Road Trip! Leicestershire to Scotland, here we go!

I know, you are excited. The very thought of sitting in a car for around 6 hours driving to another country is enough to make me squee with glee.

Wait, let’s think about that last statement for a moment. There aren’t many places in the United States that you can get in your car and drive to another country in under 6 hours. Sure, it doesn’t help that we have two very large bodies of water to either side of us. So does England, however you can still get in your car and, from most places in the country, be able to drive to another country altogether in 6 hours, including putting your car on a ferry or train to get across a channel or sea. If you live in Kansas, in 6 hours you are likely still in Kansas.

But I digress. Or do I? Because on this gorgeous, sunny Wednesday in July, me and my dear husband (DH) were packing up the car for a week in Scotland.

And it went something like this (warning, I do utter a curse word or two in this video):


I know, right? Sorry about the cursing, but I think the SUV driver forgot he was towing a bloody caravan!

Back to the road trip. Having done the drive up the A1 before, we decided to let the time lapse camera do the shoot for us, with the occasional video from myself.

And until those time lapses are finished, here are a few more of the videos, complete with singing, countryside and lorries.

Does it get any better than this? Windows down, music playing, sun shining. It felt like we were finally on holiday. And, because we were making the most out of the drive we’d done before, why not stop in Richmond… again?

Riders on the Storm may have been on the radio, but there was nary a cloud in sight as we pulled into the same car park as our last visit by the lonely, overcast cricket field.



But this time…



Again, the charms of Richmond overwhelmed us, and this time, with only one hour to spend in town… well, we had a castle to see.

Watch this space!

(Oh, and if any show up, sorry about the adverts. Photographd does not endorse any posting of ads by WordPress. But since she’s too cheap to upgrade, that’s what we’re going to get.)


Showing off the Masons Arms (goodbye Lake District!)

No, I am not expecting an email from the owners of the Masons with an offer of a free meal or discounted stay due to my constant praise of this little hidden Lakes gem. Although it would not be turned down!

We moved from our sweet little suite, the Cartmel Fell, into the larger 2 bed Winster Suite. And boy, was it larger!

This kitchen is bigger than any kitchen I’ve had in any rental. I want to live here. Look at that range! Too bad we were only there for one night and planned on eating in the pub.

The lounge could do with some fixing up. The sofa is only covered by that throw because it is stained. And the floors could use a wee refresh. But the french doors out to the patio is fantastic. Honestly, we only used this room as a hallway.

One double room and one single (with bunk beds) so not exactly the best suite for friends.

And a lovely view to the interior courtyard, the shared patio for all the interior suites.

Instead we spent most of our time out here.

Our last night at the Masons Arms was quite cozy. And our Lake District Holiday had to come to an end. Our impending move was weighing heavily on us so it was time to pack it up and head back to reality.

Of course, when reality looks like this, ya can’t go wrong!

Thanks for staying tuned these last couple months as I relived my Lake District holiday. It definitely put the love for England back into my bones and I can’t wait to return next month!

See you soon – with some more England adventures in the wings.

Bowness-on-Windermere, aka Let’s Go Boating! (Bowness Part 2)

What’s the point of going to an area known for its lakes if you don’t go boating?


When last we met my dear husband (DH) and I had left our cozy home-away-from-home at the Masons Arms just above Lake Windermere and road tripped our way from the bustling and busy Ambleside down to the old fashioned ex-luxe of Bowness.

I found Bowness to be charming. Thirty years ago, tourists were loving this place. Now it’s a bit tired but still has a lovely waterside charm about it, albeit a bit chavvy. The same outfitters (Mountain Warehouse, Edge of the World, Trespass), the same ice cream and sweet shops and the hotels which, from the outside, looked like they’d seen better days, a constant Lake District theme. We did stumble upon a lovely little gift shop, Love the Lakes and bought some keepsakes, including a yummy smelly candle that sits on my bedside table, over 6000 miles away.

