Wray Castle, Beatrix Potter, and a lakeside walk

June 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yesterday was a truly successful day.  I didn’t have to run off to a train, so I slept in until breakfast and then packed up and headed to my hotel for last night (although I stayed in the same town both nights, my first hotel didn’t have a room available the second night).  I dropped my bag with the incredibly friendly proprietors who immediately gave me suggestions for places to go and things to do.  I already had a pretty good idea of my plan of action, however, with the intention of getting to do the things I’d failed to do the day before.

First on my itinerary was to get a new jacket to replace my utterly un-waterproof one.  To get to the harbor where all the action is in Bowness, I had to walk down the hill from Windermere right through the shopping area.  I stopped in a likely store (Stuart’s Sports) and immediately found myself a fully waterproof shell.  Perfect!  It’s even a great color, dusty rose to replace the harsh aqua of my former jacket.  I bought it and disposed of the old one in the bin outside the shop.  Good riddance!

Goal one accomplished, I headed happily into the harbor to find the ferry to take me to Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home.  When I approached the counter, I was extremely pleased to find that I was not dealing with the same clerk from the day before.  Instead, the young man I spoke with was supremely helpful.  I explained that I wanted to take the ferry to Hill Top, but that I also planned to purchase the “Walker’s Ticket” for later in the day.  I asked if it made sense to purchase a “Freedom of the Lakes” ticket rather than the two separate ones (I wasn’t sure of the price of the ferry ticket).  The wonderfully helpful guy explained that if I was willing to change my itinerary, I could combine both trips on the Walker’s Ticket.  As it turns out, the ferry destination for Hill Top is the same as the destination of the walking path.  I was delighted by this news (and delighted not to be taken for a ride as would have been so easily executed by a less upright individual), and I happily purchased the Walker’s Ticket, which I highly recommend.

I jumped onto the next cruise to Ambleside, the first step on the Walker’s Ticket.  The half hour cruise runs from Bowness, which is on the western edge of Lake Windermere about halfway down its length, to Ableside, which is at the northern end of the lake.  I enjoyed the cruise up and all the excellent accompanying views, although I was rather frozen (if completely dry!!!) from being out in the wind and lake spray and rain.  I got a few pictures on the cruise, although the dark weather inhibited my photographing somewhat.

Once in Ambleside, I had twenty minutes to kill until the next ferry to Wray Castle, the next of the Walker’s Ticket destinations.   As it was noon, I stopped into a dockside café and got myself a takeaway sandwich for later on the recommendation of the same clerk at the ticket booth who had warned me to bring lunch as I wouldn’t find any after Ambleside.

Sandwich in hand, I boarded a tiny boat to Wray Castle.  The fifteen minute ride was another nice tour of the northern end of the lake, winding up on the eastern shore.  From the ferry landing, I climbed the tiny hill up to Wray Castle.  From the castle, there were a number of beautiful views across rolling hills to the mountains and to the lake.  Wray Castle itself was also beautiful in its own right, and I enjoyed wandering around the grounds.  In a stroke of excellent luck, the rain had let up for a few minutes while I was at the castle, so I enjoyed the visit all the more.

View of the northern end of Lake Windermere from Wray Castle.

View from Wray Castle. Wasn't it nice of those cows to pose for me?

Wray Castle

Wray Castle

From the castle, I set out on the 4 mile lakeside walk to Ferry Landing, the location of the ferry back to Bowness and the shuttle up to Hill Top.  The walk was beautiful.  Although it sprinkled a little for the first half of it, it was mostly clear, and the views were incredible.  There was a little bit of everything: shore and lake views, woods (or wilderness, as I was told, although perhaps my idea of wilderness is a bit more removed from civilization than some peoples’ ideas of it), pastures and meadows, and everything in between.  It was incredible.  As I walked, I repeatedly found myself thinking “this, this is what I’ve been hoping for.”  I was delighted, and I walked four miles with a ridiculous grin plastered to my face.  I was happy  not only to be finally doing something I had hoped to do but also to be doing it in good weather.

Across Lake Windermere...

Sheep!

Why yes, I do think I'd like to live in that house, thank you!

Beautiful shore-side walk.

Eventually, I reached Ferry Landing where I boarded a bus shuttle up to Hill Top, which was another two miles east from the lake.  I had planned to walk that, too, but I realized when I arrived that I might run short on time to actually tour the house if I took the time to climb the hill.  Not willing to take the risk, and honestly happy to sit for a bit, I rode up to Hill Top with two Welsh women.  I’m not sure what it is about Welsh, but it sounds like utter gibberish to me.  On the whole, languages other than English don’t sound so gibberish-y to me; they sound like other languages, sure, but not like nonsense.  Welsh sounds truly nonsensical to me, perhaps because the sounds are so similar to English.  As in, other languages make more sense to me aurally because they are enough different from English, but Welsh, because it sounds so similar, sounds even weirder.

Hill Top was, expectedly, completely overrun with tourists.  I can’t complain since I’m one, too, but I like to think that I’m fairly unobnoxious in my tourism, which I can’t say is true for everyone I’ve encountered on this trip.  It was the family of three that repeatedly tried to cut to the front of the line waiting to get into the house that really irritated me, particularly because we had timed entrance tickets… so cutting only meant they were repeatedly asked to wait until their ticket time.  Why is that difficult to understand?  On the other hand, a nice girl who didn’t speak English very well asked me to help her figure out if her ticket time was being called, and we discovered we had the same ticket time.  So, until our entrance time, I had a friendly companion to wait with.

Beatrix Potter's backyard :)

Hill Top was fun to see.  It’s somewhat magical to imagine that Beatrix Potter actually lived there, sat in those chairs, slept in that bed, looked out that window and created all of her wonderful stories.  I’m a huge history lover, and hands-on history is the best.  One item that particularly engaged me was the partially finished needlework set up on a stand in a corner.  I’m not sure what the circumstances of Miss Potter’s death were, but I think she was relatively young (in her 60s), and seeing that unfinished work gave me such a sense of her life having ended earlier than it should have.  It was poignant, although finding the import behind the crush of other tourists took a bit of effort.

The view across the road from Beatrix Potter's house.

I left Hill Top around 3:45 and headed back to Ferry Landing.  I was back in Windermere a little after 4, and after a long-seeming day, I was largely ready to return to my hotel.  I spent some time wandering in and out of shops again, but eventually called it a day around 5.

On Lake Windermere.

The only part of my plan for the day that didn’t quite work as intended was the ever-necessary doing of laundry.  At 5:35, I carted my few items of clothes to the launderette around the corner from my hotel, only to discover that it closed at 5:30.  Damn.  A quick review of my plan for today, however, made it apparent that I should have time to do some laundry before tonight’s big excitement: seeing Macbeth performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon!  I’m thrilled to be going!  I adore Shakespeare and have been looking forward to Stratford-upon-Avon this whole trip.  If I had been forced to choose only one place to visit in England outside of London, this would have been it.  While this afternoon and evening are spoken for with laundry and the show, I’ll have another night in town tomorrow and thus all day tomorrow to explore.  The following day I’ll also have some time before I have to leave for my next destination, so I think I’ll have ample time to obsess over the wondrous Bill.

Anon, dear readers, anon.

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