The Lakes are Alive in the Lake District

I have been writing for Escapist Traveller Magazine for a few months now, and in June I was lucky enough to be invited on a press trip with them to the Lake District, courtesy of Visit England. Having always wanted to go but never having had the opportunity myself (mostly because I don’t drive and assumed it was difficult to get around without a car!) I packed my bags and met the other journalists at Euston station.

The journey up to the Lakes was pretty swift, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we were on a Virgin train in First Class, with endless snacks, drinks and meals offered to us. After devouring some delicious sushi, we stepped off onto the platform and a quick glance around assured me that we were somewhere special. The rolling hills, dense woodlands and wonderfully fresh air hit me and positive thoughts filled my brain as I thought about the exciting couple of days ahead.

We were all taken from the station to the Briery Wood Hotel, situated close to Lake Windermere, by Mountain Goat Tours who drove us around during the whole trip, but we only had just enough time to dump our stuff and quickly freshen up before heading out again to Gilpin Lodge Hotel. Gilpin Lodge is a small, family-run hotel that hosted us for the evening and served mouth-watering food. The place is special in that it is set over-looking a secluded lake, and the peace and serenity of the place washed over me with just one look. I felt privileged to be there and the owners were brilliant (and hilarious!) hosts.

The next day was a packed one, and after a yummy breakfast of poached eggs on toast, we set of for Leven’s Hall. Again, we were welcomed by the owner, Mrs Bagot, who showed us around the astounding Elizabethan mansion that has been in Bagot family ownership for over seven hundred years. The historical house features Jacobean furniture, beautiful paintings and a rich history, and is unsurprisingly said to be haunted by ghosts – although I didn’t see any! The highlight of Leven’s Hall for me was its spectacular gardens with a layout from 1694 that is retained today. The Topiary is what struck me, and I felt like I could have spent hours wandering amongst the beech hedges, soaring trees and maze.

Feeling somewhat spoilt by this point, it didn’t stop there! We then had a gorgeous lunch at the Micheline-starred L’Enclume in the historical village of Cartmel. The restaurant uses no menu – a pleasant surprise to diners, and instead uses whichever fresh produce that is available that day from chef Simon Rogan’s farm. We had a scrumptious five-course meal that included five glasses of wine as well (naturally), and my menu included sugar snax carrots with tarragon and nasturtium, grilled smoked salad with cheese and wulnuts, and cherries with hazelnut and apple. All in all it was delicious and the downpour outside didn’t seem to dampen our spirits!

After lunch, we caught the Haverthwaite Railway to Bowness, ready to see the Olympic Torch and watch the Lakes Alive event for the London 2012 festival, ‘On the Night Shift’ by Les Commandos Percu. It was thrilling to be offered press passes and see the torch as it made it way over the lake, and spirits were high in celebration for the great event which is soon to take place in London and all over the country. Unfortunately it rained – a LOT – but we retreated to the hospitality boat where we munched down on sandwiches and crisps.

At about half past ten that night, ‘On the Night Shift’ began, despite the rain which was now heaving it down. The fireworks and drumming were impressive and although we were stood in a muddy field, it was enjoyable!

The next morning was our last day in the rainy (but beautiful!) Lake District, but in terms of activities, it was my favourite. In the morning we visited the famous Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, established in 1854 by Sarah Nelson. Again, the bakery was shown to us by the current owner who gave us a warm cup of tea and samples of gingerbread and rum butter. The gingerbread itself is unlike any other gingerbread I have had as it is a cross between a cake and a biscuit, but there is probably no chance of me recreating it as the recipe is a secret! Yummy and filled with history (as well as ginger!), I loved every minute of the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop.

We then hopped on the Mountain Goat Bus to Dove Cottage, home of poet William Wordsworth. Wordsworth resided in the cottage from 1799 until 1808 and wrote some of his best poetry there including ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’. The cottage has barely changed since the days of the Romantic poet and walking through its dimly-lit walls I felt inspired due to the quaint character of the place and the stunning scenery outside, as well as the items of Wordsworth’s  that are on display throughout including his favourite writing chair.

After a quick lunch we went for a drive to look at the beautiful landscapes of the Lakes’ one last time before leaving for London – we had meant to watch the first wave of the Great North Swim but the rain and wind meant that it was cancelled!
I loved my first trip to the Lake District and hope that it will not be my last! Check out my article on Escapist Traveller for even more info:

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