So after we settled on a cheap and cheerful Tesco meal deal, we also settled on the hour long boat trip around Windermere. We even scored 2 hours of free parking (pass the cruises, take a right and go around – free street parking).

And here are the fruits of our slightly chilly (we’d left the fleeces at the inn) but beautiful sun-drenched cruise.

If we’d opted for the shorter 30 minute cruise, all we’d have done is gone around these wee islands.

So you might have guessed, we are going north up the lake. Along the banks are little boat houses where you can park your boat under the house. I’d not seen that before the Lake District.

And then you have these once grand manor houses, now luxury hotels. And some of the large waterside estates on Windermere’s shores? Someone’s summer home. <insert envy here>

Does this Youth Hostel have the best views in England? Not quite. The YHA network is amazing. Castles, lighthouses, views of moors, lakes and mountains. But that’s another holiday for another time. This YHA has waterside dining and a dock out front with a hop on hop off daily cruise. Handy.

The boat is being guided in by rope. Someone on shore catches the rope, tows the boat in, and ties it up. Easy!

A little less glamorous then I imagined. Sadly, Ambleside continues to un-impress.

We’ve hit the top of Lake Windermere, and now it’s time to return.

Complete with lovely views of the distant fells.

As you can see, the western bank of Windermere is far less populated. I recommend seeking out a quiet spot and bringing a picnic lunch.

As we pull into the bay, we are greeted by the local vermin: swans. These white beauties are sluts for breadcrumbs.

And out of towners just lap it up. Me? They kind of freak me out.

I mean look at em, just lying on the concrete in their own filth.

He looks like he’s about to attack if I don’t turn over my Twix immediately!

Is he following me???

Phew, I’m safe, he’s headed in the other direction.

Perhaps he’s heading to this classy seaside joint, a relic of a bygone era, don’t you think? What’s needed here is a refurbished pub with a view. I bet it’d be full year round on the shores of this idyllic waterside village.

Overall it’s a fun little outing. If we’d have planned it better, we would have jumped on the day trip down the tip of Windermere and on to the Lakeland Aquarium and the Motor Museum. What what?!

Instead we headed back to the Masons Arms for an afternoon of reading on the back patio with a glass of wine.

With a view like this, why would I want to be anywhere else?

Gettin’ touristy: a day out in Bowness, Part 1

Here’s the thing about the Lake District towns and villages: most of them are overrun with people like me. Cameras glued to faces, day pack at the ready filled with water bottles and snacks, likely not completely prepared for the quick changes in weather but most likely, at least, to have an umbrella. I like to think that I am a respectful traveller, not a tourist. I prefer to dive in to a location rather than just drive through it. Though I’m sure you’ve noticed that by the deep immersion countryside walking we’d been undertaking in the past few days.

So having done the walking thing, we decided to spend our last full day in the Lakes doing the one thing we haven’t done yet – and seemed so obvious to us to finally do – get out on the lake.

But first: Sausages!

The afternoon after we did our walk around the valley, we enjoyed a lovely pub lunch and then decided to hit the village shop down the hill. Our little suite, the Cartmel Fell, came with a full working kitchen, so why not grab some local vittles for breakfast the next day?

Some sausages for the hob, a few seeded rolls for the toaster and a pat of butter later and it was breakfast.

But what about the brown sauce? Well, we just begged some off the kitchen – TIP: they have gorgeous homemade brown sauce.


Add the morning paper and a big, piping cuppa and you have a beautiful springtime (remember, it’s May) outdoor breakfast. And with these views, one cannot help but smile like a demented clown. Even the lens flare can’t kill the overall joyful morning breakfast on the patio.

The plan for today:

1) Pack up belongings for housekeeping to move to another room for the night. We elected to stay a third night but had to move to a 2 bed self-catering townhouse style flat instead. Bummer.

2) Take a few photographs of the Cartmel Fell Suite to remind ourselves how awesome it was.

