This summer, we attended a wedding that I was told was in the Lake District. Yet, when I mentioned to a friend that we were going to this wedding in “The Lakes,” she asked where in the Lakes, and I replied with, “Carlisle.” It was then, after months of thinking I was finally going to visit this beautiful part of the country, that I realized I had been had. Carlisle is not in the Lakes. (I should mention though that the wedding, although not in the Lakes, was stunning and romantic. We stayed in a log cabin along the River Lyne with some of our best friends and had an incredible weekend!)
Lucky for me though, we decided to do an overnight visit to the Lake District over the Christmas break. We booked into the Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa on Lake Windermere for the night of our anniversary.
In the month or so leading up to our stay, there was a lot of flooding in the Lake District. It was devastating for the area. I half wondered if the flooding was going to reoccur because of the incredible amount of rain we had around Christmas and Boxing Day, but the weather report for the 29th of December was clear so we headed north on the day.
Funnily enough, my former boss and mentor from college was returning from the Lakes as we were heading there, so we met her, her husband, and two of their friends at Low Sizergh Barn, a farm shop and tea room not far from Lake Windermere. It was so great to see them again and to have them finally meet Richard! (The girl and I took the train to Liverpool in July 2014 during one of their visits to see family, so they loved seeing how much our girl had grown since then.) It always makes me happy when my life in the US collides with my life in the UK, and this meet up was wonderful. It didn’t hurt that we had a lovely lunch to go with the conversation. I only wish we had more time with them – next time!
We parted with lots of hugs and ‘see you soons’ and continued on our way for another 20 minutes until we reached the town of Bowness-on-Windermere. As we drove in, we could not get over just how many tourists there were in the town. The temperature was mild yet getting colder and there was no sun to be seen, but the town was certainly bustling.
After we checked into the hotel, we put our girl in the backpack and ventured out for a walk. We walked along the lake for a bit and then turned back to head into the town for a little nosey in the shops. I love towns and villages like Bowness with their narrow streets and range of shops. There were a few Beatrix Potter-themed places (as she penned her stories in the area), independent shops, chain stores like Joules and Fat Face as well as a mix of restaurants and cafes. We enjoyed our wander, even treating ourselves with a few items from the after Christmas sales.
We had booked into the restaurant in the Old England for dinner that night. Being that we had our girl with us, we chose to book for as soon as they began serving the evening meal, which was 6:30 PM. We arrived and were the first guests there. Our arrival was followed shortly by an older couple who appeared to be regulars at the hotel and restaurant. Our table was great as we were against the windows and in the corner. (Too bad it was dark out or we would have had a spectacular view of the lake!)
The regular menu had some excellent options for us and the children’s menu had macaroni and cheese, which made our sweet girl happy. Our food was delicious. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our food choices. However, the service was lacking. I was really disappointed to see a place with so much staff seem to forget that we even existed. Our starters came within a reasonable amount of time, but once those plates were cleared, there was no sign of more food coming our way. After I noticed that the older couple who came in after us was leaving after eating a two-course meal, I managed to get the attention of a server and ask if our mains were ready. A couple of apologies later and our mains were delivered to our table. Our girl was getting tired at this point, so we finished our food and chose to return to the room to order dessert from the room service menu.
The room we were in was very nice and spacious and looked out onto Lake Windermere. The bed was comfortable and the shower had excellent water pressure. (A huge plus in my book.)
After a good night of sleep, we woke up to driving wind and rain. Over a delicious breakfast in the hotel, we discussed our plans for the day. A walk was just not on the cards because of the weather, so we decided that we would check out and head north to drive the full loop of the lake making stops as and when we pleased. We soon set off to be encountered by puddles the size of ponds across the road in a couple of places. We had visions of more flooding as this rain was not letting up and chose to make the drive home instead. Our trip was cut short, but it was still nice for the three of us to get away and see a different part of the country.
As we drove away, I found myself thinking about the chapter in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. Not only did I have a good chuckle thinking about him walking into the residents’ lounge of the Old England Hotel to find it “casually strewn with ageing colonels and their wives,” but also about the conversation that followed when one of the said wives took it upon herself to discuss all of the shortcomings of America only once she realized that he hailed from the U.S.
There was one especially poignant part that struck me, even after such a quick visit to the region. It was when Mr. Bryson discussed the relatively small budget that the Lake District National Park has to function on each year. He wrote, “That the Lakes are so generally wonderful, so scrupulously maintained, so seldom troubling to mind and spirit is a ringing testament to the people who work in them, the people who live in them and the people who use them.”
And even after the area had experienced such extreme flooding, this statement hit me especially hard to witness this beautiful area thriving and recovering because of the people who love it so.
(I only wish I had some photos to show that do it justice. However, the measly 4 pictures that I took are quite depressing. I’m not sure what I was doing with the camera that day, but it clearly wasn’t working!)