will bring you back to Ambleside via Yew Tree Tarn and Skelwith Bridge.
Approx 40 miles.
Playlist: Cars and guitars
And finally, a little quiz. The next person booking a 2 night mid-week break with us who can name the artists who recorded all five songs in our playlist will have a bottle of Prosecco waiting for them on arrival.
Five rainy day things to do in the Lakes
We don’t want anyone to think that it rains in the Lake District…but without the rain, there would be no lakes! So we make the most of rainy days, because there’s so much you can do while keeping warm and dry.
Here’s five of our favourites.
- Allan Bank at Grasmere is one of the many homes of William Wordsworth, but until a few years ago was a private home. Now the National Trust has opened it to the public, and it’s a visitor attraction with a difference, still a work in progress with the atmosphere of a bustling family home. There’s a crafts room where you’re encouraged to try traditional handcrafting, such as weaving and knitting, with step-by-step instructions for complete novices. There’s a study with a collection of books, journals and newspapers, not a formal library, so help yourself to a cup of tea in the kitchen (free), find a comfy chair and peruse at your leisure. And there’s an art room, a great place to paint and draw, with all you need to have a go, and a wonderful view for inspiration. Check the website for opening times. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/allan-bank-and-grasmere#Opening%20times
- Heaton Cooper Studio is also in Grasmere, in the centre of the village. The Lake District centre for the interpretation of the landscape, it houses the paintings of three generations of the Heaton Cooper family of artists. There are framed prints for sale, along with artists’ materials, books and very classy gifts. The café, Mathildes, has a Scandinavian theme and a fabulous view up to the mountains. The archive gallery features visiting exhibitions, and from November 15 will be showing Mountain of Destiny, a series of previously unseen photographs of a remarkable expedition to Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, by a German team 90 years ago. The photographs are from the private collection of the British transport officer on the expedition. Free entry. https://www.heatoncooper.co.uk/mountain-of-destiny/
- Grayson Perry, the artist known for his ceramic vases, tapestries and cross-dressing, as well as his observations of the contemporary arts scene, and for dissecting British prejudices, fashions and foibles, has an exhibition at Kendal’s Abbott Hall gallery from November 9. Julie Cope's Grand Tour: The Story of a Life by Grayson Perry highlights a fictional character, an Essex everywoman whose story Perry tells through the tapestries and extended ballad presented in this Crafts Council touring exhibition. The tapestries are shown alongside a graphic installation, and specially commissioned audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope, a 3000 word narrative written and read by Perry himself that illuminates Julie’s hopes and fears as she journeys through life. https://www.abbothall.org.uk/graysonperry
- Windermere Lake Cruises operate all year round, and the bigger vessels, while having fascinating histories, have all modern conveniences, so you can stay warm and dry while taking to England’s largest lake. You can sail from Bowness to Ambleside, for example, in a centrally-heated saloon with licensed bar and café on board. Or you can sail south to visit attractions such as the Lakes Aquarium (https://lakesaquarium.co.uk/opening-times/?doing_wp_cron=1539341344.5495119094848632812500) or Lakeland Motor Museum (see below). https://www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk/timetables
- Lakeland Motor Museum has a fascinating collection of over 30,000 exhibits that trace the development of road transport throughout the twentieth century - cycles, motorbikes, motor cars and automobilia. Housed in a converted mill near the south end of Windermere, there are also local history and period shopping displays, authentic recreations and a café, making it a great day out for the whole family. Open every day except Christmas Day. https://www.lakelandmotormuseum.co.uk/visiting/pricing
In search of Beatrix Potter - our tips for 7 lovely places to find Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter is loved by children and grown-ups alike throughout the world. And here in Windermere we are in the heart of Peter Rabbit country, so here’s our choice of the best places to find the spirit of the wonderful writer, illustrator – and natural scientist.
