This was a day of getting lost and unexpected adventures. But it was probably the highlight of our holiday. We took in a waterfall, two high hills, a lake, a beautiful village and a great pub.
Stock Ghyll Force
My girlfriend and I began the Wednesday planning a short walk in the morning, near Ambleside, where we were staying. We wanted to see Stock Ghyll Force, a waterfall near Ambleside. I had printed off a walking route that I found on the internet.
Getting to Stock Ghyll Park from Ambleside is easy, and it is pleasant to walk around this wooded area. The waterfall itself is delightful.
Ice crystals forming from the splashes made by the waterfall were a reminder of how cold it actually was. Temperatures must have been freezing. But we barely felt it, probably due to a mixture of awe and the amount of walking we were doing.
We continued on the walking route that I had printed out. But as is often the case with walks that you just find on the internet, it was not very clear and we felt lost quite quickly.
Fearing that we were going on too much of a detour, we instead decided to follow the only signpost we had seen since leaving Stock Ghyll Park. This sign pointed to Troutbeck via Wansfell.
When we began the walk up Wansfell, it looked relatively benign. Of course, the view of a hill from the bottom of it is very deceptive, a bit like looking at the tip of an iceberg. Every time you reach a crest, a whole lot more of the hill is revealed.
We hadn’t originally banked on climbing a hill this high. The plan was to take a gentle walk round a waterfall, expecting it to take about 90 minutes. We hadn’t brought lunch. We didn’t have a map, we didn’t really know where we were going.
We were unprepared for it, and I was getting very out of breath. Despite the freezing temperatures, I was producing untold amounts of sweat.
But it was great. This is the brilliant thing about the Lake District. You take one wrong turn, and you find yourself halfway up a hill. And once you’re halfway up a hill, you may as well go all the way up to the top.
Although I had my heart set on reaching the top, we seriously considered turning back. Technically, we were lost. We were hungry. And as we got closer to the top, the pathway got more treacherous as there was plenty of ice up there.
I am so glad we decided to persevere. I am not a very experienced hill walker, but I do really enjoy it. It is hard work, but so worth it, and the sense of achievement is thrilling. And how can you pass up a view like this?
Although February is not peak season, there were plenty of other walkers around, and it was great to stop and have a chat with them while we were passing. On the way down, a couple on their way up asked us if we could see Blackpool Tower from the top. At first I thought they were pulling my leg, but apparently it is possible on a clear day.
After a short rest, we headed to Grasmere. We parked in a car park between Rydal Water and Lake Grasmere. We had originally planned on walking via White Moss Common using a walking route from the internet. But once again we got lost, not realising until later that there are actually two car parks there.
So instead, we walked through Penny Rock Wood and along the main road that runs alongside Lake Grasmere. This was pleasant enough, and despite being on a main road it was vastly better than the walk to Windermere.
Grasmere village surpassed my expectations. It is a delightful village; the sort that you imagine in fairytales.
We bought some gingerbread, knowing that Grasmere is famous for it. How good can a bit of gingerbread be? You really don’t know until you’ve tried it. The rave reviews are true.
Then, still feeling weary after our unexpected hill climb, we stopped off in a teashop called Baldry’s, which was great.
By then the sun was beginning to set and the town was closing down. On the way back to the car, we took some time out at the side of Lake Grasmere. Here, I took what is probably my favourite photograph of the holiday.
On the way back to Ambleside, my girlfriend decided she wanted to drive up Kirkstone Pass, or “the Struggle”. I have written about Kirkstone Pass before. This extraordinary road, which at times has a gradient in excess of 20%, was my route into Ambleside when I first visited it two years ago.
The top of Kirkstone Pass is around 1,500 feet high. When we reached the top, it was truly dusk, and the view down to Lake Windermere was spectacular. A photograph does not do it justice.
We just had to stop off in the Kirkstone Pass Inn. This is the highest inhabited building in Cumbria, and the third highest pub in England. It has been there since 1496. It makes you wonder what on earth would possess anyone to think it would be a great spot for a pub. As beautiful as it is, there is no doubt that it’s a struggle to get there even today, never mind 500 years ago.
The Kirkstone Pass Inn could easily be a tourist trap, but it was actually a really understated and pleasant place to have a quiet drink. We ended up having our dinner there. If you’re passing by, I would highly recommend stopping by for a beer and a bite to eat.