For Rico’s birthday weekend in August we decided to travel within the UK for once. The Lake District seemed a perfect choice considering its distance from the city and how much it reminded us of our summer trips to New Hampshire when we were living in Boston. We thought we’d be able to get some swimming in as well, but even in the middle of the summer England just isn’t hot enough—especially up north! That said, we were excited to get out in the countryside, appreciate the country’s natural beauty and get our legs moving on some of the area’s best walking and hiking paths.
We like the freedom of having a car on trips like these, plus we had never driven on the left side of the road before, so we decided to rent a car and make the long drive up. We took a train past the fringes of North London to pick up our car and we were off! It didn’t take long for the urban sprawl of London to give way to beautiful rolling hills full of farm animals and neat lines of trees. In order to break the drive up we stopped in the quaint small city of Shrewsbury where our first stop was lunch—falafel burgers, sweet potato fries and garlic ciabatta at The Armoury. The restaurant was right on the banks of the River Severn, so after lunch we walked along it through The Quarry and to the Kingsland Bridge (or “Penny Bridge” for the one-penny toll that used to be levied on pedestrians crossing it). After hanging around for a bit on the bridge, we made our way inward toward the center of The Quarry where we found the unfittingly-named Dingle Gardens with its beautifully-pristine sets of flower beds in all kinds of bright colors. We wandered through the medieval streets (where we noticed so many unique doors on the old buildings) from St. Chad’s to St. Mary’s (amazing stained glass) and then settled at the town’s main square for a while before heading back to the car to get back on the road.
By nightfall we arrived in Windermere where we stayed at an Airbnb converted from an old cobbler's cottage. We had a quick dinner in town and then jumped in bed to rest up for a busy first full day! Unfortunately we woke up to some of the most heavy and consistent rain we’ve experienced since moving to the UK. Not to be deterred, we made the very short journey to Bowness-on-Windermere which sits at the center of Lake Windermere’s eastern shore. It was here that we started to realize how much more warm and friendly the people were compared to London—we also realized that we must have missed the memo on bringing a dog with us! After a quick lunch we walked down to Bowness bay which looked surreal with the heavy fog, clouds and rain—it was all somehow very stunning. This vision inspired us, so we grabbed the car and made the drive around the whole lake! The one-hour drive took us through all kinds of landscapes, some close to the shore and some farther inland, but all dotted with animals of every sort—it was a very refreshing experience. The rain finally started letting up once we got back to Windermere, so we set off on a hike up to Orrest Head which was very light on the legs but offered amazing views of the lake and the surrounding rolling hills. And once again, animals made a special guest appearance, with horses and sheep all along the trail. That night we grabbed a chicken, spinach and sweetcorn pizza from Gitto right around the corner from the cottage and finished the day off with chocolate fudge cake with vanilla and mint chocolate chip ice cream!
Our second full day started off much better in terms of the weather. With the sun shining up above we made the hour drive to Keswick which is regularly claimed one of England’s most scenic. We started our time in Keswick with a visit to the market where we found our souvenir for the trip—a gray English wool blanket that has found a permanent home on the couch in our London flat. We split patatas bravas and a falafel wrap from The Square Orange Cafe for lunch, indulged in lemon meringue and mocha coffee bean ice cream from Cones & Cakes and then made our way down toward the waterfront where we were greeted with dozens of sheep lounging on a large, grassy hill.
After hanging out with our new friends for a bit, we grabbed the boat to Hawse End where we’d be starting our hike up Catbells. I could describe the beautiful views from the hike, but we’ll let the pictures do the talking. After hiking back down, we sat on the dock and relaxed while we waiting for the boat back to Keswick. Once back in Windermere we went out to Wild & Co for Rico’s birthday dinner where we had a burger, crab and prawn linguine and a couple of large brownie sundaes! Suffice it to say, we spent the hour after dinner lying in bed digesting the meal. In the middle of night, Rico was awoken by Britt who seemed excited to show him something. We stepped outside the cottage, looked up and realized that it had been at least half a year since we were able to see stars like we saw them that night. It was incredible.
We woke up the next day, packed up and hit the road back to London. We were sad to leave the natural beauty of the area and thought to ourselves “why stop at some town or city on the way back down when we could go see the ocean!?” Though it wasn’t quite “on the way,” we drove over the “border” to Wales to check out its north coast. We ended up at a beach in Talacre with what seems like miles of sand and plenty of large dunes. Most interesting of all was the abandoned lighthouse that was partially swallowed up by the sea about 30 feet off shore.
After walking around quite a bit and accepting that it was time to go home, we got back in the car only breaking for a quick lunch before getting sucked back into London’s concrete jungle. Sometimes it takes a long weekend like this to remember that you don’t need to leave the country to experience something beautiful and different.