A – Z of Locations: K is for Kirkstone Pass

During this year I shall be posting photographs from places around the UK, many of which have not been published before. Where I have previously blogged about a location I will provide a link to the post, though you won’t be able to comment on it as I restrict comments to six months.

K is for Kirkstone Pass

The Kirkstone Pass with an altitude of 1,489 feet is the Lake District’s highest pass that is open to motor traffic. The A592, which follows the route of a drover’s road used by farmers, runs from Windermere to Patterdale, but we took the short three mile winding road from Ambleside through the mountains, known as ‘The Struggle’ which leads to the Kirkstone Pass Inn.

The steep twisty road is totally paved but curvy, narrow and very steep, hitting a harsh 17% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Due its steepness it was traditionally known as ‘The Struggle’.
The Struggle
The Kirkstone Pass Inn stands close to the summit of the pass. Formerly an important coaching inn, it now caters primarily for tourists. It is the third highest public house in England.

Continuing past the inn towards Ullswater, you find yourself looking at this spectacular view.

Brothers Water is in the Hartsop valley and is a small lake in the eastern region of the Lake District. Once called Broad Water, it lies at the northern end of Kirkstone Pass, affording picturesque views on the descent towards Patterdale.

The Pass is only to be driven in good weather. It can get dangerous in the winter when covered with snow and ice.

Countryside of Contrasts

First there is Hadrian: milecastles, hill forts and temples and bucket loads of history from its turbulent English – Scottish conflicts. Where man and beast walk on the wall.Hadrian's Wall

sheep on wall

Then there are the green fells and bubbling rivers stained tea brown from all the tannin, and the heather-clad Pennine landscape where sheep abound and rare alpine plants can be found.

Cottage Mile after mile of roller coaster roads with their blind summits and hidden dips, twisting hairpin bends and narrow single lane bridges arching over wee burns. And long forgotten viaducts striding over a river many vertiginous feet below.

lambley viaduct (2) Invigorating walks lead past houses built in a golden stone with pots full of bright red geraniums and purple petunias cascade and where inviting tea-rooms with a friendly welcome are set amidst old rail tracks. Stop at a traditional pub, some dating back to the 12th century, others used as a meeting place in the Jacobite Rebellion, where smiling bar-staff greet you with their warm northern accent and make you reluctant to leave.

The Garden Station Explore villages and small towns where houses are crammed together supporting one another, wander down hidden snickets and narrow cobbled lanes with secret gardens. Where churches with ancient churchyards are open at all times welcoming strangers to view their beautiful stained glass windows, bell towers, carved pulpits and unusual altars or simply to admire the craftsmanship of the home-made pew cushions, lovingly stitched by the congregation.

Alnmouth Finally there’s the coast and the castles. Wide, sandy beaches, river mouths and harbours and huge dunes with wild flowers. Tide timetables to consult, micro breweries and Craster kippers to taste, seals and summer sea-bird colonies to see and a walk to a castle last occupied during the Wars of the Roses. A church cut off from its village by the river changing its course in a violent storm over two centuries ago. History is around every corner.

lindisfarne 257

Derwent reservoir
Derwent reservoir

Herons and cormorants and twenty-five white swans on the River Coquet at Warkworth, swifts and finches flying in and out of the barns, stopping to briefly rest on the top of a stone wall beside you, but not long enough for a photo. The call of an owl, the sighting of a hawk. Dozens of rabbits scurrying around a churchyard at dusk. Grouse strutting nonchalantly along the lanes as if they know it’s not the shooting season.

sheep And the sky – the big open sky – cumulus clouds, a rainbow over the fells, the zillion stars and the Milky Way. You want to gaze at it all the time. Your eyes are drawn upwards.  And driving home in the dusk after a very long day you round a final bend and slam on the brakes as a young deer glides across the road in front of you. It stops, hesitates, eyes shining in the headlights before turning around to disappear back into the gloom of the woodland from whence it has come. Serendipity.

