Visit an a-Maze-ing attraction near Kendal this summer!

The school summer holidays are within touching distance and children and their families are looking forward to lots of fun and enjoyment. It’s the time to start thinking of things to do on your holiday or even to book one if you haven’t already.

Of course the Lake District is popular but how about making the base a different location this year? Kendal has the Lakes on the doorstep yet plenty of things to do in and around the town too. It’s also the ideal place for rainy days which we hope won’t be too frequent but I this part of the country, you just don’t know! There’s everything from a cinema & arts centre, The Brewery to museums and sports.

kendal hotels

Since 2004 a very special attraction has been open welcoming visitors from all over the UK, the Lakeland Maize Maze which won Maize Maze of the year in 2011 and again in 2013. Located just outside Kendal at Raines Hall Farm, Sedgwick, the maze is grown and opens for visitors from July until September. This year it fully opens on July 14th until September and it is set as always to be very busy. Before then the farm and park is open at weekends (great if visiting for a short or weekend break). The wonder and enjoyment of a maze, grown annually and until the day, no one knows the design of it which changes each year. Choose from the main maze or the mini maze for small children.

The maze attraction is far more than just that being part of the Lakeland Maze Farm Park at Raines Hall Farm. On the farm visitors can meet the animals including llamas and alpacas as well as farm animals. There’s giant drafts, trampolines and karting all outdoors. Indoors, great for inclement weather, there’s soft play, indoor karting, mini tractors and even an indoor picnic area and shop.

Kendal offers plenty to do during the 2018 summer holidays and it’s still not too late to book a break. The Riverside Hotel in Kendal is family friendly and has great value rooms and with many having riverside view rooms which kids always love and a pool to splash around in too. Visit https://www.riversidekendal.co.uk for more details.

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Family cycling holidays around Lake Windermere this Summer

Despite the school summer holidays fast approaching, it is still not too late to book a holiday in and around Lake Windermere. By mid July the whole family will be have surely got Tour de France fever if they’ve not already got it. Cycling is an excellent way to get around the Lake District as well as see it. When the roads are brimming full of visitors going from A to B, get the bike out and cycle on one of the bridleways or cycle paths.

Also, cycling around Lake Windermere and South Cumbria has been given an extra boost with the introduction of the Bike Boat by Windermere Lake Cruises. The new Bike Boat service is a great way for those staying in and around Windermere to get from one side of the lake to the other cutting out the busy A591 road. The service departs from Brockhole over to Bark Barn and the floating jetty on the western shore of Lake Windermere.

lake windermere hotels
With a large car park for storing, loading and unloading bikes safely and access to miles of cycle routes from the front door is the Newby Bridge Hotel at the southern end of Lake Windermere. From the hotel head along the western shore of the lake and take the bike boat over to Brockhole to experience the eastern side. The scenery and experiences on so many of the cycling routes around Windermere and especially the added excitement of incorporating a boat trip at the same time, is bound to progress the abilities and enjoyment of cycling for kids.

Full details of the availability and location information for the Newby Bridge Hotel overlooking Lake Windermere including their great value family rooms can be found here https://www.newbybridgehotel.co.uk/

GoLakesTravel is an excellent source of information for all of the transport cycle transport services in the Lake District, https://www.golakes.co.uk/travel/

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Stay longer in the Lake District and for less!

Staying longer on a short break or holiday in the Lake District is everyone’s dream. It’s never been a better time to visit he largest and busiest National Park in England. The Lake District National Park and Cumbria is leading the way in tourism right now. From hotel refurbishments galore to a growing place for foodies to visit to first class attractions, the Lake District is the place to be for couple, families and friends.

For food lovers then the land and produce available is any chefs dream and the region now has more Michelin stars than ever as well as AA Rosette’s a plenty. This is only going to grow in the coming months and years.

One of the biggest attributes and news in the last 12 months has been the confirmation of the successful bid for UNESCO World Heritage status. The Lake District was granted this in July 2017 making it the largest UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK and the second in the county alongside Hadrian’s Wall.

damson hotel lake district

The Lake District has always been a popular choice for visitors from the UK but it’s international appeal has growing at an extremely exciting rate. Hotels, restaurants and attractions are reporting more and more visitors and guests from overseas and it’s great to see.

One hotel that has always been popular with overseas guests is the Damson Dene Hotel close to Lake Windermere in the beautiful Lyth Valley. Part of the South Lakes Hotels Group, the hotel is a home from home for many yet with all the amenities and modern bedrooms international visitors love. Combined with a menu packed full of local produce, the delicious Damson Dene is a great find and set in a quiet and peaceful location. A super tempting offer is the Stay Longer For Less deal for those who can’t bare to leave! Book 4 consecutive nights at the lowest available bed & breakfast rate via the Damson Dene Hotel in the Lake District website or by telephone and guests will only be charged for 3 – the cheapest night will be completely free of charge. A full English breakfast included each day as standard and the hotel has great private, leisure facilities to take advantage of too.

Visit https://www.damsondene.co.uk to view the offer, rates and availability.

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Treat Someone to Beyond Luxury in the Lake District this Christmas

It’s getting towards the time when Christmas gifts are springing to mind. What to buy, who to buy for. The more important the person and the requirement, the more pressure and need to get the gift purchased and organised as soon as possible.

In an age when everyone seems to have the material items they need or want, gifts that provide a special experience are becoming more and more popular.

Gift vouchers for hotels are the perfect solution. Despite the hotel being chosen by the person buying the gift, when the voucher is used, the people or person can please themselves.
An exciting and uber luxurious voucher proposition is on offer from the boutique Lake District hotel, Brimstone on the Langdale Estate. The hotel is beyond luxury and beyond unique making sure a voucher from this hotel will beyond wow the recipient.

brimstone lake district hotel vouchers

The vouchers can be purchased in the form of monetary values or specific rooms on a bed and breakfast basis for example a one night bed and breakfast stay in a Plush Room for £300 or a one night bed and breakfast stay in a Suite for £400. Alongside these options is the chance to purchase spa experience and spa day vouchers for the soon to open, brand new Brimstone Spa, some of the best facilities in the Lake District.

