After a late breakfast at Brooklands, we checked out and set about a driving tour of the lakes, with a quick stop to pickup some new walking boots. The weather today was overcast and grim, with occasional rain.
From Penrith we took the A66 to Keswick. From the popular lakeland town we drove south, into the heart of the park, past Derwent Water on the B5289. We stopped here briefly, but in the light it wasn’t worth photographing. A young family were preparing their kayaks for a day on the water.
The road follows the river Derwent, through the valley of Borrowdale, and then begins to climb, leading to the Honister Pass. After a sometimes steep – one of the steepest in the district, sometimes single track road, but nothing too arduous, we reached the summit at 356m. Here there’s a slate mine, a car park and the beginning of many fell trails. The slate mine is the last working one in England.
The rain subsided and I fancied taking a hike up the nearby trail, to the summit of Honister Crag, a climb of 300m or so with spectacular views down into the valley. Sam was having none of this, and she instead retired to the cafe to drink tea and read her book. In my new boots, with camera gear and tripod, I set about the steep ascent along the gravel track.
The climb zig-zagged upwards, hugging the edge of the valley, a wide gravel road used by the active slate mine. The rain started up again, and I had my wet-weathers, but they were far too hot. Large slabs of slate decorate the road’s edge, which eventually gives way to a mine with all its working apparatus. Being a Sunday no-one was working.
From the end of the mine the trail became a muddy path over boggy pits and heather. My new boots weren’t that waterproof, they weren’t wellies after all. A few times I thought the summit would be the hill in front, but each time it revealed a higher climb. Eventually, after a 90 minute climb I reached the peak of Honister Crag. In the billowing wind, I was here by myself, looking over the edge of the crag into the depths of the perilous valley beneath, holding back the feeling of vertigo. Looking South-West I could see the valley of the River Cocker, and on to Buttermere.
Eager not to worry Sam, I didn’t continue on to Fleetwith Pike and headed back. The route back down was easy, and I was at the cafe within half an hour. And we continued our drive.
We came out of the park via Loweswater. At this point we realised our destination, Hawkshead Hill, was quite a trek away, all routes would take at least an hour. Having had enough driving, we settled on the major roads that took us around, back up to Keswick, then down past Thirlmere, Grasmere and Rydal, through Ambleside and onto Hawkshead. We’d driven 130km around the park.
For four nights we were staying at the Summerhill Country House, a place recommended in the Lonely Planet and with countless positive reviews on Trip Advisor. On a small plot with some well tended gardens, this white summer house sits between Hawkshead and the popular Tarn Hows. From here it’d be hard to reach Buttermere or Ullswater for dawn, but Coniston, Windermere, Grasmere and many others are all within reach, as are the Langdales.
The house was a B&B, but it’s run with the efficiency of a hotel by Mike and Patsy. We can’t say that we loved our time here. Our room was lovely – warm and spacious, breakfast was very tasty, everything on the surface was just right. I guess we just didn’t relax, from the offset it felt like we were having to live by the rules of someone else’s home, rather than be on holiday. It was simply not as relaxed or as flexible as the places we’d stayed in Scotland, no doubt because of the volume of people that stay here. Our hosts were courteous but lukewarm towards us, that’s fine, we just didn’t get on. We did consider, briefly, checking-out early and returning to Brooklands.
For dinner Patsy explained that Hawkshead had only a few restaurants, The Queen’s Head, The King’s Arms, The Sun Inn and Red Lion Inn – going from best to worst. We booked a table at The Queen’s Head and wandered around Hawkshead while we waited. All the Beatrix Potter paraphernalia was closed for the night, thank goodness.
Although The Queen’s Head was meant to be the best, all the places were geared up for tourists and one-time visitors. We had two crispy stone-baked pizzas, and it was all alright. Though we did top off the evening and our long day with a cheap bottle of Prosecco from co-op; that was a wonderful idea.