What’s the Lake District really like this year?

2020 hit us all like a bus. That goes without saying. The way we travel has been altered (possibly forever), embraced in this new ‘normal’- but with regulations changing by the day, it’s difficult to work out where we’re allowed to go and what we can do.

Whilst the majority of the UK have opted to travel local in a bid to avoid quarantine, it appears that the Lake District has been a popular choice for family camping trips and luxury getaways alike. ‘Escape to the country’ got a whole new meaning this year, but what exactly does that entail in these times?

Ullswater Lake, Lake District

What to Expect

According to government guidance, we’re recommended to spend time in the great outdoors, particularly if you’re planning on travelling with people from outside your own household and after months of being able being stuck within the four walls of your home, it is the perfect place to enjoy some greenery and limit social contact with strangers.

As with anywhere, some are very cautious to leave their hometowns whilst others have completely disregarded the rules, but all have been welcomed in an attempt to rebuild millions lost in revenue over the lockdown earlier this year.

The local council recommend socially distancing in bars and restaurants, with many enforcing face masks even to go inside pubs to use the bathroom or order drinks. In Pooley Bridge and Kendal track and trace has been embraced as a norm amongst customers, with plenty of outdoor seating options to help ventilation and allow those with four legged companions to still take full advantage of the Eat Out to Help Out schemes.

Pooley Bridge

Home to lakeside cafes and countless bars, Pooley Bridge seems to be one of the busier villages amongst tourists. Whilst you might struggle to find availability at campsites or B&Bs, it’s just 15 minutes from the (predominantly deserted) town of Penrith, allowing couples to balance their time spent around others. Check out The Crown Inn for comfy seating and exceptional cheese boards or pack a picnic and head on a walk around Ullswater Lake.

Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District, being about nine miles long and 0.75 miles wide. It’s a steady walk without any steep inclines- perfect for any age or abilities.

Penrith

An ideal base to take day trips from, but a limited amount of open restaurants limits this towns appeal in such times. Many of the shop windows state that the bar/store/centre will not be reopening due t0 the financial repercussions of the ongoing pandemic. This said, the George Hotel and Dockrey Hall Bar and Restaurant are both very appreciative of the (small) influx of tourists that are slowly emerging and it’s reflected in their customer service. With everything from Sunday Lunch to Steak Burgers, both serve typical pub grub with an aesthetic presentation makes this small town worth the visit, even if it’s just for an evening meal or to take advantage of the direct train to Edinburgh.

Watching the sunset over the remnants of Penrith Castle is a highlight for anyone wanting the perfect Instagram photo or interested in the history of the Lakes.

Kendal 

Home of the annual Mountain Festival and a holiday-maker favourite, Kendal is known across the UK as the town to visit for Cotswold culture. Independent cafes and mesmerising landscape paintings for sale against the backdrop of cobbled stones and handmade bunting. With such expectations does all bring a busier crowd and a long wait for even a cup of tea. But there are far fewer independent stores open for business, with many staying closed this Summer, either from the fear of being overwhelmed by tourists or paradoxically, struggling to make the high rent payments in the town centre.  Is it worth it? If you’re within driving distance and need to stock up on food or want an afternoon in suburbia then you won’t be disappointed.

If walking around the town is too much for you right now why not take a walk and find your next favourite sunset spot on the ‘Gate to the Lakes’?

So no, the Lake District isn’t exactly the same as it was on your family reunion last year, but with locals and tourists taking the necessary precautions to adhere to government guidelines, it seems like a pretty safe bet. It is the artists and the independent store owners and the family-run businesses that are in desperate need of our help right now. The few months spent with no tourists has already had a permanent impact on too many stores, particularly in areas like the Lake District where tourism is a valued and essential part of the economy.

If you are planning to take a holiday in the UK, please shop independently to help support the businesses currently struggling in the Lake District and  keep checking the local guidelines for any changes to regulations.

 

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