The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness is a charming visitor attraction filled with larger than life characters from Peter Rabbit and other stories. There’s a Peter Rabbit garden, a very tasteful gift and book shop, a café, and – in the same building – the Old Laundry Theatre which has staged a musical show, Where is Peter Rabbit, for the past few summers. Even the website address keeps the spirit of Beatrix alive: http://www.hop-skip-jump.com/
Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey just across the lake from Bowness was Beatrix Potter’s home for many years. The house is full of fascinating objects that she collected, giving a glimpse into her magpie mind. Some are antiques, others items that she collected and brought to the Lakes. It’s a shrine for visitors from all over the world, and queues are long in summer. In the winter months, opening times are limited so do check the website. The gardens and shop are sometimes open even when the house is closed. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/place-pages/174/pages/opening-times-calendar
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is in Hawkshead village which inspired many of Beatrix Potter’s illustrations including Jonny Town-Mouse. The building used to be her husband’s solicitors practice. Now owned by the National Trust, the gallery is dedicated to presenting original book illustrations. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatrix-potter-gallery-and-hawkshead
Brockhole, the Lake District national park’s visitor centre, was once the home of Beatrix's cousin Edith who married a merchant William Gaddum. A new restaurant on the site is named after him. There’s a Beatrix Potter trail around the beautiful lakeshore grounds which provide a home to many of the creatures who appear in Beatrix Potter's tales. And the centre even shares its name with Mr Brock the badger. https://www.brockhole.co.uk/plan-your-visit/
Lingholm is an estate on the western shore of Derwentwater where Beatrix Potter spent ten happy summers enjoying the English countryside while staying in the Victorian mansion. The grounds inspired many of her 23 children’s classics, but especially Squirrel Nutkin. The walled garden, where there’s now a wonderful café, is thought to be the inspiration for Mr McGregor’s garden in Peter Rabbit. https://thelingholmestate.co.uk/the-estate/kitchen-walled-garden/
Littletown in the valley of Newlands, between Keswick and Buttermere, is named in the Beatrix Potter story about Mrs Tiggywinkle – which was the name of Beatrix’s own pet hedgehog. The distinctive outline of the popular mountain called Cat Bells can be seen in her illustrations. But though Cat Bells sounds like a Beatrix Potter creation, it’s actually a distortion of 'Cat Bields', meaning 'the home of the wild cat'. Stop off to see the lovely Newlands Church. https://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/newlands-valley/
The Armitt Museum in Ambleside is one of the most unusual small museums in the country and is home to a wonderful collection of the work of Beatrix Potter as a mycologist and artist. Mycology is the study of mushrooms and fungi, and Beatrix intended originally to make a career as a natural scientist. Her scholarly paper, On the germination of the spores of agaricinae, was presented to the Linnean Society in London – by a man, as women were not allowed to do so. It was the basis for great advances in study subsequently, but – perhaps upset by the chances denied to women - Beatrix subsequently abandoned her scientific career to write children’s books. The Armitt offers a chance to see another side of this fascinating character. Closed Mondays. http://armitt.com/armitt_website/beatrix-potter/
Top Lakeshore walks and boat rides
It’s the LAKE District, folks, so what better way to start a walk than to take a sail across one of our Lakes. It’s the best kind of public transport, with a sense of both romance and excitement added to the anticipation of the walk ahead.
We’ve chosen four lakeshore walks that start with a voyage, beginning with our very favourite over at Ullswater. With all of these, do check timetables in advance. Some routes have a limited service in winter, or in very windy weather.
1: Ullswater shore walk:
This is the second largest of the English Lakes, and many say the most beautiful. The lake is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery in the south, softening to gentle hills at its northern reaches. The views, however, are spectacular throughout its length, from either shore or from the middle of the lake.
Your journey starts in Glenridding, a small and lively village which happens to be the starting point for many of the routes up to the Helvellyn range. The entire village and many of its houses and hotels were badly damaged by the floods during Storm Desmond, but the recovery has been determined and dramatic.
The Ullswater steamers https://www.ullswater-steamers.co.uk/ run one of the largest heritage vessel fleets in the world all the year round. You need a ticket for Howtown, a voyage of about 20 minutes, where you disembark in what feels like the middle of nowhere. Your walk back to Glenridding will take around three or four hours, but if you’re not in a hurry, why not bag a Wainwright…Hallin Fell..at the start. It’s a lovely little mountain, just over 1000 feet high and with superb views from the top.
