August 13th-16th, 2015
There’s nothing Dan and I love more than mountains, lakes, trees, and fresh woodsy air and we had heard that all of that and more could be found in northern England’s Lake District, a five hour car ride from our flat in London. So I thumbed through my planner, found a free weekend with no prior plans, and hopped on coolcamping’s website to book us a campsite for a long weekend outdoor getaway.
Turns out we should have booked a longer stay. Have you ever visited somewhere that just eclipsed all your expectations? We had been anticipating some stunning landscape based upon the guide book I had picked up from the library but the views that greeted us were even better than we had hoped for!
We were swept away by the rugged, beautiful scenery, historic sites, and quaint villages we explored during our trip (more about those later!). The landscape is so very unlike London and the rolling countryside that surrounds it, it’s hard to believe that you are in the same country. Who knew England was hiding waterfalls and tall rugged crags? Known not just for its magnificent scenery and being a walkers paradise, but also its artistic heritage, the famous 1800s poet William Wordsworth lived in the region and many present day photographers and painters call the Lakes home.
On our last camping trip in the verdant hills of Somerset, we had rented a camper van but missed the feeling of having a tent over our heads. Since we plan on doing at least a few camping trips around the UK each summer for the next few years as well as wherever we call home next, we decided to invest in buying a few pieces of quality equipment of our own that would last us for some years to come. Dan and I had both done some traditional camping in our youth with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts respectively and Dan even did a two week portaging trip across Minnesota’s Boundary Waters with his Dad in his mid-teens but now that we are adults and have grown used to such comforts as down pillows and cocktail hour, we are more inclined to fall in with the glamping camp of campers. We’ll save the bare essentials, roughing it kind of camping for when we eventually do our bucket list trip of hiking the Oregon portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. For now, I’m settling into my camp chair with a manhattan and a pair of fuzzy slippers!
Glamping isn’t for the hand luggage only type. You need at minimum an air mattress, a big roomy tent, and a cocktail shaker. Well Dan went a little bit crazy at Go Outdoors and Cabelas and before I knew it he was lugging two enormous folding cots and a portable camping kitchen into the house. You know that old joke of packing everything but the kitchen sink? Well we did.
So much so that we couldn’t fit it all in our little Ford Fiesta despite some creative adult Tetris trying to get all the puzzle pieces of our equipment to fit and had to make a last minute run to the B&Q (the UK’s version of Home Depot) for ratchet straps to secure the oversized cots to the roof of the car as well as a tarp, since true to English countryside weather it was expected to rain at some point during our trip.
We eventually got on the road two hours after our expected time of departure and later in the afternoon we finally pulled into The Quiet Site, our home underneath the stars for the next three nights. Located in the eastern part of the Lake District on the northern side of Ullswater Lake, arguably one of the areas’s most picturesque gems with dramatic mountain scenery to its south and gentle hills to the north, the drive up to the campsite was quite scenic. Wooden steamboats operate daily cruises gliding gracefully across the 250 feet deep lake, England’s third deepest, while hikers often make the complete trek around the lakefront trail. During our last camping trip in Somerset, our neighbors were cows, now the “wildlife” were sheep and we could hear their repeated bleating echoing through the fells.
Aside from the usual amenities of showers and pitches, our chosen campsite also boasted a barn turned cozy family pub along with the food truck Saucy Sausage, opened for both breakfast and dinner each evening. There was even an old red telephone booth repurposed into a lending library which I fell in love with. I may have to get one for myself! The name Quiet Site might be a bit of a misnomer though since at the height of the August school holidays there were a dozen kids running around the camp shrieking and playing tag as the adults were getting dinner ready.
We had barely unloaded the car and drove the last tent stake into the ground before the sky opened and the clouds began pouring sheets of rain down (by the way, that rain would not let up for the next twenty hours!) So much for pulling out our brand new GrubHub portable kitchen and cooking steak dinner that night. Thank goodness for the Saucy Sausage! We made the wet, mad dash down to the food truck and then ran just as quickly back to our tent to enjoy our weiners and whiskey cocktails indoors while playing a few rousing hands of UNO.
As darkness settled in and the camp began to grow quiet with everyone hidden inside their dry tents, we bedded down into our comfy cots and cozied up in our plush sleeping bags to watch The Last of the Mohicans on our iPad to the soothing and melodious, though deafening, sound of rain beating down on the tent.