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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Edinburgh, Scotland to Lake District National Park, England – Mar. 21 – 23, 2012

In planning our limited time up north we initially ranked both these locations as “ok to pass by.”  (Even despite receiving multiple recommendations to visit the Lake District.)  But as luck would have it (or more specifically, as gaining knowledge would have it) we made better time heading south than we thought; thus opening up time for these two delightful stops.

You see, we have discovered there are different types of “A” roads and, the really great part is, we are beginning to distinguish them on the A to Z!  We have found A roads to be anything from relaxing two-lane highways to a harrowing single lane shared in both directions, sometimes with no center line.  But with our new map reading capabilities, our trip south was much faster than our trip north.

Thus we earned one night in Edinburgh at the delightful Edinburgh Caravan Club Site.

We woke in Edinburgh to the first cloudless day we have had in the United Kingdom.  Our plan was to drive to the Lake District as soon as possible, but with such nice weather and a bus stop only a half-mile away we decided a quick tour of downtown Edinburgh was a requirement.   It was very quick, but definitely worth the trip.  Dogs were not allowed into the castle, but that didn’t stop us from taking Rosco’s picture out front to the amazement of our fellow tourists.  They just couldn’t believe he would sit there all by himself so calmly.  I, on the other hand, knew I was safe unless he spotted the UPS van coming up the hillside.

Pictures and bus tour accomplished, we hit the road for the Lake District National Park and what a treat that was!  I realize I have to stop relating everything as “gorgeous” otherwise who will continue to believe me?  So I’ll move on to stunning.  It is unbelievable how quickly the geography changes as you leave the middle of England and head west:  From low, flat farms to the seemingly endless Cumbrian Mountains snuggled against each other, and it all happens in a matter of a few short miles.

With our late start from Edinburgh, we didn’t reach Keswick (an almost cute town) until around 5:00 p.m.  We had no reservations and it being a warm and sunny Thursday leading into an equally promising weekend we knew we might have trouble securing a spot.  So we carpe pitched ’em at the first caravan park with an opening; indeed, gaining their last pitch.  The English are rightfully crazy about this National Park of theirs and with the sunny weather they were nearly out of their minds with delight.  Happy, hiking people were everywhere.

We weren’t thrilled with the campground and realizing that we would need reservations for our Friday night stay, SP spent some time finding us the delightful Gillside Farm Campground for our second night; conveniently located just minutes from the jumping off point of our hike to Angle Tarn.  That task accomplished, we gorged on driving day pizza and went to bed early.  We knew we needed an early start for our mountain hike.

And what a great hike it was!  But let me tell you, the English are a much tougher hiking clan than we Americans!  Not only are their “moderate” ratings much closer to “strenuous” but they do not use switchbacks. So if the hike gains elevation it does so by simply going straight up.  And that’s what we did for a good three miles – but check out those views! 

On the way up we survived The Great Sheep Herding Incident of 2012:  Forgetting that we were crossing pasture land in the beginning of the hike, we let The Noses off leash.  Unfortunately, they spotted some sheep before we did and took off after them.  The sheep were no fools and immediately escaped across a small waterfall-filled river but with The Noses in hot pursuit.  Rosco’s pursuit was so hot he almost ran himself off a giant boulder and down a 20’ waterfall.  Stopping with a squeal at the cusp just in time, he apparently decided that was enough and (finally) heeded my calls to return.

After that we kept them on leash until we were sure we were out of pasture land.  But that didn’t stop River from jumping up and down every time she caught a whiff of sheep.

The hike was delightful in the hazy sunshine and low 60’s temperature; I only wish the day had been a bit clearer.  In the pictures you can make out the silhouettes of the mountains layering their way to the coast.  On a clear day it must be spectacular.

We loved our little spot on Gillside Farm (purchasing some fresh eggs and milk while we were there.)  A short walk into Glenridding for coffee the next morning was a perfect ending to our Lake District adventure.  Definitely a Must See but not a Must Return due simply to the crowds; we thought Friday was busy, but the endless arrival of hikers on Saturday was stupendous.  And this wasn’t even the peak season!

After an incredibly long day in Curry (we did try to stop on the way but everything was booked—still sunny, still crazy, still a weekend!) we arrived one day early at our site near Portsmouth, the Rookesbury Caravan Club Site.  Thankfully, they had a grass pitch available—one of only three spots left—and we set up for the night.  The next day we moved to a gravel pitch where we will remain for the duration of our stay. 

Eight glorious nights in one spot!