Day 34 31-05-2014 Sat Durham

The days of outstanding scenery just keep coming! We thought we had “done” the Lake District, but it had a surprise for us on our exit route, from Bowness to Penrith. This was a mountainous route with plenty to see, including another of the large lakes, Ullswater.

Route map




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IMG_5574 IMG_5577 Pano back to Windermere Ullswater panoWe were sure that we were done with good scenery on exiting mountains, but no, as we were then faced with a long high range of hills directly in our path. These were the Northern Pennines, and our route happily took us up and over the first big pass at 583m. These are broad flat ranges with very expansive views, a complete change from the Lake District.

IMG_5602 Pennine panoOur goal was to see Hadrian’s Wall, and we chose Housesteads near Hayden Bridge. This was a Roman garrison post on the wall with some building walls and the wall in remarkably good condition. You can see why they chose this spot – open views in all directions to spot those troublesome Brigante tribesmen.

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IMG_5611 IMG_5613 IMG_5614 IMG_5615 IMG_5616 IMG_5620 IMG_5622 IMG_5624 IMG_5627 IMG_5628 IMG_5629 IMG_5637 IMG_5640 IMG_5641 IMG_5644 IMG_5646 IMG_5649 IMG_5650_cr IMG_5652 IMG_5654 IMG_5655 IMG_5656 IMG_5660 IMG_5662 IMG_5666 IMG_5667 IMG_5670 IMG_5671IMG_0659 IMG_5676 IMG_5679 IMG_5696 IMG_5697 IMG_5698The road from there toward Durham, the A69 was a fabulous drive along the ridge tops. While it was undulating, it was mostly straight and giving views into the distance. Recommended.

As on previous days, all this driving on English country roads is very draining, and we had to have a siesta on reaching our lodgings out in the country, before venturing out again to eat in Durham. Durham is a small city on the River Wear, with a prominent cathedral that we intend to visit tomorrow. For today we contented ourselves with just a glimpse of it because the weather was so fine.

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Day 33 30-05-2014 Fri Bowness

An easier day today, thank goodness. We had only two goals: to see Castlerigg Stone Circle at Keswick, and to view Coniston Water from a steam gondola.

Day 33 route mapWe cheated a little at the stone circle by driving right up to it (most people do a 6 Km circuit on foot). It’s a brilliant location on a half-height hill with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. This stone circle is alleged to be older than Stonehenge, but it is smaller in diameter with much smaller stones. Still, it’s a much more impressive location.

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It’s been a real delight driving along the road to Keswick – you get great views of the mountains. On the way back, heading toward Coniston, the GPS did its usual trick and took us via the narrow, twisty, undulating, stone-wall-lined back roads. This was intense and exciting driving.

IMG_5421 IMG_5424 Mountain pano from BownessThe steam gondola cruise on Coniston Water was an unexpectedly enjoyable experience because it was so gentle and quiet. This was a one-hour trip around perhaps half of the lake, making several stops along the way. The commentary by the skipper was informative and he gave us the tip to visit nearby Tarn Hows, bequeathed by Beatrix Potter to the public (National Trust). She is a big name in this area. Also Malcolm and son Donald Campbell. Not to forget Tennyson and Wordsworth.

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fuel is compressed sawdust
fuel is compressed sawdust

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the steam gondola
the steam gondola

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Tarn Hows is a small upland lake with a 2.5 Km walking track around it, with views to the surrounding mountains. It was a nice way to end the outing.

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look! an iron bark tree!
look! an iron bark tree!

IMG_5483 IMG_5485 IMG_5494 IMG_5495 IMG_5497 IMG_5508_crAfter a pub dinner back at Bowness, the mild evening conditions prompted us to walk down to the lake (Windermere) to take in the atmosphere.

IMG_5523 IMG_5536 IMG_5538Technical note. Yesterday I wrote a lengthy diatribe about parking meters. Today we encountered the future in parking lot payment technology. Cameras read your number plate as you enter the car park, allowing you to park and walk away without doing or pre-paying anything. On your return, you enter your vehicle’s registration number at the pay machine. Gratifyingly, it even has type-ahead. You then pay an amount commensurate with your parking duration. I like it.

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Day 32 29-05-2014 Thu Bowness

This overcast, but dry, day was spent touring the Lake District.

We only had two real stops – one at Keswick for maps, coffee and lunch rolls and the other at Buttermere on the lake of the same name.

Lake District map routeKeswick was bustling as it was market day.

Our main goal had been Buttermere, one of the smaller lakes in the northwest of the district, actually a National Park. Our intention was to circumambulate the lake and we were pleased to be able to complete this in the suggested two hours. We were also glad that we  followed the suggested clockwise route, as the outward leg’s trail was much rougher than the return on the other side. Timing was a little critical as we had a parking duration problem. [lengthy diatribe] All parking lots use the “pay and display” system whereby you pay for one of a set of expected durations at a machine, print a ticket and display this in the windscreen. That’s all well and good if you are accurate in your time estimation. In this lot, the time breaks were for 2 hours and 4 hours. Being nervous about completing the walk in two hours, I opted to pay for the four hour option and paid what I thought was £5. I was surprised and annoyed that the ticket only gave me two hours, but put in the card and off we marched. We completed the circuit with several minutes to spare, and when I inspected the ticket it turns out that I had only paid £4. So the machine swallowed the difference between the two hour option (£3) and my £4, but did not give me any value (pro rata additional time) in return for this. This is thievery. [/lengthy diatribe].

