Travel Guide: Ullswater

Image credit: Christine Matthews

Whether returning to a favourite destination or exploring somewhere new, holiday is about escaping from the monotony of the everyday. But in the modern world, can you ever really get away? It’s easy enough to pick up your iPhone and book a flight in minutes, but then that same iPhone travels with you. Sure, it’s nice to share your experiences with your friends, family, friends of friends, and their dog, but it would be nice to switch off too. I say a tech-free holiday has its perks.

Ditching the technology requires an unapologetic determination to ignore everyone. Day to day, it’s difficult to get away with missing an email or not replying to a text, so there’s something wonderful about escaping to somewhere you can abdicate responsibility for your own connectedness. The pocket of the Lake District around its second largest lake, Ullswater, is my location of choice. Falling in a beautiful section of the National Park, the area is peppered with picture-postcard villages and awe-inspiring mountains, and with those mountains comes terrible phone signal. Staying in youth hostels, campsites, or cottages without Internet, television, or the ability to call and text might seem incredibly isolating, but instead, it’s liberating: stepping beyond the confines of a technologically mediated experience, it’s a rare chance to truly appreciate the natural world around you.

With an average of 20 hours per week spent online, you gain almost a whole day when you give up the tech! So with your extra time, why don’t you explore the area?

Get outside:

If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, this is the chance to lace up your hiking boots and get outside. Wherever you’re staying, it’s likely that a public footpath is within yards of you. There are plenty of Tourist Information Centres dotted around: the popular village of Pooley Bridge is an excellent source to purchase maps and guides. Whether you fancy a gentle amble around the lakefront, or want to tackle a mountain, there’s something for all levels of ability. Ullswater itself provides opportunities to relive your Swallows and Amazons dreams: you can hire boats at Glenridding, take a trip on the Steamer from Pooley Bridge, or even go for a swim (if you can brave the cold!). If you fancy transferring your Cambridge-honed cycling skills to a more challenging setting, there are plenty of opportunities to hire bikes and take on the undulating roads too.

Culture:

There are plenty of museums dotted around the area from Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum, to Keswick’s infamous Pencil Museum. Not for the fainthearted, I can personally recommend the slightly eccentric Keswick Museum, complete with “700 year old mummified cat”. For any literature fans, a trip to Dove Cottage in Grasmere offers fascinating insights into the life of Wordsworth, with a guided tour of the cottage included in entry to the museum. Grasmere is also renowned for its gingerbread, so it’s well worth a visit to the gingerbread shop. If you want to take a trip back to prehistory, visiting Castlerigg stone circle is an amazing experience, not only is it free, but you can also walk right inside the stone circle!

The Lake District has something for everyone! Getting away is great, but it's even better if you can ditch the technology just for a bit.

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