Go Away! - Glenridding and the Lake District
the Lakes aren't just home to sheep and people who use the word ""thee"" instead of ""you""
Things have clearly changed since the days when you could get a pint of John Smith's in Glenridding's most popular pub for £1.70. Despite a local tendency to regard everything south of Penrith through narrowed eyes, prices these days wouldn't be out of place in a London suburb. There's even Stella on tap. Almost a decade ago, when I was but a naïve young New Zealander tending bar in the middle of god-knows-where, times were different and the substitution of Foster's for McEwan's lager was considered a great leap forward for the pubs of Glenridding.
Today, BMWs and Range Rovers line the kerbs, despite the fact it has been raining so consistently for the last fortnight that Ullswater has risen to lie mere centimetres from the Penrith road.
There's a good reason for Glenridding's popularity, however. The Lakes, rain or shine (but mostly rain) are as fascinating as ever. The transition from picture-postcard scenes of half-timbered pubs, sheep, and chatty locals, to sweeping views of an elemental landscape, can occur as though someone up there flicked a switch. Suddenly you're surrounded by vast red fells, hard-as-glass bodies of water and ominous cloud formations over Helvellyn, England's third highest peak. In that sense at least, no quantity of Stella at the bar or king prawns on the menu is going to change anything.
If you fancy an outdoors sort of holiday, be prepared. Not just for the weather, which can turn on a dime, but also for the company of the Craggies: walkers who, in their boundless enthusiasm for walking massive distances uphill, forget that others don't take the same delight in discussions about waterproof footwear and scroggan (or "mountain mix"). That said, there are plenty of easier walks within range – just ask a local.
But the Lakes aren't just home to sheep and people who use the word "thee" instead of "you." That's right, it's also the location for arguably the Greatest Film of All Time, Withnail & I. Though these days you'll be hard pressed to find the Penrith Tea Rooms or a poacher with eels down his trousers, you can go shopping for Kendal Mint Cake, elderflower wine and Wellington boots at Glenridding General Store, which has just had the new season's line of polka-dot wellies delivered (reducing the need for plastic bags on your feet).
The surrounding area is also the perfect place to manufacture your own mini pub crawl. Either take the steamer (in operation for 116 years - and yes, it has an on-board bar) from Glenridding pier to the tiny but perfectly-formed pub in the Howtown Hotel, on to Pooley Bridge and back to Glenridding. If the weather is inclement, just slouch elegantly by the fire in the lounge of The Inn on the Lake, a hotel in the grand style. Proceed to the Ratcher's pub beneath the Glenridding Hotel – where the locals go – for a game of pool, darts or backgammon. From there, you can venture up through Glenridding itself to the Traveller's Rest pub, or down the road to the Patterdale Hotel and the White Lion pub, a cosy red-upholstered bolt-hole close to the Patterdale YHA.