The splendour of the Lake District

Imagine green rolling hills that stretch to the feet of massive, boulder-like mountains. In the valleys, tranquil, finger-like lakes extend for miles, their forested shores occasionally interrupted by quaint settlements, grassy meadows and striking patches of daffodils. Crystal-clear streams and waterfalls abound. In the fields, white-faced Herdwick sheep graze peacefully, seemingly smiling at everyone who passes by, whilst in the towns, visitors are welcomed by a friendly hello and a tip of the hat. This is the Lake District in the heart of Cumbria.

A Tour of the Lake District with Quirky Traveller

The Velvet Escape bench overlooking Rydal Water

Some time ago, Zoë Dawes, better known as Quirky Traveller, wrote a guest post in which she beautifully described her favourite ‘Velvet Escape‘ in this beautiful region: a bench on the shores of Rydal Water. This bench, now christened the ‘Velvet Escape seat’, has since appeared in numerous media.

On my trip to Manchester, Zoë kindly offered to take me and my good friend Simon on a tour of the Lakes. Simon and I hopped onto a train for the 1.5 hour journey to Oxenholme (near the gateway to the Lake District), where we met Zoë. We were joined by Stewart, a brilliant photographer, whom, like Zoë, has made the Lakes his home.

Zoë took us on a drive past the touristy towns of Bowness (with its plethora of shops, cafés and restaurants) and Windermere, where we made a quick stop at the lakeshore. We were immediately greeted by a bevy of cheeky swans. The sun shone brightly and everything seemed to gleam. Needless to say, the views across the lake were absolutely gorgeous.

Welcome to the Lakes!

We continued our tour along Windermere, passing the most beautiful trees, fields brimming with cheery daffodils and lovely Victorian cottages. Zoë slowed down each time we approached a clearing in the trees, providing us with splendid panoramas of the lakes and the hills. One thing that grabbed my attention was the ample use of slate in the buildings, bridges and fences. We made a brief stop at arguably one of the most famous slate buildings in Cumbria, the Bridge House in Ambleside (incidentally, an absolutely charming town).

The road to Rydal Mount

Dancing daffodils

Our next stop was Rydal Mount where the famous poet William Wordsworth lived until his death in 1850. Wordsworth’s most famous poem, about ‘dancing daffodils’, was inspired by the landscapes of the Lake District. Rydal Mount is a gorgeous house, surrounded by stunning gardens, that’s lovingly maintained by the curators, Peter and Marianne.

Rydal Mount – the Wordsworth family home

A tour of the house and the gardens provides unique insights into the life of the Wordsworth family. We were really lucky to see Dora’s Field (a patch of land adjacent to the estate which was bought by the poet as a gift to his daughter Dora) in full bloom – William Wordsworth and his wife Mary planted the field with daffodils in memory of Dora who died in 1847.

William Wordsworth’s desk at Rydal Mount

Dora’s field with blooming daffodils at Rydal Mount

The Velvet Escape bench at Rydal Water

The next stop on our tour was my personal highlight – a visit to the Velvet Escape bench overlooking Rydal Water. The bench can be accessed by crossing a stone bridge (opposite the entrance to Rydal Mount) and taking a right turn after the bridge. We parked the car and walked the rest of the way along a path that led us uphill. What awaited us on the other side of the hill was… the bench… and a simply mesmerising view of Rydal Water.


We continued our drive along Rydal Water to the village of Grasmere, where we strolled around the lovely shops (my favourite was the little Herdy store with its cute, Herdwick sheep inspired souvenirs), checked out Grasmere’s famous gingerbread shop and visited St. Oswold’s Church and the adjacent Wordsworth graves. Grasmere is also home to another Wordsworth attraction: Dove Cottage where the poet lived during his early years in the Lake District.


My favourite shop in Grasmere

Why Herdy is my favourite shop 🙂

Grasmere’s famous gingerbread

Our tour ended with a lovely drive back to our address for the night in Ambleside: the beautiful Waterhead Hotel. My room (#11) was simply gorgeous. A little doggy greeted me as I stepped into the room (a fab touch!). The view of Windermere from my window was impressive, as were the comforts in the room and the bathroom.

The Waterhead Hotel on the shores of Windermere

Look who greeted me in my room at the Waterhead Hotel!

Modern comforts at the Waterhead Hotel

The view of Windermere from my room window

That evening, Simon and I sat down to a lovely dinner at The Bay restaurant in the hotel. As the sun set, casting a glorious glow across the lake and the hills, we tucked into a superb meal comprising chicken liver parfait and lamb cutlets, and accompanied by a divine Pinotage. A fitting end to a truly unforgettable day.

The Bay Restaurant at the Waterhead Hotel

A glorious sunset at Windermere

We didn’t get to see all that the Lake District has to offer (like the Beatrix Potter Gallery, some of the other spectacular lakes like Derwent Water and Wastwater, the famed ruins of Furness Abbey or the market town of Keswick) but you’ll need at least a few more days to cover the sights. As we sipped on that delicious Pinotage, Simon and I promised ourselves that we would return one day soon to once again experience the splendour of the Lake District.

