It's shut. No it's not. Yes it is, they always shut on Saturdays. I'd looked on the website. But so had she. She'd been more careful. Closed every Saturday except Bank Holidays! All the interesting big houses in the Lakes are shut on Saturdays. It's an ancient habit due to Saturday being a 'change over day' for self catering. They haven't adjusted to the fact that hotels have people staying for weekend breaks!
Bank Holiday Saturday. We'd set ourselves the task of going somewhere in the Lake District one or both of us hadn't been to before. Muncaster Castle. I'd been a few times, usually with press trips, but not for a while. Lovely day. Two routes. To get there; go via Broughton, which makes first stop coffee at the Broughton Village Bakery http://broughtonvillagebakery.homestead.com
This used to be a regular haunt under a previous ownership. The new ownership must be even better because the last time we turned up we couldn't get in. And it was still busy, but luckily with people taking away rather than eating in. Under the old regime the bread and cakes were a bit more rustic. Decor hasn't changed, taupe on the walls, very simple. Plus wooden tables, papers to read, pleasant service. In fact the service has become more polished. "Can I get you anything else?" Even the lady on the till asked us if we wanted anything to take away. Like we were daft if we didn't. Anyway, the toasted teacake had the biggest and juiciest dried fruit I have ever had. Coffee was also very good.
So on to Muncaster Castle http://www.muncaster.co.uk/
. We hadn't noticed it was a special Muncaster Festival family weekend when we looked at the website, so the disco music was a bit incongruous, before we could see anything. There was archery, storytelling, chainsaw carving demonstrations, a children's roundabout, giant outdoor games area, husky sled rides, face painting, and a climbing wall, all of which we passed on. The families were having fun. We were two of the few who just wanted to see round the castle. The Pennington family have been there for hundreds of years. There are ghosts. There is an accumulation of beautiful antiques. The books are especially interesting. Fairies, war, architecture. I'd love to have been able to browse. A wonderful patina sits on the leather and wooden articles. Trappings of a family, which still lives there. The terrace is magnificent. Probably a quarter of a mile long. Lots of rhododendrons, perfect timing! And there are glorious views.
On the way out we bumped into Paul our builder who was taking his granddaughter out for the day, and he mentioned he'd just been to lunch at Rosegarth Guest House, Ravenglass. It happens to have a neat terrace overlooking the sand dunes and sea, and they operate as a tea room. The crab salad I had was delicious! Although I could have done without the all embracing salad garnish. Red and yellow peppers, coleslaw, lettuce, tomato, orange slice, cucumber. And the blue cheese dressing. Not all these things complement crab in my book. The scones jam and cream also looked good but I wasn't allowed any.
We headed up to Boot on our way to Hardknott, where the Roman Fort was. A pub looked good. It had had a makeover since the last time I was here, and we made a note to call in next time. If only we hadn't had lunch already. Who knew Cumbria had so many excellent places to eat? www.woolpack.co.uk
It was a clear day. The views from Hardknott and Wrynose were amazing. Picture puzzle perfect. If you are of a nervous disposition, you may not want to drive over these passes. If you are a photographer, walker, painter, fearless driver, you will. There were cyclists storming up the steep hills and the occasional walker.
The road took us to Chesters by the River www.chestersbytheriver.co.uk
, which we love. For once this year, we could sit outside. Cakes are massive so I wasn't allowed any. It's not cheap. But good things aren't. Great shop as well. This is beginning to sound like a tour by a pair of greedy people, and you'd be right. All in the interest of being able to bring you this tour. Actually we hadn't actually eaten that much, yet. But this wasn't the last stop. Oh no. It was a sunny evening and I thought hard about a pub with a sun trap. Difficult. Not many face West. Then I remembered the Hawkshead Brewery at Staveley. A pint of Windermere pale awaited me. Wonderful grapefruity bite to the beer. Lots of sun, but a bit of an industrial setting!
Last stop, the Hare & Hounds at Levens. Almost home, but why stop eating out now? This pub has been taken over recently by a lovely and talented couple who used to work at the Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite. Limited menu, but it's expanding all the time. Pizzas are excellent. Now homemade burgers have been added. And the beer's good!
What a day!
Journey was about 76 miles, 2 hours 45 minutes total drive time.