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March 21, 2017

Enjoy a relaxing spring weekend beside Grasmere in the Lake District

Enjoy a relaxing spring weekend beside Grasmere in the Lake District
Relaxing beside Grasmere in the Lake District Cumbria - photo zoe dawes

Relaxing beside Grasmere

The stone hits the water with a splosh and rippling arcs curve further and further out towards the fells in the distance. Light peeks through darkling clouds as the weather god makes up his mind whether to shower Grasmere with sunshine or a wee bit more rain. A flash of brightness indicates the decision has been made and the clouds slowly part to reveal the blueness that’s been hiding there for the past couple couple of days. It’s spring in the Lake District, no better place on earth to be at this time of year …

Grasmere Lake on a spring day in the Lake District, Cumbria - zoe dawes

I’ve found a little bench at the end of the lake and am enjoying a rest after a gentle meander along the shore. It’s Saturday afternoon, halfway through my weekend break at Dale End Loggia, a pretty little holiday home looking over Grasmere, not far from the popular village made famous by William Wordsworth. Earlier in the day, I’d met my aunt and uncle, who live in Kendal, and we’d gone round Allan Bank, one of Wordsworth’s homes in this area. It’s got a quirky charm, with minimal decoration and rooms where children paint and women make lace. A huge map of the area encourages visitors to place a marker to show their favourite view.

Grasmere map at Nationals Trust Allan Bank

I have no problem choosing one; looking out from the balcony of my bijou residence at Dale End. That morning I’d eaten my breakfast outside and watched the light shifting across the lake, the hotel opposite reflected in the dark waters, listening to Canada Geese cackling in a field nearby. Behind me, sheep munched merrily on the first spring grass and early morning walkers strode up the lane, waterproofs and rucksacks prepared for whatever the day would bring.

Breakfast Dale End Loggia Grasmere Lake District

A trio of ducks pootle past, a female and two males. It will soon be time for ducklings. Easter is just around the corner and there’s a feeling of anticipation in the air. The trees are budding and spring flowers are peeking out. I lie back and enjoy the luxury of simply ‘being in the moment’ … My reverie is interrupted by loud barking. Two dogs are having a chat, their owners idling beside the water. Eventually one of them is dragged off to continue their walk and peace returns.

Dogs beside Grasmere lake, Cumbria - photo zoe dawes

Dale End Loggia – Grasmere

I’d arrived at Dale End Loggia on Friday afternoon. I was immediately drawn to the view from the balcony. Neat lawns stretched down in front of the building, a converted cow byre. I could see all along the lake. To the left, the village and Helm Crag, known locally as ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ due to the craggy rock formation on the top of the hill. Mountains surround the area and opposite Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Trust lie waiting for visitors from around the world. I can just make out the Coffin Route, a delightful and easy walk from Grasmere to Rydal, above the hotel. Grasmere Island, recently acquired by the National Trust, floats in the middle of the lake. Whatever the weather, this is beautiful, relaxing place to stay and I love it.

View of Grasmere from Dale End Loggia, Lake District

Grasmere from Dale End Loggia

Dale End Loggia is ideal accommodation for a couple wanting a romantic break or a solo traveller looking for a base from which to explore the southern Lake District. Or a busy travel writer in need of an escape from the digital world and some inspiration for a book she’s been talking about writing for decades … The Good Life Cottage Company kindly offers me this l’al place to stay and I am in seventh heaven. Its open plan, L-shaped design is compact and well-equipped. There’s a kitchen with all mod-cons, seating in front of huge windows to enjoy the scenery outside, a small table for meals or work-station, big comfy double bed and bathroom with shower. A stream with a tiny bridge, runs through the charming sloping garden and there’s a picnic table for eating out and enjoying the view on warmer days . With walks from the front door and only five minute’s drive to Grasmere village, it’s got everything you’d need for a Lake District holiday.

Dale End Loggia and garden overlooking Grasmere - image zoe dawes

Dale End Loggia and garden

During this weekend I visit the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden, which is just coming into bloom beside Wordsworth’s family graves and stock up on Grasmere Gingerbread. I pop into the Herdy Shop and the Heaton Cooper Gallery and but sadly too late to have a slice of lemon meringue pie in Baldry’s, one of my favourite tea rooms in the Lake District. I buy a prawn paella from the Co-op to have on Friday evening with a bottle of appropriately named ‘Quirky Bird’ wine kindly left by Natalie, manager of The Good Life Cottage Company. On Saturday night I drive to Zeffirelli’s Cinema in Ambleside to see a film and get some excellent fish and chips from The Walnut Fish Bar.

