One of the benefits of living in Manchester is the ease of access to the Lake District.
Mark and I were given a belated wedding present of a Lake cruise and Afternoon Tea at the Lodore Falls Hotel near Derwent Water. The perfect opportunity to visit some of the more Northern Lakes; our mini moon and previous visits having centred around Windermere.
A weekend in the Lakes requires, in my view, something a bit more personal than a Premier Inn. I wanted to stay in a cosy B&B, with lovely views and friendly hospitality. With the help of Trip Advisor (I never book to stay anywhere without checking these days) I stumbled upon exactly what I was looking for – Maple Bank Guest House just outside Keswick.
The reviews promised a friendly welcome and, in Rhona and Tommy, we found just that. We arrived late on the Friday night as a result of the inevitable jam on the M6. Luckily we were there just before 9.00 pm – after that we would have struggled to get food. Tommy greeted us and checked us in quickly so we had time to go out and eat. We made it, to the Royal Oak pub, a few minutes walk from the hotel. And, despite the journey, with a pub meal, in a low beamed English Country pub, our weekend away was off to a good start.
We got up early on Saturday and enjoyed a hearty full English Breakfast, which set us up for a day’s walking – good job as we walked a lot further than planned. The idea was to head up Skiddaw. The route from Latrigg, we learned later, is notoriously boring. You can see before you leave the car park that it is, quite simply, a steep, winding path to the summit.
That wasn’t a problem for us, in theory, as we were not equipped for ‘proper’ walking, and we were anticipating views of Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake to make up for the lack of interest on the walk. As we set off we were able to look down at Derwent Water…
…but the mist was low over the tops, and the higher we climbed, the whiter our view became.
Not a problem for an easy route, and really, we could see quite far to either side, but the scenery – well, we knew it was there, somewhere. As we got wetter in the clouds we decided not to press on to the summit, favouring a more scenic walk on lower ground. We trundled back down Skiddaw with the intention of walking round Bassenthwaite Lake. That is not as easy as it sounds because there is no public footpath all the way round the lake. So, we tried, and failed, to find red squirrels in Dodd Wood, then drove round the lake, stopping at a lay-by to walk down to the water and take a few pictures.
Then, inspired by a conversation I had overheard at breakfast, we set off for Buttermere, which is owned by the National Trust. We didn’t take advantage, but there are several pubs and tea rooms near the car park for refreshment before or after a walk, and there is also a campsite, where I am pretty sure you would wake up with a sheep looking in to your tent in the morning.
We couldn’t have timed our visit better. It was like stepping in to a different day. The sun came out as we drove over the very winding path to the lake and, as we walked, all the way round this time (about 2 hours), we were so warm from the sunshine that we just had to stop for ice cream at the first available opportunity.
For our evening entertainment we had booked, again based on Trip Advisor reviews, a meal in the Lake View Restaurant of Armathwaite Hall Country House Hotel.
It is an absolutely beautiful building and the interior decor lives up to the outside.
The menu promised a tasty 5 course dinner, and the ‘no jeans’ policy suggested the type of luxury we should expect. At 7.30 pm, we were shown to our table in time to look out over Bassenthwaite Lake before the sun went down. After that, things became a little disappointing. We felt like we were being rushed through our meal, even though there was no second cover. Our food order was taken before we were offered drinks, or even shown the wine list, which we had to ask for.
The food however, except for the lemon sorbet, which seemed to have taken on the taste of cardboard that we assume it had been stored in, was delicious. I particularly liked the Red Pepper and Tomato Soup served in coffee cups as an amuse bouche. The lamb I ordered as my main course was cooked perfectly, but it could have been even better with a few more vegetables on the plate.
Such was the rush we delayed ordering desert for as long as we could, just to make sure we weren’t home by 9.00 pm. I don’t know what had happened that day but it took until we were offered coffee and chocolates in the lounge for us to be able to relax.
The highlight of the evening was a patron playing the piano. If you are going to ask to play the piano in an otherwise quiet lounge, you have to be able to deliver – and he certainly did. We enjoyed listening to him play an impromptu set, sipped our coffees, and ordered a night cap. In the end, we just about made the evening stretch out till bedtime – lucky really as we would have had to go back to our B&B to find a pub otherwise.
Up early again for Breakfast on Sunday morning with the aim to enjoy our lake cruise before Afternoon Tea. Yes, more eating, but with all the walking it’s easy to justify!
Driving round Derwent Water we were treated to stunning views over the beautifully still lake. We just had to pull in to admire it.
We carried on then to the Lodore Falls Hotel, parked up and collected our cruise tickets. Due to the low water level we couldn’t board at Lodore, which meant we had to take a very scenic walk to the next stop – with time to spare before the boat arrived, to admire the ‘mill pond’, which we had been lucky to capture as the wind on the lake picked up throughout the day.
The boat is hop on, hop off, so we stopped for an hour in Keswick for a potter before heading back for Afternoon Tea.
I have enjoyed many an Afternoon Tea, and on this occasion I was not disappointed. I liked being able to choose my sandwich filling and the addition of tea bread and panacotta to the usual offering of scones and cakes. We had more than our fill of sugar, and a bottomless tea and coffee. Our table overlooked Derwent Water, which added to the experience.
Not wanting our weekend to come to an end, we took Rhona’s advice to drive back via the A591 towards Windermere. She told us that this is the most scenic road in the Lakes, and she was not wrong. The road passes Thirlmere, Grasmere, and Rydal Water, and the views over the hillside were breathtaking in the sunshine.
In the last few days of summer, we were really lucky to have such glorious weather, but it was a truly beautiful time to experience the lakes. The leaves were just turning golden in the trees and everything still had a lush quality.
We always say it when we go, but we really should visit more often. A massive thanks to Chris and Amy for giving us the excuse!
Stunning photos by Mark Johnson; the rest taken by me.