3) Take a wander around Ambleside. It sounds like a lovely village.

4) Wander around Bowness-on-Windermere, taking a walk down DH’s memory lane.

5) Return to the pub, grab a pint, sit outside and read as long as the sunlight will allow us, then our last meal in the dining room.

6) Sleep.

Shall we begin?

List item #1 did not need photography. So moving straight on to…

2) Take a few photographs of the Cartmel Fell Suite to remind ourselves how awesome it was.

Okay, okay, I’ll put away the camera.

Next on the list? Ambleside.

I’ll be honest with ya. Despite the pretty, quaint local stone built buildings and adorable village lanes like this:

I was having serious culture shock. Having been surrounded by peace, quiet and sheep, the sudden thrust into civilisation was stressful. Being away from people really does remind you just how stupid they are when you are around them again. Now I know how the island hideaway kids felt from The Beach when they went to Ko Phi Phi or wherever.

I’ll stop being so dramatic. It wasn’t awful, just annoying. People walking without looking where they are going – forcing us to walk in the streets. Cars everywhere. Traffic, even for a small country village it was astounding just how many cars there were. And when we decided to check out the local church – you know how much I love an old church – a guy even asked us to stop taking photographs because he wanted to park where we were standing. I told him to wait a second and snapped a quick pic.

Despite the loveliness of St Mary’s, my hackles were definitely up, especially as there were signs saying “Church parking only” and this dude immediately left the property. And we had the audacity to pay for parking in a lot like everybody else!

We had to leave this dreadful little town immediately. We headed to Bowness instead, thinking being by the lake might bring better vibes.

And we were right.

4) Wander around Bowness-on-Windermere, taking a walk down DH’s memory lane.

Bowness-on-Windermere is just as it says, it’s on Lake Windermere (unlike the village of Windermere, which is uphill and inland a bit, so as not to confuse you).

We parked up in a pay lot and gave ourselves 2 hours for a bit of a visit. Maybe some lunch. Meet Pixie, our little motor:

Such a happy lass, don’t you think? Basking in the lovely lakeside sun, and we on to discover Bowness.

That reminds me, I’m hungry. Maybe the Hole in t’Wall is serving? Hmm, looks deserted. On to the lake!

We sat down in a little park across from the promenade and took in our options. We wanted food. But also wanted to go on a boat.

But we didn’t have very much parking time left. One thing at a time, let’s off to look for chow. And we found it, after finding the Beatrix Potter Experience.

When DH (dear husband) was young, his family came on a little trip to the Lakes. They themselves went into the Beatrix Potter Experience. My memories of DH’s memories are pretty vague. Ok, this wasn’t a very interesting story.

What is interesting is the segregation between regular children and those in pushchairs. Unfair don’t you think? Oh, and what about the parents? The pushchairs can’t very well push themselves can they?

Forgive my insincere sarcasm, but come on people. Let’s think about our signs before have them made, shall we?

See? This is what happens to me when I get thrown into civilisation after a few days in the country. Even DH can’t take it anymore:

All joking aside, we have decided to grab food from the local Tesco to keep costs down, having ourselves a bit of a picnic before exploring the lake.

Cheese and pickle sandwich and twiglets anyone?

Making our way through the Cumbrian countryside, or a walk from the Masons Arms Part 3

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more beautiful, this happens:

In the above photo you can see the farmhouse from our last post, and although it may look daunting, the climb wasn’t bad at all. Plus we new it would be just as picturesque at the top as it was at the foot. We proceeded through a couple of fields with their requisite gates and stiles in order to get to the point in the walk that the guide says:

you will have a fantastic panoramic view over Windermere toward the Coniston and Langdale fells.

And he was not wrong.

View the above on black, via my Flickr account.

This really is the highlight of the walk. It’s what makes all the uphill worth it: a stunning view. And the eventual hopes of some downhill to come, of course.

But first, some forest.

