It still is very cold, almost freezing, when we go outside this morning. How glad we are that we didn't sleep in a tent tonight. We like to camp, but rather with good weather. Well, at least it isn't raining anymore when we go on our way.
First we follow the road along the oblong Wast Water lake to Wasdale Head. A rough area with mountains everywhere, among them Scafell Pike, with 978 meters the highest mountain of England (Wales has the Snowdon which is a bit higher and Scotland has the highest mountain of the Great Britain, the Ben Nevis).
At the end of the valley we see the campsite where we had wanted to go yesterday: an open field with people in thick clothes. It is quite high here, so it must have been very cold last night. But the view is spectacular! There is also a small church and a sign says it is the smallest of England.
This road is a dead end, so we return the same way and then follow narrow and steep roads via Broughton in Furness and Coniston to Ambleside. We not only see lots of sheep, waterfalls and mountains, but also many tourists. It is busy, even on the smallest and most remote roads. The summer holiday in England isn't over yet and the Lake District is a popular destination for the English. And they are right, since it is gorgeous here.
The towns and villages that we pass through today look picturesque, we don't have a better word for it. In Ambleside we want to take a break but it takes us quite some time to find a free table where we can eat and drink something. It is not only because of the crowds, but also because more and more pubs have become totally smoking-free. Fortunately, we find a place just before it starts to rain heavily.
From Ambleside we take the B5343 that brings us along the Dungeon Ghyll Force, a 21 meters high waterfall, and then the road to the Wrynose Pass. The landscape becomes more desolate and the slopes steeper, until 25%. Now and then there is a parking place so we can stop to take pictures or to let other cars pass.
And then we come to the Hardknott Pass. Many parts of the road have an inclination of 25%, but the last kilometer tops them all: 30%. Our car engine isn't very strong, so we first let the other cars pass and then go up with full throttle. We are glad it isn't very long, but the road is wet and slippery. When we are on the top our speed has reduced to walking speed. The descent is as exciting as the way up, and we need our brakes regularly. When we are at the end we smell fresh baked bread, but it comes from our tires. Because we only had eyes for the road we missed the Roman fort that should be standing here on the hillside.
Near Boot we have a look at the train station. It is possible to travel by steam trainfrom Ravenglass through the mountains until this place and we would like to see a real steam engine actually drive. But to our surprise it is a mini locomotive and matching mini carriages. Adults have their heads against the roof, but for kids this must be really fun. It is too late for us to make a ride, maybe another time.Since it will be light for another few hours we decide to tour around a bit through the area. We like the mountains and the nature here, and there are cute little villages. We also pass Muncaster Castle at Ravensglass but it is too late to enter. It looks nice and there is an owl centre we would like to see, so we go there tomorrow morning again. Now it is time to go back to the hotel and turn on the heating since it has been a very cold day.
Saturday 27 August 2005, another day in Lake District
After a tastefull breakfast we drive to Muncaster Castle. We have been here yesterday as well, but then we were too late for a visit. The castle grounds are extensive and we first walk for more than an hour through the gardens. The climate here is comparable with that in the Himalaya mountains at a height of 3 kilometers and a lot of the vegetation that grows in the Himalaya has been planted here.
The original castle was build in the 14th century, but probably on top of Roman foundations. The many ghosts haven't kept the owners from living here. This is supposedly the most haunted castle of England, but more castles claim the same and we still haven't seen any ghosts, while we have seen our share of castles!
Near the castle is a owl centre, in fact the headquarters of the World Owl Trust and has one of the largest collections of these beautiful birds there is. Some of the species are very rare. We like the way it is set up and there is much and funny information given about the owls. There are also buzzards, kestrels and red kites and a daily flying display on the Castle lawns.
At Ravenglass we stop for a coffee and then we drive to the north. An occasional shower falls down and the mountains are covered in mist, so we don't see much of the environment. We get out of the car now and then, but it is still quite cold and sitting in the warmth of the car feels better than walking outside.
Via Buttermere we drive between the steep mountains to the Honister Pass, another mountain pass with slopes of 25%. So, no wonder that we see waterfalls everywhere and sometimes a real big one, like Moss Force near Buttermere. It is really a shame that the weather is so bad, it must be magnificient here when the sun shines.
It is still fairly busy on the roads and a road sign like this one is probably necessary. We see much more wild animals lying dead along the road than in Scotland. But we have learned one thing: when there is a sign with an animal on it, you will probably not see it! That is true for the deer in Holland and reindeer in Scandinavia: you don't see them when there is a sign; without a sign your chances of seeing animals seem to be much bigger!
On top of the Honnister Pass the sun breaks through the clouds and the mist is drifting away. I visit the slate mine that can be seen here, Elisabeth doesn't think it to be interesting. And she is right, it isn't really. There is not much to see and we have to bend all the time in the long and straight passages through the dark mountain. The only interesting things are the stories the guide tells us about life in the mines in the old times. But from outside the mine we have a great view over the pass.The visit takes more than an hour an a half and when I come back it is too late to visit something else, so we drive to Keswick, where we have a meal and than back to the hotel. The distance from Keswick to the hotel isn't very far, maybe 60 kilometers but it takes us more than two hours. On our way back it starts to rain again and quite heavy this time. We are glad we have central heating in the room and on television we see the forecast: in the east it is allright but just here the rain will continue to fall with temperatures under 15 degrees Celsius.We like the Lake District and there is still a lot we want to see, but nevertheless we decide to leave tomorrow. We still have a whole country to visit and we can always come back when we visit Scotland (which we do every year) since that is not so far away.