Circumnavigating Grasmere Lake

Whilst in the Lake District last month – time flies – we did a couple of lakeside walks. One, around the pretty picture postcard village of Grasmere is about 3 miles long which is long enough for me, especially as on this day, rain threatened.  The lake is one of the smallest and a full circuit should not take long unless, like me, you stop to take dozens of photographs. The start and end of the walk is on the road, but it is fairly level once you reach the lake shore and there is a lovely lakeside beach at the southern end.

After wandering around the lovely village for half an hour or so, we headed off along Red Bank at the west of the village (near the church) and up hill where stunning homes nestle amongst the woodland filled with vibrant pinks and mauves of rhododendrons. DSCF7167

Where fayries wander

Selma and Siri's Lakeland cousins perhaps?
Selma and Siri’s Lakeland cousins perhaps?

and bright yellow Welsh poppies huddle alongside the hedgerows. In fact I am reminded of Wales here. Though it feels lighter somehow.

One, the wooden Garden House, appealed to me, but I dare say the price is high as well as the terraced garden, but oh, what a view.

DSCF7188The road continued meandering around bends, with no sight of a lake.


Then, a glimpse, through the trees and not long after we found the rough track leading down to the shoreline.

And a lovely house by the side
And a lovely house by the side

The views once we reached the shore were amazing. Lush green fells rearing up all the way around the lake, the village now shrouded in cloud and to the south, just a glimpse of the beach we were heading to.



And neat wooden boardwalks to help us safely over the streams that feed into the lake.

Ripples in the rain
Ripples in the rain
Lakeside Path
Lakeside Path

The path follows the shoreline until you reach the southern end, where you head up slightly into woodland, before coming out onto the beach. This must be a lovely place for a picnic in the summer months. It was, however, a little drizzly today.


But with beautiful reflections in the mirror-like surface


We found more people at this end of the lake (and discovered later that there is a car-park not too far away), some sitting admiring the view, others walking their dogs,  and other fit people climbing up the fell behind us.


DSCF7257Now we had to decide which way to go. There was no obvious sign, so we headed over the wooden bridge and into the woodland. Only to get lost. Later we realised that we should have simply followed the path alongside the river as that led to the road and car-park. It was awfully wet though.

DSCF7261Into the wood

DSCF7264Finally, after doubling back on ourselves a couple of times, we found a way out of the wood and onto the very busy A591 road which leads to Windermere. Fortunately we only had a few metres to walk before hitting the pavement which took us back into Grasmere. Can you spot that lovely house overlooking the lake?


A last view of the lake at the northern end.


If you enjoy a walk, short or long, then you may enjoy visiting Jo’s Monday Walk where you are in for a treat.


A Lakeside Evening Stroll

It rained on Thursday 5th June, but not too heavily. After a lazy start and some essential shopping in Keswick, we drove to see the Catlerigg Stone Circle above Keswick and then on to Ullswater, stopping for an early dinner in a traditional pub, The Horse and Farrier,  in Dacre on the way back. On reaching Keswick it had turned into a lovely evening, with the sun shining and the air warm. Time to take another stroll around the lake – OK, not ALL the way round – just a short circuit past the Keswick launches, along the foreshore and up to Friar’s Crag then around a beach full of lambs playing tag and hide and seek, skirting Cockshut Wood, up towards Castlehead Wood and back into the town. About an hour’s gentle stroll.

Head on down to the lakeside from the town passing through Hope Park where the flower beds are full of pretty blues like these geraniums and irises.

alongside the new Theatre by the Lake


with a glance across Crow Park where sheep roam and people gather for picnics and the 360 degree views of the surrounding fells – Borrowdale to the south, Catbells to the west, Skiddaw and Blencathra, north-east.


Carry on along to where the road terminates at the Keswick Launch jetties. There are lots of benches to sit on and watch the sun set over Derwentwater


And it continues as a broad pathway which follows the lake shore through shady trees to Friar’s Crag


which is named because the craggy headland is said to have been the launch point for monks making a pilgrimage to St Herbert’s Island.

