Keswick

The Lake District is somewhere we love, but for some reason, have neglected to visit for ages. I remember being affected quite profoundly as a kid when I went there on a geography field trip. I’d grown up in distinctly grey places, and had never been anywhere remotely mountainous. I can still feel the wonder I felt back then, when I first clapped eyes on those dramatic valleys.

On this occasion, we landed in Keswick, found in the northern region of the Lake District. I’d chosen the location and campsite based mainly on what was open at this time of year. Many campsites shut down at the end of October, and even this one was due to close on the day we were to check out.

We were going with Ciaron’s parents to celebrate his mum’s birthday, so I wanted to be within walking distance of the town, as well as some local hiking. Castlerigg Hall fit the bill nicely.

The big reveal

We arrived in the dark. That’s the gift of camping in autumn, you get the ‘big reveal’ the next morning. We were not disappointed. I opened the blinds to have a peep, and discovered that we had stunning views over Derwentwater, flanked by fells as far as the eye could see.

Derwentwater
Derwentwater

We started the morning with a brew in bed, and the window wide open. It was so nice to hide in the warmth of our sleeping bag, drinking tea and devouring those views, whilst the bracing, fresh air rushed into the van around us. This is one of my absolute favourite things to do – even better when you can open the tailgate, but it was a bit too cold for that kind of behaviour!

The area

With it being early November, we were treated to crisp, cold weather, and piercing blue skies. The warm autumnal colours of the landscape were a welcome sight, as we took the rather steep, 2 mile walk into Keswick town centre.

It’s a thriving little town, and we’d hit it when the market was on. The four of us spent a leisurely day wandering around Keswick’s many shops and market stalls, before heading for a pub lunch at the Royal Oak. Top grub, although I definitely overindulged, and wasn’t looking forward to rolling back to the campsite.

On the way back, we bought a large plate pie from one of the market stalls. I never thought I’d eat again after that enormous lunch, and yet somehow, I found my appetite later that evening! Delicious it was, too.

Keep on running

I’d read about the nearby Castlerigg Stone Circle, and was keen to pay it a visit. Time ended up being a bit limited, so at the last minute, we decided to run there and back. We’re not runners in any way, shape, or form, but we had energy (not to mention that pie) to burn, so off we went.

We made for quite a sorry sight, as we puffed and panted our way over the boggy, undulating fields. It was only about a mile away, but it felt like ten! Eventually, we made it. After taking some time to admire the neolithic spectacle, with the Helvellyn range in the background, we hastily made our way back. I do like these mysterious places, it really fires the imagination, especially in a dramatic setting like this.

Scenes from our run over to the Castlerigg stone circle
Scenes from our run over to the Castlerigg stone circle

The campsite

We stayed on the lower terraces at Castlerigg Hall, which gave us unobstructed views over Derwentwater and the surrounding fells. We were quite far from the facilities, but this wasn’t a problem for us personally. Incidentally, they do warn you beforehand in case it should be an issue. The facilities were actually amazing; spacious showers, clean, lovely and warm, probably the nicest I’ve ever had the pleasure of using, in fact.

There’s a nice little shop and restaurant on site if you need them, and a pub just outside the site itself. It’s a really nice, scenic walk to Keswick town centre, and mostly on footpaths. Just be aware that it is quite steep.

Thoughts on the trip

I love how the van has given us the impetus to visit more areas as tourists than ever before. It’s really not hard to book a hotel, and the cost isn’t always that far off these days, but the camper van has been a real catalyst.

The difference is hard to explain, but I think it’s all the little things. Like the amount of outdoor time we get, and having all our own stuff, including our own bed, with us. It’s having the choice of cooking our own meals if we want to. And knowing we won’t be interrupted by a knock on the door if we want to just kick back and relax. Perhaps most of all, it’s the feeling of freedom that we get from it.

Quite simply, buying this camper van continues to be one of the best decisions we ever made, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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