A weekend getaway to Buttermere in the Lake District came about following the really sudden change in season in October. One minute I was lying on a beach in Mexico, still feeling summery in September, the next minute the trees had changed colour, Starbucks had rolled out the inevitable pumpkin spiced latte and Oktoberfest menus were popping up in pubs everywhere.
While some people get depressed at the prospect of winter I really love this time of year, and wanted a proper Autumn getaway to somewhere remote and cosy. I used to visit the Lake District every October half term as a kid, and spent the whole week hiking mountains, playing in the Lake and spending the evenings in the pub. So that’s what I had in mind.
Booking up at The Bridge Hotel, Buttermere
Booking up for a similar trip one weekend in October proved to be quite difficult. Due to the sheer popularity of the Lakes all year round most hotels and cottages only accept a minimum of 2 night stays which just wasn’t doable for us, and places sell out early. I wanted remote Lake District, not Keswick, and nowhere is more perfect for that than Buttermere.
I rang The Bridge Hotel directly after checking their website a week before and finding they had availability for the Saturday night, but were fully booked on the Friday and Sunday so I couldn’t book a 2 night stay anyway. They were really helpful and had me on record from previous visits, and were happy to book us up over the phone for a 4- poster suite, dinner and breakfast for one night.
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We drove down on the Saturday in the bright sun and once off the motorway you can’t help but take the drive slowly, the winding country roads make it difficult for one but then there’s the unbeatable views to take in too. The autumn colours and clear day just made it beautiful, and we had to stop a few times for me to take photos. Yep I do that, just like I take photos of my food.
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Arriving at The Bridge Hotel we were shown to our room which was a lot bigger than the standard hotel rooms I’ve also stayed in there. The big bay window with chaise long, and nothing but a view of the nearby stream and mountains to enjoy was an added bonus. There’s no TV and no wifi but you don’t even notice – not even me and let’s face it I’m obsessed.
The weather was still good so we put on our wellies and walked the ten minute stroll past the farm buildings and only other pub in the village, and along the farm tracks to Buttermere Lake. The bottom corner of the Lake is my favourite spot, sheltered but totally surrounded by nature I can count up three of the mountains that I’ve climbed back in the day.
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We played Pooh sticks under the bridge, and took a short walk along the forest path. You can notice the rock colour gradually changing from the pink rubble of Red Pike back to normal. Another one of those details unique to Buttermere that I notice every time. We turned back about half way down, keeping the full walk around the Lake for the next morning, and head back to get ready for dinner.
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I’d never previously ate in the restaurant, as we always just ate in the walkers pub attached to the hotel. I was a bit disappointed when we booked that we had to take the dinner, bed and breakfast option if I’m honest, but that’s just me being set in my ways. We sat in the pub and had a drink while we ordered our starter and main from the menu. Once our table was ready we were collected by the waitress and taken through to the restaurant in the main house.
We both had tomato soup to start and it was delicious with fresh warm bread rolls and butter. I had the cod for main and Kieran had chicken, both big hearty portions, and they were delicious. Totally winter warming which is what I’d wanted after all, and I’m actually really glad we did the restaurant option. It broke the evening up from just sitting in the pub all night, and the service was impeccable.
After dinner we went back through to the pub where we spent the rest of the evening drinking and playing a good old fashioned game of cards. People I’ve told about this have actually laughed at us for playing cards, but seriously a good old game of black jack or snap is pretty entertaining after a few pints! It’s amazing how much you don’t notice the lack of wifi staying somewhere like that. The lounge does have it, so you can catch up on anything urgent while sat by the fire if you need to.
A mix of the amazing food and all the alcohol left us knackered, full and ready for bed. You’d have thought we had taken on some magnificent peak or five hour hike like most of the fold in the pub that night, not just a bit of a potter along to the lake. Regardless what you choose to do in the Lake District there’s something really cosy about going to sleep in the middle of nowhere in a comfy old fashioned four poster bed. I had the best nights sleep and woke up to the smell of a full English wafting up the stairs the next morning. You basically feel like you’re right at home.
Waking up in the middle of Buttermere Valley surrounded by mountains was such a nice change from the building works currently going on behind my house at home let me tell you. Breakfast was served in the restaurant and you could order a starter of cereal, yoghurt and other smaller dishes, and then have a choice of about five cooked breakfasts including a veggie option (not for me). Again I was very aware that most of the others in the restaurant were fuelling up for big mountain walks, we were just enjoying the food and peace and quiet.
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We did take on a walk that morning, the 5 miles around the lake that I think is the go to walk in Buttermere if you’re not equipped for the likes of Fleetwith Pike, Haystacks or Red Pike. Having said that I turned out to not be that well equipped for this low level, relatively flat walk either as it PISSED it down. Back in the day with Nige and Viv (parents) I was forced to wear full length waterproof trousers, fleeces and waterproof jacket. I hated them they were so ugly but fast forward 15 years and I would have worn anything to stay dry.
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You just look daft in the Lake District with an umbrella but that’s what I had to deal with. I was warm enough and the good old Hunter wellies were perfect. The walk takes you through the local farm, forrest scenery, a small cave, and plenty opportunities to splash around in the lake. It is beautiful even in the pouring rain and it was fun.
In true Lake District style the sun came out just as we got back to the pub, where we had Cumberland sausage and mash and a Guinness. Sat in the pub again that lunchtime I can see why people stay for two nights it never gets old.
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Keswick and Ambleside
No trip to the Lake District is complete without a short visit to Keswick. I wanted to go purely for Ye Olde Friars sweetshop and nothing else, and it’s a nice drive through Winlatter to get there. It’s very easy to get carried away in that sweetshop, it’s so old fashioned and they have EVERYTHING you could possibly want. I spent £30 on chocolate. Other than the sweetshop I just couldn’t deal with Keswick, it wasn’t market day (Saturdays – try the olives they’re goooood), and it was noisy compared to Buttermere. Instead we got back in the car and went over to Ambleside.
An afternoon at Waterhead was spent eating the famous chocolate dipped ice cream, feeding the ducks and swans, and collecting conkers. Do you know they keep spiders away? The past two years we’ve put them in the corner of windowsills and any dark corner the little bastards emerge from. They don’t like the smell apparently and from my experience it seems to work. The huge conker tree (real name anyone?) by the lakeside gave us two bags full. No spiders in my house this winter.
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Ambleside was our last stop before home. The two day trip felt a lot longer than that, and I love how it’s one of those places you can go at any time of year and know it will still deliver. I really recommend the Bridge Hotel, Buttermere for food, service and location if a middle of nowhere break from reality is what you’re after. Just make sure you know in advance when you want to go and get booked up early to avoid disappointment.
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For an Autumnal trip a bit further afield, take a look at Wandering Chocobo’s Day Trip from Munich that combines hiking with beer too! Or perhaps take on one of Mexatia’s 15 things to do in Zagreb in Autumn. It’s the perfect time of year to hike to Zagreb’s hill, Medvednica. Over in the states the Hudson Valley offers some beautiful scenery, as well as apple picking – something I’d love to do it’s on the old bucket list.
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