A Winter Lakeland BreakAway

by Zoe Dawes /
Zoe Dawes's picture
Dec 11, 2009 / 0 comments

"It's a shame it's dark - the view from your bedroom over the lake is beautiful." Sara, the very friendly Receptionist at the Waterhead Hotel, Ambleside, couldn't have been more helpful, explaining what there was to do nearby and giving details of the hotel facilities. And so my mini 'staycation' on the shores of Lake Windermere began.  I recently decided to take a couple of days' break in the heart of the Lake District to unwind and maybe do a little writing. You could say it was a bit of 'busman's holiday' (as we say in UK) as I only live about half an hour away and I write all the time ... but it is amazing how much benefit you can get from even a short change of scenery, however close by.

 Windermere early morn

As you know, I love this part of the world (Cumbria, NW UK) and consider it my adopted home, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do - as little as possible. The hotel is perfectly placed just outside Ambleside, looking straight down the lake, England's longest at just over 10 miles.

Sara showed to my room (the Victorian hotel had a £1m renovation not long ago) and ... OH wow - what a gorgeous place to chill out. There was a lovely big bed facing a state-of-the-art flat screen TV, a beautiful bay window over-looking the lake (to be seen the next day), a big desk, sofa and chairs and, best of all, a wonderful big bathroom replete with luxury toiletries and fluffy bathrobe.

My meal that evening was excellent and I was so well looked after by the staff I felt like royalty.  It was fairly quiet and mainly couples eating but I didn't feel out of it being on my own - which can be sometimes be a problem. After dinner I decided to go for a walk by the lake - you just wander across the road and there it is. Ducks, geese and swans were paddling about, preening and generally seeming ready to settle down for the night.  There was a clear sky with distant stars twinkling merrily and the sound of halyards (or whatever!) clattering on the masts of yachts moored nearby ... 

Pulling back the curtains the next morning I saw exactly what Sarah meant about the view; wintry sun was trying to break through low-lying mist which covered the lake in a soft duvet.  The boats, buildings and fells were slowly emerging as if from a deep sleep and there was a gentle murmering from all the birds down by the lake. Magical...

After a 'hearty Cumbrian breakfast' (no black pudding, thank you very much!) I wandered outside.  It was crisp, sunny and held the prospect of a perfect day.  We have to make the most of days like this here. So, should I stay in the hotel, make the most of their 'ameneties', read, write and relax - or get out in the sunshine?  No contest!

There are absolutely loads of things to do in the Lake District and if - nay, WHEN, you visit, check out Cumbria Tourism's excellent site Go Lakes for what's on.  I could have walked into Ambleside, gone shopping in the quirky little shops, trekked up a nearby fell, got the bus to the north Lakes and Keswick or back towards Bowness and Kendal, visited a stately home, a beautiful garden,or Wordsworth's cottage, manybe go to the scene of Renee Zelweiger's triumph as 'Miss Potter' - but the lake was calling ...

Waterhead & ferryAt the Windermere Lake Cruises opposite the hotel I got an all-day ticket (£12) for the Windermere lake Cruiseand embarked on 'Cumbria Maid IV'. The mist had cleared and the views down the lake and across to the Old Man of Coniston and the Langdales beyond, were sublime.  I spent the whole day sailing gently along the lake shore.  The sun was warm so I sat outside on top - great for photos and occasional note-taking.  We went to the end of the Lake from where you can get a steam train to Haverthwaite, go over to Fell Foot Park (National Trust) or visit the Aquarium of the Lakes.  Then it was back up the other side of Lake, past beautiful Victorian houses with lawnsLakes House pouring down to the shore and to Bowness. After a quick look round the shops, it was back for the final stretch as the sun went down, the clouds came in and a chill in the air told me winter really had arrived.

Getting into my car to go home that afternoon I felt totally relaxed, inspired by some of the loveliest scenery in the world and ready to get back to work with batteries recharged.  (Plus the Lake District is magical for a Christmas break.)

Try it - take time out even just for a short while and feel the difference.

Zoe Dawes is the Quirky Traveller Editor for Wandering Educators.