July Tour of the North and Midlands for Guests from USA
Dana, from Texas, and Karen from NYC.
Both Dana and Karen had visit to the UK previously but had only ‘done London’ and the southern tourist trail. My brief was to show them some of the highlights of Lake District, but also to take in Stratford upon Avon and some Jane Austen country. They only had six days so it was going to be a ‘whirl wind’ of a tour.
Day 1 Flew in to Liverpool, John Lennon Airport 10am. Straight to Lyme Park in Cheshire. Karen is a big Jane Austen fan and Lyme Park was used extensively in the famous Mr Darcy scenes from Pride and Prejudice. The house contains some impressive tapestries and clocks. Unfortunately the weather was typically British and ‘haphazard’ so walking round the park was curtailed. Morning and lunch in the garden and house, note it is National Trust so take your card! Then drove ‘cross country and south to Stratford upon Avon. Some fantastic Peak District scenery along the way.
‘Did Stratford’. Brunch in town followed by a guided Town walk with one of the local Blue Badge guides. Tours can be organised in a group or on a private tour. All the ins and outs of the town are revealed along with the Shakespearian historical facts. As a former Stratford resident I can vouch for their extensive knowledge and insight.
After tramping the streets and visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace lunch had to be had. So a short walk to Shottery and a pub lunch at the Bell and there was just time to fit in Ann Hathaway’s cottage. Being July and a beautiful day, the gardens were in their best form. Beautiful cottage garden with traditional flowers in full bloom. Recommended to any Stratford visitor.
Hit the M6 and drove NORTH
Karen and Dana were based in Milnthorpe, South Lakeland, so they wanted to catch their breath and see some local sights. A suitable dose of history was found in the exquisite Houses of Levens Hall and Sizergh Castle. Both have exquisite gardens in very different styles. Levens has one of the most famous topiary gardens in the world and is formal and imposing with its neatly clipped hedges. Although kept in trim by mechanical means now they kept and army of gardens in employment in the not too distant past.
Sizergh hosts the National Collection of Hardy Ferns and a superb limestone rock garden. Both houses are still occupied by the families and have a ‘lived in’ feel rather than simply being museums.
Dinner that evening was in the idyllic sea side village, Arnside, where we were lucky enough to see one of the local natural phenomena, the tidal bore come in, as well as enjoying the estuary with the Lakeland backdrop.
Brief – to get out and see the unspoilt beauty of the hills. Karen is an experienced hiker, but Texas does not lend itself to hill walking and so I kept the route fairly low. Choosing a route from Elterwater through the Langdales, taking in Slater Bridge on the way. Dinner back in Milnthorpe. Dana’s call home to an incredulous daughter with a report of the 10 mile hike!
Historic Houses Day, among other stuff. Began the morning at Dove Cottage. Wordsworth’s home near Grasmere. Full of interesting facts and anecdotes about Wordsworth and his family. Then to Rydal Hall Gardens. These gardens have recently been restored to their Edwardian splendour. I particularly enjoy the formality of this garden set against the wild backdrop of the hills.
The next part of the plan was to let ‘the visitors’ see the Lakes from the water. There are numerous ways to do this ranging from a self propelled rowing boat to a luxurious dinner cruise. All give a slightly different dimension to our wonderful hills, but I decided on the Coniston Gondola. This is an original Victorian gondola first launched in 1859 and now completely rebuilt by the National Trust.
From Coniston it was ‘dash’ to Far Sawrey to visit Hill Top, the home of Beatrix Potter. Luckily we were late in the day and were able to get in without booking. The house has become so popular, particularly with Japanese visitors, entry is now by timed ticket. Something new since my last visit but now to be noted.
The last ‘must see ‘ of the day was the Hawkshead Ferry. This only takes 18 cars but was a handy short cut from the eastern shore of Windermere over to the west side
Last day. After the cultural overload of the previous day a more relaxing day and shorter ‘hike’. Visit to Ambleside where we walked over Loughrigg Fell and down around the shores of Rydal Lake.
There was just one more thing to fit in at the end of the stay. A fish and chips supper in Arnside. Not easily found in NYC and Dallas.
Return to the USA by taking the early train from Carnforth to Manchester airport.