The Lake District

For the next 7-9 days we are fortunate to be able to stay in a friend’s holiday home, just outside of Penrith, on a working farm. It’s extremely comfortable and feels very roomy compared to our motorhome days … just a tad smaller than the castle though.

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The first day was spent very leisurely – school for the girls, piles of laundry, a delicious al fresco lunch, planning the activities for the next week, and, of course, updating the blog which we were very behind on after being offline for most of our touring days in Scotland.

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Day 2… we drove to Pooley Bridge to begin a 4.5 mile walk to Howtown. The walk was rather steep for the first couple of miles and we had a couple of major breakdowns by the girls, with demands to be put on the first flight back to Hong Kong where it would be far better sitting in a small flat playing on the iPad! The rebellion was put down but the extra time forced us to trade defer our pub lunch plans so we could make the ferry back.

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We had a quick sandwich in Howtown before the steamer, Western Belle, arrived to take us on Ullswater back to Pooley Bridge.

We then settled into the Pooley Bridge Inn for a proper lunch.

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Day 3 … The weather has changed and we woke up to rain this morning. It was a very lazy day and not much really to report on. We went to a working watermill but were too late in the day to see it working and then went to a pub.

Day 4 was far better. The sun came out again and we had a fantastic walk at Aira Force, a series of waterfalls near Ullswater.

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This is a really fun family walk which took about 2 hours. We stuck to the paths for some of the walk but soon discovered it was more fun and dangerous to take “Daddy’s shortcuts”. These generally involved walking up really steep bits (only to have to come down a very steep bit the other side to rejoin the path) or crossing the river not by the well maintained bridge but by using slippery stepping stones. Sophie gave up on the stones several times and just walked right through the river! At least it gave her smelly trainers a good rinse!

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After the walk we drove a little further to the next village, Glenridding and stopped for lunch at Inn on the Lake, which was a perfect spot and of course included the obligatory pub playground.

After lunch we travelled back towards Penrith to pick up provisions for dinner only to discover that all the supermarkets close at 4pm on a Sunday… Weird. Or is that normal in the UK? Small mention of thanks to Nicky Hutson for introducing us to Roast in a Bag Chicken which we had for dinner … crispy skin, moist meat and no mess; we’re converts.

Day 5 … another rainy day so we went to Rehged (name of ancient kingdom that included Cumbria). The girls painted some pottery, James looked round an Everest exhibition and we had a decent lunch.

Day 6 … the girls went on a pony hack and groomed a pony in Penrith which they loved.

We then drove to Windermere where we had a really great lunch at The Crafty Baa.

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The sole server on deck was a wee bit stretched and hence lunch dragged on longer than planned, leading to the first parking fine of the tour (25 quid as long as you cough up promptly). We then drove down to Bowness-on-Windermere where we proved a big hit with the local swans … it’s possible they were expecting some food.

We passed a Beatrix Potter attraction and decided to go in … the girls enjoyed it a bit but on balance we should have hit the pub; it wasn’t that much fun.

The Windermere-to-Ullswater section of the drive back had some incredible views but the winding road home eventually got the better of Sophie, leading to a big cleanup operation when we got back.

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Day 7 … A more educational day today with a trip to Vindolanda – the site of a Roman fort near Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland – for history buffs it’s well worth a visit to get a taste of how things were about 2,000 years ago. The museum is very interesting and when you visit the actual excavation site there are archeologists digging away.

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The journey to Vindolanda also deserves a mention, with the road between Melmerby and Alston climbing to 1,900 feet over the North Pennines and offering spectacular vistas. Apparently the AA judged it one of the top 10 drives in the world!

In the village of Melmerby is a fantastic pub called the Shepherd’s Inn where we fed the girls and were sorry not to have had a meal there ourselves during our stay. The pub itself is possibly the nicest pub we’ve been to on our trip so far.

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Day 8 and final day in the Lake District… The sun was shining so we hired a small sailing boat (one that featured in the new Swallows & Amazons movie, no less!) and had an hour sailing on Ullswater.

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We then headed up to the Lakeland Birds of Prey Centre where we grabbed a delicious light lunch before watching some superb flying displays by a Peregrine Falcon, Gyrfalcons and a Harris Hawk. James and the girls even had a go themselves with Bob, the Harris Hawk. Bob is like a pet dog. He’s hilarious. He just follows his master around and performs tricks for treats. The handler then introduced us to Otto the Eagle Owl who was beautiful and quite vocal. Again, a very funny pet bird of prey!

On our way back home we stopped for jersey ice cream at the nearby dairy farm where the girls had a play and met some gorgeous calves.

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Tomorrow we head back to Surrey where we will be for almost a month trying to arrange schools, storage for out shipment from Hong Kong and lots of admin. The blog will therefore be on hold until mid-June when leg two of the trip will take us to Wales and the West Country.

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