Roger Merritt's Home Page

Cumbria, England

...Or what is commonly known as the Lake District

Hardknott Pass My Honda took me all over the Lake District, and its narrow winding passes. This is "Hardknott Pass" where the ruins of a Roman fort are still quite visible and overlook a beautiful valley. Click here for another view of my Honda in Cumbria.

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The Lake District is one of my favorite places in England. It is one of Britain's most popular National Parks because it is so green and beautiful, and was the home of such literary greats as Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, and John Ruskin. Though the mountains are not very large (only about 3,000 feet at the highest peaks), they are still quite rugged, and formidable. You might think that you are in the Scottish highlands because you occasionally see long-haired highland cows. The roads are narrow, the passes are steep, and the villages are well adapted to the landscape. Everything is pleasing to the eye. It's paradise for hikers who don't want to get too serious about mountain climbing.

I have been to the Lake District four times--1987, 1991, 1993, and 2008. The first time was on my Honda 125 motorcycle in September 1987. I spent the first night on the way to Cumbria in a hay field. Yes, I just pulled off the motorway somewhere in the north of Lancashire County and found a quiet field with a hedge around it, and slept. This was about the roughest thing I have ever done. You see, I didn't leave London until about 8:30 p.m., and I rode for hours through rain and cold. At about 1:30 a.m., when I couldn't go any further, I pulled off. I was so tired that I went right to sleep on a little pile of hay with my helmet and riding gear still on! (I told you it was rough!)

The next day I woke up at the crack of a foggy dawn, and rode into the Lake District; began touring, and within four days I had covered just about the whole of the Lake District. I climbed the Langdale Pikes, Mount Helvellyn, and the Bolder Stone (a huge upward-tilted rock) by foot. Langdale Pike stands out as one of my favorite mountain climbs of all time. It was chilly and spitting rain most of the way, but I made it, slowly, to the top, and could see as far as Lake Windermere! It was very rocky on top, and I spent a little rest-time in a charming pub at the bottom afterward. I also went out of the way to locate several scenic waterfalls, such as Aura Force, Scale Force, Stanley Force, and Dungeon Ghyll. These waterfalls were absolutely beautiful, and a couple of them required some fairly rigorous hiking to get to, but it was worth it.

I stayed at three different Bed & Breakfasts: one night in Keswick; a night in Boot, which was really a hotel that did B&B if that's what you wanted; and two nights in the quaint little town of Ambleside. Each one was charming and agreeable in its own way, and I found the owners/guests to be quite chipper. It seems that no-one is ever rude in the Lake District. The atmosphere throughout seems rather endearing and encouraging, even when the weather is less than ideal. I saw Dove Cottage, and Rydal Mount, from the outside (two of William Wordsworth's homes), and drove over all the major mountain passes: Hard Knott, Honister, Wynose, and Kirkstone. I saw most of the major Lakes, and several interesting landmarks, including an ancient megalithic stone circle, called Castlerigg, the Ashness Bridge, and the Bridge House (pictured below). Cumbrian towns like, Ambleside, Keswick, and Grasmere are just one-of-a-kind, and, though a little touristy, are great for accommodations or visiting.

This is the Bridge House. It is not fictitious, but is a real, tiny house built on a bridge over a stream in Ambleside. The reason it was built on a bridge, I understand, is because the builder wanted to avoid paying property tax! It is a unique symbol of the Lake District, and is owned today by the National Trust. Bridge house

My second trip to the LD was in my Austin Mini, with two friends from London, named Patrick and Yinka, in October 1991. Our time was limited because we were supposed to be going to a youth retreat in Skelmersdale (about 215 miles north of London). We left London early in the morning and drove straight through to Cumbria in a little over six hours. We booked our accommodation for a B&B in Ambleside from a tourist center at a service station just off the motorway on the way up. This worked out very well and saved us the time we would have spent hunting for accommodation when we got to Ambleside. So, we then had time to drive through the LD some before dark. We nearly managed to climb Mt. Helvellyn--which was very misty and cloudy on top and overlooked Lake Thirlmere--but didn't quite make it to the top because it was getting too dark. We hiked back to the car as darkness fell to night. We were in such good spirits that we sang in the car as we drove back to Ambleside. We had dinner, at a somewhat trendy Italian restaurant called Zepherrelly's, then went to see a movie at the Ambleside theatre/cinema. The movie was a comedy starring Lenny Henry, which gave us some good laughs, and then we retired to the B&B for the night. We spent most of the next day driving around. The Mini handled the roads very well as we drove through Kirkstone Pass and over to Keswick. Then on to Wynose Pass were we stopped briefly to look around, and I accidentally lost a pair of leather gloves that I liked to wear while driving. Bummer! I didn't realize they were gone till we were miles away, but other than that the three of us had a wonderful time. We stopped several times to take pictures, climbed the Bolder Stone, and lunched on some rocks by a stream in Buttermere--all quite memorable. We sang many devotional songs in the car, and had some heart-to-heart conversations about our hopes and dreams for the future. The nature, all around, brought it out of us. Late in the afternoon it was time to depart the LD, and we sighed that we didn't have more time to spend there, but we had to go south to Skelmersdale for the retreat at a church.

My third trip to the LD was passing through in a car, in 1993, on the way to Scotland with my Dad, sister, and future Brother-in-law, Shane Neal. They were impressed by the beauty and tranquility of the landscape, but we only had time to see a fraction of the area including brief stops at Ambleside, Grasmere, and Mt. Helvellyn. Shane made a couple of preliminary watercolor paintings--about the size of post cards--of the scenery by a stream near Helvellyn, while Dad and I attempted a mountain trail. We had to turn-around because it threatened to rain, and, since we were on a tight schedule, anyway, to get to Edinburgh by evening, we decided to drive on...What a shame we didn't have a few extra days just to see the LD!

My fourth trip to the LD was passing through in a car, in 2008, on the way to Scotland with Linda & Reanna. It wasn't even on my itinerary to go there, but since we were going through the east-side of Cumbria, on the motorway, to Scotland, Linda requested that we stop to see the LD. This was totally off the cuff, as far as I was concerned, and there was no way we could do it justice, but I exited at the northern-end of the LD and drove to Lake Thirlmere, via some backroads. I knew we didn't have much time to spare--if we were going to make it to Edinburgh before it got too late--so we drove around Lake Thirlmere, got out and walked down to the water; looked around, and then drove to Keswick, and found our way to Castlerigg Stone Circle. This was just the sort of peaceful, ancient wonder that was needed to make this a worthwhile excursion. It is definitely a beautiful setting. This was, admittedly, a hurried visit, but the Lake District will always be a special place to me that I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone. I wouldn't want to say anything negative about the Lake District, though I'm sure I could, if I thought about it enough, but my experience there has always been too wonderful to entertain any other thoughts.

Cumbria - the Lake District - Informative site
Lake District Outdoors - Walking & cycling
Virtual Cumbria - More info
Click here for a map of England