Easy to purchase, easy to post with the ability to be shipped worldwide, these vouchers take away all the stress of gift purchasing and will take away all the stress of the lucky recipients.
To view all the Brimstone Lake District Hotel voucher options and to purchase visit http://brimstone.skchase.com

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Autumn and Winter Breaks around Lake Windermere

Come rain or shine and at any time of the year, Lake Windermere is bustling. It is busier now than with Bowness, Windermere village, Ambleside and to the south at Newby Bridge, being true 365 day a year destinations.

Record numbers of visitors have enjoyed this very special and utterly stunning part of the UK this summer. With the “staycation” being a popular choice this year as well as the 150th anniversary celebrations for Beatrix Potter and with the bonus of stage 2 of the Tour of Britain set to race by early September, Cumbria – the Lake District as THE destination of choice in 2016 is most definitely correct. The southern edge of Lake Windermere for example is just 15 minutes from the M6 great for day trips, short breaks and easily accessed holidays.

autumn winter windermere breaks
But this time of the year really is quite special in the Lake District and well worth a visit to see the wonderful autumnal into winter colours. If you like the Lake District in the summer, you’ll love it even more in the autumn.

But the time for visiting in and around Lake Windermere doesn’t finish when the summer. Autumn and winter are not just fantastic times to visit the Lake District but also to take advantage of some super offers. Newby Bridge Hotel on the southern tip of Lake Windermere has an extremely enticing late autumn/winter break for 2016. It’s only available when booking direct and from just £84 per person for 2 nights enjoy 3 course meal on your first evening, a full Cumbrian breakfast each morning and a £10 credit to be used in either our Restaurant or Bar on your second evening. Also included is full use of the private, on site leisure facilities. Call to book direct 015395 31222.

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A Friendly to Everyone Lake District Inn

It always heartens me when I go somewhere, love the food and then I realise many others are loving it for the same reasons.
I know taste is very subjective and what one loves the other loathes but I reckon when it comes down to it, when you find a little, unpretentious gem, then you really hope they do well.
This is the case of The Cuckoo Brow. After hearing what a dog friendly place it is, we were naturally interested to see what’s what and have a recce. The other side of Windermere, Far Sawrey, quiet, great walks, 2 Border Collies in tow, dog friendly pub, ales, food, what more could you ask for.

do friendly lake district inn
So the first time we went to Cuckoo Brow was basically because it’s lovely for walking around there and we could take the dogs in, no expectations whatsoever. But I think these very factors are why this little spot is growing from strength to strength. Local produce is it for them completely highlighted in their menu that is called the “20 Mile Menu”. As much of the ingredients as possible have been sourced from within 20 miles of the inn. To quench the thirst, real ales from local breweries are always available from the likes of Hawshead, Cumbria Legendary Ales and Fell Brewery of Flookburgh.

But as mentioned before, don’t just take our word for it. Recently Cuckoo Brow has been selected as the best dog friendly pub in the Lake District by Haven Holidays and Dugs n’ Pubs, the online dog friendly guide to pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

So that is why I felt the need to write this post as the owners of the Cuckoo Brow have put it very well in their marketing literature, “Muddy boots, wet dogs and children welcome”, long may that mantra stand. Visit https://www.cuckoobrow.co.uk/ for the full menu and information on the dog friendly accommodation.

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Kendal – the gateway to The Lakes and dog friendly heaven

Kendal – the gateway to The Lakes in every sense. Visit Kendal to have the best of both worlds, a highly buzzing, vibrant town and just 15 minutes from the central Lake District including Lake Windermere.

All these factors make for a dog friendly holiday heaven and the town of Kendal is extremely welcoming to dogs. Walking through the town centre you’ll see locals and visitors with their dogs. And for dog walks then even though the Lake District National Park is on the doorstep, Kendal has so many walks to offer itself.

kendal hotels dog friendly
Head up to Serpentine Woods, just 5 minutes from the centre and let dogs sniff to their hearts galore before rising from the tress to panoramic views of Kendal. Walk along the River Kent footpath, the length and breath of Kendal or look the The AA for inspiration and a fabulous 3 mile circular route, “Kendal’s Two Castles”, http://www.theaa.com/walks/kendals-two-castles-420657.
Keeping with travel and with Kendal train station the heart of the town, jump on the train and visit Staveley where the dog friendly Eagle & Child pub is and lots of walking onto Windermere and well, need we say more.

Onto eating and drinking, extremely important holiday aspects for 2 and 4 legged visitors. A new dog friendly café has opened, The Bristly Hog on Stricklandgate and Brew Brothers on Highgate. You’ll also find most pubs in Kendal are dog friendly too including The Factor Tap which has 2 outside seating areas and real ale.

Where to stay dog friendly? The Riverside Hotel Kendal is a centrally based, dog friendly hotel with private car parking, 2 minutes from the train station with walks right from the hotel door and The Tannery bar serving food daily also welcomes dogs.

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National Burger Day in Cumbria – We know how to cook a tasty burger!

August 25th the special date, the date of National Burger Day. A staple on many a Lake District restaurant menu and home dinner table, the mighty burger has been propelled to God like status in the last couple of years and its set to be the biggest burger-tastic day yet. Gourmet burgers restaurants are popping up left right and centre in every town and city and it seems we can’t get enough of them from the very far north of Scotland to us down here in Cumbria, the Lake District right down to London.

We’re not talking burgers that look like they have been in a pocket and squashed, on a synthetic bun or that say they contain “meat” but that is debatable. This new wave of burgers are 100% real meat, different and exciting offerings, in an artisan/sour dough/brioche bun etc and large enough to satisfy a rugby player’s appetite. Then moving onto the important sides. Thank goodness for the resurrection of the proper chip then a good salad is a must, maybe some slaw, pickles and in many places, a tangy homemade relish.

langdale hotel restaurant
Stove rump steak burger and Wainwright’s pulled pork burger

Where to celebrate National Burger Day? It’s a tough choice in the Lake District but the Langdale Lake District Hotel & Spa have been providing burgers lovers with super tasty patties for years. At Langdale enjoy a choice of burgers at their two eateries. Firstly at the new Stove Restaurant the Stove Burger cooked on the Josper grill for ultimate flavour and succulence. An 8oz homemade rump steak burger, Langdale’s own smokehouse cheddar, bacon, gherkins and triple cooked chips.