Grasmere and Ambleside Lake District

On Sunday morning I will try to write, for that is what I have come here for. I will be totally relaxed and have no excuse for this area has most definitely inspired me. But the lake calls and, after a desultory hour tapping away at laptop, I will give up and go outside. I will take one last walk around the garden, admiring the daffodils flowering beneath a budding tree. A wood pigeon will coo gently above me and a group of children will romp along the lake path on their way back to the village. I will slowly pack up my bags, check the doors and windows are locked and reluctantly say farewell to my weekend retreat. I will go down the hill to Faeryland Tea Garden for one of their legendary scones and sit by the lake in the cool spring morning, remembering all the ways I have enjoyed this weekend.

Faeryland tea and scones beside Grasmere Lake District - photo zoe dawes

Faeryland tea and scone

But that is all to come. For now I am still enjoying sitting here on the bench, listening to the water cascading over the rocks into the River Rothay as it makes its way towards Rydal Water. For this moment in time all is right with the world in this special place amidst the hills of Cumbria …

Bench beside Grasmere Lake District - photo zoe dawes

Bench beside Grasmere

Dale End Loggia

Have a look round Dale End Loggia in this short video filmed during my stay.

If you’d like to stay at Dale End or are looking for a Lake District holiday cottage, contact The Good Life Cottage Company. Locally-run and well established, they know what makes a great holiday! You can follow them on Twitter: @cottagesinlakes  and Facebook: thegoodlifecottageco. I’m delighted to be working with them sharing with you some of their charming places to stay and things to do in this beautiful part of England.

The Langdale Gale: a traditional Lake District Show Jonty’s Cottage Elterwater

A Lake District weekend in lovely Elterwater Braegarth Cottage Elterwater

Travelator Media out and about in the Lake District Daw Bank Cottage Chapel Stile

Three very special cottages in the Lake District  The Malt Kiln Broughton Mills  The Woodloft Elterwater Swallows House Skelwith Fold

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A relaxing weekend Grasmere Lake District


January 3, 2017

Exploring Kendal Castle on a sunny Cumbria day

Exploring Kendal Castle on a sunny Cumbria day
Kendal Castle - Manor Hall

Kendal Castle – Manor Hall

The kite’s red wings rattled noisily as it soared higher and higher over Kendal Castle into the clear blue sky, its string held firmly by a guy in a big puffa jacket. “Can I hold it, Dad? Please, can I?” begged the young girl beside him. “OK, but you must wrap it round your hand REALLY tight.” An anxious few moments as he transferred the string in a complicated manoeuvre to her small fist. She squealed with delight as she felt the kite’s impatient tug as it swooped and flipped in the chilly breeze, silhouetted against the afternoon sun.

Kendal Castle and kite Cumbria - photo zoedawes

Kendal Castle and kite

It was New Year’s Day and perfect weather for a walk to blow away last year’s cobwebs and overindulgence from the night before. Having just had lunch with my aunt and uncle, who live in the town, I’d come up to Kendal Castle for some fresh air.

Kendal Town and River Kent from Kendal Castle - photo zoedawes

Kendal Town and River Kent

Kendal town spreads out towards the Lake District fells (hills), the River Kent flowing gently towards the coast. Hard to believe that a year ago it burst its banks in one of the worst storms we’ve had for years, flooding houses and businesses, causing huge damage and many to be homeless for far too long. I wandered over to the ruins of the medieval Manor Hall; children were scrambling over the walls and chasing each other around the lower vaults.

Playing at Kendal Castle Cumbria - photo zoedawes

Children at Kendal Castle

Kendal Castle was probably built in the late 12th century as a fortified home for the Barons of Kendal. It was sold to the Parr family a few hundred years later. Henry VIII’s sixth wife, Catherine Parr was once thought to have been born here, but as the castle was already in disrepair in the 1500s that’s not likely. The Manor Hall and the North West Tower (originally called the Troutbeck Tower) plus a couple of underground cellars and walls the courtyard and moat. are all that’s left now. Throughout the site there are information boards telling the history of the castle and illustrating what it might have looked like when it was the inhabited.

Kendal Castle Tower and view Cumbria

Kendal Castle Tower and view

The wind was cold but the sunshine brightened up the day. New Year’s a time for reflection, looking back as well as forward. I thought of all the amazing places I’d been lucky enough to visit over the past 12 months. Highlights included having a female gorilla in Rwanda walk over my feet, clambering across the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, feeding flamingos on Aruba in the Caribbean, driving through the Rockies on a Canadian road trip and finding the quirky quokka in Western Australia. However, I always love coming back home and on the first day of a new year, this is exactly where I wanted to be …

Kendal Castle and Tower

Kendal Castle and Tower

Sitting on a wall beside the tower were two young girls, oblivious to everything but their conversation. I thought of all the dramatic changes in the past year, the famous people, part of the fabric of our growing up, who’d died, and the major shifts in world power. The future is always unclear, but this new year brings greater uncertainly than for many a long time. The future is in the hands of these youngsters; we owe it to them not to mess up the present …

Sitting on Kendal Castle walls

On Kendal Castle walls

As I wandered back down the hill, a woman in an electric wheelchair zoomed past, her scarf rippling out behind her. She waved and said, “Gorgeous day isn’t it! Makes you happy to be alive.” It was and it did …

For lots more really useful information on arts and culture, heritage, shopping, activities and much more, check out Visit Kendal.

