Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Arriving in the Lakes

Although I have driven to and from Scotland quite a few times and indeed cycled from Land’s End to John O’ Groats once I tend to forget that some places are quire far apart. So we had over 200 miles to go to get to our hotel in The Lakes.

For a change I set the SatNav for our destination, a hotel chosen (almost at random) on the Internet and more or less followed its instructions. Although paying attention – following the SatNav should never be an excuse for failing to pay attention.

Our hotel was on the banks of Lake Windermere, south of Bowness on Windermere. If I had chosen the route I would probably have headed down the M6  until Junction 37 and through Kendal and then taken the B5284 to Bowness. The SatNav turned off the M6 on junction 40 and then took us on the A592. This took us down Ullswater and then on the Kirkstone Pass. Which is the highest pass open to motor traffic in the Lake District (454m) and in places has gradients of 1 in 4.

We have been visiting the lakes for quite a few years probably 8 times in the last twenty years so I am used to making the transition from the Flatlands of East Anglia to the narrow, steep and winding lanes of the Lake District. Which really means I know that it takes a little care and attention and time before I get comfortable. When in the Lakes we would often drive along Hardnott Pass and Wrynose Pass.  The former has a gradient of 1 in 3 in places. The kids used to love, my wife wasn’t so keen!

When we were regular visitors to the Lakes we would aim to walk 8 or 9 times during a fortnight’s stay. We have driven to Patterdale and then walked up to Helvellyn and back.  We would usually circle around Red Tarn and walk along Striding Edge one way and Swirral Edge the other. It is a marvellous walk but not for the faint-hearted. It is around 11Km. You start at an elevation of 168m, climb up to 918m and then of course head back. For a cycling flatlander I used to find the descent found muscles I didn’t know I had.

My wife and daughter would join us part of the way and then they usually went back to Ullswater and had a trip on the Steamer.  (She was quite young.) When she got a bit bigger we generally used to go up Helvellyn from the other side as my wife wasn’t so keen on the Edges.

The last time was visited was around 8 years ago so it was quite nostalgic driving around Ullswater. I had to stop for some pictures although it was getting quite dark.

Ullswater – panoramic picture (Galaxy S4)

Ullswater - Panasonic GH1

It was with some trepidation that we arrived at our hotel – Beech Hill Hotel.  We were staying here for a wee while and after the problems we had with the hotel in Dundee we were wondering what we had signed up for. It was a 4* hotel – but so was the one in Dundee…

Well it was fine, we were upgraded, unusual when you book through website looking for deals I would have thought. We didn’t say no though. We had a spacious room, four poster bed and a bathroom with a separate shower and whirlpool bath.

The views were wonderful. This is the view from the hotel garden.

Lake Windermere from Beech Hill Hotel

This was the view from our bedroom.

We then nipped of into Bowness to eat and get an early night. The weather forecast for the next day was good and we wanted to go walking.

We could have eaten in the hotel but we wanted to check out Bowess. O(n family holidays we used to stay on the other side of Lake Windermere in Far Sawrey in a rented house. Sometimes we cooked and sometimes we went out. Over the years we have eaten in loads of places on Bowness. We used to buy a book of ferry tickets and then take the ferry back.  Usually after having visited Helen’s Chocolates in Bowness. We would nibble a chocolate or two whilst waiting for the chain ferry.

Would it still be there we wondered. Now my wife tends not to eat in Italian Restaurants, why pay for pasta when you can cook it yourself was her motto. I managed to persuade her to this time. We went to Rastellis, a place where many years ago my daughter after a long walk had somehow managed to wolf down an entire pizza on her own. Another time we turned up to see a party of Nuns having a whale of a time.

This time around the food was scrumptious – I had one of the best Lasagnes ever. This is based upon my extensive research on my Land’s End to John O’ Groats cycle ride – Lasagne being a good staple for cycling along with regular visits to Italy. My wife amended her motto to not buying Pasta in Cambridge (although she would make an exception for Jamie Oliver’s place – I think that was a hint to me.)

Lake Windermere in the evening sun on the Beech Hotel

After a good nights sleep, it was quiet and no dreams of sleeping in a hammock we woke to a nice day.Although we also realised that we hadn’t brought much of our walking gear with us – including OS maps, compass, sun hats, walking poles and rucksacks. We did have decent coats and walking boots though.

Lake Windermere – the morning calm

Looking up Lake Windermere

Over breakfast we planned our walk and what items we needed to buy. As it was a walk we had been on a few times before we didn’t bother with the OS map or compass, but did plan on getting a rucksack and a sun hat. It turned out that the lack of a map or compass was a mistake, or an opportunity to have a longer walk.

Next stop Shopping in Ambleside

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