IMG_5269Buttermere pano 1 Buttermere pano 2IMG_5272


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We really enjoyed the walk though as it afforded great views of the mountains (hills really – less than 1,000m). The whole district is densely packed with this topography and that is what helps to make it so beautiful.

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IMG_5385 Lake District pano 1On the way back we opted to go via the west coast. In a way this was a mistake as we were then on the western flanks on the hills of the Peak District and the coastal areas were not that pretty. However, the main road, the A595, was a driver’s dream. Tons of turns and undulations – it was great to drive into the tight corners. I’m sure Joan had gone up a neck size on this trip as a result of the lateral G-forces generated by our trusty Hyundai i30.

Along this road we were amazed at how, south of Egremont, there was suddenly bumper-to-bumper traffic extending for several miles. Then we saw signs for Sellafield, one of Britain’s oldest nuclear power stations (and one that had an accident at least 30 years ago). It must have been the end of shift as we discovered once we passed the site entrance.

Prior to dinner we patronised the Bargain Booze shop we spotted yesterday, in order to restock the quaffing cellar. We were astonished that most of the reds were Australian.

Day 31 28-05-2014 Wed Bowness

Today was a transit day from Chester to Bowness in the Lake District. It was overcast and rainy all day. Most of the way was on the motorway and traffic was quite heavy. It was only 140 Km from Chester to Kendal but it seemed like a lot more under the conditions.

IMG_5197We stopped in Kendal mainly for refreshments, tourist info and a badly-needed haircut.

On arriving at our guest house in Bowness at the southern end of Windermere we crashed for a couple of hours. This left us fit for a tour of the town which featured some attractive buildings, and of course some liquid refreshment. Dinner was in another pub nearby. This is a very much a tourist town.

view from our lodgings
view from our lodgings

IMG_5215 IMG_5217 IMG_5220 IMG_5224 IMG_5226 IMG_5227A few observations on motoring. The authorities here are into a bit of social engineering – we saw two things which we thought were quite well-conceived. The first is a way of encouraging drivers to maintain a sensible gap to the vehicle in front. They paint chevrons at fixed distances on the roadway. There are then signs by the roadside advising to keep two chevrons’s distance. I’m guessing that worked out to perhaps 80m. This goes on for a kilometre or so. The forward effect was good and I found myself adopting this convention. However, it took a while for it dawn on me that the motorist behind, who seemed to be at a distance precluding overtaking intentions, actually did want to overtake and that convention demanded that I should get out of the overtaking lane. They were too polite to tailgate to make their intentions clearer.

The second thing was for motorcyclists. Yesterday we drove over the sinuous and undulating Snake Pass while exiting the Peak District before Glossop. This is a fine road for bikers and they could be forgiven for wanting to have a bit of fun here. However, there were prominent signs at the apex of most curves showing a motorbike at an angle to the road and the words “To die for?”.

Day 30 27-05-2014 Tue Chester

We were apprehensive about our visit to the Peak District in Derbyshire due to the unfavourable weather forecast. However, as has frequently occurred on this trip, it was rubbish. While not a fine day, we did get intervals of sunshine and none of the forecast rain.

The Peak District is an area with many dramatic grassy hills, but few if any actual peaks. The highest “peak” we drove up today was 517m. The name “peak” comes from the Saxon tribe that inhabited the area, rather than a reference to mountains. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and is much-visited by people from the nearby cities of Manchester and Sheffield.

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Peak pano 2After the now-obligatory coffee stop at Costa’s enroute, we stopped at the National Trust car park at Alderly Edge. This is a story book wooded area with views toward the southern Peak District. It was nice to see quite a number of children playing in these woods, as opposed to playing with electronic devices.

Alderly Edge pano 1 IMG_5037 IMG_5040 IMG_5042 IMG_5045 IMG_5046Our next stop was to buy lunch in Buxton, a spa town known as the gateway to the Peak District. The tourist info chap here was very helpful, pointing us in the right direction for scenic pursuits. We did not know what to expect, so what we then saw made a huge impression on us.

IMG_5091 IMG_5093 IMG_5095The highlight of the day was Mam Tor (named “Mother Hill” by the Celts), a prominent hill with 360° views. Once we saw it after rounding a curve in the road, even without knowing what it was, we decided instantly that we had to park and walk over to it and up to the top (we could discern other humans atop it). The approach was through sheep paddocks where careful footwork was essential. On previous days we had seen lambs lying flat and motionless on the ground and had assumed that they were dead, but on closer inspection today the “dead” lambs disproved this hypothesis by scrambling away as we approached.

Mam Tor pano 2 Mam Tor pano 4IMG_5101 IMG_5104 IMG_5108 IMG_5113 IMG_5114 IMG_5124IMG_5125 IMG_5138 IMG_5141 IMG_5144 IMG_5160 IMG_5168 IMG_5171Mam Tor is really the end of a ridge, and from its peak one looks down on either side. The green rolling features of the terrain send my aesthetic sensors into overdrive. I have told Joan not altogether in jest to scatter my ashes here.

After returning to the car we took a very very steep road into nearby Castleton, one of the bigger villages here. The road was so steep that I did actually have to use first gear and even then it would have over-revved without application of brakes. The gradient seemed steeper than the previous winner, Porlock Hill. I’m guessing between 1:4 and 1:3, nearer the former. From Mam Tor we had seen a prominent large white industrial building outside Castleton. As we drive past it we saw that it was derelict.


The return home, like the morning approach was mostly along motorways. There is a lot of traffic on these so you really have to be on the ball, even though drivers are generally well-behaved and predictable. I tend to be done-in by the end of it.