We did not have the best of weather in the Lake District, but one of the nicest things on rainy days to head out to an indoor location and have plans for outdoor destinations nearby in case the weather breaks. Our 1st day out was a late start and rainy, so after a nice lunch of pan seared duck breast we headed out to the Lakes Aquarium. Hardly a destination, it provided just enough “outing” excitement to get us back on our feet after a weekend of relaxing. On the way back home we stopped at Booths in Windermere for essentials and non-essentials, finding some organic and artisan selections (and whole bean coffee) and headed for home.
The next day gray skies and all we set off farther afield. The destination was Muncaster Castle which is on the coast. We chose the lower route to get there as it was a bit closer. The lunch spot on route, was Millstone Bakery Farm. Perhaps not the best choice, but a memorable one for the small erector set that was purchased at the toy barn and partially assembled at lunch. Muncaster Castle, home of the World Owl Trust, had lots of Rhododendrons in bloom, which made for a lovely walk up to the castle. We decided not to do the castle tour, and stick to owls. Gray skies threatened but we had no rain and managed to view about 1/2 of the owl pens before the 2:30p flying demonstration. Just 3 owls flying today. My favorite was the European Eagle Owl, but I got to hold the barn owl for just a minute, and that was fun. We tried the Meadow Vole Maze, but despite the effort put into it, it was appropriate for the under 5 and a disappointment.
Our Dinner choice was the 1 star Michelin restaurant at The Samling Hotel. While we didn’t find specific fault, it was a very pricey dinner and in my estimation did not please enough for the cost. This is a recurrent theme in fine dining in The Lake District, high prices do not equal food quality. If we had to choose again, it would be elsewhere.
The next day the plan was to try and find a trout farm to please our budding angler. We headed south and realized that prior to fishing we’d need a lunch spot. The Lakeland Motor Museum was close by and it had a cafe so we thought we’d have a quick go around and then lunch. It was a jewel of a museum, not too big, with a few interesting cars, a complete mini museum of the Bluebird racer and some info on the bluing mills which I found fascinating. The most unusual car was perhaps the amphibious one. Lunch at Cafe Ambio was a pleasant surprise. The cafe has homemade touches and a nice view of the river.
Off to the trout farm, up a terrifyingly narrow road with a big car. We eventually found the “farm” but alas, you needed both a fishing rod and a license. Instead, we headed for a hike in Grizedale, trusting the crazy route the car’s navigation system plotted. I had high hopes of seeing the Andy Goldsworthy sculptures but after looking at the trail maps and the sky we chickened out and decided to go on an easier and shorter hike. After some pick me up ice cream we poured ourselves into the car and headed home.
Trent was very sad that we didn’t manage to go fishing, and just as we were discussing dinner options, we passed a “trout farm” sign. We turned around and went to check it out. The energy level rose to a high when we saw it had a hut and people fishing nearby. It was the Esthwaite Water, near Hawkshead. The stars must have been in alignment as after about 15 mins we were stocked with 2 rods (with reels!), live bait, floats and a fishing license (for me). A quick casting lesson (with follow-up from Jack) and a baiting 101 from Jack and we were all set. Just a bit of rain threatening. I could tell you the story of the one that got away… but the important part of the tale is that T caught us a 17″ lovely rainbow trout for dinner. Needless to say it was a much enjoyed fish feast when we arrived home (I baked the trout stuffed with thyme). Even I ate it. It turns out the impromptu farm was the largest stocked lake in the North of England. What Kismet.
Our last adventure day took us North to the Keswick area to visit the stone circle, Castlerigg. It’s out in a field, with sheep all around it, accessed by a country road. After our visit we headed into Keswick and found an unnotable lunch spot (note to self to not trust the Good Food Guide). Then the Cumberland Pencil Museum called to me, so we dropped in for a quick tour. The Lake District is famous for slate, but also for graphite and is still home to Derwent, maker of the pencils since 1832. I think I enjoyed the museum the most, but we all had fun looking at pencils in the shop. T picked our last stop – Trotters World of Animals. We completely drove by it the first pass, but found it coming back (it’s owned by a hotel and is tucked away behind it). Doesn’t sound like it would be much, but it has some interesting animals and birds, including an Asian River Cat and the best falconry/flying display we’ve been to, for the up close & personal experience. On the way back to Coniston we stopped for a quick hike up to a nearby waterfall and then headed home to recoup before dinner.
