Travel review: The Lake District

The Ullswater Steamer
The Ullswater Steamer

Oh what fun it must have been for the wealthy Every-Clayton family of Carr Hall in Barrowford all those years ago.

The landowners not only had the beauty of their Lancashire estate to keep them happy, but when things got a little too much, they headed to The Lake District and Leeming House, a majestic building on the shores of Ullswater, with some pretty impressive views.

Leeming House

Leeming House

And as I dipped my toes into the icy waters, my thoughts turned to the early 19th century, when The Lake District was a magnet to wealthy people from Lancashire and The Midlands, who were allowed to build their holiday homes in some of the prettiest countryside in England.

Thomas Edward Every-Clayton was one such lucky man and he called Leeming House is home until he sold it for the grand price of £6,850 to the Rev. Francis Le Grix White.

Nowdays, I suspect it is worth a little more and thanks to Macdonald Hotels, we can all enjoy its splendour.

Today it is a boutique hotel with first class accommodation, staff and food. You are greeted with an impressive hall way and two lounges which are nicely decorated and for my fellow travellers, Ruaridh (10) and Flossie (7), one had the all important chess board, where battle between brother and sister commenced in earnest!

Lowther Castle

Lowther Castle

This gave me time to have a good look at our room, the Garden Suite and what a room. A lovely king size bed and comfy seating area which had all the mod cons of coffee machines, fresh fruit and a wide screen television and led out onto a balcony which afforded the most wonderful views of Ullswater.

A good sized bathroom with Arran Aromatic toiletries finished off the downstairs and the children had their own privacy up the stairs with a small room and bunk beds – everyone happy!

We enjoyed a sumptuous dinner in the Regency Restaurant with some real delights on the menu for the adults including a light, but exquisite goats cheese and potato starter and well cooked sea bass with shellfish linguine for mains. In between, little tasters of mini scotch eggs and sausage rolls and a smoked salmon and celeriac dish whet the appetite. Ruaridh and Flossie had a great children’s menu to choose from and Flossie particularly enjoyed the roast chicken dinner.

Breakfasts were freshly cooked with the Eggs Benedict Royale a favourite and there was plenty of cereal and meats and cheese for the continental. Throughout our stay, the staff were lovely and helpful and the general manager Karen Irving proved to be a great boss, pitching in with the breakfast service when it was busy.

The grounds are beautiful too, with the circular Italian garden created by Mr Every-Clayton still blooming and leading down to the lake, where you can have a dip without prying eyes!

After experiencing the iciness of the lake, we felt it was only right to have a trip on it too and what better way than via the sleek Ullswater Steamer.

The steamers have been sailing over what must be one of England’s finest lakes for more than 150 years. We were lucky enough to sail on the oldest of the five boat fleet, the Lady of the Lake which was built in 1877 and is said to be the oldest sailing passenger vessel in the world.

The service is well run with plenty of boats throughout the day and a variety of options from hop on and hop off or individual journeys.

We stopped off at Pooley Bridge, a lovely spot made famous in 2015 when Storm Desmond washed most of the village away after the lake burst its banks.

The village was cut off after the main bridge floated away, but today a temporary one serves well and a new and much improved one is on the cards in the near future.

The residents as in other villages hit by the storm, have rallied round and things are looking rosier for them, with people packing in to see the sights.

The Ullswater Steamer is a lovely way to wile away a few hours and drink in the scenery and the company is forward thinking, with many events over the holidays to keep both young and old happy as they sail.

Ticket buyers also get a discount for the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, a steam experience around an hour and a half away from Ullswater through some more beautiful countryside.

We headed back towards Lancashire and to Lowther Castle, just off the M6 and a fantastic sight to be seen.

Nearly sold for £100 by the frustrated owner stuck with mounting repair bills, this imposing castle is a real gem.

The Regency-Gothic castle designed by architect Robert Smirke in 1814 is now just a ruin, but rather a special one.

It has a colourful history and is run by the Hon. William James Lowther, known as Jim, who has worked tirelessly to create a splendid spot.

His grandfather, a raging alcoholic drank most of the family money and Jim’s father, the 7th Earl of Lonsdale, returned from World War II facing £25 million in death duties.

A socialist, determined to wipe away the opulence, he took the roof off the castle and partially demolished it. He covered the lawns with battery chickens, put pig pens in the castle shell and buried the estate in plantation.

Today the key to the castle’s success is its gardens. Historic landscape consultant Dominic Cole was brought in to explain the structure and designer Dan Pearson has been on hand since 2004 creating pockets of garden beauty all over the castle and grounds, resulting in some really unusual views.

The garden in the ruin of the castle is simple, but so stunning and the great lawn is swept along by a wild flower meadow.

It is a 20 year working project, but at every turn there is something wonderful to see and a the top of the estate, a real treat for the children, The Lost Castle is a wooden wonder which allows children the freedom to explore and play and pretend to be kings and queens of the castle, which is something we all aspire to!

Accommodation: The Lake District can be a busy place, but the Macdonald owned Leeming House in Watermillock, Ullswater is an oasis of calm. Set in fabulous grounds, with stunning views, this boutique hotel is a perfect retreat, with five star accommodation, excellent, friendly staff and classic cuisine. For the latest offers and to take a virtual tour of the hotel, log onto www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/our-hotels/macdonald-leeming-house or call 0344 879 9142.

Attractions: As you would imagine there is lots to see and do in this part of the world. One of the best ways to see as much as possible and enjoy the lake is via The Ullswater Steamer, which gentle rolls along the lake and offers a number of different tours and a hop on and hop off service. It’s well run with a good timetable, check out: www.ullswater-steamers.co.uk
Lowther Castle: The strangest, but most wonderful experience awaits at Lowther Castle near Penrith. It’s a quirky place full of fun and has a brilliant Lost Castle just for the children. Log onto www.lowthercastle.org
To see more photographs of our journey follow us on Twitter: @EmojiAdventurer