A few years ago I decided that I needed to go for a walk. Somehow, this resulted in me finding myself alone and trekking across the Great Glen Way in the Highlands of Scotland. In hindsight a stroll to the shops would have been easier, but back then I had a strong need to get out and see a part of my own country that I’d never seen before. Again, admittedly I could have conceivably done that by walking to a new shop rather than my local, but instead I chose to go to a region that was about as far away from home as possible, whilst still being home. Scotland really is a long way away. After 12 hours on the sleeper train by rights I should have been disembarking on another continent, and yet here I was, still in the same country, (or maybe not depending on your point of view, but let’s not get all political here!). Despite having to endure the long journey there and back, and despite the very tender feet after my trek, once home again I vowed that one day I would return, but this time with Hannah (aka En Brogue, aka the wife) so that she too could witness the splendour and beauty that I had experienced.
Of course, with the addition of Grenson to the family, trips abroad have become a little more difficult these days. So when we recently began planning our latest UK jaunt, the Lochs that had become my friends during that week in The Highlands were once again calling on me to make good on my promise.
This time the sleeper train didn’t seem like the best option, as Grenson, bless him, isn’t much of a commuter. He’s far more comfortable in the back seat of the car, so long as there are plenty of stop offs for ‘wee wees’. So out came the UK road map and a plan was quickly devised.
We’d make this a number of trips combined into one big one. First off, we’d explore another region which I’m ashamed to admit that up to that point in my life I was ignorant of – the Lake District. We’d then motor on up and spend a few nights in the Highlands, before finally heading back south for a night or two in Yorkshire moors.
So with the car bursting at the seams, off we set on a little adventure.
Unfortunately, by the time we’d completed our drive up to the Lakes we managed to arrive in darkness. This was not a good idea for the accommodation we had booked. After our successful experiment with glamping during our Devon and Dorset trip last year (see link here) we had revisited the Canopy and Stars website and plumped for similar abodes for the Lakes and Highlands legs of our trip. Our accommodation was set in a place called the Scales Plantation which was basically a clearing on the outskirts of the middle of nowhere. Being early midweek, and with it also being early March, our shepherd’s hut was, unsurprisingly, the only one in use out of five. This meant that we arrived in pitch black darkness. After clambering around and slipping in the mud more than a few times, we eventually found our home for the next four nights. We knew it was ours as thankfully our pre-ordered shopping was waiting in the kitchen area. After a celebratory beer and an aborted attempt at lighting the fire (more on that later) we snuggled on down in the little bed and entered the kind of satisfying sleep you only enjoy after a full day of travelling.
I don’t know if you know this but birds don’t have lie ins. The raucous first bars of the dawn chorus acted as our alarm clock. Excitedly, we all stumbled outside, eager to check out our surroundings. And what a beautiful shock it was. Stunning. Grenson immediately loved it and set about exploring and sniffing every square inch.
Meanwhile, I attempted again to ignite a roaring fire in the wood burner and yet again it quickly reduced itself to nothing more than embers and a thin trail of smoke. Then Hannah stepped in. Man may not be able to make fire in this partnership, but woman sure as hell can. Within seconds the kitchen was toasty warm. She was so proficient I nicknamed her The Firestarter, which I then changed to The Prodigy, which I narrowed down to Keith Flint, before finally settling on just ‘The Keith’. (Oh yes, I’m such fun on holiday, I really am). ‘The Keith’ was a master at fires; glorious rolling flames would arise just from the logs being given a stern look. I was even able to cook a steak on one of her fires! God bless ‘The Keith’. With the kitchen nice and warm we were able to indulge in the most important part of any camping/glamping holiday. A cooked breakfast. Bacon never smells so good as when it’s being fried on a campsite.
With bellies full it was time to explore. Our first stop was Aira Force, a spectacular set of water falls and a walk taking in the views over Ullswater.
It was meant to be a warm up for the ten mile walk around Derwentwater that we had planned for later in the trip. The map said that this walk was 4.5 miles. On closer inspection we would have seen that most of that was vertical! It was far more strenuous than we’d imagined, but I have to admit the views were definitely worth it.
Back at camp we quickly clicked into the camping and great outdoors time groove, which is basically: when the big light in the sky goes out, go to sleep, when it comes back on again, wake up. There was to be no late night raving for us on this holiday. Which was a good thing as there was too much to see and do. The following day we visited Grasmere and Windermere, and again the scenery was simply stunning. We found a few excellent local shops and stocked up on pies for our forthcoming walks. Always important to have pie.
The main walk that we had planned in The Lakes, as already mentioned, was to circumnavigate Derwentwater. Little did we know that this walk would be so eventful. It started off so peaceful, but before it was over Grenson had brushed with disaster on three separate occasions.
The problem was that he was just too flipping excited. He scampered off ahead as soon as we let him off the lead, eager to get on the trail. Pretty soon into the walk we watched as he encountered a cattle grid. Grenson is not a fan of cattle grids. Grenson doesn’t even like drains in the road. Clearly he would stop and wait for us to catch up then allow us to lead him safely through the gate at the side. However, on this occasion the excitement was too much, we helplessly watched on as he careered forward, struggling over the grid with his legs falling down every gap. We watched in horror expecting him to break at least one leg, but somehow he clambered over to the other side and carried on as if nothing had happened. That was the first shock.
The second was even worse. We had entered a wooded area next to a road. The kind of country road that doesn’t have much traffic, but when it does, it whizzes past at top speed. We thought we were safe as a stone wall separated us from the road. Unfortunately we hadn’t counted on the regular gaps that had been made, presumably to let flood water drain away. As I was distracted looking at the map, Hannah’s heart fell as Grenson sniffed around the wall and then casually jumped through a gap, out onto the open road. She screamed his name in terror, and for what seemed like hours he was out of view, presumably wandering around in the road. Finally he calmly hopped back through the gap looking at us as if to say ‘hey guys what’s all the fuss about?’. He quickly went back on the lead until we were certain it was safe, and Hannah had stopped hyperventilating. BE CAREFUL IF YOU DO THIS WALK!
His third little mishap was thankfully at lot more light hearted. Half way around the lake a section requires you to cross a series of boardwalks across boggy land. Grenson kept sniffing either side and looking very much like he was about to leap in, but he had resisted, and had almost made it all the way across without any incident. I was so proud of him that as I walked alongside him I reached down to pat his head. I still don’t know how it happened (I swear I didn’t push him), but as I passed him I became aware of a sudden commotion and turned to see him struggling to keep his balance on the edge of the boardwalk. Panic suddenly shot into his eyes as he slowly slipped over the side and ended up face planting straight into the bog. Luckily he quickly managed to clamber back onto dry land, this time with a face full of mud and no way of playing it cool.
Crazy little fool.
Despite these near death experiences, The Lakes had given us a wonderful start to our holiday. How had it taken me so long to visit? The beauty on offer is astounding. In fact it was beginning to make me worry. Looking around at the snow capped mountains and shimmering water I was beginning to wonder whether or not the extra journey up to the Highlands was strictly necessary. My memories of The Highlands was sketchy. I was certain that it was awe inspiring, but then so were The Lakes. Could it really be worth dragging Hannah and Grenson all that way? Would they find it as beautiful as I did?
Tune in next time to find out….
The Man and the Dog