We spent three days and three nights in England’s Lake District. The first night was in Bowness-on-Windermere and the next two nights in a delightful B&B in Keswick.
Our first stop, a sort of southern gateway to England’s beautiful Lake District, was a charming little lakefront town called Bowness-on-Windermere.
It reminded us of Sausalito, near our home in California: scenic, quaint and charming, with great water views, but also a bit overrun with tourists.
The schools in England had just let out for the summer. Families were flocking to the Lake District. Bowness-on-Windermere was clogged with them. And, for good reason as the lake was quite beautiful.
We felt happy to be in a place of such natural beauty, where so many people were enjoying their vacation holidays, away from the strain of daily life at home.
Earlier that afternoon, on the way into town, we stopped at the Blackwell Arts and Crafts Home.
Built in 1900 as the summer home for the family of a wealthy brewery owner in Manchester, it was designed by an accomplished architect, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott.
The home was situated on a hill overlooking the lake, and in its day was a fun-filled summer home for the owners and their five children. After one of their sons was killed in World War I, the family lost interest in the home.
During the Second World War, the house was converted into a boarding for girls from Liverpool, so that they could escape the Nazi aerial bombing raids.
Since the family neglected the home, but never sold it, it was able to avoid major renovations which would have altered the integrity of its arts-and-crafts design.
To walk through the home, knowing the sad history of the family’s later loss, we could visualize the home in its heyday, full of life.
Reading some of the stories of the women who were boarded at the house as girls during the war was also quite moving.
And mostly, we love the Arts and Crafts style, so it was a great opportunity to see such a classic and grand example.
After our short stay in Windermere, we were really delighted to reach our main destination in the Lake District, the old market town of Keswick (pronounced kes-sick), a bit farther north.
Keswick had all the charm of Windermere, and its own beautiful lakefront, but was far less overrun with tourists.
Unbeknownst to us before we got there, Keswick is the site of an annual conference of Evangelical Christians from various denominations.
The Keswick Convention, as it is known, has operated every summer since 1875. The Convention was in full swing during our stay in Keswick.
Somehow, though, we did not feel crowded with the conventioneers in Keswick. They seemed to spend most of their time in their conference sessions, and for the most part they did not frequent the pub where we ate dinner.
Hiking Walla Crag
We occupied ourselves in Keswick by hiking the hills that surround the town.
On our first day there, we racked up eleven miles walking.
We hiked up to a place called Walla Crag. It was a six-mile round trip. At the top we were treated to spectacular views of the lake district and the village of Keswick.
The Lake District is exceptionally beautiful, and the mid-summer English weather was ideal for trekking — intermittent rain and sun, with mild temperatures.
At the top of Walla Crag, we met a father and his young daughter who were attending the Convention. He was very friendly, not at all stuffy or pretentious.
We asked him about the Convention, and he happily explained a bit about its history, including the fact that it has always included a diverse mix of different Protestant denominations — Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Quaker, etc.
“So,” we asked, grinning, “are there a lot of fist fights at the Convention?”
No, he replied with a laugh, there are not a lot of fist fights at the Convention.
As elsewhere in England, the hiking trail at times utilized right-of-ways across fields of grazing sheep.
And, again, we were simply and gently reminded to “Shut the Gate” behind us.
After visiting the Crag we headed into town for a bite to eat and a walk along the lake. There was a wonderful wooded park by the lake.
The wooded park included a Disk Golf course used by the young locals.
It was: Put down beer – Throw disk – Curse after disk hits a tree – Pick up beer – Walk to disk – Repeat.
The next day in town we also discovered a short “Pitch and Putt” golf course which we couldn’t resist. For 5£ we got a ball, pitching wedge and a putter. Each of the nine holes was only about 20 to 40 yards long.
Alas, even with the super short par threes, we only had one par hole between us. Not a stellar performance, but it was fun. Next time we might stick to proper courses, the ones that feature windmills and loop-de-loops.
In town we found a delightful pub called Oddfellows Arms. It was very authentic, with a friendly vibe, good beers, and a great beef stew served in a large Yorkshire pudding bowl. We ate dinner there twice.
It was easy to fall into conversation with fellow travelers, almost always British folks on holiday. With the British Pound down in value on global markets after the Brexit vote, more Brits are practicing “stay-cations” — touring the U.K. rather than Europe.
Throughout our Britain Back Roads trip, we delighted in being back in an English-speaking country. It permitted easy conversations and even let us occasionally eavesdrop.
We came to love the sound of English voices. Quite, quite.
Above is our little Fiat parked in front of our B&B in Keswick.
Shakespeare on the Lake
For a small town, Keswick has a very healthy theater company. We saw a Wednesday matinee performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”.
Frank’s daughter Naomi is an actress in New York. She has told us that if an actor truly understands both the language and the plot in a Shakespeare play, then the audience will have no difficulty following along. This production was brilliantly acted with joy and energy. It was a pleasure to watch and easy to follow.
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After three truly lovely days in Keswick, where we enjoyed ample exercise, we were ready for the long drive northward, to Scotland.