The Dales, The Lakes and The Peaks!

Posted on October 28, 2021

It was good to head up north for a few days. We left on Saturday morning and made tracks towards Lancaster, the home of Jennifer’s son whilst he studies at university. All seemed well as we came off the A303 and had a straightforward trip up the A34, over the Chilterns and towards Oxford.

Once past Oxford, things turned ugly. A 4-mile tailback all the way to the M40 set the precedent for a day in stop start traffic. The stuttering journey continued all the way up to the M42 and the M6. The car carried an atmosphere where I was constantly on the verge of anger management as the sciatica set in.

It was the worst kind of traffic. 5mph up to 20mph, back down to 10mph, then an adrenaline pumping slamming of the brakes. There seemed to be smacked up or broken-down cars everywhere, not surprising given the volume of traffic. This went on all the way to Manchester and only really sorted itself out 15 miles south of Lancaster. My concentration levels and pre-arthritic hip had been taken to breaking point.

A Late Arrival

We got to our hotel 40 minutes before we had a dinner booked in Lancaster. We weren’t staying in Lancaster; we were at a place called The Royal in Bolton Le Sands. We turned down Lancaster House Hotel because on top of the £450 for three nights, they wanted £60 for the dog and £36:00 for using their car park. We made a joint decision that Lancaster House could go and fuck themselves.

We got to the restaurant just in time. It was a South African place called The Mad Hunter with a good atmosphere. Ethan and Jennifer enjoyed their meal; I was so tired I think I would have struggled to get enthused by a £30 million lottery win. I was disappointed by the food, but I was nearly dead to the world. My head was numb, and my sciatic nerve was pounding so much it felt like it had its own heartbeat.

We headed back to the hotel. I was relieved to be greeted by staff that had an assuming but warm way about them. If I had been put in the position where I had some one all over me like a Top Man suit, I think I might have turned violent. We had a big glass of Malbec each to knock us out. When the receipt came out of the till with £18:40 written on it, I said, “Fuck Me!” a bit too loud. The Royal is a decent place though, if not spectacular.

The Dales

After a hearty sleep, it was a relief to wake up fresh and take a walk down to the bleak, but strangely alluring sea front, with my ecstatic dog as a companion (Jennifer remained unconscious). To stretch out my legs and feel the fresh autumn air on my face, was like being kissed by God (if God existed of course). The sciatica had backed off and I felt as dandy as a 53-year-old can do, excited by a trip to the Yorkshire Dales.

Ethan decided not to join us. He was, rather insincerely, ‘waiting for a delivery’, so we headed east into the hills with the increasingly excited dog. At first The Dales seemed a bit disappointing, but they got more and more impressive. My driving less so, as I spent too much time admiring hills, rather than the tarmac in front of me.

The road took us through Garsdale, Hawes, and finally onto Aysgarth, which was stunning. If you haven’t been to Aysgarth, please do, the waterfalls are a joy to behold. It was what I would regard as a good day. Dinner was in The Three Mariners in Lancaster. It was a confusing place. Pretty from the outside but desperately in need of a refurbishment internally. A positive approach to the pub, followed by a disappointing entrance, but then…a really good meal.

The Lakes

The next morning it was an early start and off to The Lake District. Ethan joined us this time as he had run out of excuses. It was a cracking day, with sunshine and showers lighting up the sky with rainbows and cumulus clouds. We crossed the Kirkstone pass and headed down into Glenridding and Ullswater, taking various side roads.

We had lunch in The Travellers Rest. It is a pub hanging onto its dignity. It feels like it is in a race against time before Greene King take it over, call it ‘Ye Olde Lake District Experience’ and fill it with ‘Duck or Grouse’ signs on imitation beams. I hope I am wrong and it stays a proper pub, at least until global warming kills us all.

Our evening meal was in a takeaway next to the castle. We thought it was a restaurant, but it was a takeaway with chairs. However, it was excellent, despite us being the only people in Lancaster who weren’t using it as a takeaway. Nice food and nice Turkish staff who pretended they understood us.

The Peaks

After a good sleep, it was another stroll on the beach at Bolton Le Sands and a trip home via the Derbyshire Peaks. I was quite excited about this as I have never been to the Peak District before. However, as we passed through Manchester, Stockport, and Glossop, our enthusiasm diminished somewhat. It was all a bit grim in the October drizzle.

However, if you do this route, stick with it. Once you get past Whalley Bridge and out towards Buxton, everything changes. Suddenly, you are 1500 feet above sea level with your breath taken away. When you leave Buxton southbound, you assume the best is over, but it is yet to come. You climb and climb and climb some more, until you are in the clouds, literally.

I expected the Dales and the Lakes to be spectacular, but I wasn’t so sure about The Peak District. Because I was low on expectation, it made it better. It felt a bit like turning up to a party where you didn’t expect much, but it turned into a raucous night of entertainment. We live in a world where we are told everything is mind blowingly brilliant, so when we witness it, it is an anti-climax. A bit like an Adele song, or a Sunday Night drama about submarines and Russians. The peaks were the opposite. I was impressed.

The journey from The Peaks back home was straightforward once out of Stafford, and I am glad to report that the nagging sciatic nerve behaved itself. It was a relief to hit 70mph, stick the cruise control on, and drive without the build up of tension. Driving is so much harder with older limbs and eyesight that constantly needs correcting, so the less complex it is the better. Jennifer drives willingly, but I am a pathetic, weak, and sickly passenger. I might as well be on a North Sea trawler in a Force 8 when I am a passenger next to Hampshire’s female answer to James Hunt. Smooth modern cars are great for so many things, but my stomach doesn’t agree.

It was a good trip. The journey up there apart, I fully enjoyed seeing the wilder parts of the UK. However, any loose thoughts of moving to such areas were soon curtailed today. The very place we were at on Monday, has just had a foot of rain in 24hours. Stuff that.

It’s good to be back in Hampshire, even if the hills made of patchwork farmland, do look a little bit pathetic.

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