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The Lake District……. beyond Windermere

The Lake District is an extremely popular destination for holiday makers in general and caravaners in particular. Visiting the Lake District is one of the most popular breaks for people across the UK and from further afield. The Lake District National Park has a wide range of activities and attractions, as well as the natural beauty of the entire area. England's largest National Park is now a World Heritage Site, home to Scafell Pike - its highest mountain, Wastwater - its deepest lake and thriving communities like Keswick and Bowness-on-Windermere. There are breath-taking lakes, soaring mountains - known locally as 'fells', picturesque valleys and even coastline.

 

 
Whilst I have absolutely no statistical evidence for this, I suspect that the majority of visitors concentrate on, and around Windermere. The lake is about 10.5 miles long and 1 mile wide at its widest point, it runs approximately north to south from Newby Bridge at the southern shore to Ambleside in the north. Windermere is, without question extremely beautiful, but there is so much more to see and visit in The Lake District and hopefully this will provide some incentive, ideas, and inspiration.
 
Windermere is the largest of the lakes at 5.71 square miles, followed by Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake. Interestingly, Bassenthwaite Lake is the only body of water in the Lake District with the word “Lake” in it’s name, all the others are either “meres” or “waters” ……..this makes a good quiz question; How many Lakes are there in The Lake District? The answer being just one!
 
Just a few miles to the south of Windermere is a delightful small peninsular where Grange-over-Sands and Cartmel can be found, this is not strictly Lake District, but should not be ignored. Grange is a charming, small town with an Edwardian flavour and a mild climate. It is on the shores of Morecambe Bay, and from the 13th Century until the 1850’s, the major route from Lancaster was across the sands. In 1887, the coming of the Furness Railway encouraged the growth of Grange from a small hamlet to the town we see today.
 

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The estuary and the countryside around Grange are fascinating places for nature enthusiasts. A tremendous range of birds can be seen, and there are several nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest and Grange has some of the finest parks and gardens on the Cumbrian coast.
 
Only a stones throw from here is Cartmel, an extremely attractive village and the site of the 12th Century Cartmel Priory. Other reasons to visit Cartmel are the regular National Hunt Race meetings, often held on Bank Holidays, there is a special intimate atmosphere because of the closeness of the track to the village. Finally, people travel for miles to get their hands on the Sticky Toffee Pudding, made famous by the village shop.
 
 

 

Coniston water is the third largest lake in the Lake District and provides visitors with the options of many ways to enjoy the water. There are facilities for renting motorboats, rowing boats, kayaks and paddleboards, apart from letting someone else take the strain on a pleasure cruiser. It is also a great place for walking and hiking. Coniston is relatively uncommercialised and is perhaps most well known for being the location of the ill-fated World Water Speed Record attempt by Donald Campbell and Bluebird. Much more sedately on the water here is M V Gondola, a wonderfully preserved Steam Yacht operated by The National Trust, A trip on Gondola is a real treat on a fine sunny day and there is a very pleasant picnic area and parking near to the M V Gondola jetty.

 

 Keswick is a bustling market town at the north end of Derwent lake, correctly named Derwentwater. Heading north from Ambleside at the top end of Windermere, the road passes Grasmere (with substantial connection to William Wordsworth), Thirlmere and then on to Keswick. Although Keswick itself is quite busy, the lakeside road down towards Borrowdale and Grange is wonderfully scenic and serene, surrounded by majestic hills and fells. A left hand turning from the road towards Grange and up the steep hill will take you to the remote village of Watendlath, this will be familiar to readers of the classic literary period saga by Hugh Walpole – The Herries Chronicles, five books in total and perfect reading for a Lake District holiday, mind you - it might have to be an extended stay if you are going to finish the whole saga!

 
By all means visit Buttermere, Crummock, Loweswater and Bassenthwaite lakes, these North Lakes are possibly the most peaceful part of the district with many features of historical interest to be explored. But I’ve left our favourite until last, Ullswater. This lovely lake is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery to its south, softening to the gentle hills of the north. Really, best approached from the Penrith end as this way provides a mighty backdrop of the hills towards the south.
 
Many people however will travel to Ullswater by way of the daunting but wonderful Kirkstone Pass, there are several dramatic passes in the area, usually these are a conduit from one valley to another, they are quite narrow and steep but provide fantastic views. Two of the better-known passes are Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass, now, maybe I’m a whimp, but I would not choose to tow a caravan over any of these high roads. But back to Kirkstone which connects the top of Windermere with the southern end of Ullswater at Glenridding. Shortly after leaving Windermere the road passes through Troutbeck, not to be confused with the other Troutbeck, of which more later.
 
At the summit of the pass is the Kirkstone Pass inn. On a typical Lake district day particularly during the winter months, when the wind drives the rain horizontally across the fells, it does not require much imagination to conjure up images of steaming, straining horses hauling the Penrith mail coach. From the summit the road descends past the remote and somewhat forgotten looking Brothers Water, through Patterdale and on to Glenridding. Together with Pooley Bridge at the opposite end of the lake, Glenridding is as near to a commercial centre as you will find on Ullswater.
 

 

From Glenridding there are excellent walking opportunities, one of the most popular being the strenuous trek to the summit of Helvellyn. For those of a less active inclination, Glenridding forms the base for the Ullswater passenger pleasure boats, these run between Glenridding and Pooley Bridge, with occasional stops at Howtown, and provide a great way to enjoy this corner of the lake district. Pooley Bridge, at the northern end of Ullswater, has good facilities for essential shopping and for accommodation if you are visiting without a caravan. The road leading from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge is the only option along the shoreline as there is no through road on the opposite side of the lake, this is not to say however that the south-eastern shores should be ignored. Turning the corner at Pooley Bridge and heading back along the lake shoreline will eventually take you to Howtown and Martindale. The lake passenger boats call at Howtown and this is particularly useful as a starting point for some serious walking. This is a quiet little road though often narrow but at the far end of the road at Martindale there are some great opportunities for picnicking by the side of the burbling beck as it tumbles down toward the lake, this is properly hidden lake district.

 

The photograph pictured above is the remote and serene valley at Martindale, and below the regular service boat on Ullswater travelling between Glenridding and Pooley bridge.

 
Our favourite caravan site for visiting The Lake District in recent years has been The Caravan and Motorhome site at Troutbeck Head. There is easy access to the site from the busy A66 that runs from Penrith to Keswick, and easy access can’t always be taken for granted in the Lake District.  The site is set in classically beautiful North Lakeland countryside, and is conveniently only 4 miles from the restaurants and shops of Ullswater. A fabulous getaway for nature lovers and walkers, the caravan park nestles in a picturesque valley alongside a babbling brook. The site provides easy access to numerous lakes, mountains, valleys & rivers, whilst pretty villages, country pubs and farm shops are plentiful, making Troutbeck the ideal destination for exploring and relaxing in the Cumbrian countryside.
 
The site has a good number of serviced pitches although some of them can be a little distant from the nearest toilet block.
 

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So, there you have my take on The Lakes beyond Windermere…enjoy!!

 
Michael Varley
Published on 2021-02-25