Tuesday, 19 November 2013

10 Lake Spectacular Winter Tour

On Friday I had booked the 10 Lake Spectacular Winter tour with Mountain Goat through GetYourGuide. I had actually booked it for Thursday but right after I booked  it they told me that one was full, luckily, since I was still planning to be in Windermere on Friday, they offered to move me onto that tour instead. 

The minibus picked me up from my B&B and once everyone was picked up we were 6 passengers on the minibus. Our guide for the day was Tony, who I have to say have a perfect voice for being a guide, he spoke clearly and not too fast, he also seemed very knowledgeable as well as interested in what he was telling us about, as all good guides should be.

I'm not going to tell you about every step of the tour as I think you should go and experience it for yourselves if you can. I also don't have pictures of every single lake anyway as sometimes the minibus stopped in places where we couldn't get out to take pictures. It might be just as well though as I think sometimes I get too focused on looking through the camera lens and I don't actually see what's around me.

The first place we stopped was Kirkstone pass, with its 500meters it's the highest pass in the Lake District, going up it was kind of like going up a steep mountain road in Norway. The view was amazing and I bet it's even more so when the sky is clear, but at least it was dry on Friday, and seeing the top of the fells hiding in the clouds is pretty cool as well.

With the high fells and big lakes driving through the Lake District was a lot like driving through Norway, until we came to the very typical small british villages; some of them very small but packed with character! Some places along the road there were flood markers, apparently the water sometimes get as high as 3 feet!

One of the best views on the tour was from the lookout named Surprise View, where we could see Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance. Apparently even prettier in summer but I really liked it with all the pretty autumn colours. A little bit down the road from Surprise view is Ashness Bridge, built in the 1600's and apparently the most photographed bridge in England.

We stopped for lunch in Keswick, I have been there before, in 2009 but couldn't really remember much other than Moot Hall. It's a nice village to wander around in, we had just over an hour for lunch and since I just grabbed a sandwich from an independent sandwich shop I had plenty of time to do just that. There are a lot of shops selling hiking equipment (not surprising when you consider where you are) and also a lot of sweet, chocolate and fudge shops. There was even a Norwegian store.

After lunch we stopped at Castlerigg stone circle which is about 4000-5000 years old, the stones are smaller than the ones at Stonehenge but like Stonehenge they don't really know what it was used for. Part of it is called the Sanctuary, and I kind of wonder if that's a name they have come up with in later times, as I find it strange if they know what part of it was called but not what it was used for… Why would only the name of part of it be preserved through history but nothing else?

The reservoir that provides Manchester with water, Thirlmere, is also in the Lake District, a long way to go just to get some water. Two villages were lost when they created the reservoir, but at least it looks pretty.

We also stopped in Grasmere for half an hour, this is where the Wordsworth graves are. The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is of course there, it is over 100 years old, stepping inside it is a bit like stepping back in time, definitely worth a visit for more than the special gingerbread, which tastes a lot more of actual ginger than the usual gingerbread you get at Christmas.

In all the 10 Lake Spectacular Winter Tour was good, I learned a lot and saw lots of beautiful places. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Windermere and Bowness

When you arrive at Windermere train station; take a left to go into the village: It might sound like a silly  thing to say, but when I arrived in the dark and pouring rain on Wednesday night, and found there was no signs pointing to the village, but a road leading both ways and a shopping centre to the right, I must say I was a little confused.

Luckily the weather was better on Thursday with just a bit of occasional drizzle so I could explore Windermere and Bowness (or Bowness-on-Windermere if you prefer). It only takes a few minutes to walk from one village to the next so no need to pay for a bus ticket if you're able to walk.

Both Windermere and Bowness are really lovely villages with old buildings and plenty of character, like most small British villages. There were lots of independent stores as well as touristy stores selling ice cream, cards, and souvenirs. I bet it's really busy in summer. There are also a lot of places to eat, from pub food to Indian and Chinese, I kind of wish I'd gone with someone as I don't like going out to eat on my own.

Both in Windermere and Bowness there are a few lookouts overlooking the lake, My personal favourite was Orrest Head lookout, which had the best uninterrupted view. I did have some trouble finding the path up to Orrest head though, which I think in part was due to all the leaves on the ground covering the trail. Maybe the National Trust should put up some more signs for people going up in autumn and winter? Or just create a better map than the one they currently have at the bottom of the path.

View from Orrest Head
Windermere and Bowness are both lovely places to just wander around, and I can completely understand why they are such tourist attractions. If you ever go to the Lake District I do suggest spending a day or at least a couple of hours there. The World of Beatrix Potter is also in Bowness for those that are interested in that. I do like Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit but I didn't go into World of Beatrix Potter so I can't tell you what it's like.


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