Looking back on where we came from:

This is the woods part of our walk – where the climate changes…

It’s a lot quieter…

… and a whole lot muddier. They even have to make a little walkway so you don’t get bogged down. In the bog.

Looking back… watch out for the alligator poised for attack!

Just keep to the path and you’ll be safe, promise.

Once we cleared the wood, it was all down hill from there. Literally. Straight to the pub.

This is Strawberry Bank, the road that the Masons Arms is built into. Walk around the curve and…

It’s time for lunch!

A Lake District walk from the Masons Arms, Part 2

If you are just tuning in accidentally, like you crazy spammers out there (do you really read these posts or are you just posting your “I admire your writing, please take a look at my spam site” without the least bit of curiosity?), me and the boy are gently stomping our way through the green pastures of the Lakes.

If you’ve been following, despite my long absence due to busy work schedule, then you know that last you saw your heroine and her handsome companion (that’s me and DH, if you couldn’t tell), we were eagerly photographing sheep, moss, rocks, streams and gates. And rightly so, as we want to remember every inch of this magical place.

Laying it on too thick? Alright then. How about a steep hill as punishment?

Photos never really convey just how steep a road is. But thus begins the uphill portion of our journey.

According to our walking pamphlet we picked up at the pub (© Ian Robinson, 2009):

… ascend the steep hill for 350yds/m to arrive at a U junction with another lane. Turn right signposted (Bowness) to pass by a farm on your left after half a mile.

Okay then.

A quick look back down the way we came:

Continue along the lane for a further 75yds/m then turn left onto a stony track signposted (Birks Road).

So as we are walking up this very long hill (who knew that an additional 75 yards was so, well, long) and the perfect spot appeared for our eco self build. Of course we will hire a very hip, young architect who knows how to make the most of the generally wet weather of the Lakes. Isn’t the view from our new eco home lovely?

How’s that for steep?

Wow, I did take a good many photos of the road, didn’t I? Well there’s more where that came from:

We’re walking up these s-curves, mind. Although one can’t complain when they are draped in green.

And I’m pretty sure the above moss is super ancient.

What’s in that barn? Moo!

(We don’t get too many cows in the city.)

And finally, after our 75 yard uphill slog, we come to Birks Road (no apostrophe) and turn left onto the stony track.

We’re instructed to walk some more (you don’t say?), a “maximum of 200 yards/m, passing through several gates” – I’m not sure who measures the yards, it seems like far to much work, detracting from the views. But we do as told, walking through the centre of a field, crossing a small stream bridge and then after we pass through a stone stile, we start to ascend a grassy slope.

At this point we are diverted off the described path in the pamphlet. I imagine the farmer who owns the land had some essential repairs to do on the path through his farm, so he diligently led us tourists around his farm yard. I’m grateful to this because outside that farm yard we were treated to a stunning view of the valley below.

How about the above panorama on black, courtesy of Flickr?

It took all we had not to just put our packs down and sit in silence, taking in the stone walled pastureland below. Oh for a picnic lunch!

Lunch would have to wait, as we had another hour or two to go. Onward!

A Lake District walk from the Masons Arms, or how I fell in love with England all over again

We’d had a tough few months. Our move to London was not without its strife, mainly when it came to where we were living and how much it cost. We were so convinced that zone 2 living was imperative to our hapiness that our gorgeous 100+ year old conversion rental ate up our monthly take home and kept us from enjoying everything that London living has to offer. Especially for a couple of travel-philes like us who love taking weekends away in quieter climes.

So as our Los Angeles move was looming, we were both a bit exhausted from our London life, promising never to live there again. Is it true that once you tire of London, you tire of life?

Not until you’ve had a chance to be outside of London do you realize that that statement is bollocks. There is so much life outside of London, from the rolling hills and sleepy lanes, to meandering canals and michelin starred pubs set in handsome isolation to bustling outdoor markets and fish & chips at the seaside. It’s a slower pace, a quieter life.

