I recently took a trip to England with my boyfriend, Adam, to visit friends that I met while living abroad in South Korea. We had nine days to travel from the country's capital to the northeast cities of Hull and York, then to the northwest's pristine land of mountains (fells), lakes and forests, better known as the
Lake District National Park (The Lakes).
Hikers, cyclists, explorers and paddlers flock to the area for its outstanding natural beauty and bounty of outdoor activities. The Lake District is home to 12 of the country's largest lakes, 3,500 kilometres of right-of-ways and the tallest mountain in England,
Scafell Pike. The Lakes lie within the county of
Cumbria, with the cities, towns and villages of Windermere, Ambleside, Keswick, Kendal and several others within the national park's boundaries.
With hundreds of miles between destinations, Adam and I decided to hire a car for our trip. Driving ourselves would be the most exciting and efficient way to get from place to place. We followed friends, Julie and Iris, by car from York to The Lakes with Julie (an Ambleside local) acting as our guide.
Along country roads, the scenery changed from flat fields to rolling hills in a matter of minutes. The last hour of the drive felt like we were in James Bond's car set in the Lord of the Rings. The roads were narrow and windy and we were constantly going up, down and around sharp corners at high speeds to keep up with the flow of traffic. We couldn't believe where we were and we had no idea the Lake District was so beautiful.
We spent two nights at the youth hostel where Julie works in Ambleside,
YHA Ambleside, which is positioned on the shore of
Lake Windermere and just a short walk into the charming downtown centre where you can find an array of restaurants, shops and rental centres.
With only two days to explore, we decided on the first day to rent bikes. For £20 per bike, we were able to rent fairly decent mountain bikes at a local shop in town. With Julie as our tour guide, we embarked on a 26 km cycle along designated road paths, forest paths and the narrow, hilly roads that wind their way through The Lakes.
A roadside path led us to a forest filled with deep green, bright green, rich burgundy and soft yellow leafed-trees that stood sky high. Spurts of violet-blue flowers contrasted the green grass below as bluebells started to appear. We felt like we were riding through a mystical forest.
We cycled outside of national park boundaries, stopping at
Wray Castle in Kendal for shelter from the rain and a bite to eat. As we continued on our trip, we were pleasantly surrounded by 360° mountain views, rolling hills and stonewalled fields with sheep and lamb waving as we rode by. (Okay, they didn't wave.)
We rode alongside the River Kent and made our way back into national park boundaries, riding around Lake Windermere towards our starting point in Ambleside. The cycle took about five hours, with a 30-minute lunch break, frequent stops for photo ops, and a much needed hot chocolate (we were drenched, muddy and a little chilly.)
On day two the rain held off, which was perfect for our morning hike up
Loughrigg Fell. We were again surrounded by amazing views, sheep and bluebell-filled hillsides as we made our way to the mountain path. The hike up was moderate and the views were extraordinary. The elevation is 335 metres and the vista at the top offers a fantastic view of the area, which is surrounded by an unusual amount of open water. The hike is about 10 km and took us about 4 hours with snack breaks and photo ops along the way.
As our two-day trip off England's beaten path concluded, we headed back to London feeling refreshed and excited about the physical activities we had accomplished and the scenery that instilled in our memories. Although afternoon tea and pints at the pub are an integral part of the English experience, a trip to The Lakes teaches you what you can't learn about English culture on an episode of Coronation Street. You discover part of England that you never knew existed.
Lake District National Park from Above
Lake District, England: Scenic Drive
Share It !
Leanne Overby lives in St. Catharines, ON. Her passion for travel developed while teaching English in South Korea for a year and spending 2½ months travelling through Southeast Asia. When she's not daydreaming about where she'll go next, she works as a media relations coordinator and spends her free time frolicking around with her camera, running, re-watching 90210 and indulging in local cuisine.