Routefinding back to Glenridding is no problem; just keep the lake on your right. But the path is stony, and there’s a lot of ups and downs. You’ll be very glad to see the welcoming café at Beckside Farm at around the half way point, but back at the finish, you’ll have a tremendous sense of achievement.
2: Coniston shore
This is a much shorter and easier walk but especially lovely on an autumn day. Make your way to the boat landings by the Blue Bird Café (where you’ll be glad of a coffee at the end of the walk) and book a ticket on the Campbell or the Cygnet https://www.conistonlaunch.co.uk/to Torver Pier.
The exotic-looking Gondola, a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht operated by the National Trust, does lake cruises but doesn’t stop at Torver. You’ll see why when you get there. It’s a very small pontoon-style jetty, at a tiny shingle beach backed by pine woods. There may well be other passengers waiting to embark as you step down onto the path.
A newly-built wooden bridge over a little beck takes you to the start of your homeward journey. Again, just keep the lake on your right, so there are no routefinding problems, just lovely views across the lake to Ruskin’s house at Brantwood, and a quiet track well away from any traffic.
You’ll pass through several campsites, the last of them belonging to historic Coniston Hall with its distinctive chimneys, a farmhouse that’s more than 400 years old but built on a much older site. After that there’s a temporary detour away from the lake shore, around Coniston Sailing Club, before you arrive back at the boat landings and the café, with its famous association with Donald Campbell, the world water speed record holder who died in a record attempt in his vessel, Bluebird, in 1966.
3: Derwentwater shore
Let’s head north now, for Derwentwater, the picturesque lake that lies just south of Keswick and takes the eye – and the traveller – into beautiful Borrowdale. The boat landings are on the edge of town just past the Theatre by the Lake, and it’s wise to check the timetables in advance: the Keswick launch https://keswick-launch.co.uk/ doesn’t run in January and services may be limited in poor weather.
You need to take a ticket to Low Brandelhow landing stage on the far side of the lake. After your short sail, disembark here and continue through the gate by the jetty taking the path that bears left away from the lake. After going through another gate the track bears right and continues to reach a tarmac drive. Turn right here and continue past Hawse End Outdoor Centre.
The path to Keswick is the second on your right just past the private drive to Derwent Bay. Descend through woodland following waymarked tracks, descending to Nichol End Marine and landing stage. From here, take the track back to Keswick via Portinscale, finishing across the River Greta before heading into the town centre.
4: Windermere shore
You can do this one from our doorstep, literally, because we’re suggesting a round trip which involves a bus, a launch, a walk and a ferry, and the bus stop is at our gate.
Take the bus to Waterhead where you need to book one of the Windermere Lake Cruises https://www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk/ “green” cruise to Wray castle. This is a restored wooden launch which doesn’t run in winter, so make sure you get there soon.
The jetty at Wray allows the chance to walk up to the castle through some beautiful grounds, or you can just start you walk right away, turning left (south) along the lake shore. It’s a gentle stroll, no more than 1.5 hours, on gentle and easy footpaths, but delightfully quiet when you consider that this is England’s biggest, busiest and most famous lake.
The woods on your right are home to many species of wild birds, some rarely seen in more populated areas. Deer, both red and fallow, roam freely over the hills around Claife, the estate you are walking past. There’s a more adventurous (well signposted) diversion for those who want to head higher up, but you’ll end up at the recently restored Claife Viewing Station, a wonderful place to admire the lake. You’re nearly at the ferry now. The car ferry has been out of action this summer after a fire, but there’s a service for foot passengers that will take you back to Bowness, and a little walk back up the hill to your cosy room here in Windermere.
Five things Windermere is famous for
1: Our local theatre, down the road at Bowness on Windermere, is housed in a redundant Edwardian laundry. It was bought in 1991 by Roger, a set designer, and Charlotte, a former stage manager, with the intention of designing and building The World Of Beatrix Potter, which became an award-winning attraction. But there was plenty of space left over and the couple soon realised it could provide a perfect fit for a theatre. They had been working with Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough and noticed that the space they had left would make a similarly perfect theatre in the round. Ayckbourn offered to bring some of his shows there, and has sent a play to be performed almost every year since. The theatre also puts on drama by other writers and visiting groups, comedy, music and dinner-and-film nights.
