To preface this post, I want to take you back here, to when I said one of my goals was to be more organised, in particular having posts prepared in advance. Well, that hasn’t yet happened, and with my trip to the Lake District I have got behind here on Blog On A Dog. Please forgive me, I shall endeavour to do better from now on!
This post is an overview of our trip, individual reviews of hotels and attractions will be published here on Blog On A Dog in due course. These will be: Waterhead Hotel near Ambleside, the Cuckoo Brow Inn in Far Sawrey, Fisherty Howe in Windermere, the Cat Bells and Orrest Head summit hikes, and finally Brockhole-on-Windermere. Phew!
Pre Trip Planning
The precise moment that I knew I hadn’t done enough research for this trip can be pinpointed to when my sat nav (car navigation system) told me to drive through Windermere. As in through the lake. Not fancying that so much, instead of using the super simple and efficient car ferry (that I did not know about
duh) to get to my second hotel, I decided to drive all the way to the bottom of the lake and back up the other side. Yes. I really did that.
To top it off the road back up the other side was quite possibly the most terrifying road I’ve ever driven on. Blind corners, the steepest of hills, unforgiving dry stone walls on both sides of the single track road *and* it was a two way road. After sending out all the good vibes to the universe I could muster, thankfully no vehicle came in the other direction. The thing is, when you’re with another person in the car (sorry Audrey, you don’t count for this purpose), either they can talk some sense into you e.g. “maybe there’s a car ferry”, or they can kind of enjoy the horrifying road with you. Call it a bonding experience. A good laugh perhaps.
When it just you and your dog, I must admit it’s an experience i’d rather not have had. Anyhow, we survived, got to our second hotel and collapsed onto the bed in relief. And then I thought ‘oh no’ I have to take some photos for my blog before the room gets messy. The trials and tribulations I go through for you guys. You better appreciate it! Who knew blogging was so demanding?
So, the Lake District. After a couple of days I was concerned the Lake District and I were not going to get along. However, don’t worry, by the end of our trip we were getting along very well. The bright spot was undoubtedly meeting up with the fabulous @veeandbear and summiting Cat Bells together.
The low points had been nightmare parking, poor wifi, and the driving experience recounted above. Now back from our trip, my feelings are more positive, and it will remain as one of my top three areas of focus for Blog On A Dog. (The others are Scotland and The Cotswolds, you can see in my mission statement here).
I wanted to record some of my immediate reflections here. No doubt more will come over the next few weeks, but I (and perhaps you) can definitely benefit from taking note of some of these points. However, take a look at some of these photos and you will see why the Lake District won me over. It is quite simply stunning.
Parking in The Lake District National Park
Don’t underestimate how busy the Lake District will be. It has World Heritage Status, and clearly it deserves all of its’ wonderful visitors. But, do think about how this may affect you. The car parks in the towns and villages are mostly charged, and even though it’s great that this money claims to go back into the upkeep of the National Park, it does add cost onto your trip. Just because a hotel offers free parking, it doesn’t mean it will be suitable for you and/or there will be a free space. At the first hotel on our trip (the Waterhead Hotel, in Lakehead close to Ambleside) the hotel spaces were difficult at best and impossible at worst (more of this in my separate review). I actually chose to pay to park in the car park next door versus try and negotiate their car park.
While researching all of the fabulous sounding walking opportunities, it became clear to me that parking would always be problematic. Perhaps if you are highly confident in your parking/driving skills this isn’t something that would even register, but I know that it did for me. Luckily, I did find a solution and here it is:
Impressive Public Transport
I only used the bus and ferry on my last full day, and I regret that. My experience was fabulous. Granted, it has been a while since I’ve been on a bus, so maybe they are all amazing these days, but somehow I doubt it. I was staying in Windermere (not to be confused with Bowness-on-Windermere), and there are several bus routes that go through the town.
As part of the package at my self catering flat you get a free parking pass for the duration of your stay. More on this in my review for the flat (called Fisherty Howe), but safe to say I will always be looking out for it now. What I thought was a luxury in the parking pass, has now turned into a necessity for me. Once I had my spot in the busy town car park close to the flat I was reluctant to vacate my space.
