Heading back into England from Scotland we, of course, had to go via Gretna Green, just off the M74 motorway, if only to wind up our friends and family (it worked!)
We didn’t park in the available car parks (although it turned out that we could have, I’m not sure what the situation would have been in high season), choosing instead to drive on by and stop in a lay-by a mile or so further on, unhooking the small car and driving back.
To be honest Gretna now appears to be one big money making opportunity which I wouldn’t really recommend visiting (unless you’re passing close by or actually running away to get married that is 🙂 )
There are a few, overpriced, shops, a couple of eateries, a courtship maze (which was quite good) and the Gretna Green Story museum (which is very thorough for £3.75 each and I did enjoy wandering around it).
‘The Courtship Maze’ starts with each couple going their separate ways on entering only to meet in the middle, with several ‘kissing points’ cut into the hedges on the way. Quite good fun. There’s also a bridge filled with lovers padlocks to walk over.
Continuing on to our destination in the Lake District luckily we were arriving during a break in the recent bad weather. We were both blown away by the scenery. Almost a rival to the Yorkshire Dales 🙂 We had to stop to drink it all in.
We arrived following several days of heavy rain, which had luckily stopped by the time we got there. We were staying at the Hill of Oaks site just outside of Bowness on Windermere, therefore driving through this lovely little town on our way. The site is right on the lake and very steep in places – with the recent rain there was lots of water running everywhere (most of it in little brooks around the site).
During our few days here we drove around Lake Windermere (the ferry wasn’t running unfortunately), visited Bowness, ‘discovered’ Ambleside and an old quarry up in the hills whilst exploring in the little car. I’d love to tell you where this actually was, but, unless I found a photo of the sign by the quarry, I cannot recall the name. Sorry. Scrub that, I’ve just found the photo! It was Tilberthwaite Fen. More later 🙂
On our 1st day we headed south around Lake Windermere and around to the other side of the water to visit Lakeside near Newby Bridge. With steep parking charges (pay for a day regardless of how long you stay) we parked about 1/4 mile away and walked back. Here there is an aquarium, the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway terminus and you can take a Windermere Steamer across the lake to Bowness on Ambleside.
There wasn’t much here for us to be honest so we headed back to the car and into Bowness, which, for us, was a much more enjoyable wander. Despite the less than clement weather there were lots of tourists waiting to board the available steamers on which they could explore the lake, and many tourists also taking in the sights and milling around the many shops and eateries on offer.
The next day we headed the other way around the lake and ended up driving through Ambleside and looking for the Kirkstone Pass (also known as The Struggle). This steep, windy (and totally unsuitable for motorhomes…) pass connects Amblesdide with the main A592.
Unfortunately there was still some fog lingering when we drove the pass (in the little Citroen of course), which meant we missed out on the amazing views that we were looking forward to. Another time perhaps… So we turned round and came back down into Ambleside and then continued along the road towards Keswick. Not for long though as we spotted lots of cars parked near a small lake (it turned out to be Rydal Water)
It would seem that the popularity extends from, not just the wealth of walks available in the area, but also the connections to Wordsworth (2 of his homes, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount, are to be found here) and Coleridge (his son lived at Nab Cottage). Dove Cottage is now a museum that is open to the public, as is Rydal Mount and several other properties connected with Wordsworth.
We parked up opposite the lake (having tried the car park over the tiny bridge – jam-packed), and walked back following footpaths until we came upon a well-used route that eventually took us back into Ambleside alongside the River Rothay, and past many, many holiday cottages and old houses. It’s strange that any detail on walks between Rydal and Ambleside directs you along the main road rather than the route we took! However, there are many, many other options for walking in this area. See here for some ideas.
Ambleside is an extremely pleasant town. We had a spot of lunch, I bought myself a new coat (it was just too much of a bargain!) and then got a phone call from my son just as we were headed back towards the walk back to the car.
“Where are you at the moment mum?”
“I’m in Ambleside. (Lightbulb moment) – Oh, does Rich still live here?!”
“Yes, he just saw you walk by! Well, he heard you first…! He works in Blacks”
So we popped back to see Ben’s friend who told us that there was a waterfall just behind town that was worth a visit. Hearing this we abandoned our plans to visit Scarfell Pike (which is a 27 mile drive from Ambleside – we’d just found this out as well!) as, guess what, time was getting on (again!!) and set out following Rich’s directions to the waterfall.
The waterfall in question is Stock Ghyll Force and is well worth a visit (the route can be found in the link above for ‘other walks’). Even though the ground underfoot was pretty muddy during our visit there were plenty of visitors. After stopping a couple of times on the way up to view the falls from different perspectives we crossed over the bridge at the top and came back down on the other side of the river. This is where my dream from the previous night was well and truly broken when I was confronted by a mass of mud in my path! My dream had involved me being slowly consumed by a mass of mud that resembled the ice cream peaks that you get in ice cream parlours!
Our final adventure in the Lake District was on leaving Ambleside we continued north on the A591 towards Grasmere.
Grasmere is yet another pretty village in the Lakes, now a tourist hotspot due to it’s many links with Wordsworth who lived, worked and is buried in the village. We didn’t stop but took a narrow road out of the village (marked as unsuitable for large vehicles) and this is how we found Tilberthwaite Fen and a quarry up in the hills. We stopped and explored one of these quarries – careful where you step on those big slates, I ended up on my backside when I stepped in the wrong spot and slipped! It’s amazing just standing in these cathedral like spaces and imagining the industry that was conducted here in years gone by. And then the privilege of driving back down the narrow roads to civilisation and seeing deer and sheep wandering free. Also the respect I have for fell runners just running up these hills as though they’re just out for a Sunday stroll….
All in all a most successful visit to the Lake District for me – I’m sure it won’t be my last!