Skiddaw For The Perfect Staycation
If you are thinking of visiting the Lake District for the first time, perhaps for a staycation, you will probably consider the area around Lake Windermere. It is easier to get to than other parts of the Lakes, and is well set up for a thriving tourist industry. But will you be missing out on what the Lakes really have to offer? Stepping away from the more commonly trod paths can lead to a far greater experience of what this small area of England has to offer.
Skiddaw in the Northern part of the Lake District is often described as a visually perfect mountain, rising up from its landscape, dominating it. It is the 6th highest mountain in the UK at 931 metres.
We cannot talk about the Lakes without mentioning its great champion, Arthur Wainwright, who described Skiddaw in his 1962 guide as, “The summit is buttressed magnificently by a circle of lesser heights, all of them members of the proud Skiddaw family, the whole forming a splendid and complete example of the structure of the mountains, especially well seen from all directions because of its isolation.”
And it is the isolation that is part of its appeal. The Lake District is a wonderful part of the UK, somewhere that we should all visit, but it can be as crowded as all of the most notable tourist spots of the world. Skiddaw and the other members of its family will offer you a holiday where you and your family can enjoy the beauty and splendour of the area, but without the queues and some of the litter.
Wainwright observes that you can see Skiddaw from all directions, and that also means that the view from the summit of the surrounding area is one of the best that Lakeland has to offer. Compared to some of the Lakeland climbs, getting to the summit of Skiddaw is quite easy, with some well established paths to the top. There is a steep initial walk, but after that it is fairly straightforward. You will still need to be relatively fit, have a good sense of adventure and most definitely wear appropriate footwear. This is not a spot for high heels or flip flops. Some people do, and have the blisters to show for it!
Part of the Skiddaw family is Ullock Pike, which at 691 metres is a little smaller than its parent but still well worth a climb. Its name comes from the ancient Norse for “The peak where the wolves play.”
After a long walk or even a play with the wolves, you will be thankful for a good meal, relaxing drink and a comfortable bed. You’ve earned it! Good physical exercise, great natural beauty, and the best local food and drink are at the heart of what makes up a Lakeland experience.
While many people visit the Lake District for its mountains and fells, we cannot overlook the lakes and tarns themselves. Bassenthwaite does not disappoint. It is one of the largest lakes, at 4 miles long and one of the shallowest. It is home to the rare and endangered species of fish, the Vendace, which is only found here and in Derwentwater. Photographers appreciate the area for being a little quieter, and with the impressive bulk of Skiddaw behind the lake.
It is also a National Nature Reserve… yes, if you are lucky, you really might see an Osprey, the bird of prey, not the boat. Powered boats are not permitted here, which adds to the peace and tranquillity. Non powered activities such as canoeing, rowing and paddle boarding are permitted although you do need a licence. Canoeing is a great way to experience the lakes from a different viewpoint, as well as being great exercise.
If the prospect of low level walking does not appeal to you, there are many other reasons for visiting this slightly off the beaten track part of the Lakes. You might want to pop into the Lakes Distillery. It opened in 2014 and produces its own artisan gin, whisky and vodka.
It has a visitors centre with its own bistro and shop. You will then want to compare the food and gin with that produced by local hotelier, Mike, at Ravenstone Lodge. You can book in for a meal at his well recognised restaurant even if you are not staying the night in the hotel. Who would have thought that apart from Mountains and Lakes, the Lake District has a thriving gin distilling industry?
Wildlife lovers with a little patience will have plenty to see in the area. Those with a little less patience or with a curiosity about wildlife conservation might want to drop into the Lake District Wildlife Park, which has an emphasis on conservation and education as well as an impressive collection of well looked after animals, from Meercats to Zebras and an impressive display of birds of prey.
The reason for visiting the Lakes is more about doing than just seeing. You may visit the Taj Mahal or Niagara Falls or any other attraction, man made or natural, and will be impressed by the beauty, their size and everything else, and then move on to the next site. But the Lakes are one of those areas where you have to participate to really enjoy and appreciate what is on offer. Skiddaw looks impressive, but that is nothing compared to the feeling of achievement when you get to the top and see the world laid out beneath you, when you breathe in the fresh air, and just enjoy the simple things that life has to offer.
And then when you have done it, there is nothing better than taking off your boots, your cycling shorts, putting down your oars, and sitting back in a warm room, thinking back on the day, remembering the best bits, the more challenging bits. Even a day out on the fells when it is bucketing with rain will be something that you look back on fondly when you are seated by a roaring fire with a whisky or hot chocolate and a fine dinner of local produce inside you.
The experience is taking your part in the local landscape. And that is where staying in a small, local hotel really pays dividends. The Lakes are to be lived in, if only for a few days, where you will want to get a little muddy, a little tired, a little wet. You will know why you are here when it is time to leave.
What are you waiting for?