If you are lucky, you’ve wakened in the Lake District this morning to the delicious smells of a full English breakfast—eggs, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans—wafting up from Margaret’s kitchen in the Dower (Widow’s) House on the grounds of Wray Castle. Because this particular Bed and Breakfast is located on the west shore of Lake Windermere, you can stand at your bedroom window surveying a crisp frost on the meadow leading down to the lake and heavy white clouds promising snow for the high eastern fells.
You pull on your walking boots. It will be a glorious day for a ramble.
The Lake District National Park is a walker’s heaven: 900 square miles of beautiful protected valleys, lakes, mountains, and—most importantly for you today— public walking paths by the hundreds.
Truly athletic hikers set the lifetime goal of walking “The Wainwrights,” 214 peaks over 1,000 feet in height, all mapped and beautifully hand-drawn by Alfred Wainwright in his hikers’ guides to the Lake District.
Today, though, you’ve decided to be a leisurely rambler: you will to walk to Near Sawrey. The 2-hour journey by way of Cuckoo Brow Lane begins on a very flat path right beside the lake. Few boats are out at this time of year, so you find yourself studying the far hilltops dusted with that snow promised earlier. After about a half hour, you turn right, and make a gradual ascent to Cuckoo Brow Lane. All along the way Herdwick sheep huddle against stone walls, gathering heat from the sun-warmed stones. You cross a wooden stile, that smart invention to keep the sheep in but allow the walker to pass. After an hour, you decide to sit and relax beside Moss Eccles Tarn (small, glacier-carved pool) as writer Beatrix Potter did. The air is sharp with winter’s tang, and you congratulate yourself on dressing warmly.
Then you walk down the small country road to the village of Near Sawrey. With a sigh of pleasure you settle yourself at a heavy oak table at the Tower Bank Arms and order a steaming bowl of barley soup or a tasty shepherd’s pie (lamb pot pie topped by buttery mashed potatoes). You do have a hard time deciding on a beer brewed by the Drunken Duck or a Three Threads Porter brewed in Hawkshead. Fortunately, you won’t go wrong either way.
After your lunch you take an hour in the cottage of Hilltop Farm where you recognize the exact models for Beatrix Potter’s children’s book: horse brasses on the timbered mantle, a charming old grandfather’s clock on the stair landing, the bee skep in the garden, and more.
Finally, you decide to reward yourself by ambling downhill to the ferry at Bowness, ride across to the town of Windermere, and catch the boat for a ride around the lake and back to the landing at Wray Castle.
You’ve been clever enough to book dinner with Margaret as well, so after you shower and change, you will sit down to a most delectable dinner. And there, dining in the bay window, you can watch the peaceful evening fall over what you now claim as your fells and lake.
Next Time: Aristocrats at Play
Photo credits: Nancy Parrish; Wainwright drawing from telegraph.co.uk