Onto burger heaven at Wainwright’s Inn, the perfect post walk or cycle establishment just a 2 minute walk from the main Langdale Estate. Choose from a good old 100% beef, Cumberland, smoke pulled pork or a veggie – a Portobello mushroom with blue cheese crumb. All come with house salad and chips.

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Swallows and Amazons showcasing the Lake District

What a year 2016 has been for putting the Lake District on the global map. Firstly the massive celebrations still ongoing to celebrate the author, illustrator and naturalist Beatrix Potter’s 150th anniversary and now the big screen adaptation of the Arthur Ransome’s, Swallows and Amazons.

This enchanting family film, released on August 19th nationwide, brings to life the classic novel by Arthur Ransome, telling the tale of the Walker children’s summer holiday in the Lake District, sailing, camping, fishing and much more.

swallows amazons coniston lake district
Staring Kelly Macdonald, Rafe Spall, Harry Enfield and Andrew Scott, the film is due to strike a cord with so many families who do or have visited the Lake District for their family holiday enjoying exactly what the Walker children are doing in the film.

Lake District lovers will also be able to watch and point out places so many of them will have visited around various locations in Coniston and Derwentwater. Look out for Tarn Hows, the east shore of Coniston and the Steam Yacht Gondala before heading over to dramatic Keswick and stunning Derwentwater.

Visit The National Trust website for more information on the locations and things to do when visiting, click here.

For true Swallows and Amazon’s accommodation head to The Lakeland Cottage Company who have holidays cottages on the east and north east shore of Coniston Water. Some of the properties have private lakeshore access with jetties and boat mooring to recreate this iconic story.

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Langdale from an artistic prospective

The Langdale Valley is most commonly associated with fell walking and a variety of other outdoor pursuits. This is surely not a surprise as this area of the Lake District has the perfect combination of dramatic crags and picture postcard scenery.

So when saying to people this area of the Lake District also has a strong connection with the arts, those who aren’t already aware may be a little bit surprised. Tucked away in a remote woodland in the heart of this valley is Merz barn. This barn was the studio and later the English and 4th Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters, a member of the Dada art movement of the early 20th century and who many people call the pop art pioneer.

langdale merz barn
Merz Barn as it is today

The Elterwater Merz Barn remains in a state as it was when Schwitters left it in 1948 shortly before his death in January of that year. In 2006 it was purchased by Littoral Arts Trust with help of the Northern Rock Foundation. The preservation of such an important part of artistic heritage in one of the most beautiful locations in the UK is essential and fundraising is on going to restore Merz Barn along with the surrounding woodlands, part of the Cyclinders Estate.

Now the Merz Barn is bringing Kurt Schwitters admirers from all over the world to visit and the work of this artist is influencing the area in various forms. Hobson’s Bar at The Langdale Hotel has a Kurt Schwitters inspired interior and is well worth a visit to have a drink or dine in an environment so closely linked to Schwitters. So too the new Brimstone at Langdale Hotel which despite not having his prints exhibited, does echo the artistic style and colour notes he used.

The Merz barn at present is not open very often making it an even more exciting prospect to visit if possible. A great opportunity is coming up from September 11th to 26th where an exhibitions if being held at The Shippon Gallery at Merz Barn. Julie Scott is the artist and she creates college works influenced by Schwitters who was renowned for his college work. Julie Scott will be exhibiting more than 20 new pieces. The gallery will be open 10am – 5.30pm daily during the two week exhibition.

Accommodation can be found at both the Langdale and Brimstone Hotels which are right opposite the Cyclinders Estate where the Merz Barn is located.

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Cartmel Show Coming Down the Home Straight

If Cartmel hasn’t been on the news for various reasons, all good obviously but of course mainly relating to food and in particular Simon Rogan, L’Enclume etc then it has also been a hive a activity of late too.

Cartmel Races took place earlier this month so too the Cartmel Beer Festival at the Pig & Whistle. Now it is the time for the annual and much anticipated Cartmel Agricultural Show next Wednesday August 6th. Held the first Wednesday in August every year the show has everything you’d expect from a Cumbrian agricultural show. The agricultural and county shows are in full swing now throughout Cumbria with one sometimes two each week for the next couple of months culminating in the final show of the season, Wasdale Show in October.

Cartmel Show has been described as “The most comprehensive and picturesque show in the North” and as with nearly all of Cumbria’s shows, it is steeped in history with the first show over 140 years ago. The day will showcase the best of British farming from the Cartmel area, plenty of acts and entertainment (including Cuerden Birds of Prey, Jesters Children’s Circus and the Vale of Lune Hounds), dog shows, carriage driving, shepherds crooks and sticks and plenty of stalls. The stalls range from crafts to toys to local goods and naturally, food. The food hall is no doubt again going to be one of the highlights of the show with the Cartmel artisan food businesses selling their goods on show day along with Made in Cumbria. Make sure you take a big shopping bag for all the purchases!

cartmel agricultural show
Cartmel Agricultural Show Day

Cartmel Village will also be buzzing on show day and being just a few minute’s walk from the show field at Cartmel Racecourse, it makes the ideal place to stay as well as enjoy dinner. Restaurants include L’Enclume and Rogan & Co and pubs which all serve excellent food too Cavendish Arms, Pig & Whistle, The Kings Arms and the Royal Oak. Let’s just say, if you’ve never been to Cartmel, you’ll not be going hungry!

For accommodation then there is still a couple of places that have availability. Lakeland Cottage Company is one and they have Ducklings Retreat Cottage in Cartmel available for a 1 week break starting Friday or 4 miles away from Cartmel they 2 cottages for hire in Lindale. All can be viewed here https://www.lakeland-cottage-company.co.uk/

Advance tickets for the show can be purchased through the Cartmel Agricultural Society website here http://www.cartmelagriculturalsociety.org.uk/

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Two Weekends of Completely Cartmel Coming Up

In my previous post it was all about West Cumbria and what is happening during the Bank Holiday weekend and through half term. This post I am going deep, deep, down into the south of the county.

