This February, my boyfriend and I decided to escape the sub-zero chill of Ontario, in favour of some good ol’ British rain showers (more pleasant than an ice storm in -15°, I assure you). We’ve been visiting my family and friends, indulging in some comfort foods, and walking as often as we can. The harsh Canadian winters don’t offer much of a chance to get out and about, so we feel pretty spoiled.
The highlight was spending 3, blissful days in the Lake District of North West England. I’ve been lucky enough to live most of my life within a short distance of this area of natural beauty, but I didn’t realise just how fortunate I had been until I moved across the Atlantic. I no longer had access to rolling hills, endless countryside and hundreds of years’ worth of history – and boy, did I feel deprived.
This trip in particular offered a series of firsts not just for my boyfriend, but for me as well. For one thing, I have never visited the Lakes in the middle of winter before. The landscape was as green as ever (no change there), but as there was nothing in bloom other than the occasional snowdrop, the place had a much more rugged feel to it. Brontë fans take note: the English countryside feels very ‘gothic’ at this time of year.
Our base was a quaint B&B in Windermere called The Hideaway, and it really was just that. Tucked away in a quiet, country lane, we were only a 5 minute walk from the train station, and a further 20 minutes from the waterfront at Bowness. It had everything we could ask for: an ideal location, excellent service and just a hint of luxury, whilst still maintaining a feeling of comfort and cosiness. Plus, free homemade cake and a pot of tea, every, single, day. I was very excited about that part.
Since we were located on a major bus route, we were able to get around easily and cheaply (a Central Lakes Day Rider was only £8). Nearby Ambleside was a quick 15 minute ride, and it was from here that we embarked on what turned out to be our favourite walk of the trip.
The first part of our walk led us to Rydal Hall, a 17th century house, and its beautiful gardens. The William Wordsworth poem ‘An Evening Walk’ was inspired by Rydal Falls, situated in the grounds, and the poet’s former cottage, Rydal Mount, was close by. We passed the cottage, but didn’t venture inside (entry was a little pricey!) From here we continued uphill onto The Coffin Trail, so named because coffins were actually carried along this route once upon a time! We even came across a rock that was marked as the spot where pallbearers would take a rest.
Even under a murky sky, Rydal Water was a spectacular sight from our path in the fells. I can only imagine what a bit of spring sunshine would add to this already awe-inspiring view. But in mid-February, the best we could hope for was that the rain would keep away – and it did, thank goodness! The time of year determined that we should come across more sheep than actual people. But believe me, the peace and quiet were welcome!
The walk ended at another of Wordsworth’s former homes, Dove Cottage, which we passed on our way into the village of Grasmere, one of my favourite places in the Lakes. Only in Grasmere can I justify queuing down the street for gingerbread, which we did, willingly, and in the rain.
A visit to St. Oswald’s Church is also essential. Not only is it in the burial place of William Wordsworth, it’s also a characterful, gothic building that dates from the 14th century. I loved taking a peek inside!
Then, as quickly as we had arrived, our visit to the Lake District was over, offering a mere glimpse of the extent of this regions beauty. I cannot wait to return when the daffodils are in bloom, and I can watch the sun reflected in the ripples of the water. But I’m glad that I got to experience the Lakes in its entire wild, gloomy, weather-beaten magnificence. No matter what time of year it is, this place never fails to inspire.