Lake District, UK – September 2007

Day 4 – another fun day on the road

Tuesday 4th September

Despite the full day from yesterday, we were all up and wide-awake relatively early this morning. This phenomenon is something we’ve experienced before when travelling. When there’s no need to get up early (to go to work, for example), the body clock seems to adjust itself forward a bit and you tend to wake earlier and more refreshed than normal. I awoke energised and ready to go, thinking that I’d just been treated to a blissful and well-deserved lie in. Thinking it was already late morning, I reached over for my watch and saw that is was barely seven – not even time for my usual alarm to start screaming at me.

Our leisurely morning routine was somewhat interrupted by an out of the blue text message. I’ve been on the hunt for new contract work in recent weeks and this text was from one of the agencies I’ve been dealing with. Apparently, I secured an offer for the one position I’ve been particularly hoping for. On top of this good news, the weather was once again just about as good as it could get outside. This holiday just keeps getting better.

We fed and dressed the kids, collected all the things that would go into making a great day out on the road and loaded up the car. I think we were actually in the car with the keys in the ignition before we finally decided exactly where we were going. We really enjoy visiting castles and ruins – particularly when the weather is good – and it just so happens that there are plenty to chose from up in this neck of the woods. We decided that Penrith would be our first destination today and pointed the car North up along the Western edge of the lake again.

Penrith castle is another example of a ruin that lies in the middle of a town centre. It’s an impressive ruin by all rights and sits nestled proudly within well-manicured lawns. We tend to find, however, that castles that are within a city centre just somehow seem to lack a certain character about them. Whether it’s the every presence of the hustle and bustle of town traffic or the lack of the somehow expected scenic grandeur I don’t know but we ended up saying there just long enough say that we’d seen it and decided to move on. We moved on to just the other side of the road, as it happens, to where we would partake in a bite to eat – happy meal style.

By the time we were back in the car, grumpy tendencies from the children were telling us that it was almost their naptime. This presented us with a just a little bit of a dilemma. We contemplated spending the next half an hour or more on the road so as to allow the kids time to sleep but the next place we wanted to visit was just a few minutes up the road. Waking them up just as they had fallen to sleep didn’t seem like a good idea but neither did driving an hour to another place just to drive that same hour back again. It seemed like the most appropriate plan was to drive the short distance over to Brougham castle and to just sit there in the car until the kids had slept enough. Sure enough, it took just about the time to reach Brougham for the little critters to nod off. Sandy was confident that they would continue to sleep even if disturbed so we loaded them both into the double buggy and set off into the castle grounds. It was a lovely visit. With the kids asleep, we were able to just relax for a bit and wander around the castle grounds taking it all in. Brougham is a much more in tact castle than was Penrith and provided plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. There were just three other visitors in the grounds and we enjoyed a good hour just relaxing and toying with the now awoken and active children without a care in the world.

If it’s not a castle or a roman ruin we’re visiting, it’s usually a stone circle. For someone that hated both history and geography at school, I find it ironic that I’ve exposed myself to so much of these things in my adult life. I don’t know what it is about these enigmatic arrangements of stones that attract us but we’ve seen quite a few of them across the British Isles now. Little Meg and her Daughters is a druid stone circle of quite some size. Some fifty or sixty of these one to two meter high stone edifices stand in a circle some one hundred meters in diameter, with each stone standing just a few meters from its neighbours. Off to one side, about thirty meters outside the circle, stands a three meter high stone slab, which we assume is Little Meg herself. It never ceases to amaze me that nobody truly knows who erected these stone circles, why they did so and how they went about it. I suppose that it may very well be this mystery that continues to draw us. This particular stone circle is located near a very small village called Little Salkeld. This should not be confused with a very similarly small village called Great Salkeld that is no more than a mile away as the crow flies but requires a fifteen minute drive around the countryside to reach. We know this as we made the mistake of setting off to the wrong village. This is proof if ever it were needed that just because you have a satellite navigation system in the car doesn’t mean you will always find what you’re looking for straight away.

As if to keep the best till last, our final destination of the day was yet another stone circle some forty-five minutes drive across country near a place called Castlerig. Several characteristics about this place make it one of the very best, if not the very best, stone circle we’ve ever visited anywhere. Firstly. It sits on a flat plateau on top of a hill that itself sits nestled between a range of much higher hills. The panoramic view is just stunning regardless of which direction you’re facing. Secondly, the flat and very well manicured terrain frames the stones beautifully. Also, a much wider area around the stone circle itself is fenced off so that no cattle or sheep, both of which are in abundance around these parts, are able to defecate all over the ground under your feet. The thing that did it for me was that it was a very safe environment for the kids to run around and be themselves in. It wasn’t overly busy and there was no way for the children to get into any trouble. We were able to relax, enjoy the pleasant and tranquil atmosphere and just play around under the warm summer sun, which we did for well over an hour. The icing on the cake for both Sandy and me was watching (photographing and filming) the kids try to eat a cone of ice cream between them – absolute bliss! A new job, good weather, a relaxing and fun time spent with the whole family without a care in the world. For as long as we live, I can’t image any day being as perfect as this one was.