Last week I fell in love. Not with a guy, mind you – but with an area of England that I had never seriously considered for a holiday. I was planning a weekend getaway in collaboration with Expedia, Visit Britain and Travelettes and wanted the destination to be close by, yet different from what I had seen of England so far. The choice was pretty obvious – we’d spend a weekend in the Lake District.
While you could easily spend an entire summer exploring the region and slowly travel from valley to valley, we only had three days/two nights at hand – not much to get an overview of an entire national park! Here, however, are a few things to do on a weekend getaway in the Lake District, including my favourite tips on where to indulge in the best local vegan cuisine.
And as you can imagine, the Lake District is very photogenic too! (aka. lots of photos in this post!)
Main Street, Keswick
Entering the Lake District from the north we decided not to take the fastest route to our hotel by Bowness-on-Windermere, but rather turn our arrival day into a day of exploring in itself. We left the motorway in Carlisle and slowly made our way to Keswick, a main hub in the Northern Lakes.
It was raining, and yet (or maybe because of that) the village was bustling with visitors – can’t even imagine how busy it would be during summer?! We spent a few hours strolling up and down the Farmers and Crafts Market on Main Street which happens every Thursday and Saturday. After a coffee at The Wild Strawberry (non-dairy milk available) we went on a quest to find a place that serves vegan cakes. First, we tried Little Chamonix Cafe, which didn’t have any vegan options on that day – but the owner said, that next time we should just call ahead and she’d make sure there were vegan cakes available too! However, she pointed us in the direction on Kat’s Kichen, a vegetarian and vegan cafe at the other end of the village – just about a 10 minute walk away. At Kat’s we had so many options, it was hard to choose! They also serve lunch, so even if you don’t have a sweet tooth like me, you’d be in good hands!
Flowers from the market / Coffee at The Wild Strawberry
The Lake District is fantastic road trip material – windy roads, beautiful scenery and adventures to be had around every bend. It is also notorious for its steep mountain roads and narrow passes. Kirkstone Pass between Penrith and Windermere is one such road, and we didn’t think twice about whether we should drive it.
From Keswick we trove towards Penrith and took a right in Troutbeck, towards Ullswater. This lake is worth the drive in itself and the many viewpoints along the way make for great photo ops!
We drove along this road twice – on our ways in and out of the Lake District, which is why you see very different weather on my photos. Believe me, the Lake District is gorgeous, wether rain or shine!
The pass is nestled beneath the Baystones hill, and on its very top you get great views onto either side – back towards Ullswater or the other way towards Windermere. There are two different car parks to stop at and I highly recommend to stop at both, to get the full picture!
The view towards Windermere
A small waterfall to the right of the car park, looking towards Ullswater
Grasmere was love at first sight. Or rather at first taste.
We spent our first evening in the Lake District here; not in the village centre, but rather on the outskirts at Lancrigg Hotel & Kitchen. It was here that we decided to splash out and treat ourselves to an exceptional 8-course vegan taster menu. And what a meal that was! At £50 a head it doesn’t come cheap, but the innovative creations you are being served are worth every penny. It’s safe to say that I have never tasted vegan food like this – and I can’t wait to return to see the hotel at daylight!
We returned the next day to take a closer look at the village. Again, it was raining, but that is not to say that it wasn’t busy. People were queuing like crazy outside the famous Grasmere Gingerbread shop – the ginger bread is vegan btw. – so we strolled on towards Green’s Cafe & Bistro. The cafe serves all sorts of sandwiches, soups and mains, but we came here because we had heard the vegan cake selection would be great – and yes, it was! I can highly recommend the chocolate brownie as well as the chocolate beetroot cupcake, although they might bake different things on different days. All cakes are served with delicious vegan vanilla ice cream on the side!
Vegan teats at Green’s
Grasmere itself is a treat for sore eyes, so make sure you leave some time to go for a walk around the village!
A quick hike: Loughrigg Fell
We were lucky enough in the afternoon, and the rain finally stopped falling. Not daring to go for an extensive hike, we decided to do a short route which still promised to reward us with great views. Ascending Loughrigg Fell from the White Moss carpark turned out to be the perfect adventure. The car park lies right outside Grasmere on the way towards Ambleside.
The trail starts by crossing a river and then leading up – in our case the river was overflowing and had flooded the first part of the trail – thank God, we had seen Mission Impossible! Finally on the right trail, we came by Rydal Cave, an impressive cave with views over the valley. You can walk all the way inside for some cool photos, just make sure to watch your head!
Inside Rydal Cave
Ascending further from the cave, we kind of lost our trail a little bit, but going up is never a bad idea when climbing a hill. Luckily the hilltop is not too boggy, so we were able make our own path. Eventually we joined the main route again and got the first glimpse of the trig point at the summit.
Once we reached the top, we could enjoy amazing views in all directions and of course there were lakes wherever you looked! From there we followed the steeply descending path towards Grasmere and once back down, strolled through the light forest back to the car park. The circular route is about 4 miles and took us roughly 3 hours to complete including an extensive photo stop at the cave and mentioned detour to the summit.
Looking towards Windermere
The view towards Grasmere
Although we didn’t spend much time in Ambleside, I wanted to mention the fantastic Thai food we had here after our hike! Jintana Thai showed up on our Happy Cow app as a restaurant with vegan options, and seeing that we only had cake for lunch, we thought veg-heavy Asian cuisine wouldn’t be a bad idea. And we were right!
The restaurant was happy to prepare the vegetarian menu to share vegan for us, and we tucked right in!
Where to Stay in the Lake District
We stayed at Beech Hill Hotel & Spa nearby Bowness-on-Windermere. The hotel was lovely, especially our room as we had a gorgeous view across the lake as well as our own private Jacuzzi in the bathroom. The bed was the kind that makes you never want to get up and leave ever again. We chose this hotel for two reasons: its quiet location outside of town overlooking the lake, and the spa facilities which are open to all house guests. The spa convinced us with a bright sauna (love sauna rooms with glass walls so they feel less confined), a steam room, an indoor swimming pool and an outside Jacuzzi with a view across the lake.
The only thing I thought I should mention is that the vegan breakfast option was not what I would have expected from a four-star hotel for that price. Our breakfast was basically just the vegetarian breakfast minus the egg. And even though you could go up to the buffet to get some extra veg and beans, I would have expected the hotel to add something instead of the egg – like avocado dip, veggie haggis or something similar. I had called well in advance to let them know about our dietary requests, so that was a bit of a disappointment.
We spent our last morning in the Lake District with a last dip in the pool and a round of shopping at Booths, a local high-end supermarket in Windermere, to buy some edible souvenirs for ourselves and our cat sitters.
One last time across Kirkstone Pass – this time in the sun – and we were back on the M6 headed for Scotland. The Lake District really took my heart by storm and I’m convinced that this was not my last trip to the region! There are so many more hills to walk and lakes to discover, and surely a lot more vegan food to try.
Do you have any tips for my next trip?
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.