Friday, August 7, 2015

This time of year is supposed to be Britain's warmest, driest time, which gave us hope for good weather when we decided to travel there.  I bought some comfortable sandals to take on the trip, as well as some capris and t-shirts.  As our trip drew nearer, I checked the forecast every day, and every day it got worse and worse.  By the time we left rain was forecasted for the entirety of our trip.  So instead of packing my sandals I brought boots, pants (and rain pants) instead of capris, and long sleeved shirts and jackets as well as my t-shirts.  I hope this isn't a miserable trip!  I thought.  "Isn't rain part of what makes England, England?"  Eric asked me.  He wasn't phased, so I let it go.
We decided to lengthen our 3 hour drive from Edinburgh to Keswick, England (in the lovely Lake District) to 8 hours, taking in the sights as we drove down.  We saw a sign on the way for Thirlestane Castle, in Lauder, Scotland, and decided to stop.  It was a beautiful castle converted "country house" occupied by the Duke of Lauder in the 16th century.  Members of the Lauder family still live in it today. (By the way, I apologize for some of these photos not being centered.  Not sure what's going on but blogger won't let me fix it).
The grounds were beautiful.
All those sheep dotting the green!  We knew we would see sheep on our trip, but they are everywhere. Their entire lives consist of eating grass.  And that's about it.  Poor sheep!  Of course, they do have plenty to go around, in a beautiful landscape.  So maybe its not so bad.
Then we drove to Jedburgh to get a tourist map, and as we were doing so noticed the most amazing smell coming from a nearby restaurant.  It smelled like homemade rolls and jam.  And then I knew it:  we must eat lunch there.  We did, and it was delicious!  We both had paninis, mine a cranberry and brie.  It was so good that I ordered the same sandwich at another restaurant later in the week.  It was just as good.  Then, shortbread for dessert.
 Goodbye Scotland, Hello England!
 We eventually made it to our bed and breakfast, Gill Brow Farm.  Instead of being in town it was a few miles out, and up the crag (hill).  We met our sweet host, Ann, who made us tea and spongebread (mmm!) Gill Brow is a working sheep farm, and the house is over 300 years old.  It is a simple, comfortable farmhouse.  We then decided to go for a drive through Newlands Pass.  Because we just hadn't had enough time in the car yet (!).
 Word cannot describe......the beauty of it!
 Sheepy spotted crags.  Everywhere.  And the mist that enveloped us.
 We had seen that there was a waterfall nearby so we stopped and walked up to it.

So many stone fences everywhere.  Every time I looked at them I thought about how much time it must have taken to collect all those rocks, let alone build the fences.  It blows my mind.  I wonder how many years people were building these stone fences, all over the place.
These black slugs were everywhere.  

We finally made it to Keswick that evening.  We both just loved the village!  It was a small touristy town, like something from Currier & Ives.  I could picture a large tree in the square at Christmas.  We thought about going to a sit down restaurant for dinner, but decided to grab some "take away" fish and chips from the Old Keswickian that were supposed to be really good.  And oh yes they were.  We roamed the quiet streets, enjoying the rain-free evening and lazy atmosphere.  It was a magical night.

Me with my sticky fish and chips fingers.  I'm holding Rick Steves's travel guide to Great Britain, which we used for our trip.
The next morning we headed to Sawrey Village, where Beatrix Potter's summer cottage is.  We stopped at Castlerigg Stone Circle on the way, a type of mini Stonehenge.  And it was just us, the stones, and the sheep.


When we reserved a rental car, it was a lot cheaper to get a manual.  Eric preferred an automatic since he was already going to be dealing with driving on the left side of the road, but didn't want to pay the higher price for one, so manual it was.  He did a great job, though there were some intense moments between us at first.  The problem was that there were too many one lane roads (that were two way) with locals who didn't feel the need to move over, or slow down.  The result was that Eric had to drive as far to the left as possible so we wouldn't get hit, and this increased my stress levels......  But eventually he got into a rhythm with things and the levels dropped. :)
At this point (above) a large trailer had parked perpendicular to the road to unload and then lead a monstrosity of a cow to his pasture.  We just chuckled.  We weren't in Kansas anymore!

Our teeny tiny car.
Here are some photos of Beatrix Potter's garden and home.  It was so charming.  The home hasn't been touched much inside since she passed away 70 years ago, just as she asked. There are still sketches on the tables.  It was great.

The garden gate used in some of her book illustrations.
We grabbed a copy of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggeywinkle for Aspen and walked back to the car, admiring the village as we went (below).
 Quaint village on our drive (below).

Then we headed to Keswick again to hike the Catbells which was, according to Rick Steves, the hike with the best views.  It is a very popular hike, and I though that meant it would be a nice, gradual climb, moderately difficult.  Little did I know the horror that awaited us......
We took a boat to the start of the hike, got off, and tried to find the trail.  We quickly learned that this hike didn't have any markings or signs, and we were pretty much left on our own to figure things out.  This would happen again in Wales.  We followed some other people for a while but then realized they must have been doing a different hike.  We finally figured out where the Catbells started and made our way up.

It was breathtaking on every side.  The higher we went, the more we could see.  It started to rain, but it wasn't bad so I just threw on my rain jacket.  Eric was too hot for a jacket and just carried the umbrella. I had brought some rain pants but wasn't too anxious to put them on because they fit really funny.  More on that later.
I never knew we'd see so many ferns!  They were beautiful.

Okay so it kept raining and my jeans were getting pretty soaked so I finally relented and put on the pants.  Its hard to tell in this photo but I can grab the back of these pants and pull them out 8 inches. They are not the most flattering pants.  But....they kept me dry.  I actually developed a warm relationship with these pants.  More on that later.
Now most of the hikes in the States have switchbacks, which allows one to walk at a lesser grade, leaving energy and awareness to notice one's surroundings and enjoy one's hike overall.  Not so on the Catbells, not this day.
 I don't know of you can see but the trail leads straight up the mountain.  We made some friends on the hike, a man from Bristol and his two young sons.  One walking alongside, one being carried.  As we ascended, I happened to mention my concern about the route the trail was taking.  Eric said something like, "Would you like me to ask our friend up there if he can carry you too?"  No sympathy!
So Eric reached the top first.  I did too eventually and it was worth it.  Every step.  The 360 degree views were stunning!
We could see Gill Brow Farm from the top too.  Then, just moments later, a thick fog made its way across the summit.  It was one large mass, just incredible.  And then we couldn't see a thing!
We made our way back, but once again there was nothing to mark the trail and we ended up meandering for a bit.  We were afraid we would miss the boat and after adding another couple miles to the hike back finally found the nearest dock and hopped on the boat.

When we got to the village we couldn't believe how crowded it was!  There were people everywhere.  So different from the night before.  We were exhausted but were sad to be leaving Keswick in the morning.  Here's me with Ann the next day, before we left and headed for York.


Bethany Fegles Photography said...

Aw, so fun to follow these adventures and see such beautiful pictures, Chelsi!! I wanted to blow that fog away, from the top of that hike so I could see the full view of that gorgeous valley! :) What a lovely site! I already can't wait for your next post.

Leslie said...

So beautiful! I want to run on that pass! This sounds like such an amazing trip. And your pants are hot;)

Demri Kuykendall said...

So fun Chels. I agree with your friend...those pants are great!

Sasha Cornelius Eggli said...

Wow, breathtaking pictures! I'm probably going to say this every post, "jealous"!