Growing up in England, I never really thought about how we have National Parks. I thought that was reserved for America only. England, however, boasts 15, with the largest being the Lake District which covers 912 square miles of the Northwest English county, Cumbria. The Lake District contains England’s deepest lake, Wastwater, at 74 metres (243 feet) deep. It’s also home to Lake Windermere, England’s longest lake. We stayed along Windermere during our time in the Lake District.
Staying along the Lake Districts longest lake
We initially wanted to camp,however, due to very short days (Sunrise at 8am and Sunset at 4pm), the cold, and rain we settled on staying for two nights in a youth hostel on the shores of Lake Windermere.
We stayed at the YHA Ambleside Hostel in a private two bed room. YHA is a chain of hostels around England with a whole host situated at different locations throughout the Lake District. You can hike all day and stay at different hostels each night.
Our hostel was basic yet welcoming after a long day exploring the Lakes. It had it’s own bar and restaurant, as well as a self-catering kitchen, a TV and games room.
The best part about staying at this hostel was the beautiful view out over the lake and mountains from our dorm window and the dining room.
The hostel is on the edge of Ambleside, so the town is quickly reached for shopping, food and drinks.
Though we didn’t spend too much time lingering around Windermere (the constant views sufficed), we did make our way through Keswick to Skiddaw Mountain.
Our main hike in the Lake District
Our journey to the trail head wasn’t long from Ambleside, but we got confused and frustrated. We used these directions to get there, and ended up slightly lost and confused about which roundabout it was referring to. We finally found our way through the small hamlet to the trail head.
The ascent up Skiddaw was steep and treacherous from recent snowfall. We were huffing and puffing a lot from the incline. I was doing well, but not Jacob. He admitted to feeling a sense of un-motivation creeping along his forceful breath, and realised that his ability to continue had much to do with his mental state.
He began to do better after this realisation. We played in the snow a bit, took some family photos for fellow travellers, and marvelled at the rolling hills, snowy mountains, and the lake that panned out before us.
Then the fog came.
We could hardly see 10 feet in front of us. The gorgeous, panoramic views of Keswick and Derwentwater dissipated. Before our spirits could do the same, we agreed on some food and turned back without making it to the top.
Vegan food in Ambleside, Keswick, and beyond.
Upon arriving we needed to find somewhere to get some food. I wasn’t very optimistic about finding a place that sold vegan and gluten free food in the area, but it seems like places are becoming a lot more accommodating. My step father recommended we visited The Drunken Duck. We headed along winding country lanes and up steep inclines until we made it to a quaint little English pub situated on a crossroads with views of the surrounding countryside.
The menu was relatively small but packed with tasty food – some of it even vegan! I asked at the bar about the gluten free options and was delighted that they could make virtually anything gluten free! We were both very tempted by the nut roast dinner, however, trying to keep to a budget we couldn’t justify paying £16 each when we had only intended to have a small lunch. We decided to get some falafel, muhammara, sunflower, rocket sandwiches that came with the most delicious chunky chips (potato wedges)! The place had a very classic country pub vibe. It was lovely to show Jacob more traditional aspects of English life.
The next day was when we cut our Skiddaw hike short and got some food. We took another food recommendation from a friend of mine (thanks Caroline) and ended up at Kat’s Kitchen, a vegetarian cafe that offered a ton of vegan and gluten free options as well.
Jacob opted for (after strong encouragement from me) a vegan full English breakfast – which even came with a vegan black pudding(?!), an item traditionally made from dried pigs blood! Unfortunately, this meal wasn’t gluten free, but I had an equally delicious ratatouille stuffed eggplant. Much to my delight, they also served a vegan hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows – something I had been craving for months!
Our final food adventure was actually on our way home from the Lake District. Jacob looked up some vegan food along the way and found somewhere in Lancaster, called the Whale Tail. Upon walking from the car park to this cafe, however, we saw a sign for another place that advertised vegan and gluten free food. We decided to have a look.
Roots vegetarian cafe was a sweet little place with a very homely feel. There was a little kitchen behind the counter where they lovingly made all the food. Jacob ordered the soup of the day (an interesting blend of carrot and orange) and I ordered chilli and tortilla chips. The food was so yummy. It had such a homemade and comforting feel. I also couldn’t resist buying a slice of their gluten free, vegan carrot cake which was to die for!
Dove Cottage: diving deeper into the importance of Nature
Grasmere is a village in the Lake District only 5 miles north of Ambleside. We had a look, and discovered that the renowned romantic poet, William Wordsworth, had resided there in a small cottage for a significant portion of his life. I say significant because it was there that he wrote some of his more worthy works including “Intimations of Immortality,” and “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”
We got a tour of Dove Cottage and Jacob, being well read in the romantics, was so enchanted that he was bolting around and practically frothing at the mouth.
We got a glimpse of how life was in Grasmere during the late 1700s. Simple. Wordsworth’s and his sister, Dorothy’s, breakfast seemed to often depend on the morning catch of pike out of Lake Grasmere. And lunch was from the vegetable garden. Beggars begged about. Wordsworth and his sister passed time reading Chaucer and Milton, writing, and walking in and out of Ambleside to send and receive letters.
Overall, the life of this poet seemed ideal in many ways. He was left money in a will by a deceased friend that allowed him to focus solely on his poetic efforts.
We were able to read some original publications of his work while visiting the attached museum. His work helped us to reflect on the natural landscape through the lenses of our personal internal conditions.
Oh, and Scotland…
Whilst driving to Skiddaw, I noticed a lot of the signs stated “Carlisle” which I knew to be right on the Scottish border. It then suddenly occurred to me, I could take Jacob to see another country. He seemed very eager to go, so we hit the road again. After 50 or so minutes, and a quick nap on Jacobs part, we crossed the border.
We had decided it would be best that we only explore a few border towns seen as we had to drive back to Ambleside that evening.
First stop: Gretna (don’t worry mum, we didn’t get married). We arrived at a little shopping plaza, and strolled around in the hope of hearing some Scottish accents. Jacob bought some gifts for his parents and we headed deeper to a little town called Annan. There wasn’t really much going on here, but we wandered up and down the high street fuelled by the high of a spontaneous adventure.
The night was drawing in so we thought it best to head back to the Hostel for some dinner and rest. We slept well that night, satisfied by a few days crammed with adventure, nature and food.
Watch our latest video highlighting some of this adventure