Holiday in the Lake District

12th July 2021

So… we had a 18 day ‘holiday’ pre-booked at a campsite near Keswick but entered the Lake District for a couple of days wild camping in advance. Well, what an interesting and exciting welcome to the area with the roads immediately becoming small and narrow. Mich had located a car park alongside mountains and between Lake’s Buttermere and Crummock which looked ideal. Always keen to put Ruby to the test, we followed the route provided by our (size appropriate) Satnav but found life a little tricky. Came to a stretch of road where it was impossible for a motorhome and car to pass each other, and as Sods Law dictates we were met at this point by 8-9 cars towards us. This area was overgrown with trees with rocks on both sides and a steep uphill for us. So, it turns out that we could actually fit a motorhome and car through the gap !…took 15 minutes and many sweating car drivers scraping down the sides of rocks and eventually squeezing through. Damn that was nervy. So nervy that we stopped at the next opportunity to assess the route. There was still four miles to go, which is a long way on these roads. Oh, I forgot to mention that when we entered this stretch of road we passed a sign saying ‘6ft 6 width limit- 4 miles ahead’ .. mmmm and we are 7ft 8in wide…! We didn’t want to get totally stuck so we spoke to a couple of walkers ‘Do you know this area? Is it big enough to take our motorhome?’ – ‘Oh I would think so as it is the bus route ! ‘ was the reply..- Ok then. So we pressed on and survived more stretches of busy roads before finding our car park slot. This was against a gentle stream with a few trees to protect us from any breeze and with incredible views of mountains all around. We had to park with our rear-end out over the stream due to the size of the car park which left us having to sleep two nights directly over the running babbling brook. Quite fun. 

The next couple of days found us walking up and down hills as usual. Terrific, incredible views in all directions which would compete with anywhere in the world. We took a walk along the road up through the famous Honister Pass, grabbed a coffee at the Slate Mine cafe and then climbed some more up onto the mountain top at Fleetwith Pike. Beautiful. Steep but beautiful. And a great excuse to visit the cafe again on the way down for some soup for lunch. Nice butternut squash soup, with a big bread roll and a large fly for Mich…! Yes, the classic, ‘Waiter there is a fly in my soup’ sketch. Quite a big bugger which put us both right off, so I returned to the cafe to complain and request a refund. ‘Well you are sitting outside-it must have got in out there-we don’t have any flies in here-I am even going to each some of this soup now myself.!’ says the unhelpful manageress. ’Not quite the response I was expecting to be honest’ says I. But they gave a reluctant refund anyhow. At least they didn’t charge us extra for the meat content…! 

So we had a couple of excellent days here with the additional joy of a few military jets flying low over the lakes to make us smile. 

14th July and we headed off to our booking near Keswick driving this time up and through the Honister Pass and over the 6ft 6 wide bridge.! Having struggled with narrow roads and oncoming traffic to get here we decided to leave at 7am in order to avoid too much traffic. The road up and through the pass is amazing winding its way straight up through the valley and over into the next valley. The roads eventually widened out ten miles later as we approached Keswick – and would you believe it…. some dopey woman driving a transit van dashed towards us through one tight section and smashed her wing mirror into mine, breaking the plastic casing. Bugga! It was probably 50-50 as we were both on our own side of the road, but had she slowed as much as I did, we would have been able to avoid it, but she never even slowed down. Muppet.!

Ooops. Damn it…!

So this is the second bit of damage on Ruby. Nothing too huge with just a crack down the bottom of the mirror casing but rather irritating after driving so many miles on really tiny, tight roads without damage. 

Our booking was the Braithwaite Village Camping and Caravan site which is just 3 miles from Keswick. A terrific location at the bottom of the valley surrounded by mountains 360º round and close to Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake. It is much pricier than we like to pay at £31 per night, but this is July, school holidays and in the beautiful Lake District. And more importantly this was our Summer Holiday….!  There is a cycle, walking route straight into Keswick and a bus stop right outside the site with routes into Keswick and around the Lakes. Perfect-which meant we could leave Ruby parked up and still get around. After all our travels it was nice to be able to have some grass alongside our gravel pitch, to have high quality showers and a laundry room. (And…. the payment machine for the washing machines was broken so all the washing and drying were free…- Michelle was in heaven..!). We could put or groundsheet out, plonk the camping chairs out, put up the canopy and enjoy the sunshine… Yes, sunshine. From the moment we arrived and for the next full two weeks we had the most incredible hot, heat wave 30º bright blue sky sunshine. Absolutely cracking and very timely. 

