For all it’s abundant natural beauty, there’s hardly a place in the whole of the United Kingdom that can remotely match the absolute natural splendor of the Lake District National Park, aka The Lakes (or collectively the Lakelands) in the Northwestern English county of Cumbria. Made up of 885 square meters of lakelands, forests and mountains (or fells, as they prefer to call them), the Lakes are a very popular domestic holiday destination. While I wasn’t particularly interested in this leg of our Anglo-Irish adventure and it made into our itinerary only by accident, I was left completely spellbound by the unparalleled beauty of this land and the endless hospitality of its dear people.
Location & Getting There:
Historically, a shared treasure between the counties of Cumbria, Westmorland & Lancashire, The National Park now lies entirely within the modern district of Cumbria in North-Western England.
Air + Rail:
The National Park is a 5-6 hour drive from London and there’s no airport in the county of Cumbria. The closest airports to the Lakes are Manchester in the south & Glasgow in the north. The National Park is however, well connected by rail & road. The West Coast mainline runs to the east of the Lake District, connecting Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle with London and Glasgow. A direct train runs from Manchester to Windermere. Local trains call at Kendal, Staveley and Windermere. There is also route following the Cumbrian coastline.
You can find some useful train schedules and other relevant information at the Lake District website.
The Delightfulness of Barrow-in-Furness:
We drove a good 3-4 hours from my friend’s university in Birmingham to get to the lovely Lakelands. Accommodation in the National Park is rather expensive (especially when you book them 1 week before your stay bang in the middle of spring); so we chose this ridiculously friendly town, also known as the Gateway to the Lakes – Barrow-in-Furness. The first thing that really struck me about this town was to notice how it was built around the central spire of St James’ Church (or at least it seemed to be). It was only later that I’d know, Barrow is one of Britain’s few planned towns and has many fine buildings to show for it. Most of the housing is ‘terraced’ – an apparent indicator of the town being a ‘working’ town.
We made our lodgings at the ridiculously cozy ‘Ambrose Hotel‘ run by the warm & friendly Linda and her staff of mischief-mongers. Dominated by the tiny bar which doubles up as a living/dining room during the day, the ground floor is a combination of human warmth and soft lights. It miraculously transforms into a noisy, happening joint on weekend nights, especially when there’s a local football game to watch. On my first night here, we made friends with a group of young locals. As the night progressed and the beer started dictating terms, we went on to become comfortable enough to make cultural jokes about each other and teach each other how to swear & insult inventively in our local dialects. HA!
After a point, the mature one from the group put his foot down and steered the conversation towards more constructive topics. We found out Mr. Sobre-Pants studied History & Politics at the Lancaster University, followed by a stint in the British Army (ok, now THAT got my attention). We heard some of his stories that included developing a limited vocabulary of Hindi words, spending a day in the bathroom after a sumptuous dinner of Indian Butter Chicken and so on. The kind sir then proceeded to walk over to the reception and bring back some travel brochures to play the gracious guide for our benefit. While he engaged my friends with his friendly, local insight, I continued my cultural banter game with the more playful members of the group.
At this point, I find it obligatory to mention that none of these wonderful people were in the least bit racially motivated. The ex-military guy went as far as profusely apologizing on behalf of his friends for some of the racist banter and made sure we understood it was all in good spirit and none of his friends meant anything at all by it – if you’re reading, I hear you kind sir, and your apology was entirely unnecessary. This particular evening was one of our most memorable evenings throughout our entire Anglo-Irish trip 🙂
The rest of our time and experience in the Lakelands was very frankly spent amidst such enchanting landscapes, we were often left speechless. I find myself at a loss of words even now to describe some of the sights we witnessed, and so, for the rest of this post, it’s probably a better idea to let these wonderful pictures take over:
VII. The stone buildings of Bowness-upon-Windermere,
Rustic colours of a medieval Lake-town, remind anybody of Tolkien?
VIII. Along your many days on this earth, some will stand out
for moments such as these, when nature deals you a knockout!
X. Another unknown town passed us by!
How easy to turn this into postcards-on-the-fly?
XI. Clicked on just another normal day under an English sky
And I finally understood, why Raindrops are the perfect lullaby!
XII. My dearest friends & fellow-travellers will pose
These moments, these times will remain amongst my best pieces of prose!