2: You all know that Windermere is England’s largest lake, but were you aware that it has 18 islands. The largest is the privately owned Belle Isle (40.0 acres) opposite Bowness which is around a kilometre in length. Its older name was Lang Holme, and 800 years ago it was the centre of the manor of Windermere and later a “moiety”, a kind of suburb, of the barony of Kendal. The other islands or "holmes" are considerably smaller. (Holme means small island and comes from Old Norse.) The others are Lady Holme, Bee Holme, Blake Holme, Crow Holme, Birk or Birch Holme (called Fir Holme on Ordnance Survey maps), Grass Holme, Lilies of the Valley (East, and West), Ling Holme (a rocky hump with a few trees), Hawes Holme, Hen Holme (also rocky and sometimes known as Chair and Table Island from some old flags or slabs of stone that were formerly found there), Maiden Holme (the smallest island, with just one tree), Ramp Holme (variously called Roger Holme and Berkshire Island at different times in its history), Rough Holme, Snake Holme, Thompson Holme and Silver Holme.
3: In 1895, the lake was completely frozen for six weeks and locals could walk from one side to the other. They went skating, held parties, and hot chestnut sellers set up stalls. The big freeze was the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s classic novel Winter Holiday, one of the Swallows and Amazons series. Other frozen-over years were 1864, 1946 and 1963.
4: There’s a real castle on the north west shore of the lake at Wray, though it’s not as old as it looks from across the lake when viewed from Low Wood Bay. Wray Castle is actually a Victorian folly, built in 1840 for a retired Liverpool surgeon. The story goes that his wife complained that the roof leaked in the house where they were living, so the man built her a castle in the grounds. She didn’t like that either. However, a member of his family, Hardwicke Rawnsley, in a bid to protect the countryside from damaging development, went on to conceive the idea of a National Trust, and the castle is now run by the Trust and open to the public.
5: Windermere is the home of the UK’s most pioneering and innovative independent home and kitchenware retailer, Lakeland. It has a chain of stores across the UK, and more than 50 years of selling an unrivalled collection of creative and practical ideas for the home and garden, and inspiring gifts. Go in Lakeland, and you’ll come away with items you know you can’t live without, but never knew existed till now….
Britain's Best Walk - Helvellyn
A love affair with a mountain
Legend and poetry, a lovely name and a loft altitude combine to encompass Helvellyn in an aura of romance; and thousands of pilgrims, aided by its easy accessibility, are attracted to its summit every year.
We make no apologies in using the words of Wainwright to introduce our favourite mountain. He says exactly how we feel, and says it so much better than anyone else ever could.
We’ve been up there in all weathers, watching summer sunrises and feeling our way with ice axes in deep snow, always amazed by how many people will make the effort to get up there whatever the time or the conditions.
The views are wonderful, when there are views, that is. Often we’ve climbed up into the clouds, leaving behind a warm and sunny valley, but that just adds to the air of excitement. Helvellyn really does feel like a proper mountain.
It’s one of only four over 3000 feet high (3118 to be precise), coming in third place behind Scafell Pike and Scafell, and just ahead of Skiddaw. And last year it was voted Britain’s favourite mountain in a TV poll.
But while we recommend it to our visitors as the most easily reached of the big names, we would add, of course, that the “easy accessibility” refers only to climbs from the western side. Hop on a bus outside our gate and you can get off at Wythburn Church or Thirlspot or Swirls for good but safe walks to the top.
Want a slightly longer adventure? Then start north of Grasmere and walk up to haunting Grisedale Tarn, then take the ridge over Dollywaggon Pike and Nethermost Pike. (The names around here are sheer poetry).
The eastern approaches can be daunting and sometimes forbidding, but it’s here, in the Red Tarn basin between Striding and Swirral Edges, that you see the true mountainous nature of Helvellyn. This is the approach we recommend to those visitors we know will be well-equipped and have enough experience to cope with what Helvellyn can throw at the unwary. You need a map and a compass, and the knowledge how to use them. And on a good day on Striding Edge, you need patience to follow the queue.
