Note from Liz: Today, while I frantically prepare for my upcoming RTW trip, I have a guest post from my friend Caroline about her trip hiking in the UK’s Lake District. You can check out more of Caroline’s guest posts here and here.
My brother Andrew, my sister-in-law Annie, and I decided to hike the Cumbria Way in June. What’s the Cumbria Way, you say? (Because that’s what everyone says.) I’m honestly not sure where I heard about it but I know I have heard from various Brits over the years that the Lake District in northwest England is one of the most beautiful places in the world. (Actually I think they all said it is THE most beautiful place in the world, but I digress.) Basically the Lake District is a giant national park filled with picturesque views and lush landscape. If you recall the scene where they are signaling the airplanes at the very end of 28 Days Later and everything was happy and green, that was filmed in the Lake District. It is also the setting for Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. So yes, it’s pretty idyllic.
A little research revealed that there are several set hikes that people do in the area. We chose the Cumbria Way because it was a good length (five days of hiking) and promised the best views of the Lake District. The route was laid out in the 1970s to promote hiking (known as walking by the British) in the area. The way the route is laid out also means that you hike for about 14 miles each day and spend each night at an inn or bed and breakfast with a delicious hot dinner and an enormous English breakfast.
We chose to book with a tour company called Wandering Aengus that would both arrange all of our hotel stays and carry our luggage for us to the next stop each day. Then we only had to carry our lunch and rain gear in our daypacks. Wandering Aengus gave us detailed maps and directions and then it was up to us to look for Cumbria Way markers along the way.
The rain gear turned out to be particularly necessary. While June usually means the end of the rainy season in the Lake District, we managed to go during wettest spring in 100 years. And if the English are saying it’s wet, you know that’s a lot of rain. Though this meant we sometimes could not distinguish the path from a stream, the rain was usually light and didn’t last the entire day. The low 60s temperature was also great for hiking, not too hot and not too cold. I did get more use out of my super-attractive rain pants than I would have liked.
The area, as promised, was absolutely gorgeous. There were plenty of beautiful lakes (known by the English as waters or meres), pretty smaller lakes (called tarns), rambling rivers (ghylls), amazingly lush hills (fells), and sweeping valleys (moors). I’m sharing these terms with you mostly because they would have been helpful to know when trying to decipher our directions. There were also many, many sheep.
Everyone we met on the hike was extremely nice and welcoming. Almost everyone else on the trail was English, making the experience feel more immersive. The sense of accomplishment at the end of doing the entire Cumbria Way was pretty great too. We went a total of 70 miles over five days and our feet certainly looked it.
The biggest highlight of the trip for me was reaching the peak of Stakes Pass to see this view.
I also discovered the deliciousness that is sticky toffee pudding. I would highly recommend the trip to anyone wanting to see part of England outside of London. I’d love to go back at some point to do another hike in area like Hadiran’s Wall or the Coast to Coast.