A big thank you goes to Zoë of Quirky Traveller and Kris of the English Lakes Hotels (or @EnglishLakes37 on Twitter) for hosting us.

One more thing…..

How many lakes are there in the Lake District?

It’s a pub quiz favourite. The answer is quite surprising: ONE.

The Lake District, in the northwest corner of England, may be famed the world over for its stunning lakes, gorgeous scenery and impressive mountains, but technically, this answer is correct. There’s only one lake: Bassenthwaite Lake. There are many other bodies of water but these are called “meres” or “waters”, such as Windermere, Grasmere or Rydal Water.

A big thank you to Chris Shaw for clarifying the number of lakes 🙂 and for your fabulous hospitality!

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27 Responses to “The splendour of the Lake District”

  1. Keith Jenkins 05/09/2013 4:46 pm

    Haha! In all likelihood not! 😉

  2. Paul (@luxury__travel) 05/09/2013 4:40 pm

    I know, I know… makes you wonder whether he’s ever actually visited himself. 🙂

  3. Keith Jenkins 05/09/2013 4:33 pm

    Hi Paul,

    That’s ridiculous. Splendorous would be a much better description!


  4. Paul (@luxury__travel) 05/09/2013 4:26 pm

    Hi Keith

    Hope you’re keeping well. Did you know that this week the Lake District has been described as “one of the most depressing landscapes in Europe” in the national press?

    Hard to believe, huh? Since it’s also where I live, I couldn’t restrain myself from posting a response of some kind… 😉


  5. Bill 22/12/2012 12:43 pm

    Wonderful place and lovely hotel!

  6. velvet 07/06/2011 5:28 pm

    Well, all thanks to you Zöe for inviting us and taking us around. The weather was amazing, the scenery was outstanding and the hotel was FAB! Couldn’t have asked for more. 🙂

    Big hugs,

  7. Zoe Dawes 07/06/2011 5:23 pm

    It was such fun taking you round Keith and also to finally show you my Velvet Escape bench … glad you liked it! Hope you will come back another day so we can explore more of this beautiful part of the world 🙂
    Zoe aka The Quirky Traveller

  8. Trisha 01/06/2011 8:47 pm

    Beautiful story! I love that you have a bench to call your own. 🙂

    I’ll never forget the beauty of the Lake District – I walked through it a few years ago while hiking England’s famous “Coast-to-Coast” trail (aka the “C2C”), from the west coast all the way to the east coast, dipping my boots in both the Irish Sea and the North Atlantic……definitely some of the prettiest countryside I’ve ever hiked through. We spent a night in Grasmere as well, and I still have the little sheep souvenir I bought at that same shop! Thank you for stirring my fond memories!

  9. Kendal Cottages 05/05/2011 2:35 pm

    Glad to see you enjoyed your visit to our beautiful county. Do come back soon!

  10. Ted Nelson 26/04/2011 11:38 pm

    That bench looks like a tranquil place to take the world in. Hope to sit there myself someday.

  11. Μπουζούκια Αθήνα 19/04/2011 9:31 pm

    ah…what you remind me now…. i have been there 3 years before… with a person played central role in my life… great holidays unforgettable feelings…. now hi has gone

    Nick i miss you…

  12. James Clark 19/04/2011 2:16 pm

    I spent a weekend there when I was living in the UK, and I would love to go back. A beautiful place in the world.

  13. Cam 19/04/2011 2:47 am

    Would love to visit one day, you’ve captured it well!

  14. velvet 18/04/2011 10:07 am

    Thanks Linda! Glad I got it right…Phew!… 🙂


  15. Sonya 16/04/2011 8:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing your Lake District trip. It’s an incredibly charming and peaceful place to walk and just be.

  16. Beautiful pics. Looks like the kind of place both Jack and I would enjoy.

  17. Linda 14/04/2011 8:24 pm

    Love this post. The Lake District is my second home, and you have done it proud! I get a bit peeved when I read misinformation about places I know, and you really have it all spot on and convey the atmosphere!

  18. Debbie Beardsley 13/04/2011 6:18 pm

    The Lake District has long been someplace I would love to visit. I actually have my eye on a walking trip through the district.

    The hotel looked amazing and one that I am making note of.

    Beautiful area, thanks for sharing it with us.

  19. Serena 13/04/2011 11:43 am

    that’s place looks so warmy and lovely, very nice to stay!

  20. Eurotrip Tips 12/04/2011 5:55 pm

    Beautiful pictures! It seems like an especially relaxing and down-to-earth kind of place, mixed with the usual charm of Northern England.

    And thanks for clearing up the lake issue!

  21. Jul 12/04/2011 3:36 pm

    The view from that table at the Bay Restaurant looks divine. I wouldn’t mind dining there at sunset…

  22. LakeDistrictGuy 12/04/2011 3:22 pm

    What a brilliant account of your trip to the Lake District!
    It’s a shame you don’t have a picture of the Bridgehouse at Ambleside – that is my favourite example of a quirky slate house.
    I look forward to reading about your further adventures.
    Thanks for sharing!


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