Lake District Surprises

England’s Lake District felt like Vancouver—there was a lot of rain, which made the loss of a travel day because of our flat tire a little more bearable.

I wandered the one-street town of Torpenhow, marvelling at the quaintness of the houses, the street signs, and the melancholic beauty of the cemetery and old parish church that is still active today—St. Michael and All Angels.

This is the kind of town where being stuck without a car is rather inconvenient since the closest shop to walk to was a pub half an hour away. Needless to say, we were thankful once the car was fixed and we could get on the road to do some driving and hiking in the nearby Lake District.

Buttermere to Rannerdale Walk

When you only have 1 full day in the Lake District (not recommended), it’s hard to choose which hike to do! We opted for a version of this 2-hour route found on the National Trust website along the mountain ridge from the cute village of Buttermere to Rannerdale Valley.

The wind and rain were relentless. Note my hair whipped straight back from my hood. I’m cradling my stomach here as this was baby’s first hike (then just the size of an avocado). The large swath of purple below me is Rannerdale Valley filled with bluebells.

They don’t call this area the Lake District for no reason! The lake in the foreground is called Crummock Water (meaning “crooked”, referring to the lake’s shape) and Loweswater in the distance.

Sheep are everywhere in England, but this type below, Herdwick sheep, are native to the Lake District. Famous children’s author Beatrix Potter was known for keeping and herding them.

Despite the wind and rain, the hike was a blast, especially when we reached the fabulous bluebells that bloom in spring. May was a perfect time to see them. I found this legend interesting:

Sometimes known as the Secret Valley, this area is said to be the site of a battle at which native Cumbrians and Norsemen ambushed and defeated Norman armies in the century after they came to Britain in 1066. Rannerdale offers a popular bluebell walk in spring, when the woodland floor becomes an indigo carpet. Local folklore suggests that the bluebells have sprung up from the blood of slain Norman warriors.

National Trust website

We probably spent close to half an hour just wandering in and out of the bluebell paths and taking photos. I’ve never seen this concentration of flowers before. It felt a bit like we were in a fairy tale.

We learned that the weather in the Lake District changes all the time, so chances are some sun will poke through even on the dreariest days. (Though the rain adds such a moody, dramatic effect to the landscape that’s worth experiencing too!) We enjoyed some sun driving the scenic roads back to Keswick, the hub of the northern Lake District.

Before reaching Keswick (shown above), we detoured along a popular packhorse bridge called Ashness Bridge. Incredibly narrow, I had to get out of our boat-car to direct my husband through it. Thankfully we made it!

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Another gem in this area is Castlerigg Stone Circle, one of Britain’s earliest stone circles dating back to the Neolithic period (4000-500 years ago). I had been to Stonehenge 10 years ago, and even though that site was impressive, I enjoyed these stones so much more. For one, we had it almost all to ourselves. Number two, the setting is incredible. 38 stones sitting on a low hill, surrounded by mountains in the setting sun. Unbeatable. And three, the stones weren’t roped off like they are at Stonehenge, so you can actually walk right up to them and touch them.

Coming back to Torpenhow for our last night was magical. Sunset was spotlighting Scotland in the distance, across the Irish Sea, as we drove in on the single-track road to the soundtrack of bleating lambs and mooing cows.

We said goodbye to this fabulous view out our farmhouse window the next morning and headed for Scotland.

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