Kendal Castle Video


October 25, 2016

3 places for autumn colour in south Lakeland

3 places for autumn colour in south Lakeland
Autumn trees beside Tarn Hows Lake District - image zoedawes

Beside Tarn Hows

What’s your favourite time of year? Some love the tantalizing flirtatiousness of spring, others the voluptuousness of summer days and for some it’s the crisp, frosty cold of winter. For me it’s always been autumn, with its vibrant colour, abundant produce, luminous light and the surprise of warm sunshine in between the rain and mist. With the Lake District on my doorstep, I take every opportunity to go LEAF-PEEPING (yes, that’s what it’s called in North America). On a recent stay at Knipefold Barn, near Hawkshead, I had the chance to experience early autumn colour in the Lake District.

Lake District view from Knipefold Barn, Cumbria - - zoedawes

Lake District view from Knipefold Barn

For a couple of days I drove, walked and sailed (if you can call the Windermere Car Ferry sailing!) around some of the loveliest scenery in the south of Cumbria. Here are 3 of my favourite beauty spots within a relatively short distance of Knipefold, where you can easily find plenty of vivacious autumn colour

1.  Waterhead at Ambleside

Waterhead at Ambleside - autumn in the Lake District - image zoedawes

Waterhead at Ambleside

The view from the top of Windermere at Waterhead, near Ambleside is sublime any time of year, but in autumn those huge trees that line the road, turn every shade of the rainbow. Across the lake, towards Brathay, you can see more trees, pushing each other out of the way to show off their coats of many colours. It’s a very popular place to stop to enjoy the view. I was there over half-term and there were plenty of children paddling in the water plus a group of students learning how to canoe.

Windermere from Waterhead, Ambleside lake district - photo zoedawes

Windermere from Waterhead

Pop into one of the hotels on the shore for a meal or grab a hot drink from one of the cafes nearby. Walk along the road past the lake to find the rather uninspiring, but very important ruins of Galava Roman Fort.

2.  Tarn Hows 

Tarn Hows in early autumn, lake district - photo zoedawes

Tarn Hows in early autumn

One of the most popular autumn walks in the Lake District is round pretty Tarn Hows, between Hawkshead and Ambleside. Tarn Hows, originally 3 smaller tarns, is planted with a combination of fir trees and a wide variety of native English deciduous trees, giving it some of the best autumn colour in October and November. You can walk either clockwise past Tom Gill Waterfalls or anti-clockwise, which is the way I always go. A herd of Belted Galloways was grazing quietly beside the water, their munching adding a quiet counterpoint to the bird-song and rustling of leaves. When the sun came out it seemed to set the trees on fire …

Autumn colour at Tarn Hows in autumn Lake District - image zoedawes

Tarn Hows in autumn sun

The circular route is suitable for all access with relatively small inclines. You can borrow a Tramper from the National Trust office in the car park if they are open.

3.  Claife Viewing Station

Claife Viewing Station Windermere west shore Lake District - image zoedawes

Claife Viewing Station

This new addition the Lake District attractions, is a brilliant place to view autumn colour all around Windermere. Claife Viewing Station, built in the 1790s, was designed to showcase the glorious views of the lake from its west shore and the surrounding countryside, using tinted windows to ‘enhance’ the experience. ‘Yellow created a summer landscape, orange an autumn one, light green for spring, dark blue for moonlight …’ The National Trust has restored the ruins and visitors can now experience this unique place for free all year round. It was a real pleasure to gaze out across the lake, admire the the trees turning colour and feel a part of local history.

Claife Viewing Station windows over Windermere - image zoedawes

Claife Viewing Station windows over Windermere

I had a tasty Cumberland Sausage and Appleby Cheese toasted brioche at the Cafe in the Courtyard and walked down the path to the little bay near the quaint car ferry. Leaves twirled down to carpet the ground in gold, yachts slooped gently on the lake and a pair of swans drifted by …

Knipefold Barn

Knipefold Barn from the garden

Knipefold Barn from the garden

There are barn conversions, and then there is Knipefold Barn, one of The Good Life Cottage Company’s many charming properties in the Lake District. This 3-bedroom self-catering accommodation is built to the highest specification. From the Lakeland slate floor in the entrance hall, to the top-of-the range kitchen and bathroom fittings and elegant wooden staircase, this place has got luxury written into its ancient walls. Set in a tiny hamlet, a short distance from Outgate and only 5 minutes’ drive from popular Hawkshead, Knipefold Barn has all the comforts of home, and then some. I loved the enormous oak-beamed living area, situated on the top floor, to make the most of the view. It sleeps 5 and would be the perfect place for a family holiday, celebration or friends get-together. You can see more in this Quirky Travel Guide to Knipefold Barn.

