I had heard so much about the beauty of the Lake District that, as I watched the rain pour down outside the train window, I wondered if it could really live up to all the hype, especially in the awful weather that was forecast.
Undeterred at Oxenholme Lake District Station, I met up with fellow travel bloggers Zoë, The Quirky Traveller, and Heather, from Heather on her Travels. Zoë, who lived locally, had been looking forward to proudly showing off the region. As she drove us to the cottage that was to be our home for the next few days, she told us of the stunning views we would normally be able to see through the car windows of majestic mountains and stunning valleys. All we could see were grey clouds and I started to think that the mountains were a figment of Zoë’s imagination.
As we continued towards the village of Chapel Stile, the region slowly began to reveal itself. By the time we got to our cottage the Lakes had started to weave their magic.
Things to do in the Lake District in the rain
Blackwell Arts and Crafts House
Before we even got to Chapel Stile, however, Zoë sneaked in what was to be the first of many ‘Wow!’ moments that we’d have throughout the weekend, Blackwell Arts and Crafts House by Lake Windermere. What a gem.
As soon as I stepped inside I felt my journey from one end of England to the other was well worth it. Inspired by nature and local traditional crafts, the movement was born of ideals in response to the effects of an industrialised Britain in 1880. Architect MH Baillie Scott created Blackwell as a holiday home, overlooking Windermere for his client Sir Edward Holt. It’s a masterpiece of twentieth-century design; a perfect example of the Arts & Crafts Movement. As I wandered around, photographing everything from the exquisite wall paper to the light fittings, I felt mesmerised by the house. Sadly we didn’t have much time there as it was about to close. I’d love to make a return, more leisurely visit one day, not just to see the house but also the views, which are said to be spectacular, but they were obscured by the rain clouds that day.
Walking by Elterwater Lake
That evening we settled into our cosy cottage in the charming village of Chapel Stile. In the morning the rain persisted. When it eased off to a light drizzle, we headed out for a blustery walk by nearby Elterwater Lake. A riverside path leads from Chapel Stile to Skelwith Bridge but as much of it was underwater due to unusually heavy rain, we could only walk a section of it. These views were our reward and made it well worth venturing out in the wind and drizzle.
Afternoon tea at Chesters by the River
By Skelwith Bridge, Ambelside, there’s a popular coffee and gift shop that sells superb cakes – the perfect treat after all that exercise. The portions are generous and the prices a little high but it is in a fabulous setting. On a sunny day there’s a large outdoor seating area overlooking the river.
The cakes were delicious and oh so moreish and they also sold some tempting edible and drinkable souvenirs including a good range of local craft beers. Although we didn’t have lunch here, I’ve heard they do some excellent light lunches and salads.
An evening at Wainwrights Inn
Just a short stroll from our cottage, Wainwrights is a traditional Lakeland pub, serving an excellent range of local ales and extremely good food. Locals, visitors and staff alike, created a jovial atmosphere, assisted by the roaring fire.
The chef, we learnt, smoked his own cheese, meats and fish, which are served in both the pub and the nearby Langdale Hotel, (who own the pub). Heather tried the impressive looking smoked sharing platter which came with salad, pickles and crusty bread, while Zoë and I tucked into steaks, both cooked perfectly.
Sunday dawned. And on it rained. But Zoë had plenty more to show us and even driving through the drizzle, the Lake District is beguiling.
Beatrix Potter’s Lake District
We headed south again to the village of Hawkshead, one place that really would have been nicer to visit on a sunny day, yet even in the rain I enjoyed exploring and the Honey Pot specialist food shop had many tempting treats inside.
One of the most intriguing things was seeing a sign about Beatrix Potter, the much-loved English children’s novelist, that was in both English and Japanese. Zoë explained that children in Japan learn to read from Beatrix Potter books so, as you can imagine, this area of the Lakes is very popular with Japanese tourists.
Beatrix had regularly visited the area when a child. Having made some money from her delightful children’s books with tales of the naughty Peter Rabbit, the hedgehog Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and their friends, she moved to Hill Top, a house near Hawkshead, now owned by the National Trust.
I am also a big fan and have quite a collection of her books myself and a number of figurines that once belonged to my father’s aunt so it was a real thrill to visit Hill Top. Inside the house is just as it was in Beatrix’s day and in almost every room you’ll find a copy of one of her books with a certain page bookmarked. There you will see one of her illustrations set in the very room you are standing in.
In time Beatrix bought another house (pictured above), just across the road, and lived there instead, leaving Hill Top as the place she worked and where visitors stayed. She left more than her books and Hill Top as her legacy though. As her wealth grew she bought up many farms and became a great farmer herself, and it is thanks to her that the famous local breed of sheep, the Herdwick, still roam the fells today. She was a forerunner in the field of conservation and without her, the National Trust would not be looking after about a quarter of the Lake District today.
Having finally dragged ourselves away from the gift shop it was time for lunch and an excellent little pub and B&B, Tower Bank Arms, is just a couple of steps along the road. Being Sunday I couldn’t resist a roast dinner and mighty good it was too.
Hill Top Tip: It can get very busy so I’d advise getting there early. The house and the rooms themselves are not very big so only a small number of people are let in at anyone time, so you may have to wait a while. You will be allocated a time slot so if the wait is long you are able to go off to explore elsewhere and return a little later. But for anyone who is a fan it is well worth the trouble.
Where to Stay in The Lake District
Daw Bank in Chapel Stile, our home for the weekend, is one of a charming row of traditional slate fronted terraced houses dating bank to the 1890s. Our stay was complimentary thanks to the Good Life Cottage Company who manage 34 cottages within the Lake District National Park. This family run business prides itself on letting quality holiday homes and has intentionally remained small so that they can offer a personal service to all its guests and homeowners.
On our last morning, as we were about to leave, the sun finally came out. I just had time to take a short walk around the village of Chapel Stile before heading off to the train station, the light ever-changing as the sun rose.
The Lake District in the Rain
Although my stay was short and the weather dreadful, long before we left the Lakes I was completely hooked. The views were stunning even in the rain, the pub grub superb and there were plenty of things to do on top of simply hiking, which the area is best known for. And I fell in love with Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit all over again.
Some how the rain suited the craggy cliffs and mountains. And the colour grey of the slate houses, dry stone walls, not forgetting the skies, no longer seemed dull. It felt to me that this is how the Lake District should be seen.
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Our stay with the Goodlife Cottage Company (whose office in Elterwater is pictured below) was complimentary but as always I only share with you my honest, unbiased opinions, otherwise there’d be little point.