Rainbows, boat trips and beautiful valleys | The Lake District

After a week enjoying an English heatwave in the Yorkshire Dales we ended up celebrating my birthday on a miserable, rainy day. We didn’t sleep well either due to an invasion of pesky midges so instead of doing something special we just had a chore day which was fine by me. We headed into Kendal in search of any products to repel midges, plus we needed to buy food, water and petrol so we would be nicely stocked up for the Lake District. I don’t know where the time goes when we have chore days but it was almost 5pm and we were still running around the town centre searching for anything made of Citronella for the midges. What a palaver.

The rain finally eased as we left town and looked for a spot to camp. We just wanted a quiet place and we found it up a steep, narrow road that led up to a reservoir. The weather really improved so we headed out for a little after dinner stroll and were treated to a rainbow. The area was absolutely filled with beautiful foxglove flowers and the bees were busy taking the pollen and flying off in an almost drunken daze. As we went to bed it hammered it down with rain again, not quite the birthday I had in mind but I’m counting the previous week of fun in the sun as my true birthday celebration.

The next day was due to bring more showers but we risked it and headed further into the national park, pulling up along the shores of Coniston Water. It was strangely calm outside, the lake was a glassy mirror and folks were arriving thick and fast so they could go paddle boarding. Seeing them all going out on the water gave us some Dutch courage to just go for it and hope it didn’t rain. After about two minutes of us paddling in our row boat the glassy water began to form ripples as the wind picked up. We could see the rain coming in fast, yet it still wasn’t touching us. A misty grey wall of rain was moving closer and closer, droplets were hitting the water just meters away from us and then BOOM, we were in the rain cloud. Luckily it didn’t stay for too long and we managed to continue paddling. We circumnavigated an island where we passed two Americans in a blow up kayak which they seemed to be treating like a canoe, sat on their knees with an oar each which we found quite amusing. We finished the trip with a swim in the lake, although maybe not our best decision as there was blue-green algae on the shores.

In the afternoon we headed north to do a short hike up to Tarn Hows, a beautiful but small lake surrounded by thick forest. There was a forested peninsular that jutted into the water and we got the best view from a track along the old road.

We weren’t sure how strict the Lake District was with camping, there was a national trust carpark nearby but we know they can be very strict about camping…so ironically instead of being hidden in that carpark we stayed right on the roadside in a lay-by. Certainly not our finest campspot and every time a car drove by at speed we were rudely awaken with a shake of the van.

The following day wasn’t much better weather wise so we opted for another short trail. This time we headed to Rydal Water for a hike up to a Cave. It was pretty busy when we arrived…including a group of people posing for some sort of cringy fashion photo shoot. It was actually quite an impressive cave and it had a shallow pool covering most of the floor. There were stepping stones through the water and the calm weather meant we could see the reflection of the cave walls in the water. When we headed back to Helga we stopped via Grasmere Lake for a little swim. We couldn’t believe how warm the water was, we didn’t even flinch when we submerged our bodies in.

We made our way to the Langdale Valley, I didn’t know much about the area or what hikes to do but in the end I picked Stickle Tarn. Much to my annoyance we couldn’t find free parking within walking distance and had to pay the extortionate National Trust parking fee. It’s outrageous how they do the parking prices, up to two hours £3.50, up to four hours £6 or all day £8. Trying to fit in a hike and lunch in under four hours is pretty tough so that means everyone’s ends up paying a whopping £8.

The hike headed steeply up hill with a river to our side which was gushing down in pretty waterfalls. Stickle Tarn was a small lake with sheer mountain walls behind it but in the gloomy weather it didn’t look as impressive as it would in sunshine. We decided to continue hiking around the back of the lake, up to the top of the mountains for a view down. It was quite the slog uphill but we did get some nice vistas from the top. We had a lovely little dip in a pool below a waterfall on our way down and literally the moment we got back to Helga the sun finally came out.

Luckily we had another hike planned and the views were incredible through the valley. It amazes me how much the sun improves landscapes. I think it has to be pure sunshine or a dramatic stormy scene, anything in between is drab. The valley was so lush and green with steep mountains on either side.

The end goal to our hike was Blea Tarn a rather small and shallow lake. It certainly wasn’t my favourite swimming lake as it was full of creepy grass and reeds that swayed across my legs. The ground wasn’t ideal either and the silt all disturbed as I stepped on it, causing the water to turn brown around me like I’d let out a wet fart. But, what the lake did have was one of the best views we’ve witnessed on this UK roadtrip. There was a stunning row of mountains behind the lake, creating the most beautiful of backdrops. After my very brief dip in the shallows Craig went in and was much braver than me, swimming to the other side of the lake.

During the hike we’d spotted an idyllic location to camp for the night. It was a lay-by with a passing place opposite, a little slanted but we figured we could make it work so when we got back to Helga we headed there. The road was insanely steep with a series of S bends before we arrived at the pull out. No matter how we parked we just couldn’t get flat. It was so slanted and as we were figuring out how to level out a car pulled up opposite us. We both let out a ‘eugh, for fucks sake’ because now people have seen us parked up they wanted to do the same. It was so frustrating because one side needed to be empty as it was a passing place. We realised we wouldn’t get flat so when the car left Craig spun around to the opposite side of the road to see how that was. It was even more slanted so we decided to just enjoy dinner with a view and find a flat spot after sunset. Probably a good choice as yet another car pulled up and they decided to camp right there with tents.

Luckily we had an incredible view to distract us from them. Craig cracked onto dinner, making some veg burgers and chips which was a bit of a challenge at such a slant, especially when we were plating up and the food was sliding off the plates. Then Craig’s beer tried to get away, gliding across the kitchen counter like a curling stone but he managed to grab it just in time like a professional barman. It was such a stunning spot to sit and enjoy the view, I’d say the valley was one of the prettiest sights we’ve seen so far in this roadtrip.

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