Many thanks to Natalie, manager of The Good Life Cottage Company, for her warm welcome and providing the ideal place from which to explore the delightful autumn colours of this part of Lakeland.

July 6, 2016

Langdale Gala – a traditional Lake District Show

Langdale Gala – a traditional Lake District Show
Langdale Gala Fell Race

Langdale Gala Fell Race

The young boys were bent chest to chest, grasping each other around their backs. The referee made sure they weren’t moving an inch before shouting “Wrestle.” There was a blur of arms tightening and legs entwining before the lad in the red shorts was on the floor and the other was declared the winner. “Best of the three,” said the ref and they went again. This time the boy in the blue t-shirt was on his back. In this final round for under-9 years boys Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling, he won; but there were more rounds to come …

Boys - Cumberland Wrestling Langdale Gala

Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling

Next came the older boys, the girls (yes, shock-horror … they allow girls now) and finally the men. This traditional sport has been practised in the Lake District for hundreds of years. The traditional costume of white long johns and colourful pants often embroidered with flowers has been mainly replaced by more casual modern attire though some still wear it. I was at the Langdale Gala, a Lake District Show held on the first Sunday in July in Chapel Stile.

Langdale Gala - Lake District show

The Langdale Gala

The Langdale Gala

As is often the case in this part of the world, the weather was less than clement, but a bit of cloud and a rain shower or two does nothing to dampen the Lake District spirit. The show started with the Gala Royalties Parade and the Crowing of the Gala Queen. Surrounded by her maids-in-waiting and her young King and his attendants (not all of whom looked quite as delighted as the girls to be involved in this charming ceremony), the Queen beamed happily as she received her crown and waved to the applauding crowd.

Crowning the Gala Queen at Langdale Gala

Crowning the Gala Queen

There followed the Fancy Dress Competition ( Jemima Puddle Duck won) and the Pet Show (categories included the ‘Waggiest Tail’ and ‘Pet most like its Owner’) whilst a colourful band of drummers marched around the ground beating out lively tunes. Ice creams were bought, burgers eaten and bouncy castles attacked.

Langdale Show events

Langdale Gala events

In the best tradition of country shows around the UK, there were various tents and competitions to raise money and engage the crowd. A huge ram stood patiently in a pen whilst people tried to guess his weight (I think it was 77 kgs). Wilfs of Staveley provided delicious sandwiches and tasty bakes whilst a local brewery served beer and cold drinks to thirsty folk. In the Craft Tent kiddies showed off their Lego creations, photos and biscuit towers whilst grown-ups vied for first place with elaborate floral displays, beautiful cakes, pots of jam and giant vegetables.

Langdale Gala displays

Langdale Gala attractions

The highlight of the Langdale Gala is the Fell Races, this year sponsored by local holiday homes providers The Good Life Cottage Company. Fell Racing involves running up a very steep mountain, in this case one of the famous Langdale Pikes behind the village field, in the fastest time possible. Runners of all ages took part in the races, varying in length, depending on age. The most popular was the Adults Fell Race, which every year attracts runners from around the country, keen to test themselves against fellow competitors but more importantly, the challenging Lake District mountains. They set off at at a cracking pace and were soon streaming out in a colourful ribbon up the mountain side. Within 10 minutes the winner was racing back to the finishing line, barely out of breath …

Adults Fell Race Langdale Gala Lake District

Adults Fell Race

Other attractions at the Gala included a display of Classic Rover Cars, the local Fire Brigade and Mountain Rescue vehicles, juggling and circus skills, ‘Best Beard Competition’, a Raffle and a demonstration of Sheep Shearing. A small flock of Herdwick Sheep were shorn of their thick fleeces then stood shivering in a pen beneath the fells. The farmer’s son gazed open-mouthed as Dad wielded his razor on the sheep clamped between his legs, shearing in double quick time.

Sheep shearing Langdale Gala

Sheep shearing

I spent quite a bit of time in The Good Life Cottage Company tent. There was a steady stream of cottage owners, guests and people enquiring about staying in one of their properties. I’ve been working with the company for some time now and been fortunate to stay in quite a few of their attractive cottages. Manager Natalie’s gentle rescue dog proved popular with everyone; she seemed very at home at the show.

The Good Life Cottage Co tent Langdale Gala

The Good Life Cottage Company

Jonty’s Cottage

This weekend I stayed in ‘Jonty’s Cottage‘ in the pretty village of Elterwater in the heart of the Langdale Valley. It’s in a great position, only a couple of minutes’s walk from the Britannia Inn, and surrounded by excellent walking and driving routes. All on one floor, with two bedrooms and a lounge-dining room with superb views, its been recently refurbished to a very high standard. The decor is in clean, modern colours and there’s a really relaxing ambiance to this popular place.