So what did we do with our time here? Well, of course, we climbed up mountains, several of them, we swam in both Crummock Water and Derwent Water and we visited many of the Lake District hotspots. Firstly though we had an appointment on 16th July to have an upgraded gas system fitted to Ruby. Up to this point we had two 6kg Calor gas bottles fitted from new. This was fine however there are issues. Firstly, swapping empty bottles each time is an expensive way to pay for gas compared with LPG that can be pumped in at petrol stations, perhaps 3 times more. Secondly, it has become increasingly difficult to get hold of refill bottles (which is apparently down to the number of new caravans and motorhomes being built during Covid times). And finally, Calor Gas is not available in Europe so we had no choice but to upgrade.

Trying hard to fill up with LPG..

The day was spent having a Gaslow system fitted at a company near Penrith at a cost of £600. (I include some of these prices as I know this is the kind of information I want to know about when reading other peoples blogs..:-)

  • Due to the amazing weather we were determined to spend time swimming and lazing round a lakeside beach. There are so many areas that may provide ready access it was not clear where to head for. So we did the obvious thing- as we were tourists and wanted information we visited the Tourist Information Centre in Keswick…. Well this is how that went when speaking to the nice (older) lady in there;-
  • Glenn ‘What is the best place to go nearby where we can swim in a lake?’ 
  • Helpful Lady ‘You can’t swim in the lakes due to blue algae’
  • Glenn ‘ Aaah, ok, is there anywhere we can swim without blue algae?’
  • Helpful Lady ‘No, the blue algae arrives every summer’
  • Glenn ‘Well if it wasn’t for the blue algae are there any areas where anyone can swim in the lakes’
  • Helpful Lady ‘ No, it is all over, everywhere’
  • Michelle (frustrated )’say if there wasn’t any blue algae where could we get down to the lakeside?’
  • Helpful Lady ‘Oh you can go to the swimming pool or to the other side of the Lake District’  – (25 miles away!)
  • Glenn (angry) ‘What about here in Keswick, near here, where we can access and paddle in the lake’
  • Helpful Lady ‘There is blue algae all round the lake, you can’t go swimming’

At which point Helpful Lady says ‘well if you are going to be aggressive I can’t help you anymore’- Ha!, she hadn’t helped at all. What an irritating snooty woman she was. God I was livid…! . She was obsessed with blue algae. Mich told me off for being rude and a chap in the Tourist (lack-of) Information centre invited me to leave (whilst pointing towards the lake!). 

Anyway we swam in Lake Derwent the next day and the following two days we swam in Crummock Water a total of about 12 times alongside hundreds of other people and didn’t get any blue algae poisoning- We don’t even glow in the dark! The weather was absolutely perfect with cloudless skies and a gentle breeze along the lake to take out the intense heat. I always believed that the water in a lake was always cold-all the time. We expected freezing cold water but with only a slight intake of breath on the way in, it was mighty fine. Ok the ‘beach’ was stoney and untidy and had no ice cream kiosk or toilets or crappy souvenir shops nearby but we coped..And on our second day on this beach on Crummock Water an RAF Hawk kindly arrived straight ahead of us and screamed above the water towards and directly over us at a very low height. Thank you. 

Tuesday 20th was quite exciting as we had arranged for a posh Afternoon Tea at the nearby Armathwaite Hotel in Bassenthwaite. This was from a Virgin Gift Voucher (other providers are available..) from daughter Kelly and family, gifted to us over 18 months earlier and put on hold due to Covid. We just had to get there. It was only seven miles but we did not want to drive Ruby over there as a drink was expected. The local bus was the obvious answer but rather technically tricky with a change from the X5 to the X4 half way. Well it kinda worked well but we were so lucky as it turned out..because the nearest bus stop to the Armathwaite hotel was outside the local distillery so we arrived early and had an hours tour of the gin, vodka and whisky distillery. By the time we walked across to the Armathwaite hotel we were somewhat ‘hazy’ due to the tasting element of the tour. Anyway the Afternoon Tea was terrific despite it being bloody hot sitting facing across the lawn towards Bassenthwaite Lake. Loads of sugary, creamy, unhealthy sandwiches and cakes and cups of Darjeeling and Rooibos tea. Of course we could not leave it there so we ordered a glass of Prosecco. Well a bottle to be honest… Now this bit was interesting.. We asked the waiter for the bill for the Prosecco after our first glass full because we wanted to take it out from the patio area onto the lawn. He said ‘Don’t worry, it is all sorted out at reception’ Oh, that was a great surprise. We were not excepting the drink to be included but we were delighted. Sat outside supping too many bubbles and watched a happy wedding ceremony on the lawn before staggering off to get the bus back to the campsite. Fat chance of getting that right, but somehow we coped nicely and returned in one piece. Lovely day out. Thank you Kel and Co..