(St Herbert’s Island was the setting for Owl Island in Beatrix Potter’s book ‘The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin’. )

Bear left to visit a memorial to John Ruskin in amongst the trees, then head down some steps to another path which leads through a gate and onto the shoreline.

Views south to Borrowdale

Where a group of young lambs were play-fighting and chasing one another along the shore.

At this point you can continue around the lakeside through another gate leading to Calfhouse Bay, but we left the shore and headed back towards Keswick via Cockshut Wood.

Through another gate into the wood, watch out for deer and red squirrels, then at a clearing, exit right through a gate towards Castlehead Wood, up on a hill in front of you.


We didn’t go up there on this evening as we’d been up before and it’s a rough scramble at the top to a view-point. That’s another walk!

At the road, turn left along a path which runs parallel to the Borrowdale Road and back into the town. We left it at the churchyard and cut through the lane beside the church back to our apartment.

Looking Back at the Lake

Where we had a lovely cold G&T.

If you enjoy a walk, short or long, then you may enjoy visiting Jo’s Monday Walk where you are in for a treat.

Just Back From… The Lake District

I don’t know why I haven’t been back to the Lake District since I was a young girl, apart from gallivanting around the world, raising four children and not being able to afford holidays for many years. Then again, I am  not one to go back to the same place very often. Cornwall currently being the exception.

Keswick Town Centre

So to celebrate the OH’s recent significant birthday I decided that it was time we headed north again and booked an apartment in Keswick, one of the most northern lakeside towns in the National Park. It so happened to be where I spent my last holiday with my parents, but that being over 40 years ago I wasn’t expecting to recognise anything. And I didn’t except for the Moot Hall. Wasn’t pedestrianised then though.

The Moot Hall

The apartment turned out to be fine. Within walking distance of the town and therefore shops and pubs and restaurants and also 10 minutes walk down to the lakeside for lovely late evening strolls. And a parking space! A real bonus in this town. Stepping outside the front door the views were wonderful in every direction.

The Churchyard Opposite

With no real plans in mind, just to take each day as it came and decide where to go and what to do, we ended up having a very relaxed week, with reasonably fine weather. Only one day with heavy rain. A few light showers. Lots of gorgeous views that blew the mind, some delightfully gentle walks around lakes and one stiff climb up a hill for a stunning view that made the effort worth while. And hearing a cuckoo for the first time in years.

Grasmere is probably Cumbria’s most popular village as it was the home of William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and the place of his burial. It attracts coachloads of visitors and walkers too as there is a fairly easy walk circumnavigating the lake. A pretty village, geared more towards the tourist market than locals, it nevertheless has a timeless charm about it.

Houses around Grasmere

I can vouch for the gingerbread – it is delicious! There is a walk around the lake, but I’ll post that separately.

Driving through Borrowdale and over the Honiston Pass where a slate quarry provides a place to stop and exclaim at the astonishing views. You can get a slate name plate made while you wait too if you want. We need a house first though. Stopping at local pubs for lunch of  home-made pies or thick, spicy Cumberland sausage. Admiring the lovely Herdwick sheep with their black lambs.

Ashness Bridge and Herdwick Sheep

Discovering the sheer quiet beauty of Crummock Water where I thought I caught a glimpse of a fayrie – but maybe not.

Crummock Water
Crummock Water
A Pied Wagtail and a fayrie?

and Lake Coniston with the steam-driven Gondola and nearby Tarn Hows.

Tarn Hows

Heading over to Ullswater, reached by driving over Kirkstone Pass. The ‘Struggle‘should have given the game away when we decided to turn off at Ambleside “I don’t want to go up that really narrow, windy road” says I. Too late.

And then there was the  Castlerigg Stone Circle, only a mile or so from Keswick,  with panoramic views and the mountains of Helvellyn and High Seat as a backdrop and where the light on the surrounding fells took my breath away.

Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle – View

I can see why people return here time and time again. We saw but a tiny portion of the Lake District, but enough to whet our appetite and consider another holiday there in the not too distant future.