8 places in and around the Lake District to visit after lockdown
PUBLISHED: 08:14 07 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:14 07 July 2020
As lockdown restrictions ease, it’s time to re-connect with the Lake District after more than three months.
This picture-perfect Lakeland village is one of the most popular tourist hotspots in the Lakes and it’s not hard to see why. It has seemed strange to see the streets so empty during the hot, dry Spring, when the narrow pavements would normally be heaving with tourists and day-trippers and the roads and car parks nose-to-tail with cars and coaches from across the world.
Of course, the local economy of Ambleside is heavily geared to catering for those tourists and many businesses here are dependent on them returning one day but until that’s possible there’s a chance to experience the town as you may never have seen it before.
There are more glorious walks in and around the town than you can shake a walking pole at; for the experienced adventurer there are challenging routes up into the hills, while for the rest of us, there’s a pleasant stroll from the town centre to the Stock Ghyll Force waterfall.
It’s easy to see why Bowness is Lakeland’s most popular tourist attraction. The views, the lake, the scenery, the walks, the shops… it’s all here and it usually attracts crowds from all over the world. The narrow streets and pavements would normally be crowded with visitors shopping, walking and waiting to take a boat trip on England’s biggest lake.
The Lake District was surreally quiet throughout Spring but as restrictions have been lifted, people have started to return, in spite of tourism groups’ requests to stay away for the time being. And although the lakeside can seem rather crowded sometimes, you need only walk a few minutes to find peace, tranquillity and incredible unspoiled views.
We recommend the walk to Orrest Head on the eastern shore of the lake – it’s the walk that changed young Alfred Wainwright’s life and led him to become the country’s most celebrated walks writer. It’s a simple enough walk for all ages and the views from the summit are among the best you’ll find anywhere.
This pretty village is a regular on the itineraries of visiting coach parties but until they return, social distancing on the narrow lanes should be easier. It may only be a small place but there are plenty of reasons why visitors flock here. They come to visit the Priory, one of the most impressive religious buildings in the country; they come for the horse racing on the prettiest, and smallest National Hunt course in the UK; they come for the food and drink; and they come for the views.
The Priory has dominated the village for 800 years but in recent times Simon Rogan has become almost as big a feature. His Rogan & Co and L’Enclume restaurants hold three Michelin stars between them, among a host of other awards, and the more formal L’Enclume was named the UK’s best restaurant earlier this year. During the lockdown, rooms have been given over to help people shielding from the virus.
Cartmel is an enchanting and unspoilt village with old stone buildings, tightly-packed houses and narrow winding lanes which aren’t ideal for social distancing but you could choose to make Cartmel part of a driving tour of local beauty spots that might also take in the nature reserve at Roudsea Wood and the villages up to Newby Bridge at the southern tip of Windermere.
There always seems to be air of calm about Grange-over-Sands, a sense of elegant permanence that can be reassuring in difficult times. Everything may have changed but Grange remains, infused with Edwardian splendour; it’s the perfect destination for a relaxing and restorative day out.
Take a stroll along the famous mile-long prom with its ever-changing views across Morecambe Bay, or relax in Grange’s beautiful ornamental gardens which date back to 1865. There’s a fountain at the centre and almost always ducks and geese there to feed. Or you can the visit the Brown Robin Nature Reserve, further afield.
If you fancy something a little more challenging, try the walk to Hampsfield Hospice, a shelter for travellers at the top of Hampsfell which was commissioned by the pastor of Cartmel in 1846. It’ll take about half an hour and on a clear day you’ll be able to see over the Lakeland fells, Morecambe Bay, Chapel Island, the Yorkshire Dales and even Blackpool Tower.
Wordsworth’s favourite spot is also one of the most popular with visitors from all over the world, but with the tourism industry likely to take longer than others to bounce back from the pandemic, the usually crowded pavements and footpaths of Grasmere will be quieter than you’re used to seeing them.
You’ll be able to explore the wonderful summer walks and enjoy the spectacular scenery in peace, with just the sounds of nature to accompany you as you go - you might, as someone once put it, be able to wander lonely as a cloud.
We recommend a stroll around the village, taking in the babbling River Rothay, St Oswald’s Church – where Wordsworth lies in the churchyard – and his former home Dove Cottage before following his footsteps on the short and pleasant walk to the lake where he used to enjoy rowing.
Historic Hawkshead stands at the head of Esthwaite Water roughly half way between Windermere and Coniston and it’s the perfect destination for anyone who wants to get away from it all. In normal times the picture-perfect village is a draw for people who enjoy its pubs and the range of independent shops. The village’s Beatrix Potter connections pull in the crowds too, but until the gallery and shop re-open, there’s plenty more to see and do in the area.
The village is a cornerstone of the Lake District’s tourism industry and as restrictions ease the pavements may well get busy again, but it is easy to escape the crowds and to enjoy a peaceful day out. The surrounding countryside is made for exploring by cycle or foot. Esthwaite Water was home to Beatrix Potter’s Jeremy Fisher and now you might spot ospreys trying to find lunch there.
The lake – one of smallest in the area – is fringed on the west by Grizedale Forest which is home to a sculpture trail with about 100 pieces of art dotted around the woodland.
Kendal is often referred to as the Gateway to the Lakes, but there’s much more to the historic than that. You’ll find most of the town centre shops and cafes along Stricklandgate and the winding streets that lead off it.
The River Kent is one of the fastest flowing rivers in England, although it’s in a sedate mood as it passes close to Kendal town centre. As you stroll along the riverside path, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including kingfishers and otters. The river passes through the parkland beside the Abbot Hall Gallery and the Museum of Lakeland Life, which should both be on your list of places to visit when they re-open.
Once you’ve had a good look around the town, enjoy the wonderful panoramic views over the town from the ruins of the 12th century Kendal Castle. It’s an ideal spot for a picnic, but if you find you just need an energy boost at this point, we recommend Kendal Mint Cake.