Living in Scotland, there’s a whole country’s worth of hills and mountains to walk up for stunning scenery, but for some silly reason, on a drive back from York a couple of weeks ago I decided to stop off in the Lake District and walk up an English mountain instead. I say silly, because I had driven the day before for six hours, then I’d had a fitful night’s sleep, followed by another four hour drive (traffic) from York to Keswick. Then I still had to climb said mountain and drive three more hours home.
It also happened to be the last day of English half term school holidays, so half of England was in The Lake District, making the most of a gloriously sunny autumn day. Half again of that lot must have been in Keswick, and probably half of that half decided to climb my mountain – Catbells – too. As you shall see in the pictures below, it is a stunning part of the world, but there’s something about being in the middle of spectacular landscapes that ache for quiet and solitude with which to take it all in.
Not including Arthur’s Seat, it felt like there were about ten times more people than I’ve ever seen on a hike in Scotland, and sure enough, I just looked up some statistics. Last year 45 million people went to Cumbria and the Lake District. The whole of Scotland had just 15 million.
As usual I did some research before we got there and decided the best route up for us was from Hawes End. I also took the advice of many an internet stranger and decided to park my car in Keswick, then take a ferry across Derwentwater. And can I add, I often get mocked for not being more of a go with the flow traveller, but luckily I also read that the ferries go both clockwise and anti-clockwise around the lake. Anti-clockwise and you’re there in ten minutes. Clockwise it’s forty-five. So ner, mockers, ner!!
Already tired and grumpy, the boat ride gave me another chance to indulge in a few minutes of eye rolling and some internalised screaming. Seated behind us were a family of northerners (I don’t know the sixty-two – that’s a guess – official English accents well enough to tell you where exactly in the north they were from) and Mum, Dad and two of the three kids decided to ‘help’ the third kid, Little Johnny (not his real name), by pointing out everything and asking if he could see it, kind of like a bastardised version of I Spy. “Look Little Johnny, see the water, see the bird, see the mountain? That’s the mountain we walked up yesterday. Do you see the sky? See that cloud over there?” Do you see the other boats?”
Shuuuuuut up. Maybe Little Johnny just wanted to sit and enjoy the water and the birds and the mountain and the sky and the clouds… and the quuuuiiiiet!
Anyway, let’s look at some nature.
That’s Derwentwater above and the heaving town of Keswick at the back, which I learnt from the northerners actually has a silent ‘w’. Why didn’t anyone tell me that before?
Lovely… lovely… although there’s about twenty-five people behind me right now taking this same shot.
Not that I’ve seen any more of it than this, but the view here sums up my thoughts on the beauty of The Lake District, all serene and gentle and neat and well mannered, whereas a lot of Scotland is wild and rough and ravaged. One is Hugh Grant (in anything) and the other is Iain Glen (as Jorah in Game of Thrones), if you like.
I think we landed in Middle Earth.
I’d read it takes three hours to walk the circuit from Hawes End – if you are reasonably fit. Why are all times for physical activities measured for the reasonably fit? I am not reasonably fit, I am reasonably unfit. I work in an office all day and I come home and sit on a couch all evening. I am in my forties and about as overweight as that lifestyle would deem logical.
As it turns out, it took me three hours, but that was because the ferry ticket seller said if I did it in less I would miss the last boat back to Keswick. So I hauled my you know what. And that was a pity, because I didn’t get time to fully appreciate the magnificent views on what was a stunning, clear autumn day. I didn’t get time to sit and stare in awe at all that wonderful nature surrounding me, while I ate my overpriced, delicious picnic lunch that I’d picked up at a roadside farm shop – because I had a timetable to stick to.