Jonty's Cottage Elterwater

Jonty’s Cottage

I spent a lot of my time in the cottage reading and watching Wimbledon. The great thing about staying in a self-catering holiday property is that you all the comforts of home, without that nagging feeling you ought to do some housework, weed the garden or clean the fridge. (I speak personally here; you may already do all of this all the time in your own home – I don’t.) With a fully-equipped kitchen I was able to microwave my ‘Not Just Any …‘ meal and rustle up scrambled eggs and bacon with no hassle whatsoever. With a bottle of chilled white wine and wifi for when when I got ‘social media deprivation’, it made for a very relaxing stay.

Jonty's Cottage Kitchen with Herdy Salt and Pepper

Herdy Salt and Pepper shakers in Jonty’s Cottage

Guided Tour of Jonty’s Cottage

Watch this video guide to Jonty’s Cottage to get an idea of the situation and layout. Apologies for the quality of the footage but it does give you an idea of how lovely this property is.

The Good Life Cottage Company attends a number of Lake District Shows throughout the summer – watch out for their tent and go say hello to Natalie and her dog.

May 6, 2016

Three very special cottages in the Lakes

Three very special cottages in the Lakes
Daffodils in Ullswater, Lake District - zoedawes

Spring daffodils in the Lake District

Daffodils herald the entry of spring to the Lake District. They’re everywhere, from the little ones on the shores of Ullswater that Wordsworth made famous, to the big, blowsy chaps that trumpet merrily in the breeze along hedgerows, beside fields, in town and village. Then along come the bluebells and wild garlic, hazing the woods and scenting the air on a warm April eve. Delicate blossom bounces from trees of all shapes and sizes. Every colour of the rainbow can be seen in the rhododendrons and azaleas which grow profusely in Cumbria gardens. Lambs play chase over the fells, and, as you can see from the video clip at the end of this article, trundle along the narrow lanes. The Lake District comes alive in its own unique way.

Bluebells in the Lake District - photo zoedawes

Bluebells in the Lake District

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in spring, or anytime of the year, here are three very special cottages in the Lakes, each with its own unique attractions. Click on the links to find out more about the Good Life Cottage Company properties.

The Malt Kiln, Broughton Mills

The Malt Kiln Broughton Mills Lake District

The Malt Kiln

The tiny hamlet of Broughton Mills consists of a few farms, houses and a traditional pub in a peaceful valley not far from the quaint village of Broughton-in-Furness. It’s the quintessential ‘get-away-from-it-all’ location where visitors can enjoy rural scenery in a totally unspoilt part of the Lake District. The Malt Kiln (sleeps four) is owned by Janet and Howard Procter who have restored this ancient building with love and attention to detail. Janet says, “We wanted to create a place where people can really relax in comfort and feel a part of this beautiful area. We live on the farm and have rare-breed sheep as well as chickens. It’s lambing time now and the children who come to stay love to pet the lambs. Our chickens provide delicious fresh eggs for breakfast. If our guests want to get hands-on experience on the farm, we’re more than happy.

Spring Lamb Texel-Suffolk cross at the Malt Kiln

Spring Lamb at The Malt Kiln

The nearby Blacksmith’s Arms, is one of my favourite pubs in the area; it still has original slate floors, low ceilings, good local beers and serves excellent food with a friendly atmosphere. There are plenty of easy walks and with a car, Coniston and Grizedale Forest are not far away. The Malt Kiln is ideal for a family holiday or friends’ get-together.

The Woodloft, Elterwater

Woodloft cottage Elterwater Lake District

The Woodloft

Looking for a romantic weekend for two or a solo stay in one of the most picturesque villages in the Lakes? Then The Woodloft (sleeps two) is for you. This charming little cottage is in the heart of Elterwater village. If you ask people what is their favourite Lake District village, many will say Elterwater and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it have a very popular pub, the Britannia Inn and local cafe/shop, but it’s in the famous Langdale Valley, surrounded by mighty mountains with moorland dotted with photogenic Herdwick Sheep. The cottage makes great use of the space available, with a little conservatory and even a bike store for cycling enthusiasts.

The Woodloft sitting room Elterwater, Lake District

The Woodloft sitting room

The Woodloft is owned by Heather and Ben Price, original owners of the Good Life Cottage Company, who  have strong links to the area. “Ben’s family have lived here for years and this lovely cottage has very happy memories for me. I spent my last night as a single woman here before we got married. It has the most amazing views, changing all the time. Sitting on the bench outside, you feel you’re in the heart of this village community yet also in the midst of the fells. There aren’t many one-bedroom properties round here and it really is a very special place.”   I’d like to stay here for a few days on my own and get some writing done; I’m sure it would be very inspirational!