These next two weekends it’s all about Cartmel in South Cumbria, well Cartmel and Cark-in-Cartmel to be exact. Firstly Saturday sees the first day and first racing of the season at the absolutely stunning Cartmel Race Course. Building year on year and attracting huge name jockeys, trainers and horses, there is racing to be enjoyed on Saturday 24th, Monday 26th and Wednesday 28th. Each day has a different theme and vibe but the main feeling is that there is something at Cartmel Races for everyone, young and old and no matter how much you’re in to horse racing, enthusiast to complete novice.

cartmel races
Cartmel Racecourse in Cumbria

The following weekend it is the annual Holker Garden Festival. With the Chelsea Flower Show in full bloom, gardening enthusiasts are surely to be in apoplexy. In its 22nd year, the Holker Garden Festival is renowned as being one of the most highly regarded garden festivals in the UK and this year Christine Walkden, the resident gardener on BBC’s The One Show will be attending and taking part in Q & A sessions on the Saturday (31st May). As with Cartmel Races, Holker Garden festival is well worth a visit even if you’re not into gardening. I’ve not got green fingers (apart from growing the odd tomato and carrot) but having been on a couple of occasions, the buzz and particularly the food stalls and crafts are enough of a reason to go for me. The food producers stalls have grown as you’d imagine at such festivals and it’s all about local produce to Cumbria and North Lancashire. For the gardener then there are plenty of trade stands for the purchasing of plants etc. If you haven’t been to Holker Hall then the estate, gardens and house are just a lovely way to spend an afternoon walking around.

holker garden festival
Holker Garden Festival 30th May – 1st June 2014

Each festival brings visitors from far and wide with places to stay booking up weeks if not months in advance. There are however still a few b&b’s, hotels and self catering accommodation providers with the odd bit of availability. There are a couple of self catering cottages available still in the Cartmel area and then in Grange-over-Sands Bay Villa B&B have 2 rooms available for the Holker Garden Festival Sunday. Any lucky peeps of you that have managed to get the whole week off then you could actually attend both events, jealous, me no……….not!

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Wander Out West This Bank Holiday & Half Term

Half term is looking like an event fest in Cumbria this year with so much going on from the far north to the far south of the county and lets not forget the far west to the far east of the county.

I don’t want to harp on about “West is Best” and all that but with so much going on, I have to focus on one area which happens to be the region I reside in, West Cumbria.

There really is something going on for everyone this weekend out west and into the half term week, let’s just hope the weather behaves itself but let’s not worry about that just now.

Starting off on a musical vibe and Friday, Saturday and Sunday sees the “Mighty Boof At The Stadium” festival at Copeland Stadium in Whitehaven. This the 4th festival and the biggest so far has the fantastic Reverend & The makers headlining Saturday along with Goldie Looking Chain, Space and my personal favourite, John Power of Cast. What makes this festival special is the mix of local bands, new and upcoming as well as tribute and those main headline acts.

music festival whitehaven
Music Festival at Copeland Stadium Whitehaven

Keeping with the arts but a very different genre is the Eskdale Art Show running from Saturday until Monday. This is the 21st Eskdale Art Show showcasing artwork available to purchase from local artists and further afield in many different mediums and from bags ans scarves to pottery and jewellery. Open daily 10am – 4pm with refreshments and located near Irton Road railway station means it can be tied in with a trip on La’al Ratty.

art exhibition eskdale
Eskdale Art Show

A complete change here and something for the those seeking to enjoy outdoor activities. West Lakes Adventure have a number of different sessions enabling people to have a taster of everything from canoeing toe rocking climbing and ghyll scrambling. With morning and afternoon sessions throughout next week you can experience any of those activities for 3 hours in the hands of professional instructors around the Eskdale and Wasdale areas for just £25 per person. Visit their events calendar for booking and availability details by clicking here.

lake district ghyll scrambling
Ghyll scrambling with West Lakes Adventure

Finally, starting on Sunday and running until Thursday 29th is the Muncaster Festival. Something for the whole family here in the grounds of the historic and haunted Muncaster Castle. Outdoor games, activities and food court, crafts, archery, stalls and more culminating in the International Jesters Tournament and the chance to become the Fool of Muncaster 2014.

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Muncaster Festival

So surely you’ll agree, every base is covered this Bank Holiday and half term in West Cumbria and the Western Lake District.

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Cumbria Flying High in May with Jazz and Kites

The weekend of May, 9th, 10th and 11th sees two very different events happening in Cumbria, one in the north and one in the south west. The programme of events in Cumbria and the Lake District is really beginning to take off heading into May with everything from the arts, the music and entertainment and outdoor pursuits.

Kicking off in the north on Thursday 8th and running until Sunday 11th is the Jennings Keswick Jazz Festival, now in its 23rd year. Encompassing traditional and mainstream jazz, this event is highly regarded in the jazz music industry and the Theatre by the Lake is the perfect venue. Musicians will be coming from all over the world including the Netherlands, Germany and the USA. For  all the details on admission prices, tickets and the line up, click here where tickets and passes can also be purchased online.

jennings keswick jazz festival
Jennings Keswick Jazz Festival at Theatre By The Lake

Moving down to the south west and Saturday and Sunday Millom Rugby Club at Haverigg will be home to the Western Lake District Kite Fest. During the weekend there will be displays, workshops and even kite making demonstrations with free entry and parking. Haverigg is right at the very southern end of the west coast of Cumbria leading out into the Duddon Channel. Kite festivals are very popular along the Cumbrian coast with July seeing the annual Silloth Kite Fest right in the far northern end of the Cumbrian coast. As most visitors that have been along the Cumbrian coast, wind is almost always a factor so no better place to hold such events! More information can be found by visit the South Copeland Tourism website here.

kite fest western lake district district
Western Lake District Kite Fest

The Lakeland Cottage Company have holiday cottages that are available for short breaks in these two areas. For the Jazz Festival at Theatre By The Lake at Keswick, their Wrens and Beehive Barn are between 4.5 and 16 miles from the venue. For the Western Lake District Kite Fest, Rose Cottage at Lowick and Kiln Cottage at Bouth are just half an hour drive from the event site.

So they really are two very different events in two very different locations of Cumbria, this very diverse and exciting county.

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Nottingham Folk Vote Lake Windermere No.1!

Well, heralding from Nottingham, I couldn’t let this little bit of news slip through the net.

