28th March 2014The Best of the West: Fifteen Western Lake District sweet spots

It is hard to believe it has been nearly two years since I started this blog. We have been to so many lovely places and done so many great things (it is a hard job I know!) that it has flown by in a bit of a blur. So I thought it was probably a good time to take a breath and look back over some of the top spots from the last two years.

Days out:

The La’al Ratty, Eskdale

The La’al Ratty, Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, the Western Lake District

Few things are more evocative than the hoot, chug and hiss of a steam train. Children (from three through to 93) love a choo-choo and when it is coupled with glorious countryside the pull is even greater. So a day out that will please everyone has to be a ride on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway (aka the La’al Ratty). The narrow gauge railway runs from pretty Ravenglass through the breathtaking valley of Eskdale to the foot of the Scafell range and is a great way to access some of the best walks, pubs and cafés in the area.

www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk

 

The Rum Story, Whitehaven

Whitehaven, the Western Lake District

Whitehaven Harbour by Brian Sherwen

Whitehaven has one of the most fascinating histories of any of the Western Lake District’s towns. At one time it was a major port in the British Empire; a centre of worldwide trade and industry so important it was the only English port attacked by the Americans during the War of Independence. The Rum Story museum is a fun-packed (and weather proof) way of learning about the town’s history.

www.rumstory.co.uk

 

Newlands Adventure Centre, Keswick

Newlands Adventure Centre, near Keswick, the Western Lake District

Adventure is everywhere in the Western Lake District but for a safe and expert introduction to all the rock, water and hill borne activities you can get up to Keswick Adventure Centre is the place to go. Kayaking, rock climbing, orienteering, archery, ghyll scrambling and more are all on offer, with the peaks of Skiddaw and Blencathra just a stone’s throw away for you to go and practise your skills.

www.activity-centre.com

 

Walks:

Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike, the Western Lake District

The majestic Scafell Pike by Brian Sherwen

Whole books could (and have) been written about the crowning jewel of the Western Lake District. However, my brief bit of advice is to get out there and see it for yourself. Whichever route you choose to take up the 978m mountain you will be treated to some of the best scenery on offer in the country (even the world?) and an equally impressive sense of achievement. Just make sure you take all the necessary equipment and precautions.

For more advice on where to go and what to do visit the website of Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team

 

Whitehaven to St Bees

Whitehaven to St Bees, the Western Lake District coast

A walk from Whitehaven to St Bees (or back the other way for that matter) is one of the most picturesque walks in the Western Lake District. I have been lucky enough to do this walk in nearly all four seasons and, believe me, it never gets old. The Isle of Man stands out clear and sharp on the horizon on a winter’s day and in the spring and summer the cliffs are alive with the sound of birds swooping and soaring and feeding their young. There are decent pubs at each end as well!

 

Muncaster Fell

Muncaster Fell, the Western Lake District

The best fells aren’t always the biggest and Muncaster Fell is testament to this. At a modest 231m the hummock still gives great views into Eskdale and towards the higher mountains of the Scafell range. An easy afternoon stroll from the gates of Muncaster Castle, a walk up the fell is achievable for legs of a variety of lengths and ages. It is a little gem, but a gem nonetheless.

Discover more about an ideal stroll on Muncaster Fell here

Accommodation:

Stanley House, Eskdale

Stanley House, Eskdale, the Western Lake District

Location is everything they say and locations don’t come much better than Eskdale. In a region where the competition is pretty stiff I sometimes think that Eskdale is my favourite of the Western Lakes’ valleys (whisper it quietly though). If you really want to immerse yourself in Eskdale then Stanley House is the perfect place. Standing less than a mile down the road from the pretty village of Boot the grand 19th century house overlooks the La’al Ratty and is conveniently close to other top attractions like Hardknott Roman Fort and Muncaster Castle. Some of the Lakes’ best walks also begin on the doorstep (I recommend heading across the road and taking the footpath up to Blea Tarn).

www.stanleyghyll-eskdale.co.uk

 