Swallows House, Skelwith Fold

Swallows House Skelwith Fold Lake District

Swallows House

Originally a working farmhouse, Swallows House (sleeps eight) dates back to at least the 17th century, with local records indicating there may have been a farm here since the 1300s. It is now a luxurious four-bedroomed house, furnished to a very high standard, in Skelwith Fold, between Ambleside and Elterwater. With a big open-plan kitchen, log-burning fire, dining room, large bedrooms and luxury bathrooms, this is an excellent place for big family get-togethers and groups of friends to share a holiday. Julie Griffiths and her husband bought it in 2001 and renovated it over the next few years. “It was a real labour of love,” says Julie.“It took a long time to create the warm, welcoming property it is today. It was originally the farmhouse to the manor and called Spy Hill, probably due to its elevated position. From the garden you can see over to Loughrigg, Fairfield Horseshoe and Red Scree.

Swallows House Lake district view

Lakeland view from Swallows House

We have had many wonderful family gatherings over the years; it’s perfect to celebrate special occasions. You can really unwind here, forget everyday life and relax in gorgeous surroundings.”  The large garden is planted with mature trees, flowering shrubs and plants that provide colour all year round. Azaleas and rhodendrons are in full flower in late spring through to early summer. A short stroll takes you to Chesters, which has a stylish cafe/restaurant with huge cakes!

Swallows House garden Lake District

Swallows House garden

Hopefully one of these special cottages in the Lakes has taken your fancy; there are plenty more like this to be found at The Good Life Cottage Company.  I’m delighted to be collaborating with Natalie and her team to bring you suggestions for lovely self-catering properties in the south Lake District. Read about my stay at Braegarth Cottage here and also a weekend I had with colleagues at Daw Bank in Chapel Stile.

Malt Kiln view_over_surrounding_countryside

‘The Malt Kiln’ Lakeland view

Finally, here’s what a traffic jam looks like in the Lake District in Spring!

May 2, 2016

On seeing ‘Nocturnal Rainbows in the English Lakes’

On seeing ‘Nocturnal Rainbows in the English Lakes’
Seven Nocturnal Rainbows - Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Nocturnal Rainbow on Coniston

“If a picture paints a thousand words
Then why can’t I paint you?”

David Gates, BREAD

Those were the words that came into my head as I tried to photo over 200 coloured LED lanterns slowly drifting across Coniston Water in the springtime dusk. Looming over the lake, the Old Man of Coniston, snow-freckled and shadowy, provided an impressive backdrop to this impossible-to-capture picture. I realised it was futile, put down my camera and sat back on the rocky lakeshore, to enjoy this unusual spectacle. (The blurry photos are just to give you a very vague idea of what it was like.)

Created by Charles Monkhouse, Seven Nocturnal Rainbows for the English Lakesis one of three special artworks commissioned by Lakes Culture for the Cumbria Arts Festival called Lakes Ignite 2016. Charles took his inspiration from the poets and artists of the Lake District, in particular  ‘A Shower’ by JMW Turner, showing an arcing rainbow over darkling Buttermere. I was fortunate to be invited to the launch on April 30th.

Ready for Nocturnal Rainbows over Coniston - Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Ready for Nocturnal Rainbows over Coniston

At about 8pm we wandered down Brantwood Meadow to the edge of Coniston as the sun set and the Lakeland fells came into sharp relief. Birds choralled their evensong and a dog barked excitedly but was quickly shushed by its owner. In the distance a small boat puttered about and the first of the lights gradually appeared. Chairs were unfolded, rugs laid across laps, children hoisted onto shoulders and an air of quiet anticipation flowed through the crowd.

Watching Nocturnal Rainbows Coniston Lakes Ignite - zoedawes

Watching Nocturnal Rainbows

Red lights were slowly joined by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, a vivid illumination of that childhood rainbow mnemonic, Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.’  People talked in undertones; somehow no-one wanted to disturb the mesmerising spectacle unfolding in front of us. A bat swooped across the water and a boy crouched down to peer into the pebbled shallows. Serious photographers checked lenses and adjusted tripods, hoping  to capture the nocturnal rainbows before they faded again.

Lakes Ignite Seven Nocturnal Rainbows - zoedawes

Capturing Nocturnal Rainbows

As the night turned electric blue, the gently bobbing line stretched out across the lake, sending streams of colour into its depths. Perchance the spirit of Donald Campbell was enjoying the show as much as those on the shore. Coniston village opposite twinkled; some may have seen the rainbow and wondered if water sprites were having a party …

Seven Noctural Rainbows Coniston - zoedawes

Noctural Rainbows Coniston

After half an hour or so the lights started to disappear, the violet ones going first. People slowly came back to reality, expressing pleasure at such a sensory treat. My amateurish photographs could not capture the beauty of this experience, but that is fine, for it was its gradual unfolding, transient nature that made it so special. Unlike a painting or sculpture that lasts, this is a truly unique artwork, ever-changing, dependant on its setting, the weather and the eye of the beholder. Charles Monhouse’s Nocturnal Rainbows are appearing on Coniston, Ullswater and Grasmere until May 6th. If you get the chance, take an hour or so to visit the English Lakes and enjoy them. Hopefully, Turner would greatly approve of this tribute to his art …

Lakes Ignite 2016

Lakes Ignite 2016

Lakes Ignite 2016

From April 30 to May 22nd Cumbria and the Lake District host numerous cultural events and exhibitions for Lakes Ignite 2016. Two more specially commissioned pieces are Museum of Water by Amy Shorrocks and 21st Century Landscape Art Class by digital artist Joseph Connor. Others include Rembrandt’s ‘Self Portrait at 63’ (get up close) at Abbot Hall, Kendal, Romance and Realism – Beatrix Potter; a life inspired by Nature (charming original illustrations) at the NT Hawkshead Gallery, Laura Ford ‘Seen and Unseen sculptures at Blackwell Arts and Crafts House (spookily unnerving), the Go Herdwick Art Trail (family fun finding these sheep dotted around south lakes), the Freerange Comedy Festival (still some tickets left) at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, From Fjords to Fells at Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere (very good art shop too) and Design for Life (quirkily contemporary) at Brantwood. Find out more about Lakes Culture here.

March 11, 2016

Travelator Media out and about in the Lake District

Travelator Media out and about in the Lake District

When people visit an area you love for the first time, you want it to look its best, to show it off in all its glory. I remember going to Skåne, Sweden on my first group blog trip one summer; it was dull, cool and cloudy with ‘occasional showers’ almost every day and the Swedish Tourism rep was so upset. She kept saying, “It’s usually sunny at this time of year. Please try to imagine what this resort would look like in the sunshine.” Well, it was a bit like that recently when Travelator Media gathered in Cumbria for a working weekend.

Travelator Media Good Life Cottages Lake District

Heather, Kathryn and Zoe in Elterwater

Fellow Travelator Media team member Heather Cowper (Heather on her Travels) and Kathryn Burrington (Travel with Kat) both live in the south of England and neither had been to the Lake District or Cumbria before. It was winter and this area is famous for its ‘weather’, not just at this time of year, but any time. Yes, we are one of the wettest places in Britain, but we also get LOTS of gorgeous sunny days. I’d warned Heather and Kathryn to bring along wet-weather gear, but the week before they came, we’d glorious weather, so I was hopeful …

Lake ferry at Bowness-on-Windermere Lake District - image zoedawes

Lake ferry at Bowness-on-Windermere

However, the rain gods decided to show them the Lake District at her wettest. It rained for two days but we did get some breaks in the downpours to look around this stunning part of the world. They kept smiling throughout!

Daw Bank Cottage

Daw Bank cottage Chapel Stile

Daw Bank cottage Chapel Stile

We stayed from Friday to Monday at delightful Daw Bank cottage in Chapel Stile in the heart of the Langdale Valley It’s one of the many Good Life Cottage Company properties all around southern Lakeland. Daw Bank has three good-sized bedrooms, including a large master bedroom in the loft, and all the facilities you’d expect from a quality self-catering property. We had got together to discuss Travelator Media 2016 campaigns (highlights will include Menorca in the Spanish Balearics and a road trip across Canada) and some exciting projects we are working on. The other key member of the Travelator Media team, Gary Bembridge (Tips for Travellers), was on a world cruise so couldn’t be with us.)

The Langdales and Chapel Stile church from Daw Bank

The Langdales and Chapel Stile church from Daw Bank

Travelator Media

Travelator Media

Travelator Media provides a one-stop solution for creating inspiring travel campaigns targeted at the 40+ UK quality traveller interested in arts, culture, food and finding new travel experiences. Travelator Media is a group of established, proven and award-winning travel content creators; we are in the target traveller market ourselves. We co-ordinate and manage mixed-media campaigns with Tourist Boards, DMOs, resorts, accommodation providers, tourism attractions and others in the Tourism and Hospitality sectors. Recent campaigns include exploring South Tyrol and Canada Spring Watch. Find out more about Travelator Media here

Lake District highlights

The cottage provided a great venue for our working weekend but we also had plenty of time to see some of the area’s attractions. These included:

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House - Dining Room

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House – Dining Room

Built in the early 20th century and set above Windermere, Blackwell The Arts and Crafts House is a great example of Lakes Culture. Designed by architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865 – 1945), it showcases not only exquisite interior detailing ie leaf-shaped door handles and irridescent stained-glass windows, but also furnishings and lovley objects from the pinnacle of the Arts and Craft movement. Jeanette Edgar told us about the new bedroom that’s being opened later this year and some of the other events Lakeland Arts is involved in. As well as permanent displays at Blackwell, there are regular exhibitions of artwork both local and international.

