Lake Windermere - Thanksgiving Road Trip Part I
Thanksgiving and road trips. Does it get any more American?
Anxiously anticipated and thoughtfully planned. Ambitious undertakings if your party is more than 3. Each a right of passage in its own way. There's a reason Thanksgiving has become a potluck-heavy tradition - many vow NEVER AGAIN after trying to cook the entire meal alone. Similarly with road trips; each generation schleps their children across the country in a tiny car despite the strong possibility that no really thinks this is a good idea.
My dad always told a great road trip story. His family of 7 would cram into a van with no air conditioning and drive from Michigan to the West Coast to see grandma. In the summer. And all they had to drink was warm Tang in the desert. I think this was supposed to shame my brother, sister, and me into getting along as we trekked out to Colorado for spring break.
If you aren't nostalgic when thinking of road trips, or over-eating at 3pm after watching the Detroit Lions lose a game for the umpteenth year in a row, I'm willing to bet you hail from somewhere other than USA.
I cannot tell you how many people over here thought we were crazy for driving to Scotland and subjecting Connor's 3 brothers to this misery. It's only 6 hours! We're American, this is what we do and we love every bit of it. I have to hand it to the boys: they jammed into the backseat of an oddly pimped out Honda Civic (rental), linked arms to save space, and declared the situation "Polish." A term of endearment if you're not familiar.
First stop: Lake Windermere. We threw our things into the Airbnb and quickly set off on a 30 minute hike up to Orrest Head to catch some views of the lake and surrounding fells before sunset. More pics on Flickr!
Then we walked down to the little village Bownes-on-Windermere to check out Hole in t'Wall, a pub built in 1612, which I highly recommend to anyone visiting Lake Windermere. Super old, very low ceilings, friendly staff, good ales. Rumored to be another Dickens haunt.
The next morning we prepared for our day-long hike up the Old Man of Coniston. These epic hikes are largely unmarked and most people rely on OS maps to find their way. I looked at some of these maps online and in Birmingham's library, but they are intensely detailed and over my head. Thankfully, I discovered the offline SatNav app a few months ago, which is a lifesaver for anyone hiking in the UK. After the first major ascent up a tiny path, the mountain opened up to show more mountains, marshes, valleys, and rivers. If not for this app, it would have been crazy to go much further.
The sun sets around 3:50pm and we started to run out of time to complete the entire hike, which loops around another peak before heading back down the mountain. We decided to go back the way we came since we knew what to expect. Then we mistakenly missed the trail and took a decidedly less-familiar way down. No regrets - we saw a little waterfall and it certainly wasn't boring.
Definitely an awesome hike for sure-footed people who have their wits about them and a trusty map. We stopped at the 17th century Black Bull Inn & Pub to warm up by their fabulous fireplace and enjoy a pint before heading back to Windermere. The Black Bull operates a small brewery, too, and their oatmeal stout is the best in Britain as far as I'm concerned. We bought a few bottles to take home with us, but they didn't last the night! The bartender was one of the friendliest we've met, and he introduced us to a fun little mix of stout with sherry? or whiskey? I wish I remembered because it was insanely delicious. I would go back here just to have another conversation with that guy.
Next we checked out Hawkshead Brewery which boasts "traditional ales with a modern twist." I think there might be a bit of an aversion to craft beer on this island. I can't quite put my finger on the relationship, but it seems like you need to brew or offer "traditional ales" if you hope to enjoy success. Hawkshead had great beer, definitely more "craft" than "traditional," and the place was very large and not crowded. Off season? Aversion to modernity? Lack of proximity to the lake? Not sure. But we liked it.
I bought an amazingly soft English wool blanket the next morning at Peter Hall & Son, a shop I'd been eyeing with a great selection of Herdwick Tweed (made in Cumbria), bespoke furniture, and other unique bits and bobs. Then we all squeezed into the car and waved goodbye to the Lake District. Next stop: Edinburgh!