And it was getting out of London to the Lakes that I learned to love England all over again. And I don’t mind saying that right now, I’m a little obsessed. On the TV as we speak is a Lake District “Escape to the Country” where they just did a little fell running in Borrowdale, the location of a previous walk, and took a tour of Keswick and Derwentwater. I might have a bit of a problem.

And so we begin our easy to follow walk from Masons Arms.

An excellent varied walk through the peaceful countryside around Cartmel Fell. Superb views toward the fells and sheltered walking in pastureland and woods. May be a little muddy in places so boots are advised but not essential. Allow three hours of continuous walking.

First step is to take a left from the pub and head down the narrow lane towards the Hollins Farm and Hartbarrow Lane, conveniently signposted as most walks are in the Lakes.

Bear right at the junction, walking down the public bridleway.

And enter the ground at The Hollins, passing through the gate and down the driveway.

Pass by an old farmhouse on your left and exit the yard via a large gate…

A quick turn around to capture the view from the Hollins farm.

Once you are through the gate, follow the grassy track…

… and continue straight ahead on a path bordered by fence and walls until you arrive at a small gate.

Don’t forget to take a few photographs of the well maintained farms… and the local fauna.

And try not to bother the local livestock either…

Though they might find you to be more interesting than you think.

At this point you cross into the centre of the field and head for a gap in the wall (not photographed – I was too busy with the sheep!) In the next field (through the gap, if I recall correctly) walk along the left hand wall to reach a gate by the side of a lane. At some point we crossed this babbling stream.

Here we are, walking along that left side wall…

And taking photographs of just about everything around us.

That concludes the first hour of our walk through Winster. In the next installment expect some roads, forests and a view of Lake Windermere.

Quite a way to spend the 1st of May, don’t you think?


Waking up in Winster Valley, Cumbria

The Lake District is “a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and an interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy”… William Wordsworth.

That Wordsworth really loved the beauty of the Lakes, and I have to say that he isn’t wrong. It has not only inspired poets and writers, but photographers and painters alike. And speaking of photographers, I have finally, after a hard week at work, finished editing the next segment of my Lakeland holiday.

We arrived at the Masons Arms, a country pub with rooms at the top of a hill overlooking the heartbreakingly stunning Winster Valley below. There are no lake views from the Masons. It’s all green, green and green. And from our room, the Cartmel Fell Suite, the views are so beautiful, I want to spread it on my toast.

At the Masons, most of the rooms are townhouse style. The downstairs of the Cartmel Fell Suite had a pretty little lounge and full kitchen, bathroom next door complete with note asking customers not to freak out if the water is a funny colour – it’s water from the local area, as fresh as it gets – and stairs up to the mezzanine bedroom. It’s more than enough for what we needed, and a breath of fresh air from the stuffy hotel we’d just come from.

The interior designer of this Inn has a modern country chic vibe going, with pretty pastel tartans and bright jewel coloured accents. Two flat screen televisions, on down and one up, kept us busy and there was free wi-fi in case nothing was on.

We felt very much at home in our sweet little suite, as you can see we just threw our stuff around as if we owned the place.

In the morning we decided to head out for one of the Masons’ recommended walks, enjoying a delightful bacon sandwich cooked by their kitchen before we left. The next day will be breakfast on our private patio, complete with newspaper and coffee:

But for now, we’re heading out into this:

See you later!

Stopping for a latte in Grasmere on the way to the Winster Valley

William Wordsworth once wrote:

FAREWELL, thou little Nook of mountain-ground,
Thou rocky corner in the lowest stair
Of that magnificent temple which doth bound
One side of our whole vale with grandeur rare;
Sweet garden-orchard, eminently fair,
The loveliest spot that man hath ever found,
Farewell!–we leave thee to Heaven’s peaceful care,
Thee, and the Cottage which thou dost surround.

Surely he was speaking about his home in Grasmere, Cumbria.