Anyway next day I had a phone call…. ‘Is that Mr Blakeborough? This is reception at the Armathwaite Hotel clearing up some details from yesterday’ Oh dear…. ‘Yes, what can I do for you?’ Says I. Anyway it turns out that we had run off without paying for the Prosecco. ! However once I explained to her what had happened with the waiter she said ‘Aaah, Ok then. In that case we will sort that out this end’ and that was it. We paid nowt. – Hopefully the waiter didn’t have it taken from his wages..!!

After enjoying walking, swimming in lakes and cycling round pathways we decided that we had to take on one of the highest mountains in our back yard as the weather had cooled slightly. Grisedale Pike at 791 metres (2600ft) was a formidable climb, particularly scrambling up narrow rocky outcrops near the top. – best not to look down. ! Once at the top we looked over to another sexy looking mountain nearby which Michelle said ‘We could do that one’.. Hopegill Head –Really..!. Followed by Crag Hill, before finishing off with Scar Crags and Causey Pike. And the worst bit was going downhill afterwards which was however compensated for with a pint in the local village. Wow, were we knackered.

Please note however that we did not climb each mountain one at a time from ground level. We simply stayed pretty high up, dropping part way down then back up again throughout, but it was still a very daunting, tiring and exciting day out. We well deserved the pint after this seven hour marathon hike. 

26th July and we deserved a rest so we jumped on a bus for a visit to Grasmere and Ambleside and a treat of a lunch alongside Lake Windermere. It was nice enough. 

After this the hot sunny weather took a turn for the worse and the blue sky turned grey with low, heavy clouds on the last 4-5 days. Can’t complain though. The first two weeks were beyond our expectations and surprisingly hot and sunny. One of our motorhome neighbours had unfortunately relied on the strength of his wind-out canopy awning during a windy period. A huge gust of wind grabbed a hold onto his canopy, picked it up and threw it over the top of the motorhome wrecking the canopy framework and ripping holes in the side of his motorhome. Ooops. A bit of a reminder of the power of the wind.      

Wind Damage

So the end of our holiday went out with a squelch. We had managed to avoid big downpours and still climbed and walked but our movements were a little restricted…until our last full day when we were determined to climb to the top of Skiddaw Mountain. One of the tallest mountains in England at 931 metres (3,000 ft). We could normally see the top of Skiddaw from our pitch on the campsite but the previous couple of days it was stuck in cloud so we knew this would be daunting. Well…. It was. It is a very steep climb although on relatively easy terrain, but as we neared the top the cloud moved in, along with an increasingly painful wind and a drop in temperature of several degrees. It was breathtakingly wild at the top which meant our picnic lunch was put on hold until we were half way down again. It was a most satisfying climb and a good end to our holiday in the mountains. The next day, the first of August was leaving day and a soggy departure saw us heading 350 miles south to Devon and a site at South Moulton for a family camping trip and the chance to share Ruby with a gang of grandchildren…! Ooooo-er…. 

Did you know.. Bassenthwaite Lake is one of the largest water bodies in the English Lake District. It is long and narrow, approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) long and 0.75 miles (1 km) wide, but is also extremely shallow, with a maximum depth of about 70 ft (21 m).

It is the only true lake in the Lake District, all the others being “waters” (for example, Derwentwater), “meres” (for example, Windermere) or “tarns” (for example, Dock Tarn). It is fed by, and drains into, the River Derwent. The lake lies at the foot of Skiddaw, near the town of Keswick. 

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