A very long drive down to Cartmel, took us to our dinner destination: L’Enclume, the heralded restaurant. Very expensive and fussy, the food was interesting but not worth the huge effort required to get there. Some lovely presentations, and mindful creations, but a multi-course affair which after a long day, just didn’t have the glamor it might, on a leisurely day with a shorter drive.
All in all, unless it’s steadily pouring (and then indoor adventures may be the best option), gray days often have breaks where you can tuck in some outdoor excursion between indoor ones. My advice is to head out with a bunch of potential destinations. Where you end up will be part of the adventure.
Our next destination: Along the Wall…
Time to leave Bath and head north. The big 4+ hour drive to the Lake District was ahead of us. We rented a luxury self-catering cottage near Coniston for a week, so that was our destination. The plan was to stop enroute and buy supplies for the week ahead, so that when we arrived we would be basically set up.
We got a good start in the morning and set off for the Lake District via the M5. Big mistake and good thing we had lunch on board. The M5 ground to a full parking lot halt just south of Birmingham. After about an hour and a half it was clear that things were not going to be moving anytime soon. Police arrived and started backing cars up and turning them around and then exiting them via the last exit. So much fun to drive the wrong direction on the M. Apparently a truck had crossed the barrier into oncoming traffic, taking out a Mercedes. Needless to say I was happy it was not our Mercedes. It was a huge mess and the highway was closed for hours and hours.
We managed to figure out a detour, found the M6 and made it to Low Sizergh Barn before they closed, but no time to visit the castle. With the entire back of the car full of local food, we headed to No. 1 Silverbank in Coniston. The last time we stayed in the Lake District we stayed much farther east and north at Lowther Farm – a lovely place which arranged for Organic chicken and eggs. We found that sourcing organic, artisan and local food challenging. Believe or not the best place was the Westmoreland Farms Motorway stop. Low Sizergh Barns has a great reputation for stocking all that and more, and although I was disappointed it didn’t have a butcher shop, we were not disappointed and got most things we needed.
The cottage awaited us in the rain. It was a bit farther to bring the bags in than I had planned and the bedrooms were all upstairs, but the cottage itself was nicely decorated and I was super pleased to find the kitchen had lots of utensils, pans & a full freezer! The plan was to BBQ. I am not the primary BBQ-er in the family, so I set out to investigate. There was a fancy BBQ up where the patio furniture was. I sent Jack out to hunt for charcoal and he found the last quarter of a bag. With that in hand, a box of matches, and some newspaper I set to get something lit. The charcoal left was little pieces and powder. It was raining and windy. Did I mention it was raining? Using a crazy number of matches, I got it lit. After a while I had enough heat to actually cook something so I threw on the burgers and steak and the buns. It was still windy but the rain had mostly let up. We ate burgers and steak and salad. It was not my best meal ever but it was edible.
The next morning, T & J both woke up with colds. I started with homeopathic remedies and we called it a movie day. It was pouring outside and the cottage came stocked with lots of DVDs. We watched Nanny McPhee and Inception. The rain let up and we threw ourselves together and went out to Gilpin Lodge for dinner. Dinner was very good and Trent was a trooper making it through a long dinner. The next day we managed to do almost nothing at all. I started some bread dough with the biodynamic stone ground flour I had scored. We had a lazy morning with a big breakfast which set off the smoke alarm (this would not be the last time.)
We headed out in the afternoon to Ambleside in hopes of getting Organic Milk and Coffee Beans. Don’t laugh too hard. Neither was acquired, but we did manage some psuedo-local milk. Apparently where we needed to go was Booths in Windermere. Jack scored a sweatshirt which got lots of use on the trip. Trent’s cold was better but not perfect. I still was managing not to get it. An ‘off’ day was a huge luxury, but a much needed one. I made a fire, baked bread and roasted a chicken (oh why oh why didn’t I bring my instant thermometer??) Despite my best efforts to ruin it, the chicken turned out perfectly and dinner was delicious.
Next up: Recovery Day Aquarium.
This latest adventure is taking us to the UK. As always I research trips and cross reference and note links and save and print and search some more. In the spirit of all of that I’ve saved some of the links I used in researching this latest pond jump. Perhaps they will help you plan a future trip. Do what thou wilt with them.
Sights to See in Northumberland:
Cumbria Sights to See & Cumbria Food Links
Artisan Food – Lake District
Travel in Northumberland & & Oxfordshire & Cumbria Accommodation & General:
Mazes to Note: