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December 3, 2017

Peek into the magical world of Nuremberg Christmas Market in Bavaria

Nuremberg Christmas Market (Christkindlesmarkt) is one of the most famous in the world. Every year thousands of visitors throng its crowded streets, craning over each other to get a glimpse of the Christkind, admiring the Christmas decorations, shopping for presents, quaffing mulled wine and enjoying this festive atmosphere.

Nuremberg Christmas Market baubles - photo Zoe Dawes

Christmas Baubles

Nuremberg Christmas Market – Chriskindlesmarkt

Christkindlesmarkt could be translated word for word as “Christ Child Market”. The Nuremberg Christkind or Christ Child, a young woman dressed in white and gold, with curly blond hair, a tall golden crown and angel-wing-like long golden sleeves, is an important part of the market. Initially impersonated by an actress, since 1969 the Christkind has been elected every second year among local girls between 16 and 19 years of age. A large number of competitors enter via the Internet, finally a jury chooses the next Christkind out of several finalists who have to be at least 1,60m tall and free from giddiness as the Christkind has to make her speech from the church balcony, secured with a rope, possibly in inclement winter weather.’    Wikipedia

Christkind and angels at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Christkind and angels

Earlier this year I was invited to attend the Germany Travel Mart in Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Bavaria, along with a number of other journalists and bloggers from around the world. Not only did we have a chance to explore this historic city, but Germany Travel arranged for us to get a flavour of the Christmas Market; in the atrium of the magnificent Town Hall they recreated a ‘mini-me’ version with many of the original stalls. It was magical.

Nuremberg Christmas Market in Town Hall - photo Zoe Dawes

Mini-me Nuremberg Christmas Market

The first thing we did was get some mulled wine, warming, spicy and we got to keep the mug too. I was particularly intrigued by the lady making Christkinds and angels out of stiffened, coloured card. She explained that the tradition of the Christkind, or Christchild, is found throughout Europe, dating back hundreds of years. Seen as the gift-giver in many Protestant and Catholic countries, the Christkind has also been associated with Saint Nicholas, delivering his presents to children at this festive season.

Making Christkind and angel decorations Nuremberg Christmas Market - Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Making Christkind and angel decorations

We watched the Schmidt bakers making Lebkuchen, the traditional soft gingerbread that is eaten at Christmas, and now available all year round. The Nuremberg type of “Lebkuchen” is also known as “Elisenlebkuchen” and must contain no less than 25 percent nuts and less than 10 percent wheat flour. The finest artisian lebkuchen bakeries in Nuremberg boast close to 40% nut content. [Wikipedia] On other stalls were bigger, iced hearts, made from a harder type of Lebkuchen, which last longer. I bought a couple to hang on our Christmas Tree, carefully wrapped to survive the flight. (They did!)

Nuremberg Christmas Market stall - Lebkuchen- photo Zoe Dawes

Lebkuchen Baker’s Oven

In one corner of the square a brightly-lit carousel twirled round. Perched very elegantly on a white horse, clearly enjoying herself, was the Christkind. She smiled happily to us, whilst behind her giggled two angels, all of them thoroughly obviously very happy to have the opportunity to be seen at this time of year. Needless to say, Christmas is their busiest time but during the year, the Christkind visits schools, hospitals etc around the city.

Christkind on carousel at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - image Zoe Dawes

The Christkind and angels on carousel

I love the wooden decorations you find at German Christmas Markets. They’re usually intricately made, with exquisite details, ranging from tiny stars to complete Nativity Scenes. Another specialty is the walnut carvings, featuring minute figures and scenes within the shell of the nut. One of the stalls had beautifully painted ceramic buildings, many of them well-known in Nuremberg. Needless to say, the home of the city’s most famous artist, Albrecht Durer House was on display.

