TRAVEL: Speaking volumes about Lakes break
As with local wordsmith William Wordsworth's famous daffodils, there's "host" of reasons why Lake District remains superior stay-cation destination.
If prepared to venture off Cumbrian national park's beaten track, you too can still "wander lonely as a cloud" (accompanied here by quiz to see if Lyrical Ballads bard is your chosen camping partner).
Far from madding crowd, increasingly saturated by 21st century social media obsession, return to simpler times by reverting to nature (suitably illustrated by top ten things to do video).
Imbued with literary legacies, the area is awash with glacial ribbon lakes, rugged uplands and, overshadowed by mountains, market towns such as Ambleside, Kendal and - base camp for our adventure - Keswick.
Award-winning www.sallyscottages.co.uk Sally's Cottages "creating beautiful Lake District experiences" for 14 years is one-stop shop for accommodation of all types for every eventuality, each including "magical memories with every holiday".
"What does your perfect Lake District cottage look like? Traditional with period touches or modern with elegant decor?" ask owners, answering "whatever your style, we have a special stay waiting for you".
And they prove true to their "exceptional customer service, friendly and approachable staff and commitment to local community and economy" mission statement
Eponymous co-director Sally Fielding's success story has seen an empire grow from one 2003 rental to today's 400-plus cottages available to let with all year round short breaks booked by ever expanding agency staff.
She explains: "It's grown a bit since then but our philosophy remains the same. We love the Lake District and we love what we do. We believe in sharing this love with everyone who comes and stays".
Property: Scots Pine, Keswick, Lake District, sleeps 4
Short breaks & week-long breaks available from Â£395
Contact Sally's Cottages on [email protected]
or 017687 80571 and visit www.sallyscottages.co.uk
Not unlike comedic double act Laurel and Hardy, we were on "the trail of a lonesome pine". And, amid leafy outskirts, we found "thoroughly grown up haven just oozing character and elegance" well appointed accommodation for four.
Forming part of a gracious Georgian manor house set in mature grounds, the property enjoys recent refurbishment to luxuriously high standard.
Scots Pine owners have an eye for local artwork and interior design, filling space with bespoke furniture, working shutters and thoughtful details such as luxurious hand soaps.
"Warm, welcoming and indulgent" brochure description just about does justice to premises that feature fabulous open-plan living room - wood burning stove included - and dining area with capacious kitchen.
Exposed beamed master bedroom, meanwhile, enjoying en-suite shower room and super-king size bed that can be converted into twin should need arise, as well as second super king bedroom and family bathroom.
Outside sees designated parking, enclosed garden and patio with private al fresco dining table and chairs, affording breath-taking scenic surrounds, including trademark pine tree.
Second to none attention to detail is testament to hostess with mostest Julia Bennett, whose friendly informal attentiveness, from warm welcome to fond farewell, left us "pining" to return asap.
Brundholme Woods, on the way up Latrigg's beautiful fell affording fantastic vistas, is similarly short walk away as centre of undisputed Cumbrian adventure capital.
Surrounded by ridges such as Skiddaw, complete with en route Little Man peak affording views that are "summit" else, as well as Friar's Crag and Neolithic legacy Castlerigg Stone Circle, the bustling community is also within walking distance of vast expanse, 70-plus feet deep in parts, that is Derwentwater.
Easily explorable via www.keswick-launch.co.uk/cruises Keswick Launch, serving eight jetties that lead to likes of Beatrix Potter's holiday home, leisurely cruises skirt remote islands in shadow of fells that have together been backdrops for such celluloid successes as Swallows and Amazons and Star Wars.
Arguably jewel of Lakeland, it is home to Museum and Art Gallery artifacts aplenty, lake-side theatre and www.keswick-alhambra.co.uk cinema, chocice-a-bloc with quirky character while showing latest blockbusters thanks to Tom Rennie's one-man campaign to save the independent screen shortly before celebrating its centenary. And, on its imminent reopening, make a point of visiting graphite gallery that is Cumberland Pencil Museum.
