Motorhome: check. Sat-nav: check. Provisions and clothes: check. Site bookings: check. Two small dogs: check. So what else is left?
The time has come to do what I have been planning for so long – to tour the Lake District. And with everything in place, the only thing that was left was for me to actually do it!
I had very little camping or touring experience. Just one very cold night in a tent as a girl guide, and a couple of trips in a caravan some 50 years ago – in the days when you lit a gas mantle to get lights, and your ‘facilities’ were a large bucket.
As I hadn’t visited the Lake District for some 25 years, I was looking forward to enjoying those breathtaking views. They would be my reward for overcoming my nerves as a first-timer.
Mapping out the route
Everything had been planned carefully. On my journey from Norfolk to the Lake District I would be stopping at three Caravan and Motorhome Club sites: Milestone Caravan Park in Newark, the Wharfedale site and then onto the Borrowdale site for five nights.
I wasn’t really sure how far was a reasonable distance to drive each day, so I was aiming for between two and three hours at a stretch.
It would be fair to say that my knowledge of motorcaravanning was pretty rudimentary, but I reasoned it would improve with experience – I just had to get on with it!
And, thankfully, the first leg of my first journey was blissfully uneventful and the ’van ran well.
Time to stretch the legs
Milestone Caravan Park is in a very convenient location just off the A1. The wardens were welcoming and the pitch was level.
A bonus was an excellent walk for the dogs from the site along a track and across a field, either returning through the village or back the way you had come. So far, so good!
The next morning I rejoined the A1 travelling north to the Wharfedale site, one mile from Grassington.
This is a really pretty site, I found it easy to reach and it is set in lovely open countryside with immediate access via an attractive, fenced-in dog-walk to open moorland.
As I had planned a two-night stay here, I took the opportunity to walk from the site to Kilnsey Crag, via a footpath taking you on to open moorland, crossing pretty streams and with excellent views of the surrounding countryside.
On reaching Kilnsey I was delighted to find that there was an excellent dog-friendly restaurant at the Kilnsey Park Estate Fly Fishery and Trout Farm, where I received a warm welcome and a choice of snacks and lunches.
The lakes are spring-fed and if you just want to eat the fish without the hassle of trying to catch them, there is plenty of choice. Kids will love meeting the farm animals, cycling and pony-trekking.
Another big plus was the minibus stop adjacent to the Tennants Arms pub just up the road, and thankfully a minibus waiting to take me straight back to the Long Ashes Park site, adjacent the Wharfedale site.
Carefully does it
Now for the main purpose of the trip – Borrowdale. So I joined the A65 to get onto the M6.
At Ingleton I discovered an excellent, easy-to-access service station with a large Co-op and cash machine, providing a welcome opportunity to restock and refuel.
From the M6 to the A591 past Kendal and on to Keswick it was scenic and relatively traffic-free. However, the final approach to Borrowdale is narrow and, for a newcomer to motorcaravanning, quite challenging.
It is not so much the road that is narrow, more that the cars parked along it make it tricky to negotiate. And that, unfortunately, the hedges appear to only be cut back at car-height level, so you are dealing with tree branches sticking out into the road.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club handbook warns to “check the bridge is clear” – the bridge in question is of the single-width, double-humpback variety!
Enjoying the simple life
On arrival at the site, the wardens were delightful and calmed my shattered nerves. This site has no toilet or shower facilities, but provides the most tranquil setting for a relaxing break.
Set in a wooded area, you could walk straight from your ’van onto paths into Manesty Wood, to the shores of Derwentwater, or to the higher or lower level walks over Cat Bells.
It is about a mile to walk to the landing stage at High Brandelhow on Derwentwater, where you can enjoy a relaxing boat trip taking in stops around the lake including Keswick.
This is a really excellent way to visit different parts of Derwentwater, and operates on a hop-on, hop-off basis going in either a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, meaning your ticket will allow you to stop off at all seven landing stages, so long as you only go in one direction. Discounted tickets are available from the wardens on site.
Fancy staying on terra firma?
There is also a bus that stops outside the site that will take you to Keswick and on to Thornthwaite, Buttermere and Seatoller, so you can easily access other areas.
I only took this once, preferring the serenity of the launches on the lakes to the dramatic climbs and descents of the bus route to Keswick – although the skill of the bus drivers as they negotiated the narrow route was astounding!
Both the Lodore Falls Hotel and the Borrowdale Hotel are within walking distance for a meal or a drink. The Grange Café next to the double-hump bridge in Grange is also well worth a visit.
For me the highlight of the trip was staying right next to Derwentwater, in such a tranquil place. My early morning dog-walks round the edge of the lake were very special, before the area became busy with other visitors.
The peace and quiet were wonderful, and the various sculptures along the lakeside all added to the charm.
A whole new world
So, was it all worth it? Yes!
I am far from competent, but I am improving all the time. I understand my motorhome much better now, and am learning that if I don’t know how something works, there is usually someone else on site who does.
My motorhome is opening up all kinds of opportunites for me. It lets me take a mini version of my home with me on my journeys.
In fact, I am already booked into a site at Coniston for a week later in the year – roll on summer!