Albrecht Durer House Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - photo Zoe Dawes

Albrecht Durer House

The smell of grilled meat hovered over the market stalls and I was drawn to the stand selling the renowned Nürnberger bratwurst . What these little sausages lack in size, they more than make up for in taste. Weighing no more than 25 grams and to be no longer than 9cm, they are made from the best quality minced pork (NOT sausage meat) and spiced up with pepper, marjoram and mace. A trio were popped into a crusty bun and I wandered off to savour a tasty end my brief visit to Nuremberg Christmas Market.

Nuremberg Rostbratwurst Sausages Christmas market - photo Zoe Dawes

Nuremberg Rostbratwurst

Quirky Travel Fact: when not in use, the market stalls are stored at the Nazi Party Rally Ground on the outskirts of the city. During my trip I did the Video Tour of this infamous site, which gives an invaluable historical insight to this traumatic period of Nuremberg’s past. Watch out for my Top Tips for visiting Nuremberg in a future article.

Mulled wine at Nuremberg Christmas Market Bavaria Germany - Zoe Dawes

Cheers from Nuremberg

.Many thanks to Germany Travel for inviting me. I travelled to Germany with Lufthansa and stayed at the Nuremberg Holiday Inn Express. For more information about Nuremberg Christmas Market and Germany, visit Germany.travel.

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Nuremberg Christmas Market Germany - Pinterest image Zoe Dawes

November 29, 2017

The joy of a charming cottage with a cosy fire in beautiful Cumbria

Logs on fire at Rose Cottage Elterwater lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

Fire at Rose Cottage Elterwater

There’s something very special about sitting by an open fire on a chilly night, logs crackling, coal sizzling, flames dancing brightly as the heat radiates out around the room. Maybe there’s a pre-historic memory of sitting in cave round a fire, protected from the sabre-toothed tiger prowling around outside. Maybe it’s just the warmth and cosiness, being full of life that makes us feel much more content than a radiator or electric heater. It’s even better if you’re on holiday and can really relax and enjoy it, knowing you’ve nothing more urgent to do than, keep it fed with fuel, top up your drink and maybe curl up with your loved one. It’s one of the simple joys of life and for those of us who don’t have an open fire at home, staying in a holiday cottage with a fire is real treat.

Rose Cottage in Elterwater Lake District- Good Life Lake District Cottages

Rose Cottage

On a recent visit to the Lake District with Good Life Lake District Cottages, I stayed for a few days in Rose Cottage, Elterwater with a friend from college days. This delightful 2 bedroom self-catering accommodation is in the heart of the village, a hop, skip and a jump over the road from the Britannia Inn. With a comfortable lounge, well-equipped kitchen-dining room, a twin-bedded room and en-suite double bedroom, it had everything we needed. We very quickly made ourselves at home, having a cuppa and biscuit whilst working out what to do over the coming days.

The advantage of staying in Elterwater in the Langdale Valley, is that you’ve got everything you need on the doorstep; charming accommodation, a traditional pub serving excellent food, a shop, a bowling green (OK a bit random but if you’re a bowls fan …), a bus service, stunning scenery and Herdwick Sheep roaming freely around the village.

The Britannia Inn opposite Rose Cottage - photo Zoe Dawes

The Britannia Inn

We decided to have dinner that evening at the Britannia Inn. I’ve eaten there lots of times and it’s always good food. If you want to eat in the dining room then make sure you book. Otherwise you can take potluck at getting a table in the bar or hall. We shared a table with a couple from Derbyshire who come up to the Lakes every year and absolutely love the Langdale Valley. There’s always an excellent array of local beers here, and the weekend we stayed the pub was hosting a beer festival so it was packed with beer lovers from around the UK and abroad.

