Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The magic of Keswick and the Lake District

After leaving Cambridge, we drove north and then west to the Lake District of England--into Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Coleridge country. A sense of magic pervades this part of England; it’s the feel of the place--unstable weather, hilly landscapes and mountains, pristine lakes, shifting clouds, the greenery, the sunlight and the way it infuses the colors of the hills and the sky with a certain vibrancy and crispness. The drive into the Lake District is a pastoral scene unto itself; gray stone farmhouses dot the landscape here and there, and sheep abound.

About sixteen million tourists visit the Lake District each year; July and August are presumably the busiest months since most people have summer vacation then. We visited the Lake District the week before summer vacation officially started for most of Britain, which enhanced the experience for me because we did not have to deal with masses of people at all junctures. On our eight-mile walk around Derwentwater Lake, we met perhaps a total of twenty other walkers during the four hours it took us to complete the walk, which suited me just fine. I liked the feeling of having the lake almost to ourselves. There is a wildness here that feels untamable; it emanates from the geographic nature of the land. I liked the feeling of undisturbed nature about me, of wandering down to the water’s edge and looking out over the vast expanse of lake, of stopping to listen to the wind blowing through the trees, of just being a small part of it.

It’s hard not to love a place that has small towns with names like Bowness-on-Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere, or lakes with names like Buttermere, Ullswater, Derwentwater, Windermere, or mountains called Helvellyn, Scafell and Skiddaw. We stayed three nights at the Lairbeck Hotel (run by Malcolm and Jennifer Hutchinson) located on Vicarage Hill road in the town of Keswick (the ‘w’ is not pronounced), a short walk from the town center. The Lairbeck is a lovely Victorian country house hotel that enchanted me from the moment I walked through its front doors and into the vestibule ( Jennifer greeted us and showed us to our room, the School Room, which had a window seat with a view that overlooked the beautifully-kept garden. A window seat! Anyone who knows me knows that I always wanted my own room with a window seat when I was a child. Our stay here was pleasant and relaxing, with friendly hosts and a great breakfast in the dining room with a garden view to look forward to each morning.

scenic view from the front of the Lairbeck Hotel

The Cumbrian market town of Keswick is a find in all ways, with lovely scenic views and a variety of interesting boutiques, pubs, cafes and architecturally-interesting houses. And of course the meals at several different pubs; the food was consistently excellent (in our opinion). The first night we ate at The Inn at Keswick ( in the town center; I had the Cumberland sausage and mash, and my husband had the lamb hot pot.The following nights we ate at the Pheasant Inn at Keswick (, right down the road from our hotel. I tried the Lakeland beef and Cumberland ale pie, and my husband ate the Fish Pie—both were excellent, in addition to the variety of beers available. The homemade tomato soup was also excellent.

We were not in Keswick long enough to do all the walking tours I would have liked to do (only two days), but we did manage the Derwentwater Lake walk as I mentioned above, which took us about four hours (I'll post photos from this walk in my next post). Besides this walk, we drove down to Bowness-on-Windermere on one rainy afternoon and through the towns of Ambleside and Grasmere (home to William Wordsworth). We did not manage a visit to Dove Cottage where Wordsworth, his wife, and his sister lived, although we did visit The World of Beatrix Potter attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere. This was not her actual home though; she lived at Hill Top farm in Near Sawrey, Hawkshead, Ambleside; on a future trip to the Lake District, Hill Top farm and Dove Cottage will be two of the first stops. Beatrix Potter was an impressive woman; world-famous author of children’s books and a wonderful artist, but also an astute businesswoman, who owned fourteen farms and four thousand acres of land in the Lake District, which she willed to the National Trust when she died. It’s not hard to understand why this area enchanted so many writers, poets and artists. I definitely want to return here and explore it some more. 

On our way to Newcastle-on-Tyne, where we took the ferry to Amsterdam for our return trip home, we drove through the outer edges of the Westernhope and Middlehope Moors, in the area near Stanhope, a small town located on the north east side of Weardale. This was a rather unexpected detour, as our GPS somehow pushed us in this direction in its quest to get us to Newcastle via the fastest route. Driving over the moors was breathtaking but also a bit spooky. You could see for miles--desolate and rough land that stretches out forever in all directions. Not another car to be seen for miles. If you broke down out there, you could probably wait for hours for help. Again, there were many sheep out grazing on the moors, and some of them had come right up to the edge of the road, which made driving rather hazardous at times; my husband found it stressful. Driving this stretch of road in the dark would not be something I would like to do. We made it in one piece (and without a car breakdown) to Newcastle and reached our ferry on time. Now at home a few days later, the magic of the entire trip remains with me, happily so.


  1. A lovely Place and super blog.
    Thank for share grate Info.

    1. Thank you for your nice comments! I want to go back to the Lake District for sure, I loved being there. I'm glad you found the information I posted useful. All the best to you.