With a desire to see and experience more of the UK landscape we have recently done a couple of weekend trips away with a focus on hiking – both in the Lake District and along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
Going back a couple months now to the early May bank holiday we decided to finally get ourselves up to England’s largest National Park – the Lake District. Andrew and I took the train up to Windermere after work on Friday evening, where we stayed in a comfortable, but unremarkable, B&B. Windermere, I’ve heard, has more B&B’s than actual homes and the locals here capitalise on the sheer volume of tourists that visit each year. In the morning we got up early and explored the village (Andrew ran, I walked). It was cute enough but we got out of town by mid-morning to avoid the crowds.
We took the bus to Keswick, about 45 min north of Windermere, which would be our base for the next two nights – and this time we lucked out on a super lovely B&B called the Amble House. We arrived in Keswick to see the local Saturday markets in the bustling town centre and then sat down for a scone and cake to people (and dog) watch. After dropping our bags off we walked out of town to visit the Castlerigg Stone Circle which is said to be raised in 3000 BC and has great panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
The following day we were amped and ready to scale the mighty Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England, just shy of 1000m above sea level. There are several different approaches you can take to the summit, but as we didn’t have a car, we bused from Keswick to Seatoller and then headed off towards Seathwaite Farm where the hike really begins.
The hike itself is quite tough and steep in parts and involves sections of rock climbing/scrambling but for the most part it was really enjoyable – and that is saying something coming from me who hates uphill/step sections of hiking! As we gained elevation some of the breathtaking views came into sight with the sparkling tarns and rolling hills.
For most of our walk Andrew and I didn’t bump into many other people at all but once we got closer to the summit, where all the paths converge, there were hundreds of people taking in the views from the top and stopping for a packed lunch – as we also did.
The hike back down was relatively painless (albeit a couple of wrong turns) we passed the trickling waterfalls and pools of the River Derwent and even took the time to bathe our hot, sweaty feet in the icy waters. All-in-all it was a challenging but very rewarding hike, with fantastic scenery and varying terrain – I would go as far to say I would do it all over again!
On our last day while I was still snuggled up in bed, Andrew thought he’d take the opportunity to do some fell running, because apparently hiking a mountain isn’t hard enough! He ran another 16 odd km’s with an elevation of almost the same as Scafell – yup he’s pretty nuts.
As our train was due to leave from Windermere in the afternoon we took our time travelling back on the open air bus stopping off at the small villages of Grasmere and Ambleside – both very quaint. I can highly recommend stopping for some gingerbread from the famous Grasmere Gingerbread Shop and a hearty pie, mash and gravy from the Great North Pie Co. in Ambleside. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend exploring just a small part of the Lake District so would love to come back to cover off some more ground. While the public transport system in the area was fantastic I think next time calls for hiring a car to get a bit further off the beaten track.
In lieu of a full-on birthday gift for Andrew this year I decided to arrange a surprise weekend trip away to the beautiful Jurassic Coast – because in my book experiences are better than material things! I can’t remember where I had first heard of this place but the photos drew me in and being a UNESCO World Heritage site it had to be amazing. Andrew had already booked in plans to go axe throwing (yes that is a thing!) on the Friday night so we headed off quite early on Saturday morning. I had arranged for us to train to Wool and then bus to Lulworth Cove where you can start the walk along the Jurassic Coast in either direction. Lulworth Cove has a cute little set of shops and a Visitor Centre where you can fill your boots on all things geology and fossils – but as we were on a bit of a schedule we grabbed an ice cream and headed on our way.
My plan was to walk westbound from Lulworth Cove to the town of Weymouth, a punchy 23-odd km’s away. By the time we left Lulworth it was already close to midday and the temperature was steadily rising. Side note here – believe it or not we’ve been having the most amazing summer in the UK, it has consistently been high-20s to low-30s for months now (and the British still complain!). Andrew also failed to mention that he was pretty keen to watch the football match as the entire country believed “It was coming home” so he wanted to make it to a pub by 3pm.
So with a steady pace we cracked on along the coastline first being amazed by the crystal clear waters at Man O’War Beach – it literally looked like somewhere very far from the UK! Then just around the corner is the famous Durdle Door, where the sea and weather have eroded the rocks to create a stunning hole in the rock. Andrew let me sneak in a few photos before cracking the whip and moving us along.
By 2pm we had reached the Smugglers Inn for a well deserved late lunch and a giant pitcher of refreshing Pimms. But unfortunately, there wasn’t a TV in sight. By this time we were feeling a little defeated by the heat and the fact that we still had another 2+hrs to go till we made it to Weymouth, we did even consider a taxi. But the Pimms must’ve pulled us through and the cool water at Weymouth was calling us.
I booked an Airbnb on the Isle of Portland which has an interesting history involving Vikings, Pirates and the Royal Navy. Needless to say, there are a few interesting characters still kicking about. After dropping off our bags and a much-needed shower we headed down to Chesil Beach where we enjoyed a bottle of rosé and fresh fish and chips from the local cafe.
Our hostess whipped us up quite an elaborate breakfast and after talking with her a bit we took one of her recommendations and headed to Church Ope Cove. This small, secluded beach is occupied mainly by locals who were exclaiming that they had never seen the beach so busy as on this day (there were no more than 25 people there!). It was a lovely way to spend the day, getting some Vit-D and I even went for my very first UK ocean swim (it has only taken 2.5yrs!). The water was fresh but lovely and a perfect way to finish off our weekend in the pretty and historic Jurassic Coast.