Britannia Inn Beer Festival Elterwater Cumbria - photo Zoe Dawes

Britannia Inn Beer Festival

I’d chosen the Three Sausages with mashed potatoes and onion gravy; an enormous plate of venison, boar and chef’s recipe traditional Cumberland sausages, creamy mash and seasonal veg. Pat had the Five Bean and Vegetable Chilli, which she pronounced delicious and we both had local beers. There were lots of dogs around room, sitting, lying down or gazing beseechingly at their owners’ meals in the hope that some tasty morsel might come their way. A roaring fire kept us all warm; in fact, after our meal we had to move away as we got very hot …

Log fire at Rose Cottage

Having got heartily fed and warmed up, we returned to Rose Cottage to light our own fire. We’d arranged to have kindling and logs delivered and there were firelighters and matches above the fire-place. I used to live in a cottage with a wood burning stove, and grew up with coal fires, so I very much enjoyed trying out my latent pyromaniac skills. Very quickly we had a grand blaze burning away merrily. Pat produced a couple of glasses of wine and we settled down to enjoy the rest of the evening.

By the fire Rose Cottage Elterwater, Lake District Cumbria - Zoe Dawes

Sitting by the Fire in Rose Cottage

In front of the fire, there was a rocking chair complete with woollen rug, so we took it turns to play ‘grandma on the rocker.’ It was so peaceful rocking backwards and forwards, wrapped in the rug, reading a magazine, listening to the gentle crackle and hiss of the wood. The smell of wood smoke and pine wafted around us and for a while the cares of everyday living faded away …

Over the next couple of days, Pat and I explored the area, enjoying being in such glorious scenery. We went for a leisurely walk beside the river to Elter Water (Norse for Swan Lake), the nearby lake after which the village is named. It only takes about half an hour to I’d recently taken ownership of a brand new Ford Fiesta from local dealership Pye Motors, so took great pleasure in driving Pat around and showing off the car’s many features.

New Ford Fiesta on Elterwater Common, Lake District Cumbria UK - zoe dawes

Fiesta on Elterwater Common

We went up the Langdale Valley and had a drink in the Old Dungeon Ghyll, where another welcoming fire warmed up the many walkers making the most of a late autumn weather to get out on the fells.  One wet afternoon we visited the quaint little Armitt Museum & Library in Ambleside. It has a permanent display of illustrations, writing and objects belonging to famous botanist, author and farmer Beatrix Potter. There’s also an excellent library and we saw an exhibition of paintings by German artist Kurt Schwitters, who lived in Ambleside for many years, and also Chapel Stile, down the road from Elterwater.

Armitt Museum Library Ambleside Cumbria - photo Zoe Dawes

The Armitt Museum & Library

We had a wonderful stay here and, without doubt, the best part was getting that fire lit each evening and rocking back and forth in front of its glowing warmth.

Quirky Travel: Guided Tour of Rose Cottage

Good Life Lake District Cottages

We stayed at Rose Cottage as guests of Good Life Lake District Cottages. Many thanks to Natalie and the team for another very enjoyable break. They have plenty of very special Lake District places to stay throughout the year. Ask them about their properties with fires – but book early as they are very popular!

Good Life Lake District Cottage Company Office Elterwater Lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

Good Life Lake District Cottage Company

More lovely places I can recommend to stay with Good Life Lake District Cottages in this part of Cumbria.

Church Gate Cottage, Chapel Stile

Daw Bank Cottage, Chapel Stile

Jonty’s Cottage, Elterwater

Braegarth Cottage, Elterwater

Knipefold Barn, Outgate 

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Enjoy a cosy fire in the Lake District cottage - image Zoe Dawes

 

 

 

November 18, 2017

Quirky Travel Review: Slow Travel – North Devon and Exmoor guide book

Porlock sign Exmoor

“Our Slow guides to British regions are the foremost of their kind, opening up Britain’s special places in a way that no other guides do. Discover the spots that aren’t normally publicised, meet the locals, find out where the best food can be enjoyed indulge in a little cultural foraging and discover the Britain you never knew existed with our expert local authors.”

