Manchester Stories and Tips

Lake District: Keswick, Ambleside, Grasmere

Colourful windows in Ambleside Photo, Lake District, England

Keswick is near the north end of the Lake District National Park, taking the Penrith exit off the M6. It's a pretty town, parts of it several centuries old. One church had a 1638 date on it. The houses and fences here are made of slate all stacked up.

When we went, we found a car park just below the main area of the town and near it and just to the right of the car park was a little building called The Teapottery. It is a little factory where teapots are made. The workshop is on the ground floor and the retail outlet is upstairs. Teapots of every shape, size and form imaginable and some that were sheer fantasy! Teapots shaped like furniture, appliances, people and objects. Soccer balls, bellhops, comfy chairs, pianos, faucets (I bought one of those!), even a cowboy in a bathtub! All made into teapots that were usable, not just for decoration although how you could bear to use them and get them stained and chipped, I know not! We were thoroughly enchanted and purchases were made! They did ship items but the one I bought was small.

The lake, Derwentwater, is not far from here. We had to walk under the road in a subway and past a garden and community theater and other tourist shops to get to the lake. The weather is overcast with the occasional spit of rain. The lake was pretty, the little beach lined with flat bottom boats you could rent and punt on the water. There was a lovely large stone cottage nearby as well. Very picturesque! We took some photos of the ducks and the boats and headed back to have a walk through the garden, Hope Park, which came out near a golf course lined with tall Victorian terraced hotels. Back in the village, there are lots of little cafes and restaurants to find a hot lunch. We found one on a side street off the high street that were very satisfactory. I don't remember the name but it was across the street from a shop selling artwork and prints. The high street is lined with gift shops featuring all manner of interesting items. The narrow sidewalks (pavements) can be crowded.

There's also a Pencil Museum here. This is where the Derwent Pencils were manufactured for many years. We didn't get there but I would love to see it someday.

You can drive from Keswick down through the centre of the Lake district on the A591, where the scenery is dramatic with high mountains dotted with sheep and picturesque villages with stone buildings and stone fencing cutting up the hillsides like a patchworkquilt. There is a visitor center on Lake Windemere with some nice gardens. The town of Windemere isn't really all that special though there's a snazzy shop called Lakeland near the train station that carries all sorts of household gadgets and items if you like that sort of thing. There are several places along the road where you can get a boat and cruise Lake Windemere, as well. The visitor Centre has a pier and there are more in other towns such as Ambleside and Windemere itself.

Grasmere is a pretty town and is associated with the poet Wordsworth. His Dove Cottage is here and open for perusement. Another very interesting little cottage used to house a school and now contains a business that has been making gingerbread for over 200 years. You really want to try this! It's not gingerbread like we see as in gingerbread men nor is it cake. It's kind of like a flat chewy slice with a crumbly top over the gingery soft filling which is on a base. It's very different and definitely a treat for your tastebuds. It's now called the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop and it's tucked in behind St. Oswald's church. They also make pots of rum butter, a hard sauce you can heat and pour over a Christmas pudding! There are a few nice little gift shops and the cottages and landscape is very pretty. Well worth a stop.

Ambleside is a bigger town than Grasmere and quite busy. There are a couple of large pay and display car parks. We stopped in a traditional type pub, just across from the car park and up a little hill. It was the Golden Rule where you can have a quiet drink but there isn't much of a menu for a meal. The town has plenty of pubs and restaurants for food, however. We found a basic café and had lunch there and then walked around the picturesque town for awhile. Many of the shops cater to sporting goods and outdoor clothing as hiking and walking is quite popular in the Lake District. We all found something to drool over in a chocolate shop. There's quite a few pretty Bed and Breakfast establishments here as well.

Ambleside is very quaint with many old houses and buildings made of stone or slate which is mined in the Lakes District. We saw Bridge House, arced over a little stream by a building that was probably a mill in it's prior lifetime but is now an Inn, I think. Bridge house is one of the smallest houses in Britain though the one in Conwy is the smallest. This isn't much larger but it was closed so we didn't get a look inside. It was a tourist information centre for the National Trust now. It was originally thought to be storage for apples.

Other things you can do here: Pick up a boat for a cruise on Lake Windemere. There are ruins of a Roman Fort near Ambleside as well though it's just a little excavation site. The museum in Kendal, about a half hour south, has artifacts from the dig. It's a good place for shopping as well.

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