Graysonside Guest House and Self Catering Accommodation, Cockermouth

Graysonside Guest House and Self Catering Accommodation, Cockermouth

Breakfast is a very important thing to me and the memory of the bacon at Graysonside will stay with me for a long time. Giles still gets a far away look in his eyes when he thinks about it too. Equally memorable was our luxurious self-catering flat (it’s a diverse place with B&B and self-catering facilities) and the day we spent in the area exploring nearby Buttermere, Loweswater and Crummock Water. I feel hungry just thinking about it.

www.graysonside.co.uk

 

Armidale Cottages, Workington

Armidale Cottages, Workington

The Maryport Blues Festival is the kind of event that can leave you feeling pretty danced out and exhausted. Luckily for us after our trip to the festival in July Armidale Cottages provided the perfect tonic for our tap-tired toes. The beds are soft and deep and host Sue couldn’t do enough to help us. We love the old beams and massive (really it is huge) fireplace as well.

www.armidalecottages.co.uk

 

Eating out:

The Pheasant Inn, Bassenthwaite

The Pheasant Inn, Bassenthwaite, the Western Lake District

Bassenthwaite Lake by Brian Sherwen

The Pheasant Inn is one place I am always trying to make excuses to go to. Even if the food wasn’t fantastic then the lovely old bar and luxurious rooms would still make it a must. As it turns out the food is wonderful as well, with a choice of either restaurant or bistro dining depending on how formal you are feeling. If you only try one thing then make it the chocolate delice - be warned it releases some serious dopamine!

www.the-pheasant.co.uk

 

Hunday Manor Hotel, Workington

Hunday Manor Hotel, Workington, the Western Lake District

Fine dining at Hunday Manor

Scallops are a particular weakness of mine and luckily for me there are plenty of places where you can get them in the Western Lakes. However, few places can do them better than the restaurant at the Hunday Manor Hotel. We stayed there as a pre-Christmas treat last year and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

www.hunday-manor-hotel.co.uk

 

Wayside and Whisky Barn, Whitbeck

Black Combe in the Western Lake District by Jan Fialkowski

Black Combe in the Western Lake District by Jan Fialkowski

A visit to see Steven and Lynn Johns at their lovely hotel at the foot of Black Combe (a classic Western Lakes walk) was one of the first trips I made. I suppose this was because I had heard how good the Wayside and Whisky Barn was and couldn’t wait to try it out myself. I am glad to say it didn’t disappoint and Steven and Lynn delivered one of the most tender lamb shanks that ever fell of a bone. If you are the kind of person who likes to enjoy a whisky after your meal you are in luck, there are over 40 on sale!

www.waysidehotel.co.uk

 

Events:

The World’s Biggest Liar, Santon Bridge

The World’s Biggest Liar, Santon Bridge, the Western Lake District

Without a doubt the most famous lying contest in the whole universe, the annual World’s Biggest Liar competition at Santon Bridge regularly attracts audiences and participants from across the globe. For one night every year the Bridge Inn becomes the focus of falsities told by competitors fighting to be crowned the biggest fibber on earth. The stories range from the bizarre to the hilarious and the pub serves a good pint of Jennings too. Buy your tickets early though as they soon sell out.

www.santonbridgeinn.com

 

Taste Cumbria, Cockermouth

Cockermouth Market Place in Spring, the Western Lake District

Cockermouth Market Place in Spring

I seem to be spending a lot of time banging on about food, but it is a subject that is hard to avoid in the Western Lakes where we have good food and lots of it. Every year Cockermouth hosts the Taste Cumbria Festival, where you can get the chance to try some of the best produce on offer in the county. There is a chance to see demonstrations by some of the region’s best chefs and try their creations, as well as enjoying a few pints at the beer festival.

www.tastecumbria.com

 

Muncaster Festival, Muncaster Castle

Muncaster Festival at Muncaster Castle, the Western Lake District

So much happens at Muncaster Castle throughout the whole year that it is hard to choose just one event, but if you only have time for one then the Muncaster Festival is a must. The castle’s front lawn plays host to workshops, games and performers each year (this year from May 25 to May 29) culminating in the International Jesters Tournament in which competitors battle it out to be ‘crowned’ The Fool of Muncaster.

www.muncastercastle.co.uk

Whitehaven - the perfect day out
Millom & Black Combe
Cockermouth
Ravenglass

Brian Sherwen Photography

Many images on this website have been supplied to us by Brian Sherwen.