Aww, the Lake District… home of lush green valleys, wildflower meadows and azure blue lakes, where the cascading slopes of high topped ridges are dotted with sheep and shadows of silver-lined clouds. OK, I’m no William Wordsworth or Beatrix Potter, but I was charmed and inspired by this area as much as they were. Until, that is, we came face to face with an on-coming car on a narrow section of a steep, twisting road. At that point, I was neither charmed nor the least bit inspired!
So, let me back-up (like we had to do around that hairpin curve without knowing what was behind us… but I digress). We left Llandudno Pier in Wales for the much-anticipated Lake District of Northern England. Our only significant stop along the way was in Chester, a former Roman fortress, now a delightful city with ancient walls, distinctive Tutor architecture and a 1,000-year-old cathedral.
From Chester, we settled in for a 3-hour stretch on the road. Our goal was to get to Lake Windermere in enough time to take a leisurely cruise on the lake. As the scenery grew more and more beautiful, the clouds became more and more intense. When rain began to fall, we knew we would need another plan.
Adeo Travel had included a brochure for Lakeland Motor Museum in our travel packet. It was close to our accommodations, it was indoors, and it had free parking – something we hadn’t experienced since we climbed into the car at Heathrow! The museum turned out to be a unique display of classic cars, motorbikes, and other interesting exhibits. I’ll admit my husband probably enjoyed it more than I did… I kept thinking about all the natural beauty we were missing, but at least we were dry.
After the museum, we explored Bowness-on-Windermere, a tiny tourist village on the shores of the largest lake in England. The town has a Beatrix Potter attraction and a lively harbor on Bowness Bay. We stopped in at the oldest pub in town, the historic “Hole in t’Wall”, which was built in 1612. It has a heritage and an atmosphere like no other – a fun place for dinner and beer.
Hadrian’s Wall was always a must-see destination on our agenda, so we headed that direction the following morning. The 73-mile Roman wall stretches from coast to coast near England’s northern border and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built as a defensive barrier to protect this remote section of the Roman Empire from invaders. The wall, original forts, and now modern museums represent 2,000 years of history and are a lasting monument to Hadrian, an emperor who valued peace and stability.
We returned to our accommodations in Windermere, the Lindeth Howe Country House, stopping at various scenic spots on the way. You can find more information about this lovely hotel and its beautiful view in my post “In the Distance, a Rainbow”. We also enjoyed the view at the Castlerigg Stone Circles, a step back in time to the Neolithic Period.
The Yorkshire Dales promised and delivered even more stunning scenery (and even more scary roads, i.e., paragraph one!). The areas of outstanding natural beauty in the north of England co-exist in perfect harmony. The lakes, the dales, the moors, the coast, each have their own special form of splendor – and I loved them all!
Our first stop in the Dales was at Bolton Castle, a privately owned medieval fortress. It was originally built for defense but was also an extravagant family home with a spectacular view. Today the castle has furnished rooms, a garden maze, birds-of-prey and bee keeping displays, archery demonstrations and a small café.
We made stops at Middleham Castle, Jervaulx Abbey, and Ripon Cathedral as we headed to York.
York is a well-preserved medieval city which has managed to keep a small-town feel due to the ancient walls that surround it. From its Roman roots and Viking past to the Gothic towers of York Minster Cathedral, York has now stepped into modern day culture with boutiques, museums, and a festival for every month of the year.
For something different, we booked one of the very popular ghost walks for our first night in York. It was curiously entertaining to hear haunted myths and scary stories as we were lead through dimly lit streets. The best part of the tour was seeing York’s major points of interest during the twilight hours, which made for some remarkable photos.
York Minster, with its incredible gothic architecture, is the crown jewel of the city. Work began in the 1200’s and included many engineering marvels such as a vaulted ceiling supported by massive timbers. It is simply a masterpiece in stained-glass, wood and stone!
Some of our favorite places were discovered on side trips made from our four-night home in York, The Grand Hotel. After one full day in the city, we took a side trip east to Bempton Cliffs, a sea-bird haven, then up the coast to Whitby. I loved Whitby Abbey and the bustling, colorful harbor!
We also took a day trip to Thirsk where we met up with my cousin who lives there. Since my husband and I are fans of the TV show “All Creatures Great and Small, she treated us to a tour of the World of James Herriot, a museum in Thirsk. She also joined us for a drive to Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle. It was one of my favorite days!
We left York for the Cotswolds and London, which will be my fourth and final post in this travel series. If you would like to see the first two posts, you can find them here:
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