This introduces the Slow Travel series of excellent guide books published by Bradt Guides. I am a huge fan of the the Slow Movement, the ideals of which are  incorporated into Quirky Travel.  On a weekend of stargazing and sightseeing in Exmoor last winter, Ian Mabbutt, owner of West Withy Farm, gave me a copy of  Slow Travel: North Devon and Exmoor by Hilary Bradt. What a delight this book is.

Slow Travel North Devon and Exmoor - Bradt guide bookIt’s divided into easily accessible sections covering the Cornish border, seaside coast of North Devon and Exmoor, Lundy Island, Barnstaple and inland, Exmoor National Park, Minehead, Dunster and eastern fringes of Exmoor. There’s plenty with lots of useful information, with the emphasis on encouraging us to slow down, take in the sights, sounds and inspiration that this area encourages, whilst getting around with the environment and local inhabitants playing a key part.

I’ve stayed on the north Devon coast many times at a friend’s chalet overlooking Woolacombe Bay. We based ourselves there to explore the various beaches, villages, tourist attractions and gentle countryside around.  Woolacombe has had a revival recently, having gone from top seaside resort in the mid 20th century, to fuddy-duddysville towards the end, and now quite a ‘cool’ surfing centre.

Woolacombe Beach Devon

I was pleased to see that the book focused on the wonderful bays and beaches nearby, rather than very crowded Woolacombe. Tiny Grunta next to Morte Bay gets a mention, as does little Lee You could spend hours here investigating the pools, collecting pink quartz or walking up the fuchsia-lined footpath to the village and its delightful pub, the Grampus Inn.” 

In the chapter on Lundy Island, off the north Devon coast, I learnt that Lunde øy is Norse for Puffin Island and that it was well known to Scandinavian pirates. Hilary Bradt’s obviously a keen ornithologist and she writes eloquently about the bustling bird life on the island, including the puffins, gulls, razorbills and guillemots, fulmars and Manx shearwaters. It’s also the only place in the UK where you can find all five species of shallow cup coral. I didn’t know there was one species of cup coral; now I want to go to Lundy just to see all five …

The_Jetty Lundy Island North Devon

Lundy Island – image Michael Maggs

I love the insets sharing quirky tales, little known facts and folk tales, often written by local residents or from Hilary’s vast store of Devonian knowledge.  The book is a joy to read from start to finish – whether you are travelling in mind, spirit or body.  “This region has so much to offer the Slow Traveller; cliff paths for walking, sea for rolling breakers for surfing and sandy beaches for lounging, hidden coves, and wonderful Exmoor with its heathery hills and deep valleys, combes, where rivers tumble over mossy stones on their way to the Bristol Channel.”

Exmoor ponies overlooking Bristol Channel

Exmoor ponies overlooking Bristol Channel

You can get your copy of Slow Travel: North Devon and Exmoor here

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Quirky Travel Review Slow Travel Devon and Exmoor

October 16, 2017

What are Britain’s ULTIMATE happy places and favourite holiday activities?

What makes you happy on holiday? Where are you happiest? Recent research by SACO shows that 2/3 of us would not bother to go abroad for our holidays if we could guarantee good weather. Our happy places include Cornwall and the Scottish Highlands and happy activities include a pub lunch in the Cotswolds, building sandcastles in Blackpool beach, visiting the Roman Baths in Bath, exploring Exmoor and, of course, walking in the Lake District.

Britain’s Ultimate Happy Places

Britain's Ultimate Happy Places

I love that one of our favourite activities is getting rained on. So very British! Looking for somewhere special to stay when enjoying your happy places? There are plenty of choices on this blog. Just search accommodation or check out serviced apartments such as those on offer in London by SACO.  My favourite activity is stroll with friends beside a lake on an autumn day anywhere in the Lake District. What’s yours? Do share your own suggestions in the comment box at the end of this article 🙂

This post is brought to you in collaboration with SACO.

