Lake District, UK – September 2007

Day 1 – getting there

Saturday 1st September

The journey up to Cumbria in the far North of England was to be a lengthy one by British tourist standards. Although Google predicted a journey time of just over five hours, we were never going to attempt this in a single leg – particularly now that we’re toting a couple of kids in the back of the mini-van. Having already planned ahead, we first made our way to Kenilworth Castle just a stone’s throw from Coventry. It was during our British Isles leg of our RTW tour that we first really began to take interest in visiting castles and ruins. Being Britain’s largest castle ruin, this seemed like a good halfway point for us to stop and break up the journey. We’d already taken in Kenilworth during our three-month jaunt around the country in ‘The Brick’ a few years ago but it was practically on the way anyway and our recent joining of English Heritage would allow us free access. As it turned out, I couldn’t remember much of the castle when we arrived, although Sandy did seem to know where everything was.

The weather was good to us whilst we were at Kenilworth and this gave us a perfect opportunity to not only let the kids run riot but also to get the recently acquired camcorder out to film them both having a whale of a time. It’s a pity that it has taken us nearly 2 years since Joey’s birth to finally bite the bullet and buy a camcorder. Ordinarily, we’re very much camera people but I suppose it will also be nice to have a film record of the kids growing up. Having cost me more than the holiday itself, I’ll be making sure we put it to good use during the course of the week and beyond.

Save for a couple more brief stops to stretch our legs and get the blood circulating, the remainder of the drive up was otherwise uneventful. The kids kept themselves entertained with the seat headrest DVD screens pumping our episode after episode of ‘Something Special’. I dare say they will both be quite accomplished signers by the time they grow up.

Even without the satellite navigation talking us through the journey, it was quite clear that we had reached and entered the Lake District National park by late afternoon. The scenery change was quite distinct, with a gentle rolling countryside giving way to peaks and valleys with narrow winding roads meandering through the hills. After the steep hillsides, the most noticeable feature I suppose would have to be the slate rocks and boulders everywhere, which I thought was quite reminiscent of Dartmoor and Exmoor in the West Country. Not only does the slate stone litter the hillsides in various sizes ranging from gravel to large rocks but also it seems that they are put to practical use as a readily available building material. Just about everything manmade from farm buildings and cottages to hedges and even road barriers are made from this grey, dry-stone-wall material.

After about 45 minutes of meandering through a very narrow and winding road, we diligently followed the satellite navigator into the small town of Glenridding and all the way up a winding hill to the cottage that I had already previously located on the satellite map. The only problem was that this turned out not to be our cottage after all. Fortunately, a helpful woman in a neighbouring cottage saw us pondering what to do next and helpfully pointed us to Chapel Cottage, which turned out to be on the main road just back down the hill. As it happens, this location suited us better in light of the fact that we’re now pushing a couple of kids in a double buggy. We parked the car in the little private car park next to the property and I went into the neighbouring cottage, as instructed to do so on our booking confirmation letter, to collect the keys.

Chapel Cottage is a very large property. Every room in the cottage is extremely spacious. It has a near enough ideal layout with lots of space for the kids to be themselves and to run around. I can’t say that it has a great deal of charm, however, with a somewhat utilitarian feel to it. For the money we paid, I would have expected to see much more plush and luxurious fixtures and fittings. Many things such as the TV, microwave, towels and so on all seem like they are only of the minimum standard required with the least amount of money possible having been spent. Nevertheless, the place is ours for the week and I do my best to try to imagine the positives outweighing the negatives (which for me is difficult to do). Switching on the freezer in the kitchen only to have it start beeping at us constantly didn’t help matters in this regard – nor did finding that the 2 cots that I thought I had agreed with the owner would be made available turning out to be a single cot with a travel cot, which to irritate me further also still had to be assembled. As if to rub salt into the wound, it was just moments after we arrived when we heard a crash; Joey had pulled over a tall floor-standing lamp in the front room and pretty much ripped to shreds the paper lamp-shade atop it.

Having unpacked the car, settled in and made ourselves at home, we wandered into town (which is little more than a few shops, cottages a hotel – and, of course, Lake Ullswater) to pick up some provisions for our immediate needs.