Weekend Away: Lake District
Famed for its literary links such as poetry of Wordsworth and children’s novels of Beatrix Potter, a weekend spent in the beauty of Lakeland is enough to have anyone wax lyrical.
Base yourself in the main towns of Windermere or Ambleside which gives easy access to the main sites.
What to do
Visit historical sites such as the Neolithic Stone Circle at Castlerigg (www.english-heritage.org.uk) with panoramic views and the mountains of Helvellyn and High Seat. At Threkeld there is fascinating a Bronze Age settlement site and its worth going to see the remote 2nd century Roman Fort at Hardknott Pass (www.english-heritage.org.uk).
Drive what’s arguably England’s most spectacular drive through the Hardknott and Wrynose passes.
Walk up England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike at 976 metres and take a boat trip or canoe on Coniston Water or Lake Windermere (England’s largest lake at 5.7 square miles).
Visit Beatrix Potter’s 17th century cottage and garden at Hill Top (www.nationaltrust.org.uk) the inspiration for her many books and Wordsworth’s former home, Dove Cottage, near Grasmere (www.wordsworth.org.uk).
Where to stay
For a grown-up retreat try the family-run Gilpin Hotel (www.thegilpin.co.uk) in Windermere. All the bedrooms have Lakeland views (some with hot tubs) plus there are five new ensuite spa lodges. Foodies will love the on-site Michelin-star restaurant.
Alternatively, Laura Ashley design hotel, The Belsfield (www.lauraashleyhotels.com), at Bowness-on-Windermere, is a stylish family-friendly stay with lakefront access. The best of local Cumbrian produce is on offer at AA rosette Belsfield restaurant which has spectacular views over Lake Windermere and the Fells.
For adults-only indulgence head to the Brimstone (www.brimstonehotel.co.uk) with its roaring log fires, ski-chalet chic décor and expansive bedrooms with balconies. The luxury spa has an indoor and outdoor pool and a Himalayan salt steam grotto.
Where to eat
For a picnic to enjoy in the Cumbrian outdoors make a beeline for café and deli Lucy’s on a plate (www.lucysofambleside.co.uk). The café is relaxed and child-friendly with several seating areas (sofas, window seats, a conservatory and a walled garden). Test Lucy’s reputation for incredible puddings and cakes by treating yourself to Queen of Desserts – a sweet smorgasbord of 25 desserts (until 10.30pm), including several gluten free offerings. To steal their sweet secrets, book into Lucy Cooks, their sister cook school near Kendal.
In Wordsworth’s former Ambleside workplace, an award-winning duo of brothers create inspirational local dishes in The Old Stamphouse (www.oldstamphouse.com), sourcing wild herbs, mushrooms and game from the surrounding forests and fells.
In the southern Lake District, for fine dining in relaxed surrounds try Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume (www.lenclume.co.uk). Combine a lake cruise across Lake Windermere for a spot of afternoon tea enjoying the views at the Lakeside Hotel (www.lakesidehotel.co.uk)
What to buy
Part of the Lake District’s appeal is pottering around the charming stone-built towns and villages. Art galleries, boutiques, craft shops and artisan producers abound. Beckstones Art Gallery near Greystoke has a reputation for exhibiting original paintings by some of the UK’s finest contemporary artists, (www.beckstonesartgallery.co.uk). For contemporary artwork by local artists try Thornthwaite Gallery near Keswick (www.thornthwaitegallery.co.uk). The gallery is housed in a 200-year-old bank barn with over 140 exhibitors and a teashop.
Don’t leave the region without sampling famous Kendal Mint Cake, Grasmere gingerbread and Herdwick lamb from Yewtree Farm (www.borrowdaleyewtreefarm.co.uk), once owned by Beatrix Potter.
Get me there
The Lake District is around 2.5 hours’ drive by car. Alternatively it takes 2 hours by train from Edinburgh to Oxenholme, www.thetrainline.com