Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Lake District

Trying to beat all the traffic on the M6, we push off at 5.15am for our weekend away in the Lake District and have a great run right through to Lake Windermere. Already there are coaches parked on the outskirts of Windermere, the districts most popular spot, so we push on up the road to Ambleside at the top end of the lake. After our early start and a 4 hour drive to get there, it was time for breakfast and coffee so we stopped at the little Ambleside Pier, content to sit and watch the ferries loading their passengers for a circuit of the lake, and the seagulls ever hopeful for a morsel of food before they depart.

Picking up a map of the various walks around the area, we head for Tarn Hows, reputed for being the most photographed of all the lakes. Even though the weather is overcast and inclined to be drizzly, it is still a very picturesque spot with a man-made 1.75 mile circular path through beautiful countryside with majestic mountain views. It is maintained by the National Trust, and our steep fee of 4.5 pounds for 2 hours parking. Belted Galloway cattle are grazing in the car park, unconcerned with the nearness of people.

                    Tarn Hows in the Lake Districk of UK. Still pretty despite the English weather !!

      Belted Galloway cattle - apparently a rare breed. These ones very used to tourists visiting them.

After our amble around the tarn, we head into Coniston looking for another walk. Parking is often scarce in these villages and once again parking is about 5 pounds for an hour. So as the rain has started to get heavier, we opt for a pint of cider in a local pub (with free parking for customers). Just over 5 pound for a pint of cider and beer, but then we leave the car in the car park and head up on one of the designated walks, climbing up through paddocks of sheep and brightly coloured gorse bush. The walk is all on private property but designated as public footpath - just asking that you leave all gates and openings as you found them. It is still drizzling, but with wet weather gear and umbrellas, we make the most of the day.

          Paddocks with lots of new lambs with their mums - many of them black, and set of twins.

                            Amongst the gorse bushes - making the most of the weather conditions

What better place for a baby to shelter from the rain than under mum !
We still have an hours drive to Alston where we are staying for the weekend. It is a small town in Cumbria set on the South Tyne river and lies with the Pennine mountains, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Our accommodation is the Lovelady Shield Country House, an elegant Georgian hotel set on 3 acres and with the River Nent running 20 meters from the front door. The hotel is renowned  for its 7 course degustation menu which has been awarded 2 AA rosettes consistently for the past 5 years. After all our walking, we are really looking forward to dinner.

                                        Lovelady Shield Country House - Alston UK

                                             The view from our bedroom window

The meal was amazing - 3 hours spent leisurely enjoying each course with accompanying wines, and yet at the end we didn't feel like we had eaten too much. Chef's amuse (pate), Butternut squash risotto, Carrot and cumin soup, Pan fried salmon, Sorbet, Roast loin of spring lamb, Selection of local cheeses, Passionfruit cheesecake, Coffee to finish - 4 of the courses served with French or South African wine. No wonder they have won their awards.

Next morning after a hearty breakfast we opt to drive for a while as the rain has set in. Narrow lanes link the small villages in the valley, hair pin bends and high hedges - hoping that any oncoming cars are travelling as slowly as we are. We park the car in Alston village and start alongside the road running parallel to the South Tynedale Railway on Isaac's Tea Trail. Passing Kirkhaugh station we continue until we come to the bridge that crosses the line and takes us up onto Alston moor, joining the Pennine Way. Following the yellow arrows defining our path, we walk through some very boggy patches after all the rain, cross a few creeks, and the River Nent before making our descent back into Alston village. It took us nearly 3 hours and a 7.5 mile circular route, helping to walk off last night's wonderful meal.

Next morning, it is time we bid farewell to our hosts and head south towards home. Choosing to avoid the M6, we head east through rolling hills at the top and paddocks of yellow canola (rape) below in the valleys. It's not raining, and the forecast is better than yesterday, the sun trying desperately to burn off the cloud. Its a good run home despite being a public holiday - the best part is it is now a short week. out time here in the UK is quickly coming to an end, and I am glad we made it up to this area for a visit before we depart.

                                           The rolling hills and dales of the Pennines

                           Everywhere there are paddocks of canola growing, a glorious sea of yellow

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