Lake Windermere has been voted in a survey as the favourite countryside view of people from Nottingham.

The same survey, which was carried out by Directblinds.co.uk, revealed 82% of the those surveyed were unhappy with the view from their window. Now I’ll stick up for Nottingham here as I’m sure if this survey was carried out in many other cities, the percentage would be around the same mark.

nottingham city centre
It’s not that bad is it!

The honour for Lake Windermere to have this accolade is raised even higher by the news that it beat Nottingham’s very own Sherwood Forest as best view. Sorry Robin!

Nicolas Swift, joint managing director of Directblinds.co.uk, said “Unfortunately waking up to a view of Lake Windermere every morning remains a distant dream for millions of us.” Yes, this is very true even amongst many Cumbria residents too but what a great place to be able to visit and even from as far as Nottingham. In fact, with Windermere’s railway station all it takes is a change at Manchester to be able to travel by train from Nottingham (a journey I did on many occasions when working in Ambleside).

view lake windermere
Looking down to Lake Windermere

Stay in Windermere, it’s handy for bus services, the train and is more peaceful than Bowness. Yet Bowness is just a short walk away and  of course, Lake Windermere simply to admire and take a boat trip on.

Nottingham to Windermere from £70 per person return through National Rail. Applegarth Hotel in Windermere rooms from £100 bed and breakfast.

 

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To Electric Bike or not to Electric Bike, that is the Question

It will come as no surprise to hear electric bikes haven’t taken off in the UK as they have done in other countries such as China and Germany. Is it because the UK, especially at the moment, is in the grips of a conventional cycling addiction? Is it that there is quite possibly a bit of a stigmar towards a bike you don’t always need to pedal?

Despite the above, the sales and use of electric bikes is steadily increasing. The word is perhaps getting out about them and the national addiction to cycling could be rubbing off on non cyclists. These bikes are also excellent for people with for example a knee injury. The battery is there to assist whenever required so people can still enjoy the experience of being on a bike.

lake district electric bikes

Electric bikes are few and far between in the Lake District but there are places to hire them which is a great chance to try one out. In West Cumbria Muncaster Cycles at Ravenglass hire them out and are part of the West Cumbrian Electric Bicycle Network where there are plenty of places to top up batteries including Eskdale and Wasdale. Over the other side of the county and next week Appleby Manor Hotel are offering free hire of electric bikes to their guests to mark English Tourism Week, 30th March until 3rd April inclusive.

Cycling is such a fantastic way to see the Lake District and even though there is a battery, electric bikes still need to be pedaled to start the motor so exercise is involved. Also as Rob Spedding, Editor of Cycling Plus, says “encouraging more people onto bikes of whatever kind reduces pollution and congestion on the roads.”

So with the nights getting lighter and the weather getting warmer, it could be the perfect time to try out the electric bike experience by  doing some no strings hiring.

 

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Go All Out in the Western Lake District

Yes, I know, I probably should of or just could of called this blog westcumbriablog.co.uk but there are a few posts lets face it relating to other areas of the county!

As you may have gathered fro the blog title, this particular post is in fact relating to the Western side of this county!

As with many of my posts about West Cumbria and the Western Lake District, I am championing what is on offer over here from food producers to events and accommodation. But with the amazing, rugged and varied landscape, the outdoor activities and pursuits on offer here are second to none.

Most people will know this part of the lake District for Scafell Pike, Englands highest mountain but there is much much more to this region than that one big hill. With lakes, rivers, ghylls, valleys and endless footpaths and mountain biking routes, West Cumbria has it all for the adventure tourist.

lake district activities
Rock Climbing, Ghyll Scrambling and Canoeing in the Western Lake District

The valleys of Wasdale and Eskdale are rich with all of the above and to be able to do pursuits such as Lake District rock climbing, ghyll scrambling, canoeing and mountain biking surrounded by the scenery is something extra special. A local firm West Lakes Adventure are doing all they can to promote this region as the destination of choice to do these activities in the Lake District which is of course the Adventure Capital of the UK. They are a family business based in the Eskdale Valley and cater for corporate, groups, couples, individuals and families. In fact, they even have a choice of guided outdoor activities that can include your 4 legged friend.

So if the Cumbria, the Lake District is the Adventure Capital of the UK then surely West Cumbria is the major suburb!

 

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Small Grasmere Hotel Puts Cumbria Food on the National Map

The fairy tale for a small hotel in Grasmere, Oak Bank on Broadgate, began on a quiet Monday, November 18th when a Mr Collie was booked in for lunch. Mr Collie turned out to be Mr Rayner, as in THE Mr Jay Rayner, he of Observer restaurant critic fame and published novelist. I’d hazard a guess that it came as quite a shock on the winter Monday afternoon.

It must be quite hard to gauge whether a critic has enjoyed the food and experience in a restaurant or not well except if it was completely awful and surely then squirms and the leaving of food give the game away. It is usually when the words are circulated in nationwide print the restaurant knows how they have been received.

However, the chef and proprietor of Oak Bank had an inkling that Mr Rayner enjoyed the food from the note left on the menu “Thank you for a bloody fabulous meal”. Excitement enough but when the full review was published in The Observer on December 8th, excitement went into overload so did social media. The review was glowing and possibly one of his most complimentary and all summed up very nicely “Grasmere’s modest Oak Bank Hotel boasts a remarkable secret: the brilliant cooking of Darren Comish”.

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Jay Rayner signed Oak Bank Hotel menu

Darren only joined Oak Bank in May 2013 but I’ve known a couple of people who have eaten there since he joined who raved about it, the photos of his food certainly qualify this. Yes, The Dining Room at Oak Bank has 2 AA rosettes so it has been acknowledged for its quality but what I think is far more exciting is that this independent, small hotel in Grasmere in the Lake District is producing food of this quality making use of the wonderful Lake District larder.

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One of the dishes from chef Darren Cornish at Oak Bank Hotel

Just reading the review and Jay writes that he went into the kitchen and met Darren. Being a quiet Monday, it was just Darren in the kitchen and just he that prepared and cooked all the food Jay ate that day, very impressive. Although I gather Monday’s won’t be quiet anymore with bookings being taken right left and centre as a result of the “Jay Rayner Effect”!

