Continuing our journey with Risa’s parents, we left the quaint villages of the Cotswolds, and made our way to the very north of England.
We’d found a beautiful converted barn in the Yorkshire Dales, which was close enough for day trips to Lake District, but cheaper than staying in similar accommodation options within the national park.
Driving through the national park, including the towns of Windermere and Ambleside made us realise that we’d made a fantastic choice choosing something remote.
We’d planned to do a few hikes, and with my ambition, I’d chosen the ones that were full day slogs. Since it wasn’t just myself doing the hike, and we had the in-laws (who are really quite athletic for their age), I agreed to a compromise. Instead of attempting to tackle The Old Man of Coniston or Scafell Pike (England’s highest), we were going to do a shorter, smaller loop up the Langdale Pikes. This started from behind the New Dungeon Ghyll and was quite a well-defined trail – at least to begin with.
The trail followed a small stream that flowed and dropped with frequent small rapids and waterfalls. The scenery was stunning, and when the sun shined, the temperatures were really quite warm (considering it was September, and we were in the north of England). There were a few rocks to scramble over, however, for the most part, it was quite easy going.
The thing slowing me down the most was stopping to take photos every few minutes, as each turn, and each small crest we cleared provided a new outlook – especially with the clouds moving. The scenery was stunning, and I hadn’t felt this energised in some time. We’ve both missed having mountains in our lives.
Half-way up, we had a quick rest beside the small lake of Sickle Tarn. As fate would have it, this was to be the only lake that we actually visited in the Lake District!
After a quick bite to eat, and a chance to rest legs, I wasn’t sure if we’d agree to continue on to the top of Pavey Ark or not, but impressively, we were all in agreeance to continue upwards. This is where the trail got a little less clear, mostly heading in the general direction of what looked like a trail further on. We never had any actual difficulties, or concerns about where we were going, however, it was clearly less travelled than the first section. It also got steeper, and rougher, with more than a few occasions requiring me to use my hands to climb over some of the larger rocks in the way.
But, once we’d reached the top, we were blown away (literally). We were no longer sheltered from the howling winds, and had found ourselves being battered from the cold winds. The views certainly made up for it, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the place to be able to sit, relax, and enjoy being alive.
From the top, there were dozens of other hiking options visible, and I’d wanted very much to continue on and on, over more and more peaks. The landscape was stunning, certainly one of the most beautiful places I’d been to in England. It seemed to spread on in equal beauty in all directions, with beautiful, lumpy, bald rocky peaks.
We’d been fortunate with the weather, but it looked to be getting darker, and the wind was picking up, so we decided it best to keep moving back to the car. As is often the way, the descent was harder physically than the ascent was. My legs, not accustomed to walking down hills, were starting to tire.
Even though we were roughly doing the same trail, just on the other side of the peak, the scenery was still fresh. We passed by more waterfalls, and the views out ahead of us was breathtaking. I’m running short on adjectives, but the joy, and the contentment with life in those moments were at all time levels.
In an interesting twist, by the time we’d reached the bottom, the peaks we’d just returned from were in full sunshine, and the skies were looking clear, and those dark skies we’d been concerned about seemed like a distant memory. For reference, we followed the waterfall up, and then climbed the peaks to the left of this photo.
We still had a few hours before dinner and made a quick trip through Ambleside. This was still a novelty for Risa’s parents, so we had a bit of a wander through town. The Bridge House was cute, but the rest of town felt like most other British tourist towns.
It was Sunday afternoon, so I was keen to take the in-laws to a nice British pub for a Sunday roast. I’d read about a rather popular one, The Masons Arms with amazing views out of the area. We still had a little time left before it got dark, so we took the long route, following the west coast of Windermere, down tiny country lanes, weaving through equally tiny country towns. It was beautiful, and I was enjoying the driving – the passengers less so, with all the turns creating a sense of motion sickness for them.
Our timing was impeccable, arriving just in time to grab the last table, as well as ordering the final of the Sunday roasts – much to the dissatisfaction of the group that arrived moments after us! The Yorkshire Pudding was from another planet, I’ve never seen one so large (and shaped this way). The food was generally pretty good, too, even if we were starting to have had enough of the rich and heavy British Pub Food.
It was dark by the time we finished dinner, making the driving down the unlit country roads just a tiny bit more challenging. We set a course home on the satellite navigation built into the car, which had generally been good, however, tonight it took us to a small river crossing – rather than a bridge. Avoiding it now would be a significant detour, and even then we weren’t sure if the other river crossings on the map had bridges or not… So, I got out and had a look. It looked no deeper than 30-50cm, and it appeared that there was a fairly flat surface under the water. Risa’s parents had never driven through water before, and were a little terrified by the prospect. Risa and I were old hands at it, after our travels through Australia! Still, this Vauxhall Mokka is a faux SUV, with increased ride height, but standard front-wheel drive. Things could have been a disaster if anything had of happened, but thankfully, we powered through smoothly. My only regret is not getting any photos of the faces of the people in the back!
Our second day started with grim dark clouds, and gusty winds. We looked at some other, smaller hikes, but would wait to see the weather once closer before making any concrete plans.
The first stop was at Castlerigg Stone Circle, which was on our list, however, we stumbled upon it accidentally. I haven’t yet visited Stone Henge, but I have always heard that the setting ruins some of the magic. There is no such problem here, as the setting is truly wonderful, with unspoilt views of stunning peaks in all directions. The circle might only be ~30m across, and only a few of the rocks are taller than myself, but the experience was incredible. It was amazing to just be able to walk around this open field, and get up close to these stones and imagine what was going on here some 5000 years ago.
We had a quick drive-through of Keswick, with nothing grabbing our attention, we continued to the south, along the east coast of Derwentwater. The skies had opened their taps, and we were being battered by cold miserable rain.
We found a small café to wait out the weather, however, it seemed fairly settled, and so cancelled all plans for hiking. The cafe was set in an amazing little farm house, more than making up for the simple (though still tasty) food served.
Instead, after feeding, we drove over the stunning Honister Pass, past the giant slate mines. The views were incredible, even with low grey clouds.
After Honister Pass, we snaked back through the mountains on a (I’ll use the word again) stunning road between Buttermere and Stair – I can’t find a name on the map. It was honestly a distraction attempting to drive on these roads, as I spent the majority of my time looking for a place to stop and park to take photos – rain be damned. However, the rain did fill the rivers, and when we made it to Moss Force Waterfall at the top of this unknown road, it was following with some force. The temptation, as always, was to follow the trails that we could see to get a better view of the waterfall, as well as looking over the top of the peak, to see what was beyond.
It was only a very short visit, but it was more than enough to get a true sense of the beauty of this region, which is unquestionably the most beautiful part of England that I have visited. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to visit again, and conquer some of the larger peaks in the area.