Most morning dog walks end up being a 10-minute tootle round the block, trying to avoid left-out wheelie bins and school-run mums.
So when your playground is the wondrous rolling fells of Easedale, suburbia seems so wonderfully far away.
So it was at 8am on a Sunday morning that myself and our King Charles Spaniel, Sacha, embarked on a brisk three mile walk up to Sour Milk Gill and back round via the Troll’s Bridge and Far Easedale path.
By the time the morning porridge and avocado on muffins was served about 9.30am all three of us had worked up a healthy hunger.
The key to all this of course was the location of our weekend retreat, the striking Lancrigg Hotel, just under a mile from the centre of Grasmere and a perfect gateway to peace, tranquility and a host of marvellous fells visible from our bedroom window.
This fine country house dates back to the 1800s and is famous for its colourful facade and being the former home of renowned writer William Wordsworth.
It has also played host to other writers, painters and explorers and has a decidedly relaxed and artistic flavour as soon as you walk up the gravelled driveway. It’s no wonder the backdrop has proved so inspirational – the distant yet unmistakable thrum of the Sour Milk Gill waterfall is audible from the splendid front porch area of the hotel.
If UNESCO needed a setting to finally confirm the Lakes as a World Heritage site, then this would have done the job, no problem!
It has 10 bedrooms, all en-suite, set in 30 acres of mature gardens and woodlands and has its own path to the tourist mecca of Helm Crag behind, a towering crag which helps give Lancrigg its presence. Our room was named ‘Wordsworth’ after the poet who described the area as the as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”
The boutique rooms are all individually finished and named to reflect the history of the house, with Dickens just down the corridor.
The bed was only a double but the comfort was glorious with the rest of the room perfectly combining the mix of old and new, the highlight being the classic window shutters so beautifully crafted. The only gripe was the lack of anything to enhance the Wordsworth theme once you put the key in the door – a nice touch would be to include some of his work in frames in the room perhaps.
That said there were some nice touches – the ‘please service room’ tag on the door handle which read ‘out on the fells’ raised a smile for this keen walker. For 30 years, Lancrigg was run as a vegetarian hotel and kitchen and although there are plenty of dishes to satisfy meat eaters, the current owners have stayed true to the vegetarian ethos.
Keen to show willing, I opted for the smoked salmon with avocado and poached egg on a muffin after fresh fruit and muesli for breakfast – it set us up perfectly for a gentle wander into Far Easedale, one of the more secluded valleys which is largely forgotten by those powering towards Easedale Tarn to the west and Helm Crag to the right.
For Wainwright baggers, Lancrigg’s placement is unrivalled – I counted around 20 you could reasonably tick off over a prolific weekend.
After a trip into Grasmere village – the less pretentious little sister to Ambleside (make sure you try out the thunder and lightning flavoured ice cream from the ice cream shop in the village centre) – we wandered back up to the hotel for a welcome rest in the Poet’s Bar which affords fine views of the fells beyond. It is open to the public too and provides a timely refreshment for Coast to Coast walkers. Being so relaxed, it is easy to (and highly recommended) avoid going out again and eat in the hotel.
We did just that, taking on the eight course taster menu (£49.99 per person).
It was fine dining at its best, delicately created small plates of wonder that seemed a crime to dismantle, lovingly put together by brilliant chef Gary McDermott.
For someone who tends to devour his food like he will never eat again, it was a pleasure to take our time over such artistry, courses of moist fish, fine meats and rich desserts gradually satisfying our palate.
And so it was to the lounge area, with its open fire (not needed on this balmy night) to relax with other guests to drink in the serenity of our surroundings.
Taking the dog out for a final jaunt before bed, all was quiet and calm, stars sparkling in the sky, Sour Milk Gill still making its own sweet music in the distance.
Suburbia beckoned the next morning – but for two lovely nights Lancrigg provided a life reboot we all need once in a while. No-one can really argue with Wordsworth...