Bampton Grange and Bampton are two peaceful little neighbouring villages nestled in the gently rolling countryside of the Lowther Valley on the eastern side of the Lake District National Park. It’s a charming area and visitors can stroll down to Haweswater Beck, which makes a magical picnic and paddling spot to spend sunny days. At the heart of Bampton is the Mardale Inn, an 18th century characterful pub serving good food and real ale. The village is also served by a post office, garage and shop with a tearoom. Also within the village is the traditional red telephone box used in the 1980s cult film Withnail and I. Nearby, the village of Askham also boasts two great inns, the Queens Head and the Punchbowl.
Visitors to the area will surely want to explore the stunning shores of Haweswater, the most remote and mysterious of the Lakes in the national park. Its sheltered and rugged terrain make it a peaceful haven for wildlife. Here, you can be rewarded with the sight of the valley's own herd of red deer or the sounds of buzzards and peregrines echoing in the tranquillity. This is a quiet and remote lake with a flooded village at Mardale Head and in times of drought the remains of the lost village can be seen.
A number of great days out on mountains can start from here, with the long craggy ridge leading to High Street, Kidsty Pike and the Garburn Pass all offering fantastic walking. Another lovely walk is around the reservoir of Wet Sleddale, just seven miles away, near the famous Sleddale Hall that also featured in Withnail and I. Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk passes nearby, too.
Penrith is an attractive town which prides itself on its range of independent and high street shops, stocking everything from books to sweets. There are plenty of places to eat and there is an artisan bakery, cake shop, and even a smokery! The Devonshire Arcade is an original indoor Victorian shopping arcade in the centre of town and is home to small boutiques and food retailers. Farmers’ markets take place on the third Tuesday of the month (between March and December) in Market Square, and you can also find out about Penrith’s history through the town trail. Other enjoyable places to potter to include Larch Cottage Nurseries in Melkinthorpe, seven miles away. Not only is this surprising little place a lovely garden centre but it has an excellent cafe too – all with the decidedly marvellous feeling of being in an Italian garden.
Why not indulge yourself at the Spa at Rheged? Rheged, on the outskirts of Penrith, offers a range of activities for all the family including pottery workshops, exhibitions, a huge 3D cinema, an artisan food hall and restaurants.
You are also well placed to explore some of the rich history of the area. Lowther Castle was the home of the Earls of Lonsdale since medieval times, and the dramatic ruins of the Gothic castle are set in 130 acres of historic gardens with a cafe and shop. The site also houses the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre, where flying displays take place daily and you can even have a go at flying a bird yourself. Dalemain is a beautiful mansion with a Georgian facade hiding elements of the building that date much further back. It is also set in extensive historic gardens which are delightful to visit all through the year. If you’re lucky your visit might coincide with the marmalade festival! Hutton-in-the-Forest, the historic home of Lord and Lady Inglewood, is set in magnificent ancient woodland and boasts legendary links to the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which makes a magical day out.
The Settle-Carlisle Railway line is often referred to as one of the most scenic in the country – and who could argue? The countryside is simply stunning. Take in the awe-inspiring Cross Fell, the Three Peaks of Yorkshire – Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Whenside – then Wild Boar Fell and the beautiful Eden Sandstone landscape. In the distance are the Lake District fells of Haweswater and Ullswater. The line covers 72 miles and passes through 14 tunnels and across 20 viaducts. The railway and its stations are part of a huge regeneration to ensure the continued use of the line and are a designated conservation area.
The stunning valley of Ullswater offers a wealth of walking for all abilities from charming lowland rambles to more challenging hikes. Nearby Glenridding is the gateway to the mighty Helvellyn, England’s third highest mountain. Or you could escape the 21st century and take a walk or a cycle ride on the eastern side of the lake to Martindale, a secluded valley which feels a million miles from any kind of hustle and bustle but is deceptively easy to get to.
Another way of exploring the valley is aboard Ullswater ‘Steamers.’ You can admire the stunning scenery from the deck of one of their elegant heritage vessels as it winds its way around the four landing stages, indulging in a drink from the on-board bar if you wish! The steamers also open up a wide range of linear walks along the valley as you can easily catch one back to your starting point. Alternatively, why not hire a rowing boat or kayak and explore some of the secluded beaches and bays along the lake? Pack a picnic and find your favourite spot.
An alternative trip would be a visit to the 12th century Shap Abbey, which stands in a picturesque setting beside the River Lowther with nothing nearby to interrupt the beauty of the lonely and unfrequented site. It was built in 1199, the last abbey to be founded in England, and the last to be dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540. Why not stop off at the award-winning Shap Chippy, in Shap village, before heading back?
Keswick, the adventure capital of the Lake District, is an easy drive of about 25 miles and is well worth a visit. You can make the most of a vast range of outdoor activities to help you find your wilder side in magnificent scenery. Aside from its outdoor credentials it is a vibrant market town with a fantastic choice of outdoor shops, restaurants and cafes. It even boasts its own art deco cinema and one of the most beautifully positioned theatres showing a varied programme of plays and music throughout the year (where guests of Sally’s Cottages can get discounts on tickets!).