On my yearly trips back to the UK I rarely get a chance to visit anywhere outside of London or my hometown of Norwich since time is never on my side. This year, however, I decided to return during summer and spent a few days in the Lake District, a national park in the North-West England.
Surrounded by mountains on the quiet southwestern shore of the lake, we’d found a cosy shepherd’s hut on Airbnb to stay in. The 11x6ft space was amazingly well kitted out with a double bed/sofa, wood-burning stove, sink with hot/cold water and a fire pit outside for BBQs.
Our hosts Alan and Cheryl, who run a number of holiday cottages nearby, had put together a series of a dozen ‘walks from the door’ which ranged from an easy short stroll to a serious all-day hike. Since we didn’t have a car this was a perfect way to explore the area.
Having arrived by train/bus the previous afternoon, on our first morning we set out to walk up Cat Bells and then along the ridge to High Spy. All the fells (mountains/hills) around the lakes have great names!
The feeling was immediately different from the heavily forested mountains I’ve become used to hiking over in Japan. Under the grey clouds, the wide-open expanse of variegated green felt desolate yet beautiful at the same time.
Reaching the impressive cairn at the peak (600m) by early afternoon we then began the descent down towards Grange.
We bumped into an occasional curious spectator along the way.
Having lost the trail at one point, we ended up wading through an extremely boggy marsh. So much for clean trousers.
Our route down passed through an abandoned slate mine with evidence of the former activities still clearly visible from the huge piles of waste rock and dangerous-looking tunnels leading into the mountainside.
We stopped to munch some apples and to admire the view next to one of the ruined mine buildings. It must have been back-breaking work to haul the slate down from here.
Following the old mining road, we snaked down through the valley until we reached the small village of Grange. By now we were famished and stopped at a cafe for a sandwich and hot jacket potato.
To buy provisions for the evening BBQ we took a bus around the eastern shore of Derwentwater to Keswick, which has an ample supermarket right next to the station and then headed back to Manesty.
The fire was the perfect accompaniment on a chilly evening and even when it rained heavily the next day Alan was kind enough to put up an awning so we could continue cooking.
Despite a bright start, the weather steadily deteriorated throughout the next day. Luckily we still managed to get in a hike up Cat Bells again, across Skelgill Bank, and down Hawse End.
We stopped for lunch at the Swinside Inn but the food was pretty mediocre – we’d recommend walking a little further along the shore to The Chalet instead.
In the afternoon we made our way back to the Shephard’s hut by way of the ferry from Keswick to High Brandelhow. If you’ve ever seen the classic film Swallows and Amazons (1974, remade in 2016) you might spot the small island where the children camped.
Despite a bit of rain, it had been great to re-visit a part of the UK I’d not been to since childhood and stay somewhere so unique. I’m really looking forward to exploring more of the lakes in the future.