The Dining Room Restaurant at the Oak Bank Hotel in Grasmere can be booked by telephoning 015394 35217.

The full review can be read here http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/dec/08/oak-bank-hotel-grasmere-lake-district-restaurant-review-jay-rayner

 

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Could Grasmere be the new Cycling Capital of the Lake District?

Cycling is once more in the Cumbria and Lake District news.

There is only a short while left to put views and opinions across to Cumbria County Council on changes to the rights of way around Rydal and Grasmere with the consultation closing on November 28th. These changes will enable safer travelling by bicycle between Amble and Grasmere, an ever increasingly busy cycle route. Put your views across here in support http://www.opinionsuite.com/cumbria/cumbria-county-council/chief-executives-office/pelter-bridge-grasmere-cycle-scheme-survey/consult_view

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Red Bank Road, Grasmere

Grasmere is a stunning village in the heart of the Lake District being in a great location on the main road to Keswick yet far quieter than bustling Ambleside. Cycling is and around the area is plentiful with many routes starting from the village as well as many passing through it. Another extremely successful Cumbrian Cracker cycle ride took place this month, November 17th, starting from Grasmere with 1000 riders taking part in the 60 mile Lakeland route. Red Bank is tackled at the start of the Cracker as are many cycling routes around Grasmere due to it’s gradient. It is also the way in which to get to Langdale and the infamous Wrynose and Hardknott.

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Fred Whitton Route+Gradients!!!

But next year is really going to be Grasmere on the cycling map. Next year the biggest and toughest sportive in the UK will be commencing from Grasmere, the Fred Whitton. For the past 13 years this sportive has started from Coniston but a change is to take place for the 2014 race. Taking in many of the prominent climbs in the Lake District, this 112 mile route tests even the most hardened of sportive cyclists and that is without the unpredicted weather conditions to contend with. Grasmere will be an absolute hive of activity throughout that whole weekend and even days leading up to it and all for such good causes Macmillan and the Dave Rayner Fund.

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Grasmere and the Dale Lodge Hotel

As with the Cumbria Cracker, the whole village including residents and businesses get together, join forces and support. The Dale Lodge Hotel in Grasmere village is a great supported of Lake District cycling and have rooms available for Fred Whitton weekend and they are cyclist friendly at all other times during the year too. And surely some world famous Grasmere Gingerbread could be the right sweet treat to boost cyclist up those 30% gradient climbs!

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Great News for the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway

Last week saw the official opening of a 3.7-mile stretch of cycleway between Maryport and Allonby. The section is classed as the “missing link” within the 174 mile route that starts in Ravenglass, West Cumbria and runs through to Tynemouth in the North East.

Despite only having been given its official route status in July 2006, it is quickly becoming a popular route to cycle as an alternative to the Coast to Coast or as a new challenge for those who have already done the C2C. As the with Coast to Coast, it can be cycled in either direction but the most popular is West to East.

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The Hadrian’s Cycleway Route

Ravenglass is such a fantastic place to start the ride, yes call me biased because it is just down the road from me but should you be visiting from away to do this route, it is well worth including a couple of extras days before you start to enjoy the area where you can visit Muncaster Castle and take the La’al Ratty to Eskdale. There are 3 excellent places to eat, drink and stay in Ravenglass to so it’s really worth taking advantage of a bit of R&R before embarking on the 174 mile route.

I also happen to have a real soft spot for Tynemouth too so this cycleway is really quite attractive is my eyes. The architecture is stunning and close your eyes and you are transported back to it’s Victorian hey day. It is now a very popular place to live with the stunning scenery, great independent shops and restaurants.

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Ravenglass, Cumbria and Tynemouth, North East

Back onto the main reason of this post and the opening of the opening of the new part of cycleway. Previously cyclists had to B5300 on this section. As with all official cycle routes, use of roads is kept to a minimum both for enjoyment of the rider and for safety. This new route is said to offer cyclists even better scenery on this already super cycling route and even links to the C2C national cycle route

Mickledore Travel (http://www.mickledore.co.uk/cycling-holidays/hadrians_cycleway) are providers of cycling holidays and based in Keswick know the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway extremely well. Their organised yet self guided cycling holidays are well worth checking out and this route can be done in 3, 4 and 5 day durations depending on ability or timescale.

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Tourism the Green Way in the Lake District

It is an exciting time for green tourism in the Lake District. A combination of tourism businesses and operators implementing environmental and corporate social responsibility policies to initiatives such as the new Nurture Lakeland Low Carbon Cottages project. Each working towards making Cumbria and the Lake District a more sustainable destination for all to enjoy for years and years to come.

The Low Carbon Cottages project from Nurture Lakeland is a very exciting one. There are approximately 3500 holiday cottages in the Lake District. They make up quite a large percentage of the accommodation market and more often than not are traditional properties which of course produce larger carbon emissions than a new build structure. It is the owners of these properties the Low Carbon Cottages is aiming to help through advising on energy efficiency and the lowering of carbon emissions without compromising the aesthetics or character of the building.

The last two years has seen a significant rise in biomass boiler installations in the Lake District. From large hotels and resorts to bed and breakfasts and self catering properties, biomass is proving a very worthwhile investment for the sustainability of the surrounding environment to the quite considerable savings on energy bills helping the sustainability of the business as well. Hotels such as the Langdale Hotel are reporting annual savings of 350 tonnes of carbon through a biomass system compared with an LPG system.

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The Biomass Boiler at the Langdale Hotel

Electric car usage and hire are also on the increase in the Lake District. From hotels offering electric car hire to bed and breakfast and holiday cottage owners taking advantage of the free electric car charging points from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, it is now becoming easier to travel more sustainably. Electric vehicles such as the Renault Twizy can be hired which are proving a big hit. Fun, quiet and small these practical little cars are one of the best ways to see the Lake District.

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These Renault Twizy’s can be hired in the Lake District

But making the Lake District more sustainable and lowering its carbon footprint cannot be achieved through tourism businesses alone, guests and visitors to the Lake District play an integral part. For example informing guests of recycling points and reminding them to recycle as it is just as important to do so when on holiday. Reminding them to turn off lights and other electrical gadgets when the property is empty or not in use. Educating visitors on more sustainable travel options when in the Lake District to the advising of the possible use of local independent businesses for supplies and services whilst on holiday.