September 15, 2017

All aboard the famous Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top of Wales

Snowdon from Mountain Railway train Wales - photo Zoe Dawes

The air freshened and the clouds twirled closer together. A seagull landed on a nearby rock and squawked loudly. The sun played hide and seek as we wondered which would win. For a few minutes the world disappeared in a damp, grey mass and we felt bereft … Seagull on top of Snowdon North Wales

Then, just as quickly, the sun returned, the sky turned peacock blue and the seagull shook its wings and flew away to play on the thermals. Below us spread the most dramatic scenery in Wales; craggy mountains, grass-covered slopes, river valleys, glittering lakes and in the far distance a golden eyebrow of beach beside the sea. I was finally on the top of Snowdon, at 1,085 metres the highest mountain in Wales and somewhere I had wanted to get to for many years.

On top of Snowdon Mountain North Wales - photo Zoe Dawes

View from the top of Snowdon

Twice before I’d attempted it. The first time many years ago, as a school teacher taking a group of school children on a hike up the mountain. Sharon, a feisty young girl, had an accident on the Miner’s Track and I had to accompany her back down to Llanberis. The second time, my boyfriend and I drove all the way from the Midlands, turned up at the Snowdon Mountain Railway ticket office to be told that the it was too windy and the trains were cancelled. This time I was on a tour with Great Rail Journeys and Rail Discoveries and we were having the best weather imaginable.

Clogwyn Halt Snowdon Mountain Railway Wales - photo Zoe Dawes

Our group had been driven by coach to Llanberis from Llandudno on the North Wales coast and got one of the earliest trains up the mountain. One of the pleasures of being on a tour is having all the organisation done for you; no queueing, tickets in hand and no hassle. For the train buffs amongst you, the Snowdon Mountain Railway is narrow gauge, 4.7miles long and is Britain’s only public rack and pinion railway. It started in 1896 and has been operating ever since, taking millions of tourists to the peak of one of the loveliest mountains in the British Isles.

Wyddfa and Snowdon Mountain Railway

Our train was pushed by illustrious steam engine Wyddfa (Welsh for Snowdon), built in 1895 and still going strong. I had a chat with Stoker Paul, who explained that the engine originated in Switzerland (the Swiss know a thing or two about mountain railways) and pushes the train UP the mountain via the rack and pinion system. There was a great feeling of anticipation as we chugged out of Llanberis Station, over a river, past a slick of waterfall and through ancient oak woods. ‘Sir Richard Moon built his railway knowing that the journey his little trains would make, would offer us a magical panorama, that until then, had only been available to the intrepid climber.’ (From the excellent Snowdon Mountain Railway Souvenir Brochure)

Wyddfa steam engine Snowdon collage

Wyddfa steam engine

As we slowly emerged into a more barren landscape, in the distance peeked the summit of Snowdon. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were as the sun shone and there was not a rain cloud to be seen. A couple opposite me said the last time they’d been, 23 years ago, the weather had been very different. “But, even on such a drizzly, windy day, we got glimpses of the amazing scenery and loved it. We had to come back but didn’t really expect it to such glorious weather.”  We climbed higher at a steady pace, occasionally running parallel with walking paths where hardy hikers made their way up and down the mountain. We got close up to mighty rocks that would give geographers a huge thrill. Overhead a bird of prey checked out the land; maybe a peregrine falcon?

View from Snowdon Mountain Railway carriage Wales - by Zoe Dawes

View from the carriage window

I spotted the ruins of some stone huts, apparently the remains of one of the oldest settlements in Wales. We stopped at appropriately named Halfway Station (500m above sea level) where we filled up with water and another steam train passed us on its downward journey. We waved at the passengers in the carriages opposite. Everyone had big smiles’ this is the sort of trip you’d have to be a very miserable git not to enjoy. The Llanberris Pass was clearly visible far below in what is known as the Cwm Hetia, Valley of the Hats. To our right, enormous curved mountains loomed past and we got superb views of many lakes, rivers and hills out towards the Lleyn Peninsula and over to Anglesey.