Walk in famous guidebook writer' Alfred Wainwright's boot prints up iconic Catbells. And, if four-legged friends take the lead on your trek, fear not as Keswick was in recent years crowned UK's most canine friendly place, reinforced by fact many cafes and shops welcome hounds, celebrated by annual Scruffs show.
Pubs too put out the welcome mat - and water bowl - for accompanied pooches with Dog and Gun and The George accommodating bolt-holes, home to local beers from Jennings and Hawkshead breweries.
The latter www.georgehotelkeswick.co.uk offers award-winning restaurant, "hearty home cooked food with a modern twist" recipe for continued success at the area's oldest coaching inn.
"We are passionate and proud to support local farmers and local food producers by offering fresh seasonal local produce wherever possible. All of the fresh beef and lamb we use is Cumbrian and offers full traceability from farm gate to plate - you can’t get more local than that! We even grow and supply our own salads and herbs from the hotels kitchen garden," assure owners.
Proof of the pudding is, as they say, is in the eating. And this accommodating eatery's menu, whose ingredients are variety and value for money, didn't disappoint. Celebrated Cow Pie, hailed "world famous around here," would daunt Desperate Dan, coming as it does in a mountainous mound of gravy-moist meat slightly smaller than Skiddaw.
Changing with the seasons, dishes also embrace all specific dietary requirements, even offering gluten free options, complemented by second to none cask selection and world-wide wines to suit all tastes. Adjoining bar boasts oak beams, roaring fires ... and perfect pint!
From fine dining to delis, bakeries to takeaways, there's no shortage of ways to tickle taste buds while benches, peppering highways and byways, shout out loud for family picnics. Retail therapy abounds in relaxing shape of many and varied independent outlets from outdoor equipment specialists to niche boutiques.
Family-friendly festivals feature jazz, mountains, theatre, film, literature and ale. Kids too are well catered for in form of leisure centre swimming pool, complete with wave machine and water slide, soft play zone, Fitz Park play area and newly opened children's clip and climbing wall.
When no lesser lover of the locale than Romantic Age ambassador Wordsworth worried extending track into the area would attract so many folk, they would destroy the very beauty they came to behold, he cleared hadn't countered on www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway.
Seven miles of spectacular scenery, within shadow of England's highest mountains Scafell Range, doesn't detract from sight-seeing. Indeed, among our oldest and longest narrow gauge railways, La’al Ratty - "little railway“ in Cumbrian bygone dialect - has actually enhanced the experience for over a century.
Heritage steam engines - rejoicing in river-named titles - transport passengers from Ravenglass, this National Park's only coastal village and significant since Roman era as Hadrian's Wall final fortification, 210 feet above sea level to Dalegarth.
From estuary nature reserves, through ancient woodlands and Eskdale Valley to "Britain’s Favourite View’ Wastwater, it is a voyage of discovery on which eagle-eyed ornithologists can spy Shelduck, Curlew, Greylag Geese and Buzzards. Historic museum to ancient bathhouse, country's oldest corn mill to Stanley Ghyll waterfalls, there's attractions aplenty for all en route.
Cosy covered or open carriages afford consistent comfort with views among favourites of "Pictorial Guide to Lakeland Fells" author, acknowledged expert Wainwright MBE.
No reviewer can better his pantheistic prose: “The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest, always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.”
Another local hero, celebrated children's author Potter claimed, quite correctly, "not even Hitler can damage the fells" and, from Allen Crags to Yewbarrow, it is these barren moorlands - whose name derives from Norse fjall - that best define up hill and down dale of this exquisitely sculpted landscape.
Another further afield adventure allows opportunity to "go on holiday by mistake" following faltering footsteps, three decades on, of cult film Withnail & I's luckless stars Richard E Grant and Paul McGann. Penrith offers flashback to chaotic tea rooms scene while nearby Sleddale Hall still stands as lasting shrine to Crow Crag bolthole that still attracts more movie buffs than Uncle Monty could shake a stick at.
All in all, when it comes to quality breaks, Lakes should quite literally be your go-to.