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Love Most Definitely in the air in Windermere!

The song “love is in the air” couldn’t be more appropriate to describe what happened earlier this month in Windermere. So much so that I couldn’t not write about it.

Monday morning August 5th, my phone went at work, it was friends of ours who own and run a hotel in Windermere. Talking away about how what kind of weekend they’d had in the hotel, Suzanne happened to slip into conversation they had had 6 proposals. “6 proposals” I exclaimed, “as in marriage?” in equally as shocked a voice. Yes, that was really what had happened.

During the weekend of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of August 2013, one hotel compromising of just 14 bedrooms produced 6 engaged couples. Well, to get the facts absolutely correct, 5 proposals occurred in the hotel and one on the hotels’ luxury boat whilst sailing on Lake Windermere but it is still one business and still quite frankly, astonishing and also, nowhere near Valentines day!

Applegarth Villa Hotel
Love was definitely in the air at the Applegarth Villa Hotel earlier this month!

Many will know of the Romantic Movement, the phrase coined by the such famous Lake District poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy Wordsworth and Robert Southey well, Windermere can surely be called now the romantic capital of the Lake District! I makes me wonder, if there were 6 proposals in just one hotel there, how many others took place after all, there are a fair few hotels in Windermere to say the least.

As jaw dropping as Suzanne’s news on these engagements was and still is (6 proposals…..one hotel……one weekend for heavens sake!), there aren’t too many better places to pop the question than the Lake District really is there and especially when this summer has been glorious in terms of weather too.

And before I go, I may as well give my friends a little plug and their stunning hotel, the Applegarth Villa Hotel & Restaurant. Obviously not just a lovely, welcoming family run hotel but THE hotel for asking for your loved ones hand in marriage in Windermere! Each room individually decorated and you won’t find many better hotel bathrooms anywhere. Announcing this news on Facebook, umptine people posted comments about how they had proposed whilst staying there, spent their honeymoon there or celebrated anniversaries there and hopefully these newly engaged couples will return there too.

Much love to all! xxx

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Cartmel – The Culinary (and Horse Racing!) Capital of Cumbria

Cartmel, tucked away out of site but most definitely not out of mind. Within easy reach of the M6, Kendal and Grange Over Sands yet secluded, peaceful and quiet.

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Cartmel Racecourse

This weekend however, it will be far from peaceful and quiet but in a very good way. One of the reasons Cartmel, despite it’s diminutive size and quaintness, is the famous Cartmel Racecourse. Cartmel races are on this weekend Saturday 20 July and Monday 22nd July and it is tipped to be a sell out being the first week of the summer holidays and with quite frankly, stunning weather forecast throughout the whole weekend. Cartmel Races has grown in popularity over the years attracting some big name riders and spectators now. Pimms and champagne a regulation!

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L’Enclume restaurant in cartmel

But in even more recent years, Cartmel has become famous for another reason. The reason being food and most notably, Simon Rogan and the 2 Michelin star L’Enclume restaurant. Within the village Simon also owns Rogan & Co and the latest attribute The Pig & Whistle. Each venue offers a different cooking and menu style as well as ambiance. In the Cartmel Valley he also owns a farm where produce is grown for the restaurants.

 

 

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Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding

But food doesn’t stop with Simon Rogan. Cartmel is home to the world famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee pudding. Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding is revered by chefs, by the biggest STP aficionados and can be found worldwide! A few years ago, who would have thought making puddings in the back kitchen of a village shop could result in worldwide recognitions and success, a true testament to a fantastic product.

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Cartmel Sheeses Shop

Other excellent places to visit when in Cartmel are Cartmel Coffee and Cartmel Cheeses. As with all the businesses in the village, these two offer the highest quality produce and service and really make the most of the area and sourcing locally. Cartmel Coffee has been awarded 4 Cup ‘Exceptional’ by BSA and serves home baked cakes and Cartmel Cheeses is a proper cheese retailer being cheesemakers themselves. Having only opened 3 years ago, Cartmel Cheeses range has now grown to a cheese-tastic 50 cheese.

And all these businesses wouldn’t be as popular if it wasn’t for the setting of the village, the architecture and the surrounding landscape hence why property in Cartmel village has long been very sought after to purchase, desirability of the highest order.

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A cottage in Cartmel from LCC

In terms of places to stay when visiting Cartmel then a self catering cottage is a top choice in my eyes. Just think of the great choice of places to eat and the great food and produce outlets. A cottage in Cartmel means you can enjoy the freedom of dining where and when you wish as well as having a fridge to jam pack full of sticky toffee pud and cheese! The Lakeland Cottage Company offer a great range of Cartmel cottages with some being 5 star gold award properties but that isn’t any surprise in a village such as this.

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A Beyond Special Lake District Hotel Experience

In the words of the Carlsberg adverts, “If Carlsberg made Monday’s, they’d be spent at Brimstone”. Last Monday evening we had the incredible opportunity and experience of staying over at the brand, brand new Brimstone Hotel on the Langdale Estate. The newest of all new hotels, not open officially yet (this happens on July 1st), this “Beyond Boutique” hotel is quite outstanding.

The Langdale Estate as a whole is quite a unique concept so their new venture had to live up to and be in keeping with it of which it has done so in terms of aesthetics and sustainability. Brimstones green credential range from the use of local natural materials to local contractors, recyclable materials, high level insulation, LED lighting, low water use fittings and clever heating and cooling systems linked to the windows. There are oodles more but it gives you an idea of the commitment they have made to the environment.

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Exterior of Brimstone Hotel

 

Aesthetically, driving up to Brimstone and you’d think the structure had been on the estate for years. The exterior is modern and neat yet it doesn’t at all stand out like you’d expect a hot off the press new building to sit in an already established setting. The landscaping has most definitely aided this and with the rhododendrons in full bloom, it was a stunning welcome.

 

Everything about Brimstone is unique and even though neither Mike nor I have been to masses of 5 star hotels, we’d still bet this would still be a unique experience even for frequent 5 star travellers. I won’t go into huge detail about everything as there is too much but I’ll just highlight a few. No reception, quite strange at first but the moment you walk in, your host meets you with a huge, non stuffy, completely relaxed, warm, welcoming smile. Then the interior grabs you. Slate, wood, frosted glass, muted tones all of which make you instantly calm.

