Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Lake District, Part 1 (Keskadale Farm, Buttermere and Keswick)

We took a train from Edinburgh to Carlisle and then on to Penrith where we arrived just before 1:00 PM.  Our plan was to rent a car one last time for the two days we would spend in The Lake District. The ladies at Enterprise were the most difficult to deal with of all the car rentals up to that point. They wanted us to jump through all kinds of ridiculous hoops that none of the other Enterprise offices had required. They wanted two local addresses, three local telephone numbers, 57 forms of identification, and the blood of a unicorn obtained during the full moon closest to the summer solstice, but we did eventually get the car rented. We made our way from Penrith to Keskadale Farm where we had reservations for the next two nights. 

For several days Anne and I had been working on puzzling out our itinerary for the last couple of days of the trip. We needed to be at Manchester fairly early to catch our plane to Orlando and we had some concern that it would be difficult to get up early enough to catch our train the last morning. We had found along the way that everything was taking quite a bit longer than we had originally anticipated and we didn't want to take risks trying to get where we needed to be on time. We decided that even though we'd just have to eat the cost since it was late notice, we needed to cancel the second night at Keskadale and stay in a hotel close to the airport in Manchester. Our wi-fi had been sporadic for several days, but I think we did manage to send Margaret, our hostess, an email a day or two beforehand but never heard back from her. We would just have to tell her when we got there. 

In addition to having lakes, The Lake District has mountains--something that I wasn't expecting. It made for some interesting driving again. I was feeling the most confident that I had the whole trip, but the narrow, windy roads (again only wide enough for one car to pass in several spots) with a steep drop off on one side made Mom pretty nervous.  We made it to Keskadale without careening off any cliffs and Anne checked us into our room and spoke with Margaret and told her our situation. She was somewhat understanding but not super pleased with the change of plans. She hadn't gotten our message because their power and internet had been out due to a big storm.

The road viewed from Keskadale.
We managed to stay on the road; this other truck wasn't so lucky.
Margaret wasn't quite ready for us as we were a little early, but she told us where we could find a little tea room in Buttermere (or "Boot-ah-me-yah" as she called it). We wound our way up and down the mountains, stopping along the way a couple of times to take pictures of the breath-taking scenery (and sheep). 

When we stopped to take pictures at this scenic viewing spot there were lots of tourists that had the same idea. You can even see some of them hiking up to the waterfall in the picture above if you look closely. Their raincoats make little dots of bright color on the green mountainside.

We spoke with a local man for a little while. We talked about the unusually cold weather and what that would mean for farming. We talked about tourists and asked him a bit about the area. He told us about the sheep and how they hide in the bracken but never eat it. It is poisonous to them.

Baa baa black sheep.
We were getting a bit hungry so we decided to continue on to Buttermere and the Syke Farm Tea Room. We found it without much trouble--we had to turn around once, but that was pretty typical of whenever we were trying to find somewhere--even in a tiny town like Buttermere.

Cream Tea for three.
We ordered cream tea with fruit scones for three--Anne and I had chamomile tea; Mom had mint tea. There was cream for our tea and clotted cream and strawberry jam for our scones. The tea room was hoppin'. There were all kinds of tourists having tea (and then just sitting around talking and taking up space) but we managed to find a little round table upstairs and procure some unused chairs from other tables. We also had wi-fi for the first time in quite awhile and since Margaret had said their internet service at Keskadale was still out, I took advantage of it and checked in with my family (and Instagrammed my tea, of course).

Mom poses with a giraffe art installation in Keswick.
After tea, we drove into Keswick (say Kes-ick--the "w" is silent) to get some cash to pay Margaret and do a little exploring. Anne and I went to get cash and we left Mom shopping in a little Beatrix Potter store. We had a hiccup with trying to get cash and the banks were closed but Anne sorted everything out. We met up with Mom and looked around a bit more. We found an antique shop that had all kinds of interesting things and looked for a gift for Dad. We found a workhouse token from the 1800s that we bought him. The shop keeper said it was the only one he had ever seen and we thought Dad would really like it. I considered buying Seth Led Zeppelin IV on vinyl since he was the only child I didn't really have a souvenir for yet but I decided that even though it was super cool, it wasn't worth it since we don't have a record player.

We stopped at a little grocery and bought some crumbly cheese and fruit for dinner and a few English candy bars to taste test the next day, then headed back to Keskadale.

View of Keskadale from our bedroom window.
It's hard to tell in this picture but these are curly horned sheep.
It was drizzly, but Anne and I decided to go for a walk and check out the sheep since we were staying at a working sheep farm. It was cold so we didn't stay out long.

When we came in we got Mom and we sat by the fire in the sitting room and talked. We admired all the figurines of cows and sheep dogs. We had looked all over Scotland for a heilan coo (highland cow) figurine for Mom like the one that her parents got when they lived in Scotland and Margaret had half a dozen of them. We asked her about them and she told us they were made by Beswick (also with a silent "w") and told us a couple of places we could look for them in Keswick the next day.

After awhile we went up to our room and played a couple of rounds of Blokus and ate fruit and mediocre crumbly cheese on rice cakes with hot chocolate and the biscuits that Margaret had left in the room, for dessert. At one point one of us sneezed or breathed or moved or something and tiny cheese particles got all over the place. The cheese was really crumbly. It was pretty amusing and pretty messy to clean up, but we managed.

Some Keskadale sheep.
Windswept trees at Keskadale Farm

Blue skies at Keskadale the next morning.
The bed was super squishy but so comfortable. I slept the best I had slept in several nights. We woke the next morning to blue skies. Margaret made us a delicious breakfast and we visited with her for quite awhile. We really enjoyed getting to know her a bit. We turned in our key and checked out. She was so gracious and even though we hadn't canceled in time she cut us a little bit of a deal and didn't make us pay the full amount for two nights. It really was so kind of her.

To Be Continued. . .

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