Snowdon Mountain Railway Train at the summit - photo Zoe Dawes

Engine 11 Peris at the top of Snowdon Mountain Railway

The steepest part of the track is before the summit and the our trusty engine chuffed out more smoke as it bravely pushed its heavy cargo of carriages up and round the corner to the Snowdon Summit Visitors Centre. We stepped down from our carriage, through the cafe and gift shop and out the back of the centre, up to the rocky point which is the actual summit of Snowdon, 1085m. There must be very few mountains that have such a perfectly formed point, enabling so many people to reach the top, get their souvenir photo and enjoy the breathtaking scenery all around. We’d made it, on a unique, never-to-be-forgotten railway journey to the top of Wales …

Zoe Dawes on top of Snowdon - North Wales

On top of Snowdon

Great Rail Journeys and Rail Discoveries Steam Train Tours

I travelled to North Wales courtesy of Great Rail Journeys and Rail Discoveries. Our group stayed in Llandudno at the very comfortable Dunoon Hotel, with superb food in charming surroundings. We also had an excellent Italian meal at the Wildwood Restaurant in the town centre. We had a great time travelling on four steam railways in the area, including the splendid Snowdon Mountain Railway.

Llanberis Station Snowdon Mountain Railway North Wales - photo Zoe Dawes

Our group at Llanberis Station

Great Rail Journeys Railways & Castles of Wales Tour includes a stay at the award-winning Dunoon Hotel, journeys on the Welsh Highland, Ffestiniog and Snowdon Mountain Railways plus excursions to Portmeirion Village and Caernarfon and Conwy CastlesGRJ Independent can also tailor make holidays to the region for those wishing to travel to Wales on an individual basis. 

Rail Discoveries Railways of Wales Tour includes a stay at the Kensington Hotel, journeys on the Welsh Highland, Ffestiniog and Llangollen Railways, a horse-drawn boat trip on the Llangollen Canal, and excursions to Portmeirion Village and Caernarfon Castle. Read about our four Steam Train rides in North Wales here.

Are you a fan of Narrow-Gauge Railways? Read my review of Small Island by Little Train – a Narrow-Gauge Adventure by Chris Arnot.

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Snowdon Mountain Railway North Wales - image Zoe Dawes

August 14, 2017

5 beautiful and different places in Europe you must visit

In the next of the World Travel Blogger series, writer and sweetie lover Emily Johnson shares five of her favourite places in Europe.

5 beautiful places in Europe

Europe is renowned for its unparalleled beauty and favourite tourist destinations include Paris, London, Amsterdam, Rome. Many famous places in Europe have their fair share of visitors every year and it’s difficult to choose. There are some hidden gems that lie amidst the amazing Europe? Well, here’s are 5 places you might like if you are looking to explore something different in this mesmerizing continent.

 1.  Lugano, Switzerland

Lake Lugano Switzerland Europe

Lugano is more of a commercial and financial hub of Switzerland but has been untouched by the teeming crowds that visit Europe. You can explore the parks, buildings and gardens of Lugano that is somewhat modern in its nature but gives an impression of a hidden small town in the tourist region of Ticino. It is situated by the splendid Lake Lugano and is blessed with the aura of beauty and nature.

2.  Bacharach, Germany

Bacharch Europe

Located in the Rhine River Valley in Germany, Bacharach is another great treat for explorers and has small castles, intersting buildings and quaint villages to discover. It is nestled close to nature and is more like a town in a Disney movie that have castles, colorful houses and vibrant liveliness to it as Bacharach will add another great travel experience to your bucket list. The green, natural vibes of Bacharach are what make it a must-visit place when you are in Germany or travelling in Europe, this unknown gem will surely augment a lot to your trip.