The Britannia Inn

Britannia Inn Elterwater - zoedawes

On the Friday night we had dinner with Natalie Barker, Manager of the Good Life Cottage Company, at the Britannia Inn in Elterwater village. A hearty Cumbrian meal, real ale and a warm welcome gave Heather and Kathryn a genuine taste of Cumbrian hospitality. Natalie explained more about the company and the different properties they have. Read about my stay at luxurious Braegarth Cottage in Elterwater here.

Elterwater Lake and Chesters by the River

Elterwate Lake District - photo zoedawes

The shores of Elterwater

Having spent a few hours on Travelator Media business, on Saturday afternoon we left our cosy cottage to go for a walk along the shores of Elterwater. It’s a lovely little lake, which was gently overflowing its banks in places due to the recent heavy rain. There are usually many Herdwick sheep grazing but they must have been in hiding that day. Further on from the village is Chester’s, a ‘life-style’ shop crammed full of designer household goodies and an excellent cafe. We got there just too late to sit down for one of their scrumptoius cakes so took some back to Daw Bank to enjoy later.

Chester's chocolate tiffin - lake district - zoedawes

Chester’s cakes

The Langdale Estate

The Langdale Estate - hotel lake district

The Langdale Estate

Nick Lancaster showed us round the Langdale Estate and its 4-star Langdale Hotel, Terrace Restaurant, Spa Therapies, Leisure Facilities, Brimstone Hotel and 5-star self catering lodges. Since my last stay at the Langdale Hotel a lot has changed. The main restaurant has been totally revamped and reopens soon. The Spa and Pool area is currently being completely redesigned and should be a real stunner when it reopens in the autumn. However, it’s Brimstone that has the WOW factor now. A boutique hotel in attractive woodland surrounding, it has 16 contemporary boutique rooms and luxury suites. Built from local Lakeland slate, it is the ultimate in style and elegance;we all loved it, as does everyone who stays there.

Wainwright’s Inn, Chapel Stile

Steak and chips with smoked platter at Wainwrights Inn Langdale

Steak and chips with smoked platter at Wainwrights Inn Langdale

A few minutes’ walk from Daw Bank, Wainwright’s Inn is  a well-known Lake District pub serving good food in friendly, comfortable surroundings. On the night we went, there was a very welcome fire blazing with a couple of sheep dogs stretched out in front, lots of families, couples and friends enjoying food and drink. Heather had the smoked food platter; the chef is a big fan of smoking all sorts of different meat, fish, cheeses etc.

Hawkshead Village

Kathryn and Heather Hawkshead Lake District

Kathryn and Heather in Hawkshead

Hawkshead is famous for the Grammar School where Wordsworth studied, the Beatrix Potter Gallery where her hsuband William Heelis had his office, and now well-known for Hawkshead Relish, and beer from Hawkshead Brewery (now actually based in Staveley). Its quaint old buildings and narrow, traffic-free lanes are a magnet for tourists but on a wet February day we had it almost all to ourselves.

Beatrix Potter’s House – Hill Top

The Quirky Traveller outside Hill Top Near Sawrey

Outside Hill Top in the rain …

Hill Top was the home of children’s author and farmer in Near Sawrey, Beatrix Potter. She married local solicitor William Heelis and moved over the road. She left Beatrix Potter and a great deal of land to the National Trust. It’s still very much as it was during her lifetime and setting for many scenes from her tiny books can be identified around the house. Fortunately, being winter, the house wasn’t too busy and we had plenty of time to look round and also enjoy the gift shop. This year is a celebration of 150 years since Beatrix Potter was born on July 28th, 1866. Kathryn couldn’t resist buying her very own Peter Rabbit to take home as a souvenir.

Peter Rabbit in Hill Top Shop - zoedawes

Peter Rabbit in Hill Top Shop

Afterwards, we had a pub lunch in the Tower Bank Arms, seen in The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck. Owned by the National Trust and run by a tenant, it’s small, cosy and does an excellent smoked salmon sandwich.

Tower Bank Arms Lunch - Near Sawrey, Lake District - zoedawes

Tower Bank Arms Lunch

Other places visited by the Travelator Team included Coniston and the Blue Bird Cafe, Grasmere, the Gingerbread Shop and Wordsworth’s Grave, Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Trust Museum, Lake Windermere and Bowness, Wilf’s Cafe in Staveley and Lovingly Artisan at Oxenholme station, Kendal.

Dove Cottage - Grasmere

Dove Cottage – Grasmere

Many thanks to Good Life Cottage Company for providing us with the perfect base for our stay in the Lake District. Read more about our weekend on Heather Cowper’s article A weekend of culture in the Lake District (or what to do if it rains). Whether it rains or not, this is quite simply one of the loveliest places in the world …

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