Lake District National Park

Playground Earth | Castlerigg Stone Circle l Path

LAKE DISTRICT

England

While traveling through England a stay in the Lake District National Park was high on our “must visit” locations yet all of our research and viewing of internet photos could hardly prepare us for the incredible beauty and magic that this vast national park has to offer.Being that the Lake District was a new and unfamiliar destination for us, we settled on the Village of Staveley in the South Lakeland. As it happened it was a good choice in that Staveley is the last working village in the Lake District and, as such, it truly possesses the character, charm and unspoiled vibe that is not as present in other Cumbrian towns. Not that the other towns and villages are not beautiful, or special, in their own rite it’s just that Stavely has purposely steered away from the obvious trappings of the tourist crowd lending the village a uniqueness you won’t easily find elsewhere.
Playground Earth | Staveley | Village Homes
Playground Earth | Staveley | Village Homes

As it happened it was a good choice in that Staveley is the last working village in the Lake District and, as such, it truly possesses the character, charm and unspoiled vibe that is not as present in other Cumbrian towns.

Lodging during our 11 day stay was in a home owned by a vibrant 84 year old woman from Ireland named Nora. Staying in Nora’s home, a mile from the village, was the proverbial “icing on the cake” as she was a sweet and affable host who took us in as though we were her own children. Our accommodations could not have been better in that we had the entire second floor of her home with a bedroom, private bath and a separate den. With limited kitchen and full laundry privileges in was like being in our own home. Nora even agreed to let us make dinner for the three of us one evening. And her dog Harvey could not have been friendlier, although he didn’t care for my garlic sauteed mushrooms! His loss.

After settling in on our first day we walked to the village for dinner at the Eagle and Child, a multiple award-winning pub dating back to 1742, with excellent food and a great atmosphere. Consider this for a moment…this is  a 277 year old pub that is still thriving to this day. Something tells me that it will be there long after we have left. All pubs, including the Eagle and Child, allow dogs, which contributes to an atmosphere you won’t find in too many restaurants. It seems as though dogs love a good pub too considering how many frequent them!

Could be the Guiness!

Playground Earth | Staveley | Hawks Head Brewery
Playground Earth | Staveley | Hawks Head Brewery

Throughout the United Kingdom, in the biggest town or the smallest village, it is generally agreed that a pub is a place to congregate over a pint…or two. Although Staveley has the Eagle and Child the true epicenter is unquestionably the Staveley Mill Yard, situated in the centre of the village along the River Kent. The SMY is a renovated sheep fulling plant dating back to the early 1800’s. Other historical uses were a wood turning mill as well as a bobbin mill. Today the SMY (or the “Yard” as the locals call it) supports a thriving mix of businesses including a couple of fine cafes, the Hawkshead Brewery and an Alpine store selling rucksacks and white water gear handcrafted on-site. The Yard also boasts the UK’s largest cycle store, which is a good indication of how popular cycling is throughout the Lake Region. We also visited (as did Prince Charles!) the showroom of Waters and Acland, the highly regarded bespoke furniture-making business and woodworking school. On chilly Cumbrian mornings, the early bird crowd can usually be found at MORE? bakery, the best place in the village for fresh baked goods and a great cup of joe.

All pubs, including the Eagle and Child, allow dogs, which contributes to an atmosphere you won’t find in too many restaurants. It seems as though dogs love a good pub too considering how many frequent them! Could be the Guiness!

Our second day found us both fighting off colds that began in Liverpool so we slept in, walked to the village for lunch and returned to hit the sack at 5:00 pm! It was a much needed, and appreciated, break from all the recent travel.

The next morning we woke to daylight savings time (yes…they have it here too!) so we gained an extra hour of morning light. Feeling much better we had breakfast in our studio then took the local bus to Lake Windermere, the largest of the 16 lakes in the Lake District. Our day was spent walking around Windermere and the surrounding town of Bowness. While exploring the two towns we discovered that we could rent an electric boat to explore the lake on our own. Viola’…our itinerary for the next day was set!

Playground Earth | Lake Windemere l Our boat
Playground Earth | Lake Windemere l Our boat
Playground Earth | Lake Windemere l On the Water
Playground Earth | Lake Windemere l On the Water

Our pleasant two-hour boat ride was interrupted by a surprise, low altitude, flyover by the Royal Air Force in two Typhoon fighter jets. Needless to say, seeing the RAF doing practice runs over the lake was something that we never expected. Turns out these exercises are quite regular as the hills that surround the lake mirror various terrains in hostile countries. Practice makes perfect.

Settling into a comfortable rhythm during our first week we opted to take a 12 mile “low mountain” hike from the bustling town of Ambleside to Elterwater. This gorgeous hike took us through rolling hills, deep valleys, and numerous sheep and cattle farms. Most land in England, regardless if it is private, is passable for hikers, bikers, and walkers. Happily, you will find yourself trodding across someone’s sheep, or cattle farm, unfettered by the concern that you might be trespassing. 

At the completion of the hike, we stopped in a small cafe in Elterwater and polished off a well-deserved bowl of pea & spinach soup, some crusty bread and red wine. Never has a bowl of soup and a glass of wine tasted so good or been so nourishing! After lunch, we boarded the bus back to Staveley. Nightfall comes early in late fall.

Other daily outings included a half-day walk along the River Kent out of Stavely through several riverside villages along with an amazing hike from the town of Keswick to the famous Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Most land in England, regardless if it is private, is passable for hikers, bikers, and walkers. Happily, you will find yourself trodding across someone’s sheep, or cattle farm, unfettered by the concern that you might be trespassing.

Playground Earth | Lake District National Park l Ambleside Hike
Playground Earth | Lake District National Park l Ambleside Hike

Other daily outings included a half-day walk along the River Kent out of Stavely through several riverside villages along with an amazing hike from the town of Keswick to the famous Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Originally our stay in Staveley was for 7 days, yet the charm of the village and the number of activities available to us simply begged us to stay longer. Fortunately, Pauline (Nora’s daughter and manager of her mom’s home) was agreeable to letting us extend our stay. I don’t know who was happier…us or Harvey!

The Lake District, Cumbria, is a region of impossible beauty famous for its stunning scenery and cultural heritage. Adding to all of this natural beauty were the generous, helpful and nature loving people of the region. Never once we were treated as tourists or foreigners but as like-minded people there to enjoy the bounty of this amazing corner of England. 

As smitten as we were with the Lake Region and our wonderful host it was time to move on. Next stop…Edinburgh, Scotland.

Playground Earth | Lake District National Park | All alone
Playground Earth | Lake District National Park | All alone