A beautiful village, Grasmere, surrounded by green (isn’t everything in this neck of the woods?), cottages and shops abutt the street, and the quintessential Lake District treat, gingerbread, made right in the village centre. Home of lakeland poet Wordsworth and his visiting breakfast companion Sir Water Scott. All this awesomeness comes with a price: a bit of a parking problem.

This little town’s beauty is its downfall. It’s petite, so easy to walk around, however there are no pavements to do so (sidewalks for the US-siders), so you have to share the road with cars, bikes, tour buses and people. And 80% of the time in a popular holiday location, tourists do not look where they are going because they are so in awe with their surroundings. So mix traffic, tourists and tarmac together and it’s a recipe for frayed nerves and potential disaster. Not to mention the lack of stop signs of which this country is rife. Can’t we just get a wee bit or order going here?

Ugh. I need a latte just thinking about it.

And that’s how we paid for our parking, popping into the Grasmere Garden Centre for a warming beverage and a pile of change for the meters. We just needed enough for a walk around town and a poke around St Oswald’s Church, where Wordsworth and his family are buried.

I’ll be honest, I found the exterior of the Grade 1 listed Oswalds to be a bit of a let down, but the interior is beam-alicious.

So what if the greying, dirty pebble dash on the outside isn’t appealing? The interior is light and bright and perfect for a bit of praying. If you’re into that sort of thing.

I am much more into cemeteries and graveyards, as you can see from my visit to Highgate Cemetery in London. St Oswald’s graveyard is more petite and not charging entry fees, so outside we went to the Wordsworth family plot.

In front of the headstones of all the other Williams and their wives lies this large paving stone etched with a proper goodbye to William and his wife Dorothy.

We were incredibly anxious to get to our pub, looking to unpack and relax on our room’s private patio, so a quick walk around town to buy some gingerbread to bring home for the family and a quick stop for another latte (decaf, don’t worry about me and my caffeine intake), this time because I had to visit the loo because of the other latte. Too much info? Yes. But then I would have never found this little gem:

Well, what else are you going to do in the toilet but read? A good spot of marketing for this tiny little cafe with rooms above. I’d definitely look into spending a night here as a base for a long walk around the fells and crags of Grasmere.

But no more dilly dallying… off to Strawberry Bank!

A quick reminder of how it is we stumbled upon this small country pub… we’d done a lot of research on places to stay in the Lake District National Park before we’d left, and really loved to look, and the name, of the Drunken Duck Inn. However it was our bad luck that we’d not be able to stay in the same room for two consecutive nights, not to mention the massive price hike for night two, well our disappointment led to Yelp, which led to the Masons Arms on Strawberry Bank.

It wasn’t too far from Grasmere to the pub, a windy 30-40 minutes down the side of Lake Windermere, through the villages of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere led us to the steep and winding Feel Foot Brow:

The view from the road of the very southern tip of Lake Windermere did not disappoint:

And neither did the view from our pub:

Not to get too American on you, but OMG. Silence. Peace. And perfect isolation.

I might never leave!

Heading to the pub after a country walk

The best way to cap off a wander through a hidden valley? Popping in to the local pub in the most rural village you can find and ordering the most local pint you can get.

So after walking through the valley just south of the quaint village of Stonethwaite, surrounded by rocky crags and the sounds of birds and rushing water, and trying not to bother any of these…

(I couldn’t resist a wee shot of Sally the lamb, my new friend) … the best way to stretch out the legs was to get straight to this:

The small but perfectly formed interior of the Langstrath Inn’s pub. Cozy and warmed by a roaring fire.

Ham and whole grain mustard for me please!

Jennings, a Lake District local.

Add a smattering of historic photographs…

And bragging rights as to how long it’s been in operation. As you can see, it was pretty full by the time we left, and it’s likely been this busy since 1621.

A hearty sandwich in our bellies and a lubricating pint later, it was time for us to head further south to the Winster Valley.

But first, a latte pit stop in Grasmere. See you there!