Being guided to our room our heads were going around 360 degrees the whole time. The light fittings, sofas, black & white photography on the walls were all so striking. We were first shown the Rest Room where cakes we laid out, tea, coffee, wine etc all of which were complimentary. The interior of Rest Room furnished individual with chairs and sofas and coffee tables made from tree trunks.

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Fireside Suite at Brimstone @ Langdale

Despite all this, the room was still the absolute, jaw dropping pinnacle. Again the muted tones but from the natural materials and due to this, texture in abundance. A gigantuous bed, corner sofa and a roll top bath…..in the bedroom! The bathroom, again huge, with a double shower, closed of WC and double sinks. The room was really spacious but each and every part of the space was used to its upmost even down to the bespoke wardrobe with perfectly spaced alcoves for ironing board, iron, hairdryer and even GHD’s. This too was true for the mini bar fridge, tea and coffee making facilities.

All this and to be in the stetting of the Langdale Valley, the heart of the Lake District with walks right from the  hotel door (there’s also a boot/drying room by the way) also Langdale’s luxury spa, Purdey’s Restaurant and Hobson’s bar within touching distance.

 

 

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Time for Greener Travel in the Lake District

In time for the start of the tourist season, the transport minister Norman Baker has visited the Lake District to check out and promote green travel within the Lake District National Park.

Long has the railway been a convenient, green and handy way to travel to the Lake District but now getting around the county and the National Park has never been easier, greener or quieter.

Introducing electric car hire. A form of transport that couldn’t fit anywhere more perfectly than in the Lake District. It is true, and many people are voicing this, there aren’t a plethora of charging points yet but the number is growing and with a little planning, guidance from where you hire it from and common sense, you’ll be seeing the best the Lake District has to offer in the most greenest of ways.

The electric car in question is a Renault Twizzy, a funky two seater and fully electric. It can be hired out on an hourly basis from two locations, Langdale and Coniston. At just £10 per hour it is an affordable way of sightseeing and even more, great fun. Electric cars are of course silent so taking in the scenery of the Lake District in all its peacefulness in a peaceful car couldn’t be better suited.

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A Twizzy electric car taking in the sights of the Lake District

It is only by offering alternatives to visitors that greener travel within the region is going to take off. By starting off with greener car hire, it will in turn encourage more charging points to be installed which will then hopefully encourage more visitors with electric cars to visit the Lake District. With the backing of the government for programmes such as Golakes Travel and help and support from local tourism operators, the message and choice should start to get out there and take off.

Twizzy’s can be hired from the Langdale Hotel & Spa and conistonboatingcentre.co.uk.

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Lake District Cycling Sportives – Not to be Taken Lightly!

As the adventure capital of the UK, Cumbria – the Lake District holds its fair share of events and sportives for those more active types especially cyclists. From now until September there is a steady stream of cycle sportives to suit a variety of abilities but many learn towards the hardcore cyclist out there. It’s quite obvious when you think about it due to the nature of the roads.

Hardknott Pass

The biggest most popular and most famous of the Lake District cycling races is the Fred Whitton Challenge, challenge being the operative word. I have the pleasure this year, as I did last, of being head of the support team for my husband taking on this challenge. My car will be a travelling bike spares unit as well as catering facility. The only thing I need to do is to actually spot him this year unlike last! No one has let me live that down!

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Me, the dog, no Mike

The Fred Whitton is a gruelling 112 mile race. Starting and finishing in Coniston taking in nearly every Lake District pass with the utterly ridiculous Hardknott Pass with its 30% gradient thrown in towards the end. Scenic it is so for spectators and support teams there are far worse places to be stood around, the scenery however is not a factor for the riders! At the finish, plenty of wobbly legs and hugs from friends and relatives, everyone with a look of joy that it had finally come to an end with many saying “I never want to see that bike again”. Despite this, most people don’t just do it once and it is one of the most entered and oversubscribed events in the country!

Mike Fred Whitton
Mike ploughing through the miles

There are many of these lunatics that are local to Cumbria and the Lake District but a massive amount come from all over the UK which require somewhere to stay. For self catering accommodation then the Lakeland Cottage Company have a huge choice of Lake District cottages with many being in Coniston itself. B&B accommodation can be found in Coniston as well as peaceful retreats like the Cuckoo Brow Inn B&B Lake District which happens to be dog friendly for anyone bringing the whole family (!) and is also a pub that serves food and local real ales, just what is needed after a ride and a half!

The Fred Whitton Challenge will be taking place on May 12 2013 and all the proceeds go to charity each and every year with the two main recipients being The Dave Rayner Fund and Macmillan Cancer Support. The last few years have also seen donations to the North West Air Ambulance and the Duddon & Furness Mountain Rescue Team who give invaluable support to the event each year. “The Fred” has raised over half a million pounds in the 13 years it has been held.

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Easter On It’s Way!

Any Cumbria business in any way connected to the tourism industry will be hoping for a bumper Easter. An early Easter can often mean a quieter one in terms of trade yet with the length and breadth of the country experiencing a truly horrid winter, it will hopefully mean people will choose to getaway for a holiday or just a weekend break.

Of course, the trend the tourism industry has been experiencing in recent years has been that of last minute and late bookings. It’s a fact of life now for this industry with all forms of travel from a night away to full holidays being booked in this way. Guests want the very best prices and feel last minute bookings are the best way to achieve this. The unpredictability of the weather has also contributed to the late booking trend.

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For anyone in two minds as to whether or not to make their way up to “The Lakes” then JUST DO IT! The place is looking stunning with snow still on the some of the tops, exceedingly dry underfoot due to the amazing weather we’ve had here in the past three weeks and daffodils to be seen at every glance.

 

 

There are some amazing deals being offered by hotels, b&b’s and self catering accommodation providers in the county so it really is a great time to visit. The following tourism operators all have super deals for Easter:

Lakeland Cottage Company – 25% discount on all remaining Easter weeks, weekend and mid week breaks.
Applegarth Villa Hotel – Free dinner for 2 offer when booking double room B&B. (excludes Bank Holiday weekend).

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