An avid traveller with constant dreams and temptations of far-flung shores, it took a long time to truly appreciate my own country – the UK. It wasn’t until I was away from home for an extended period that I came to appreciate it more when I returned as a visitor and with fresh eyes. I wanted to try something different and found myself up in the Lake District, which completely changed my perceptions of the UK and what it had to offer.
After a long spell in Asia, I’m now living in mainland Europe, closer to home, and where I switch between a land I know and a continent I am constantly discovering. As a travel writer, I often hear of the passions of people travelling in Europe – its diversity, its history and its easy connections to hop from country-to-country. In helping to highlight that, I am contributing to the European Commission campaign ‘Europe. Wonder is all around’ where all European residents can motivate others to travel by sharing lesser known and hidden gems from their country on the ‘Wonder Map’ application on Facebook and using the hashtag #MyWonderfulEurope.
From June until December, you can share your own Europe highlights on the Facebook page app and win train tickets to travel in the continent, while inspiring others to take the road less known. But for now, here is my story of a destination I found in my country that surprised me – The Lake District – a place I encourage everyone to visit for an alternative introduction to the UK outside of our widely-known big cities.
Introducing the Lake District
“I wandered lonely as a cloud, That floats on high o’er vales and hills…”
Most British kids grow up learning the poem ‘Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth to the point where we all know it off by heart (parts of which I can still recite 20 years later!), all the while trying to understand every romantic detail of an area you had never laid eyes on. Back then I thought Wordsworth was rather over pronounced about the ‘sparking waves’ and the ‘bliss of solitude’ of the landscape where he saw the flowers.
That was until I found myself in Grasmere and Rydal Water in the Lake District, where Wordsworth lived and sought his inspiration to write this poem and the ‘Guide through the District of the Lakes’. Only then did his grand descriptions of natural beauty finally make sense.
Wordsworth happened to be living in an incredibly beautiful part of northwest England that I’m ashamed to say I only visited around 18 months ago. Guilty of dismissing travel in my own country in favour of far-flung exotic adventures, my Israeli friend’s request to ‘see the countryside’ during his time in the UK forced me to explore more of my own territory.
While I was not in the Lake District during the season of Daffodils, the traditional damp British weather did nothing to taint this picturesque canvas of mountains, rolling hills, forests and lakes.
The Lake District – Experiencing the True English Countryside
With nearly the entire region designated as a National Park, it’s easy to see why people flock here. Centuries on from its poetic fame, the Lake District still exudes the same romantic aura. A protected wilderness, at times it almost looks unreal.
The most visited National Park in the country, the Lake District is a huge expanse of land offering variety in activity, yet it is easily accessible by trains and connecting buses, which weave through the small towns and villages. So whether you stay in Windermere, Ullswater, Langdale Valley, Grasmere or Derwentwater (among others), you are never far from a neighbouring valley and new ground to explore. As an English Literature graduate, Grasmere was a huge draw for me.
A trip to the English countryside is not complete without the traditional cottage experience. It’s a British as you can get. I was invited to stay in the very quaint and organic Cote How Guest House, a three-bedroom peaceful lodging nestled between the villages of Ambleside and Grasmere with incredible views across the valleys and green acres of land as well as lakeside access for leisurely strolls or all day treks. I stayed in the Rydal Suite where I was greeted with afternoon tea on arrival, as well as waking each day to a healthy and hearty breakfast.
Ideal for any avid hiker, Cote How is on the path of the Rydal Water and Grasmere Walk, and only meters away from the home of Wordsworth and the starting trail of the more challenging, yet incredible, Fairfield Horseshoe Hike. The lovely owner, Caroline, is always on hand to run you though the different trails, mapped routes and tell you the best sights to seek out.
Hiking in the Lake District
The Lake District is as much about relaxing as it is exploring the great outdoors, whether you find yourself relaxing in a tea room, enjoying a leisurely boat ride on the lakes or taking on a full day challenging hike. Setting out to do a different hike on each of the two full days I was there, I came across some of the most magnificent viewing points and beautiful landscapes I have honestly ever seen. Here’s why…
Rydal Water and Grasmere Walk – The Short Hike
An approximate four-hour walk from Rydal Water to the village of Grasmere, weaving around two lakes, into forest areas and through dainty residential areas, ended with a trip to the famous Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread shop in Grasmere to sample the secret recipe.
Fairfield Horseshoe Hike – The Long Hike
Requiring a slightly earlier start, the Fairfield Horseshoe Hike that essentially leads you from Rydal, across the semi-circle of mountaintops, leading down into the valley and the adjacent village of Ambleside, should take around eight hours.
Sadly, our inquisitive lingering, obsession with photography and general slow pace meant we were not going to be able to make it all the way round in time, so we reached the highest peak to glimpse the view before heading down the established Arthur’s Seat track back down into Grasmere.