3.  Santorini, Greece

Santorini Greece Europe

This crescent-shaped island was created from a volcano in prehistoric days. There is a huge lagoon surrounding this beautiful island and Santorini has been discovered by many tourists recently. It is one of the most popular Greek islands, especially with cruise ships. However, at times it’s less crowded than some streets of more famous European tourist sites. It has alluring sunsets, sizzling panoramas and beaches just blessed with tempting vistas. On Santorini, find a place away from the crowds to relax at, unwind, sip your favorite cocktail and spend a whole day admiring the gorgeous views.

4.  Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard Norway Europe

Svalbard is one of the best places to see the astonishingly beautiful Northern Lights. Its location is also interesting as Svalbard is situated halfway between Norway and North Pole. It is ideal for those looking to explore wildlife, Arctic Ocean and told mining towns. The northern lights can also tempt you to explore this wonderful gem while the overall landscape is worth a chance to give if you are wondering for some offbeat place in Europe.

5.  Lake Bled, Slovenia

Lake Bled Slovenia

This picturesque lake in Slovenia is relatively undiscovered place in Europe. Lake Bled is a splendid emerald-green; there are the top mountains of Julian Alps, some castles to be explored and picture-perfect churches to visit. You can try adventure sports like hiking, water-sports and biking while also immersing yourself in the breezy atmosphere of this appealing, undiscovered pearl of Europe.

Emily Johnson writes about sweets on her blog engaging her audience with articles about flavored candy treats and also sharing her tips on travelling around the world for other explorers.

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5 beautiful destinations in Europe

August 5, 2017

The Langdale Valley, majestic heart of the Lake District World Heritage Site

Blea Tarn Langdale Valley in the Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The hard work and commitment of a great many people has paid off and the Lake District World Heritage site now joins other renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia, Mount Teide in Tenerife and the Rocky Mountains in Canada. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know how much I love the Lake District and also visiting World Heritage Sites, so to have this on my doorstep is VERY special. You can read more about the Lake District World Heritage site here. A few days after the result was announced I went to stay in the very heart of Lakeland, in the Langdale Valley. Here are some of its highlights.

Great Langdale Valley

Langdale Valley in the Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The Langdale Valley includes some of the most impressive mountains (called ‘fells’ in the Lakes) in England. These craggy peaks provide a dramatic backdrop to an area where man, beast and nature live together in relative harmony. Langdale means ‘Long Valley’ in Old Norse, a hint to the ancient history of this quarrying and farming area. Very often the fells are shrouded in mist in this valley, adding to its moody magnificence. Dry stone walls ribbon across the mountain sides, sheep meander willy-nilly and picturesque farm buildings create its architectural charm. The peaks of Crinkle Crags, Pike o’ Bisco and the jagged ridge of the Langdale Pikes are the grand masters of this landscape.

Elterwater

Elterwater Common Langdale Valley Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The village of Elterwater (meaning Swan Lake) spreads out across valley, vying for space with the Herdwick sheep which wander its lanes and graze on the Common.  An easy stroll takes the walker to Elterwater tarn; good flat path but can get very muddy if it’s been raining recently. The Britannia Inn is the hub of the village, serving excellent ales, an interesting choice of wines and superb food. There’s also a cafe and a bus stop, a couple of hotels, a large time-share property and plenty of self-catering cottages for all the visitors who come to stay here. Good Life Lake District Cottages has their main office here, housed in a quaint stone building which usually has a Herdy wandering about outside the door.

Chapel Stile

Chapel Stile village in Langdale Valley, Lake District World Heritage site - photo Zoe Dawes

The Langdale Rambler (Bus 516) stops on the main road through Chapel Stile, dropping off visitors and locals in this tiny hamlet. A narrow lane of old quarrymen’s cottages wends it way up twards Silver Howe. The 19th c Parish Church of Holy Trinity was built on the site of the original chapel, in the local green slate which has been quarried here for centuries. Chapel Stile is well-served by the excellent Langdale Co-Op. This shop sells absolutely everything you could wish for, whether you’re camping, self-catering or out for the day. Tasty Cumberland sausages, Hawkshead Relish (I can highly recommend their Black Garlic Ketchup!), micro-brewery beer, tent pegs, wet-weather gear, fridge magnets, tea towels and oh so much more. Upstairs in Brambles Cafe, gossip is exchanged and walkers rest their feet whilst having a cuppa or more hearty meal. Every year they hold the Langdale Gala here, a classic Lake District show with Cumberland Wrestling, fell races and dog show.