Here’s where the bus became attractive. On our last day, I got on the 599 bus metres from our flat, and got off at Brockhole-on-Windermere. After spending a couple of nice hours there, we got on a ferry from Brockhole to Ambleside (I’ll review Brockhole and the ferry in a separate post), and then got the bus back home from Ambleside. It worked out perfectly and I will look to use public transport where possible now when staying in the Lake District.
How is the experience for Audrey?
Extreme weather seems to follow us around on these trips. After the mammoth ‘Beast From The East’ snowstorm we survived in the Cotswolds, we were met in the Lake District by the hottest 2 days of the year so far. It is very important to be aware of what is actually enjoyable for your dog. After summiting Cat Bells on Thursday, we had a relatively quiet day on Friday, which I’m sure Audrey appreciated.
On Saturday, we did the Orrest Head summit walk in Windermere, which I highly recommend. Audrey got me up at 6am which I was not happy with at all! However, it was our first full day in Windermere and it turns out strolling around the town in the early hours is great. No people around, and Audrey can stop and sniff as much pee-mail as she likes, without me worrying she is in someones way.
After doing Cat Bells, which is categorised as an ‘easy walk’ suitable for the young and old alike, I was pretty nervous about attempting another one. Cat Bells was hard! However, Orrest Head really is fantastic. Well maintained gravel paths all the way to the top, with walls either side so no worrying about sheep.
The sign at the bottom said 20 minutes walk to the top and that felt accurate to me. Because we were so early, we didn’t have to worry about the heat, and it was beautifully quiet. Only a keen photographer was at the top, we saw no one else. I’m sure these walks can get very crowded, so I recommend early morning as an excellent option. It was definitely enjoyable for Audrey, where as perhaps later on she would have had to be on the lead for the whole walk which would be much less fun (for both of us).
With this blog in mind, it is always tempting to eat out for every meal to give me more content for Blog On A Dog. However, it’s important for me to recognise that actually it’s not such a great time for Audrey just sitting next to a table. Audrey is a very curious dog, and she doesn’t often relax at restaurants/pubs/cafes etc, she remains on high alert. So, with that in mind, it wouldn’t be fair for me to put her in that position multiple times a day.
Late afternoon on Saturday I made the mistake of setting off for a stroll down to Bowness-on-Windermere, and planning to get an ice cream, look in some shops or perhaps have a meal. It was a very warm day, and even though it’s only April it seemed everyone else had the same idea. The walk down to Bowness is about 20 minutes along an A road, but its perfectly pleasant. There’s a nice walk about halfway called Sheriff’s walk (opposite the St. John’s Hotel), which is a wooded area with a stream perfect for an off lead cool off. We stopped on the way and Audrey went all the way into the steam which tells you she was hot. She doesn’t often choose to get wet.
After a cool down we carried on into Bowness. I’m sure it’s a lovely town, but on this sunny Saturday, it was heaving. So many people, lots of dogs on leads feeling a bit hot and bothered, traffic jams etc. After making it to the town and contemplating things, I decided we should just head back to our flat in Windermere. For Audrey, she would have just been on a very short lead, in crowds of people and hot weather. Not enjoyable in the slightest. In future, for popular towns I will make a point to go early in the morning before the crowds arrive. Hopefully that is a lesson learned.
Final Thoughts on the Lake District – we will be back!
The Lake District is undeniably gorgeous, and deserves all of its plaudits. Having better preparation, and taking the points from this post on board, I hope to have a very successful trip next time we go. I apologise if this post is too negative, but I had several teachable moments on this trip that I want to learn from. I’m sure writing them down can only help with that. Meeting Vee and Bear was a real highlight, as were our last two accommodations, The Cuckoo Brow Inn, in Far Sawrey, and our self catering flat in Windermere.
Audrey and I now have two ‘summits’ under our belt, so perhaps this is the start of a grand adventure. There are certainly lots more we can conquer in the Lake District together. I know in Scotland it is called ‘bagging a munro’. Does anyone know if there is a comparable term for the summits of the Lake District?