Continuing where I left off at the end of Day 1 in the Lake District…
Day 2: Ten Lakes Spectacular Tour
One of the highlights of the Lake District are obviously all of the lakes in the area. The lakes are fairly spread out though, so to really view the best of what the Lake District has to over, one needs to either:
- Have a car (which will provide maximum flexibility);
- Be fit enough to withstand cycling or trekking around the lakes; or
- Go with a bus tour.
Now ordinarily, the bus tour option would be the last choice I would make, but a lack of time and my unwillingness to drive along narrow roads as busy as these meant that I didn’t really have a choice. As it happens, the Ten Lakes Spectacular tour was pretty good. Each mini-bus holds a maximum of 16 passengers, with the driver doubly acting as tour guide and information provider. I think I was fairly lucky in that the driver I got was very motivated, funny, knew a wealth of information about the Lakeland and was clearly in love with the area.
So what exactly does the tour encompass? Views of 10 of the famous lakes in the area with many opportunities to get off the bus and take photos.
Starting from Windermere, we drove north-east, passing through Troutbeck (the first of 3 Troutbecks in the area, where ‘beck’ refers to a freshwater stream) to the Kirkstone Pass. At an altitude of 454 metres, Kirkstone Pass is so named because a stone nearby has a silhouette that resembles a church steeple, and ‘kirk’ is an old Norse word for ‘church’.
Driving through the pass, it is abundantly clear that the drystone slate walls really do define the landscape, and I find that I do rather like it (check out my previous post for pictures and more info on these walls). We drive along Kirkstone Beck which soon joins Brothers Water.
Continuing north to Patterdale (origin of the Patterdale Terrier dog breed, famously used for rat catching), then driving briefly along Ullswater, we continued north, passing by the second Troutbeck before heading west towards Derwent Water.
The tour included a 50 minutes cruise around Derwent Water, which stops at various points to let people on and off at the various hiking trails nearby. One of the tougher hikes takes you up the Catbells – on this occassion, I was quite content to look at them from the boat. 🙂
It was lunch time at this point, so we were taken to the nearby large-ish town of Keswick (Old English for cheese farm), famous for its Cumberland pencil, made from top notch locally sourced graphite and wood. We were given free rein here for about an hour, to explore the market town and grab some food to our individual liking.
Following a good lunch, we drove south along Derwent Water, stopping by the Surprise Viewpoint for a spectacular panoramic view of the lake and the Catbells mountains beyond.
We followed the road through the Borrowdale Valley and Honister Pass, famed for its world class slate (Honister Slate Mine is the last working slate mine in the United Kingdom) and then onto Buttermere Lake where we stopped at the Syke Farm Tearoom for some of the freshest, creamiest ice cream you can find.
From there, we left the stoney landscape, driving past Crummock Water north towards the moor-like Braithwaite (which affords great views of the valley) and the nearby lake of Bassenthwaite. We then headed south, stopping at the 4,000 year old Castlerigg Stone Circle set high on the fells, constructed as a part of a megalithic tradition, sometime during 3,300 to 900 BC (a mini Stonehenge if you will).
Following the road down, we passed Thirlmere, which actually acts as a reservoir for Manchester, providing its water supply with the aid of just one pump, the rest of the work being done by gravity! Ah the genius of the Victorians!
We were unfortunately short of time at this stage and had to speed by Grasmere, a small town famed for its resident poet William Wordsworth and special gingerbread. We were then back at the largest lake of them all (in fact the largest lake in UK), Lake Windermere, back to where our tour started and now ended. It was a full and long day, but a good one.