The Old Dungeon Ghyll

Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale Valley in Lake District World Heritage site

Towards the end of the valley lies the Old Dungeon Ghyll, one of the most famous pubs in the Lake District. Tucked right up against the mountain side, this venerable old hotel was the meeting place for climbing clubs from around the country, drawn by the challenging peaks outside the door. I love the Hiker’s Bar, which has remained unchanged for decades and features the original cow stalls and stone floors.

Hiker's Bar Old Dungeon Ghyll - Langdale Valley

You can get a great pint, a coffee, lunch, dinner and if you’re lucky with the weather, sit outside and enjoy the scenery.

Little Langdale Valley

Little Langdale Valley in the Lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

From the Old Dungeon Ghyll the road winds up towards Blea Tarn and into the charming Little Langdale Valley. Driving up here takes nerves and good brakes as the road has some steep, sharp twists and is very narrow. Kamikaze Herdwicks wander out in front of the car and the view is most distracting.

Blea Tarn

Blea Tarn Langdale Valley Lake District - photo Zoe Dawes

There’s a National Trust car park for Blea Tarn (tarn = little lake); it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with brown pike in the water, alpine flowers in spring and tiny orchids in summer. However, it’s the view of the Pike o’Bisco and the Langdale Pikes laid out for your delectation that tops all that. I’ve walked here a few times but Blea Tarn has never looked as lovely as it did that July afternoon with marshmallow-soft clouds reflected in the shallow water and sunlight flittering across the peaks.

Three Shires Pub

Three Shires Inn Langdale Valley

Voted Cumbria Tourism’s Pub of the Year 2017, the Three Shires Inn is at the conjunction of the three old counties of  Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire, now bundled together as Cumbria. It’s a pretty pub with decent food and lively atmosphere, though limited parking which meant on this recent visit I had to give it a miss. The road heads off towards the twin passes of Wrynose and HardKnott; not for the faint-hearted. A short walk brings you to one of the most photographed sights in the Langdales, Slaters Bridge, an old pack-horse bridge and also enormous Cathedral Cave.

Stay in Church Gate Cottage

Church Gate cottage in Chapel Stile Langdale Valley Lake District

I stayed in Chapel Stile with Good Life Lake District Cottages in a charming holiday home called Church Gate. Tastefully restored and attractively decorated, it sleeps four people in two bedrooms. The kitchen has a large fridge-freezer, dishwasher and large oven. A cup of tea tastes so much better in one of the cute Herdy mugs. There are games and books in the dining area and a wood-burning stove for cosy nights in. The back door leads out to a sheltered little cottage garden, ideal for evening drinks outdoors. Impressive views can be seen from the bedrooms across the village towards the mountains. I slept really well in the very comfy double bed and on Sunday morning woke to the sound of church bells and sheep bleating in the field opposite – perfect.  More details and how to book Church Gate cottage here.

With the village shop just down the hill and a pub, Wainwrights Inn, five minutes’ walk away, Church Gate is an ideal place to stay and enjoy the Lake District World Heritage site. Many thanks to Natalie and the team at Good Life Lake District Cottages for another very enjoyable weekend.

More lovely places I’ve stayed in and around the Langdale Valley.

Daw Bank Cottage, Chapel Stile

Jonty’s Cottage, Elterwater

Braegarth Cottage, Elterwater

Knipefold Barn, Outgate 

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Langdale Valley in the Lake District World Heritage Site