Last week I went on holiday with my dad to the Lakes District. I'd heard that it was very pretty countryside, and I'd seen it mentioned in some books (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) so I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great (it was either raining or about to do so), so while that meant we didn't have the best views along the way, and we couldn't go for walks without getting soaked, it did mean that there were awesome waterfalls coming down the hills. In fact, it reminded me a bit of Milford Sound -- there were even misty clouds coming down the valleys.
The first night we stayed in Windermere, and we ended up in a nice big YHA which was up on a hill with views of the lake. We could even see the views sometimes in between all the clouds. It turned out to be the YHA that my parents had stayed at 30 years ago when they came to England. The building was from the 30s and was the first building in England to be built of concrete.
The next day we got the car ferry across the lake and went to visit Beatrix Potter's house. It's pretty cool because it's exactly how it was when she lived there (she gave it to the National Trust on her death), with the same furnishings, and they have her books lying around so you can see the illustrations and match the furniture and views to what's in the house. We then drove to Lake Coniston which is where Donald Campbell set the water speed record in the 60s. It's also where John Ruskin (a philosopher) is buried, so we saw his grave. We drove around the narrow windy roads, slowing down whenever we came across another car coming towards us. It's a bit scary as there are stone walls on either side of the roads, so you don't have much room to manoeuver, especially when a campervan or truck is speeding towards you.
We stopped for lunch in Keswick, and had a delicious toasted panini with beef and lots of blue cheese. Then we visited the tourist information centre to work out where to go, and decided to try out the Honister Pass. As we came up to the start of the pass we could see that the road was pretty steep (I think it said 25% gradient), so we were thankful that we were in a grunty little car. The YHA is at the top of the pass, and the only other thing there is a slate mine. It's still in use, and offers tours of the old part of the mine, so the next day we did a tour and got to wear awesome miners' hats with the lights on them. We learnt about how the layers of rock are like a cheese sandwich, with the slate as the cheese and volcanic rock as the bread. So they tunnel in sideways so that they don't have to go through the bread and can get straight to the good bit. Inside the mine you can see the huge slab of bread and it's a bit scary, especially when he mentions an earthquake they had (thankfully it was 30 years ago, and nothing much happened in the mine). The mine's owner has plans to turn one of the big caverns in the mine into a theatre, so that will be interesting to see in a few years.
The weather was a bit brighter that day, so as we headed out of the pass and down to Buttermere we stopped to have a walk. It's quite amazing, as you're driving along you don't see too many cars, and then you come to a wee village with a pub and a church and a couple of houses, and you head to the carpark and there are masses of cars there! I don't know where they all come from. We walked through a farm to the lake and it was quite full. In fact, it had overflowed into the field next to it, and there were some people wearing gumboots wading through it. Unfortunately the path to the waterfall was also underwater so we didn't get to see it up close.
After that we headed out of the Lakes District and up to Carlisle. On the way we stopped at Maryport to look at the Roman museum and see where a Roman fort used to be. They had found heaps of altars in the area so the museum was full of them. Then we went to Carlisle and found a YHA to stay in. It was a bit of an effort as the GPS took us 30km in the wrong direction before taking us to the YHA. Carlisle didn't seem like a particularly exciting town, although it did have a castle in the middle of it, and it also had a cracker factory and another old factory with a gigantic chimney.
The next day we went to see part of Hadrian's Wall which was pretty cool. There's still some parts of it in pretty good condition considering how old it is. You don't really realise how old it is, until we went to see where they had built a bridge in the wall for a river, and now the river is several hundred metres away. Then we drove through some small country lanes into the Pennines, and drove up to the highest point (I think it was 1900 feet). There was an awesome view from the top out over the countryside. After that it was a fairly uneventful trip down the M6 to Kidderminster where we stayed with friends of my Grandma. They have lived in the same house for 40 years which seems amazing.
On Friday we took the scenic route to Oxford, which involved driving through parts of the Cotswolds. Once in Oxford we found a B&B to stay at, and then did a walking tour of the city. We saw a couple of the 38 colleges that make up Oxford University, including the ones that JRR Tolkein and Lewis Carroll went to. We also saw a few of the places that Harry Potter was either filmed at or had sets inspired by, including the Dining Hall which was based on the one at Christ Church College. Lewis Carroll went to this college, and the tour guide told us that he wrote Alice in Wonderland while he was there, and that various elements of the book were inspired by things at the college. For example, after dinner, one of the teachers didn't like company after he'd eaten, so he had a trapdoor by his chair that he would disappear down after dinner. And there was a garden in amongst the buildings that you could enter via a small door -- this inspired the part where Alice grew really big and couldn't fit through the door.
That night we picked up Stuart from the train station and stayed at a lovely B&B. On Saturday we headed out of Oxford towards Chisbury which was where my parents worked for 6 months on a little farm. It took us a while to find it because we thought it was actually Little Bedwyn which was nearby, and we were looking for a postbox in a wall which is harder to find than you might think. Eventually we were successful, and so we meandered through some little villages including Bourton-on-the-Water (aka "Venice of the Cotswolds"), before stopping in Burford for a late lunch. That night we stayed on a farm B&B near Broadway, where we heard that there was a vintage car rally nearby that weekend, which explained all the old Riley cars we'd seen on the roads.
So on Sunday we headed off to try and find the car rally. We got to the spot but discovered a huge line waiting to get in, and that it cost £25 per person, so we gave it a miss. Instead we headed back up to Birmingham so that Stuart and I could get the train back to London. On the way we stopped at Ledbury, a nice little town with a half-timbered house on stilts. Under this house was the old market place which would have been convenient if it rained. Then we drove to Warwick and walked around the castle and looked in the old Cathedral. Warwick had some impressive examples of the houses that had the first level larger than the ground level, and the second level larger than the first level etc. This is because they used to pay tax based on the ground area the houses took up, so they sneakily made the ground level smaller than the others.
Finally we made it to Birmingham in time for Stuart and I to take advantage of the luxuries of travelling 1st class. These include free cookies and beverages, and wifi and crisps on the train. Awesome.
Photos are up now!