On Friday the 31st of July I was supposed to be travelling to Dumfries and Galloway, to meet with my friends for a few days of road-tripping. Instead, I ended up going to the Lake District on my own. I really wanted to spend a long weekend there, so in a way it was a blessing in disguise thay our Scotland trip got cancelled due to the obvious reasons. It’s such a shame that my mates couldn’t join me, they would have loved it.
I stayed in Portinscale, a quiet village a mile or so away from the hustle and bustle of Keswick. It was a good choice, and I didn’t mind a 20 min walk to Keswick at all. Portinscale is ideal for hiking a popular Cat Bells fell (fell, from Old Norse fjall = mountain), for visiting a delightul Alpaca sanctuary and for the nearby Newlands Valley. Being very close to the lake, it offers access to a marina:
I booked an Alpaca experience because my friends have been to a similar place in Ireland. The only available slot was at 9 am on Saturday. I had a quick breakfast and headed to the Lingholm Estate (‘The word Lingholm derives from old Nordic and literally translates as heather ground’), famous for its links to Beatrix Potter. The weather stayed dry and we were able to spend a quality 90 min with these chilled, although occasionally stubborn animals. We walked them, fed them and even took them to the toilet, which was right on the lake shore – a very nice spot for a wee 😉 I stayed in the walled gardens afterwards for a coffee and a brownie, and just sat there for over half an hour, feeling very calm, relaxed and happy. Everyone needs an alpaca in their life, every now and then.
Meet Stevie Wonder, a chocolate Alpaca 🙂
Afterwards I walked to Cat Bells, and came back on a tarmac road, kind of following everyone, as I didn’t want to retrace my steps and scramble again. My goodness, those British hills are so steep. We Europeans don’t think much of ‘mountains’ which are below 1000 m above the sea level…however here the hike often starts at the sea level, which means climbing a vertical kilometre or more! I wasn’t the only person who stopped once or twice to catch their breath and take in the views. And what magnificent views they were…
I did another walk a day before, when I arrived on Friday. My room wasn’t going to be ready before 4 pm and I was so excited about being in The Lakes that I headed straight to Fitz Park and from there, towards a path leading to Latrigg and Skiddaw. Skiddaw (possibly from Old Norse skitr = shit), 931m, had to wait until Monday, however Latrigg was a perfect introductory walk, very easy and not at all steep. I was so overjoyed, despite carrying a heavy backpack in a 30 degrees heat. For the first time since March I was able to do this:
On Sunday it rained a little but the weather cleared by 11 am and I stuck to the plan, which was to walk around Derwentwater, The Queen of The Lakes. It’s mostly flat, very easy to follow path and the scenery is stunning. My favourite part is the one near Lodore Falls, where the area somewhat resembles Asian Steppe, with the majestic mountains on the horizon.
I came back to the lake the same evening. It was much more peaceful, with gorgeous light quality – I saw numerous photographers setting up their tripods in anticipation of the sunset.
The weather forecast for Monday predicted sunshine, and so I left my hotel at 8:45 am and headed to the Skiddaw path, via Jenkin Hill. Some describe this route as boring, I thought it was marvellous, but then I am a novice… Having done Couch to 5K recently, my legs were pretty strong but I maintained a slow pace, stopping often. I saw a few families with young children, but they took a route to Latrigg, Skiddaw obviously being too strenuous. This was the best day of all. I thought about nothing else but putting one foot in front of another and when I reached the summit, I felt as if I was on top of the world, free from any worries and anxieties. Everest anywhere…
The visibility was more than decent and I could see all the way to Scottish Hills, the very place I was originally planning to visit. It was very cold and windy, and I was prepared for it, although I could have taken a hat and a pair of gloves!
Castlerigg, a well known stone circle dating back to 3000 B.C. was unusually quiet on Tuesday morning, no doubt thanks to a rainy weather. I hoped to be transported back in time to the 17th century Cumberland, but nothing happened…
Rain continued until Wednesday, and apart from wandering around Keswick and a round trip on a jetty, I didn’t do much else. I managed to find the only restaurant in town that didn’t participate in Eat Out To Help Out, the food was good though – I had a beef bourguignon and a LARGE glass of Shiraz – so I didn’t mind paying a full price. On Wednesday everywhere seemed fully booked for lunch, so reluctanly I went to one of the traditional pubs for a very traditional, bland and greasy fish & chips, this time with a discount. They couldn’t make me a pot of tea because their hot water machine was down, and when I asked for lemonade, I was given a funny look…There is an abundance of alternative eateries in Keswick, and the culinary options available certainly exceed cold ham, egg and chips and such, but sadly I couldn’t get a table anywhere else. Luckily for me, a cooked breakfast kept me going well until late afternoon so on most days I could do without evening meal.
I cannot normally afford Keswick or anywhere else in the Lakes for that matter. What should be an affordable, domestic holiday has become a luxury (in price only) option for mortgage-free pensioners and affluent families (I could hear a southern accent everywhere). People trying to do it on the cheap are unwelcome and can even get kicked out, as we have seen recently with the police removing the campervans (watch this You Tube video to find out more…). As soon as it became clear our Scottish adventure wasn’t going to happen I found and booked a single room here . It met my needs, from excellent communication with the owner via Whatsapp, to a very efficiently organized breakfast and good Coronavirus related guidance. I read some reviews on Booking.com where people paid £2000 per week and still complained about decor, noise, parking fees, broken showers etc and I really don’t see any point in paying for fake luxury.
I am already thinking about going back in September and doing Scafell Pike, perhaps Hellvelyn or some other peaks. I am very tempted by Ben Nevis, but I feel it will have to wait until next year, providing Scotland does not remain in permanent lockdown. In times like this, I truly appreciate having such beautiful and soul – healing places only 2.5 hours away.