Somehow it fits the mood I was expecting from the Lake District. But it’s really nice to have a little bit of sun this morning, although, at four degrees Celsius, it is still cold.
At the moment we’re somewhere north of Keswick. And this place is just fantastic. As you might be able to tell from the first couple of sentences, we’ve never been here before – but just love every minute of it, man. The hills, the forest, the woodlands, the lakes!
Where is it?
To those who live in more tropical climes, or who haven’t ventured further north than the M25 in London, let’s set the scene. Drive up from London towards Birmingham and Manchester, hugging the west coast route on the M6. Just past Blackpool on your left, you will find the Lake District, stretching north just past Penrith and onwards to the Scottish border.
The (large) town of Kendall is probably one of the major entry points into the area that you will come across. It’s a rather large place with plenty of things to do with many bridges that crisscross over the Kent River (no, not the county).
Sizergh Castle is an interesting one. It is a large country estate surrounded by open hillsides offering a number of paths to walk or cycle. The castle itself is worth a visit, but on a broader scale, the hills give a good workout and some amazing views, when there is a gap in the weather. That said, the weather adds to the mood and charm of the region.
You can also find a rather funky working farm here – Low Sizergh Barn Shop & Café – just off the main road A591. Get up close to the cows munching on their hay, grab a coffee, peruse the gift shop and – if you time it right – you can even view the milking of the dairy cows.
Take a left turn or two and you will find yourself in the rather quaint village of Brigsteer. Nestled in the lee of a steep hill this will offer a great pub lunch or quench the thirst with a pint from the Wheatsheaf Inn. The standard cheeseburger test was deliciously dispatched, served by the friendly staff, and a couple of pints aided the long steep walk to the Parish Church of Saint John Helsington from where a good view is offered, despite breezy conditions and cloudy cover.
Windermere seems to be the hub of the whole area, which was really nice. It seems quite an upmarket area, with many large, secluded properties lining the water. From there you can go north towards Troutbeck, which kind of follows the Lakes all the way to Keswick.
This is a nice route, and in fact, a lot of people have recommended that route to us after the fact, so we did it good. You will find a lot of cars parked up and a lot of walkers. This place is just a perfect place for that. A lot of cyclists as well and we’ve seen a few guys in rowing boats It’s just fantastic.
Keswick seems to be the hub for outdoor activities. Rolling hills, there are a lot of farms here, a lot of sheep, which is really cool. Ultimately rural and many woodlands to wander through and hills to conquer.
Castlerigg Farm Campsite
We stayed at a campsite called Castle Rigg Farm which overlooks Keswick, about half an hour’s walk from the town. Around you, you’ve got hills everywhere. It’s a good base camp to start your walking weekend.
I can definitely recommend the climb over Walla Crag, then loop around down the other side (steep) then follow the lake back to Keswick. This is a three to four-hour walk with stunning views from high up and a killer final half hour up the hill out of town to get back to the campsite. A good workout.
The campsite itself is really nice. It’s got killer Wi-Fi, and a lot of amperage, for your fridge and charging your gear. There are no hedges or anything, it’s just one big open field. So you could find yourself slightly exposed on a breezy day. All part of the fun!
The ablution block is fantastic, with really nice showers, and well heated for the winter months, and all of that. There’s a little shop there and the owners are really friendly and welcoming. I can recommend that as a base camp to come out here and take daily walks or go cycling.
Ullswater & Kirkstone Pass
Between Windermere and Troutbeck is the little road called A592, more popularly known as Kirkstone Pass. This is fantastic on a blustery day with low misty cloud cover. The distance is hardly twenty miles, but you’ll spend a good hour traversing this little route.
Red Pit Parking Area
Halfway there, and just over the summit as you head north, is a small open space with a parking area for a couple of cars. Not much to write home about since there is only a worn bench and little else. But park up here and take in the view down towards the valley that holds the Ullswater Lake. Just magical, and perfect for a quick brew of tea.
The Ullswater Lake drive is lovely, with the road hugging the shore and hillsides all around. Small hamlets line the road and there is a sense of remoteness. Not quite as prevalent as the Makgadigadi Salt Pans in Botswana, but there aren’t many people around here.
The Aira Force waterfall is worth a stop as well. You can follow the river on foot for quite some time, and stretch your legs over another ‘fell’ or two as far as you like.
South of Windermere is the village of Newby Bridge, in another perfect setting near the water on the southernmost edge of Windermere Lake. Here you can find the Lakeland Motor Museum with its eclectic collection of mostly British classic cars, motorcycles and bicycles. Very well presented in a compact building and the iconic Bluebird Museum is housed there as well.
A quick stop in the coffee shop for a refreshment and then we are back over the river, passing The Swan Hotel and following the road on the other side of the lake up towards Graythwaite. Another very moody and intimate drive through the woodlands.
And there is far more to see and experience. This place is just fantastic. I don’t know what else to say. It is fairly small, so you can cover it all within a weekend if needed. However, We spent about five days, six days here and still haven’t seen it all!
Little did we know that Morecambe Bay is just a stone’s throw away and if you loop around the top to come back following the coastline you will come through Corney Fell. A windswept narrow road that seems even more remote and desolate. It may seem obvious that this was our first visit here, and superlatives are strewn throughout this blog. But it is totally worth it. Awesome place. This is England at its best, get here if you can.