Above all, you need Wainwright. He’ll provide the ultimate inspiration and motivation, and even the poetry. And you never know who you might meet up there….
Five Great Little Fell Walks in the Lake District
It’s the question facing those taking on two distinct challenges in the Lake District. Let’s deal with the “easy” one first, the Fairfield Horseshoe. This is the prominent horseshoe-shaped ridge which dominates the head of Windermere, an interlinked series of eight classic summits which, joined together, provide one of the most enjoyable and popular walks in the whole of Cumbria.
Most walkers start and finish in Ambleside, aiming ultimately for the summit of Fairfield itself, at 2863 feet one of the giants of the Lakes. It’s a full day’s outing, taking anything from five to eight hours depending on your pace and your need to sit down regularly for tea and sandwiches.
Once on the ridge, the routes between the summits are not technically difficult, nor are they hard to follow…on a clear day. But this is walk that really must not be attempted without a map and a compass, and the ability to use both. So be wise, and take a look at the Wainwright Guide (you’ll need the Eastern Fells) for advice.
But where to start climbing? The instinct is to head for Low Pike, the first summit beyond Ambleside and one that can be reached by taking the delightful path to High Sweden Bridge. There follows an occasionally-tricky rock path to High Pike, and then the easy wall-route to Dove and Hart Crags. The descent, from Fairfield over Great Rigg and Heron Pike to Nab Scar, is easy walking with no technical problems and terrific views.
But from Nab Scar there’s the sting in the tail, a steep and never-ending series of rock steps all the way down to Rydal Mount, just when your knees were begging for mercy. And then there’s another mile back along the valley bottom (fortified, perhaps, by the spirit of Wordsworth and the good folk who serve cakes in his old house).
Start with Nab Scar, then? Take that extra mile at the beginning, and take a deep breath because that climb is a monster, especially on a hot day. The choice is yours alone!
But far fewer people will be making the other choice, whether to go clockwise or anti-clockwise. It’s a 66-mile circuit of 42 Lakeland summits, starting and finishing at Keswick’s Moot Hall, and the challenge is to tick them all off in 24 hours.
Clockwise you start by climbing Skiddaw; the alternative is a road run out to Newlands church before the real climbing starts. Most seem to choose the clockwise route these days, but start times vary; is it better to start at midnight and run into the morning, or better to get a night’s sleep first and set off at breakfast time?
In all cases it’s a very serious undertaking. Since Bob Graham first made the journey in 1932, just over 2000 people have completed the challenge. (Bob did his round in tennis shoes, long shorts, and pyjama jacket. His food was bread and butter, a lightly boiled egg and plenty of fruit and sweets for energy.)
There have been some remarkable achievements over the years. Billy Bland’s record time of 13 hours 53 minutes has stood since 1982. Jasmin Paris holds the women’s record of 15 hours 24 minutes, and Nicky Spinks went round twice, in 43 hours 30 minutes.
But the one that delights us most is the recent successful round by Ken Taylor of Rossendale Harriers. At 71, he became the oldest person to complete the challenge, and in a very creditable time of 22:18. There are no excuses left, folks: get out there and climb a hill.
But it doesn’t have to be an extreme one. There are five wonderful little fells within easy reach of our hotel:
1: Orrest Head is literally just across the road, a lovely stroll before dinner, with spectacularly rewarding views
2: Wansfell Pike. You really feel you’ve climbed a mountain tackling this one, especially via Stock Ghyll Falls from Ambleside. Then have an easier amble down to the delightful village of Troutbeck.
3: Loughrigg is only just a mountain, at 1100 feet, but its massive bulk provides a web of wonderful grassy paths, a splendid summit cairn, and two gorgeous tarns, Lily and Loughrigg itself.
4: Gummers Howe is another superb viewpoint near the foot of Windermere. Come in June and watch a crazy race to the summit which also involves rowing across the lake.
5: Helm Crag: Probably the most notable summit outline in the entire Lakes, the Lion and the Lamb (from one side), or a woman playing a grand piano from the other. And a proper rock climb to reach the true highest point.
