It was an amusing sight as the English barmaid tried the impossible task of putting a head on a pint of Irish cider.

I was next served. “A pint of cider with no head,” says I. I’m not sure if the subtext was read but it certainly saved me a couple of awkward minutes and the proprietor a bucket load of sloppage.

The fact that the cider tap was in constant flow confirmed that it was a sunny day as I sat outside the Pooley Bridge Inn and enjoyed lunch, while plotting the next stint of my trip through the famous lakelands of England.

The Lake District is located in Cumbria in the northwest of England and consists of sixteen lakes in the national park, boasting some of the most scenic sites in the country.

Pooley Bridge Inn

The compact town of Pooley Bridge is located on the northern banks of Lake Ullswater and is full of restaurants, bars, cafés and souvenir shops catering for the busy tourist trade that pass through en route to explore the second largest of the lakes in the district.

Lake Ullswater and its surrounds are a haven for the adventurous with a wide range of water-based activities on offer, as well as a plethora of walking trails in the adjacent surrounds.

My introduction to Cumbria proved quite active with my visit to Honister, which had a lot to do with my decision to slow the pace as I arrived at Ullswater.

A trip on the famous Ullswater Steamers suited the mood and the mind as we set off on the hour-long cruise that stretches the seven-mile length of the lake.

The jump-off points allow you to explore all sides of the lake with some of the district’s best walking trails located in the surrounding mountains, which frame the clear blue water.

The Striding Edge trail would be one of the best known routes in the area and takes you to the remote valley of Martindale. There are walking routes at all three ferry stops, Pooley Bridge, Howtown and Glenridding, catering for all levels of walkers.

But even for the less adventurous or active, a lap of the lake aboard one of the 19th century boats gives you a unique view of the spectacular surroundings, while gliding effortlessly along the tranquil Ullswater Lake.

While the waters and mountains keep you occupied throughout your days in the Lake District, another of the regions charms are the many quaint and historic towns that are dotted throughtout.

The old town of Keswick is located close to Ullswater in the heart of the northern Lake District. The town dates back to the 13th century and is a hive of activity with festivals, concerts and a range of other countryside events making for a lively atmosphere throughout the summer months.

The following morning, I ventured out of the national park and inland towards the Eden Valley to visit Lowther Castle and Gardens.

The castle dates back to the early 1800's but fell into disrepair in the latter half of the 20th century. A restoration project is slowly returning the impressive castle and gardens back to its former glory, which will include elaborate gardens in the French baroque style.

One of Lowther Castle’s main attractions is the platform it provides to enjoy the spectacular vistas of the sprawling Eden Valley beyond the grounds.

Back in the car and the journey south proved equally breathtaking passing through and over this famous English landscape. The road hugged the banks of Ullswater before breaking inland over hills and through valleys along the Kirkstone Pass.

The journey along this meandering route is slow and rises up to around 1500 feet and midway along the road splits to take you to either Windermere or Ambleside.

So deciding against the road to Ambleside, as it has the local name of The Struggle, I rolled down from the heights of the pass into the famous lakeside town of Windermere.

The towns dotted throughout the Lake District are equally welcoming and aesthetically pleasing and Windermere was no different.

Originally a small hamlet called Birthwaite, Windermere came to prominence with the completion of the railway link from Kendal and became a popular retreat in the 19th century as wealthy businessmen from the urban areas began to regard the region as a haven of scenic tranquillity.

Like Ullswater, Windermere enjoys a huge tourist trade, it being the largest of lakes, and also offers every type of water-based activity as well as many boating options.

The resort at Windermere appears more spread out as it stretches along the water’s edge to the neighbouring town of Ambleside, which must also be in the running for one of England’s prettiest towns with a thriving nightlife throughout the high season.

The road out of Ambleside led to the final destination to pay a visit to the home of the Bard of Cumbria, William Wordsworth at Dove Cottage.

Here you can take an entertaining guided tour of the old cottage to learn about the life of Wordsworth or stroll in the garden he created with his sister, where he composed some of his greatest poetry.

There is also a museum, which holds a great collection of the Wordsworths’ letters, journals and poems, a gift shop and impressive tea rooms.

Stop here, whenever you are weary, and rest… read a sign on the gate of Dove Cottage.

The welcoming warm words were both apt and appreciated. The Lake District of England is a great place to rest but after a few days exploring this spectacular region, expect also to be weary.

For more information, visit www.cumbriatourism.org.

Where to Stay: Temple Sowerby House Hotel
Just minutes from Ullswater by car in the Northern Lake District, Temple Sowerby House is a relaxing country house hotel overlooking the quiet village green and Pennine Fells beyond. Dating back to 1727, the country house hotel has just 12 individual bedrooms and elegant reception rooms. The hotel is the ideal place to return to after a long day exploring the Lake District, boasting a tranquil walled garden and award-winning restaurant.

The hotel's major selling point is this top class restaurant where monthly menus reflect the seasons and head chef Ashley Whittaker makes the most of the extensive range of local produce available in Cumbria. The menu is a blend of British and classic French cooking and the flavours and freshness are really evident when dining at Temple Sowerby House. On a summer's evening, make sure to enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the garden or a late night-cap in the cosy residents' bar.

And the breakfast menu is an added bonus where every dish is bursting with flavour and is obviously cooked to order, which adds a personal touch that just isn't possible at the larger hotels.

For more information, visit: www.templesowerby.com.

Ed Leahy
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