September 20, 2013

Hiking the Lake District, UK - the tour of Europe

What I did this summer - the European Tour

green fields and hills
Summer 2013 I returned to UK again. I've been coming to UK on a relatively regular basis since I was a teenager, and it always feels good to come back "home", as much as I love exploring it's nice to, from time to time, be in a region where everyone understands what you are saying and where you don't have to translate and can read the signs and participate in every discussion. 

No matter how many times I go to UK, I always feel that there is so much more to see; So much more to discover. To those who think UK is just London, or big busy cities, I have just got one thing to say. Think again!

For years I have been curious about the Lake District, after seeing pictures that friends took, and after hearing stories. I have been to York (but not spent enough time), I have been to Matlock, I have seen many sites, but I had not been to the Lake District in the north-west corner of England. Until now.
Together with a two friends and their dog we set out a Saturday in August; Packed the car and drove off from Manchester to the Lake District - the biggest national park in UK (see link). 

The weather report was not very uplifting, but that's on the other hand only to be expected. It IS the north of Europe after all, and it IS close the the ocean, it is all a big island, after all. And is there really any "bad" weather? It is mainly about being prepared, and prepared we were; Hiking trousers (don't go with jeans; It's just silly as jeans that get wet never dry and just get really heavy), hiking boots, special socks (really is good when you are going to wander on paths less travelled), scarves, waterproof jackets (I borrowed one as I lost my own on the train to Hamburg, extra sweaters (layers is always a good idea, but especially in this area where the weather changes rapidly) – and, of course, maps, water bottles, snacks for the walk, and so forth.

We had booked a little Bed and Breakfast in Grasmere (see link), in the middle of the lake district. Don't ask me how long it took to drive up to the area, I feel asleep more or less as soon as we got to the motorway, as I often do as a passenger, and didn't wake up until we had reached our goal, but I am told it was an easy drive, and I can tell you that much; Waking up when we entered the area was magical. The Lake District is painted in amazing green tones, green in a way you don't see in many places. Furthermore it is far hillier than you imagine England to be - but the hills are looking soft and are all covered in green, not at all unlike the hills on the Green Island – Ireland (Eire). It is easy to imagine that the two must have been attached at some point in time. 

Just like in Ireland there are also plenty of sheep wandering around in the area (meaning if you travel with a dog, remember to keep him/her on a lead or very close by and under control – remember that the farmers live from what the animals and the land can give, and you don't want the animals to be scared by your pet.)

I can really recommend the Lake District. The only thing to be aware of is that you need to do some planning, or you have to stay on the well travelled and marked roads and footpaths. The weather changes quickly and you don't want to get caught on a hill, in the fog or in the clouds. The hills are steep in places – something we got very aware of when we were hiking an tried to find a shortcut to the main path. 

The path we wanted to be on had not been used in a while and it was overgrown, so we lost the track for a while. We WERE prepared but it was still hard at  times. There were also places where the path had become a stream, due to the rain. Still, there are people who enjoy the nature in Lake District in sandals - you just have to pick a different path - and that is another thing I really enjoy with Lake District, there is something there for everyone. 

Also, if you DO travel with a dog and it is during the weekend; Make sure you book in advance. First of all many places during the high season require you to book two nights, and there are also just a limited number of places that accept dogs. It's better to be on the safe side and make a reservation... Otherwise you may have to turn it into a day trip instead, something I am sure works too but it is just very nice to say if you have the possibility.

UK has a lot to offer, and that includes fantastic nature, something many people outside the country don't realise as they tend to just end up in the big cities: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, and along the coast in the south. So do read up on the country and come and explore! 

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