And if you don’t feel the need for strenuous exercise, walks to Easedale Tarn, Alcock Tarn and around Rydal are also great days out which are easier on the legs and lungs.
You can have a chat with Jonathan before or during your stay for route advice, mapping and tips for any walks in the Lakes.
For more information:
And for armchair adventure, read Richard Askwith’s classic book about the Bob Graham round, Feet in the Clouds
Picture is Loughrigg summit looking down on Grasmere with the Langdale Pikes, Helm Crag and Steel Fell all in the background
Map of historic run challenge is sold at auction
It was hard to part with, but the map used for a record-breaking run round the Lakeland fells has been sold at auction for charity.
The special map was used during Paul Tierney’s recent ascent of all the 214 Wainwright summits in just six days, six hours and five minutes.
Printed for the occasion by Harvey Map Services, the map was autographed by Paul, and we asked Harveys if it could be put up for auction, after we had helped sponsor the challenge.
It was bought by Nigel Braithwaite from Penrith, a runner who went out twice onto the fells to see Paul ticking off the tops.
The map has the route outlined as created by Steve Birkinshaw who set the previous record for the challenge in 2014. Only two other copies of the map were made; the others are owned by Steve and Paul
The winning bid of £350 from the sale at 1818 Auctioneers will go to the mental health charity, MIND.
The map was used throughout the run at the Ambleside HQ from where Paul’s run was monitored, and from where his supplies – and his team of pacers – were co-ordinated.
As Wainwright-baggers ourselves…at a much more leisurely pace ...we know that the challenge gripped the imagination of everyone who loved the Lakeland hills. It was a truly remarkable piece of fell-running history. And we want to support the charity to raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly among the fit and active.
We handed over the map to Nigel who said he planned to have it framed and hung on his wall at home. A great fan of the Lakeland fells, Nigel runs Braithwaites Garage and Lakes Campervans, and his vans for hire are named after his favourite hills: Raven, Kidsty and Dollywagon.
Harvey Map Services gave their blessing for the sale. “Auctioning the map to raise money for MIND is an excellent idea. It is a really unique memento of the challenge.”
Saving the future for Squirrel Nutkin
Here in the heart of Beatrix Potter country, we’re surrounded by images of Squirrel Nutkin. He’s our favourite of the Peter Rabbit series, a naughty playful character that we identify with. And we love the image of the squirrels making rafts out of twigs and paddling over the water to collect nuts on Oak Island.
That’s one of the reasons we got involved in the campaign to protect and help nurture the red squirrel habitats in the Lake District. These little guys, who are native to the Lakes, need our help. They are being beaten in every sense by the invasion of grey squirrels and loss of habitats.
The most serious threat to red squirrels is the non-native grey squirrel which has spread across the UK since early introductions in the 1900s, devastating red squirrel populations in many areas. Greys carry a disease, squirrelpox virus, which is lethal to reds. They are a bigger animal, and outcompete reds for food and other resources. Research over the years has shown that greys are the single most important reason for the decline of reds.
But campaigners are proving that in areas where reds and greys are kept apart, red squirrels can thrive. The problem is meeting the funding needs to sustain this effort.
It takes time, and more crucially, money. £20,000 would help efforts to protect red squirrels across Cumbria, and that’s why we support the work that’s being done.
Increasingly, red squirrel conservationists are being creative, often using technology to make their work more efficient. This includes the use of trail cameras to monitor squirrels in woodlands and thermal-imaging cameras to spot squirrels high up in the canopy in low light conditions.
Other new technologies include cameras that send email prompts when traps have been entered. Clever stuff! These technologies have revolutionised the way conservationists work, and is having a hugely positive effect on reds. This does push the cost up though.
All this work is being done by volunteers and if we are to help empower this effort to protect the red squirrels, we must help them meet these rising costs. It’s why we’re supporting the work of the Lake District Foundation through our visitor-giving scheme, and if you want to know more, please do look at their website https://www.lakedistrictfoundation.org/
It’s Squirrel Nutkin’s future.