FANCY jumping into a picturesque lake for an early morning dip? Or stylishly swinging from tree to tree – via a zip wire of course? Or how about canoeing and kayaking?
Well adventure was the theme of my trip to Cumbria and an adventure it certainly was.
We took in Penrith and Bowness during a two day trip to what is arguably England’s most beautiful county and better known as the Lake District.
The third largest county in the country, Cumbria is as varied as it is vast.
Many think access can be difficult, and while trains may not run as frequently as they do elsewhere, it’s something of a misnomer to suggest it’s hard to reach.
It was to be a trip for firsts – my first time visiting the Lakes as an adult, my first time realising a childhood dream to re-enact the Krypton Factor and the first time I’ve ever swum in a Lake. By swim, I mean jumping off a pier at 8am into the beautifully cold lake and getting out as quickly as I could before running to the sauna.
My trip started a mere minute off the motorway at the North Lakes Hotel – a four star spa and hotel making a name of itself as a place for conferences. It is just minutes away from the award-winning Rheged attraction – Europe’s largest grass covered building, designed to resemble a Lakeland hill, which you could easily miss without all the signs.
It has everything from a 3D cinema to conference rooms and specialist shops you could spend hours wandering around.
From there, I literally went ape.
An activity I can highly recommend, Go Ape at Whinlatter Forest provides teams of friends, families or work colleagues an exhilarating day out swinging through the trees and flying along zip wires.
I won ‘best fall award’ out of our group, which was a little unfair as I did land on my feet on one of the five landings – the rest of the time cushioning my fall with my behind!
The course is not for the faint-hearted – I decided to go for the extreme route and found myself shaking on stepping-stone steel rings hanging 50ft in the air with only a wire and my arms holding me.
It’s as safe as houses, but the fear is fantastic and it’s a great team building activity.
The adventure continued the next day when we headed to the picturesque Lake Windermere.
The water was so still it seemed a shame to ripple it by taking to the water in my transport of choice – a canoe.
Canoeing and kayaking are among the most popular water sports, and while I’ve kayaked before, canoeing was a first for me.
The canoe I shared with a friend was reminiscent of something you’d expect on the Mississippi – long, green and much harder than a kayak to manoeuvre.
We sailed around an island during two hours of orienteering, taking in the sights on land and water with the help and advice of our leader.
Apparently, the canoeist at the back does not need to work as hard as the one at the front, I say that because we were 30 minutes in before we discovered that gem. Oh, and I’d just swapped positions mid-water from the back to the front, thankfully not falling in a great bit of holding hands team work.
It was a sunny yet cold day and our next adventure was to be more relaxed – lunch on board a boat that was to take us along Windermere to our second hotel.
And what a place it was.
The Lakeside Hotel, run by Mirfield man Jonathan Robb, is a beauty at the quieter end of Lake Windermere.
It’s widely accepted as being the best four star hotel on the lake and has a spa and pool for guests, which is a luxury as you gaze out of the jacuzzi at the lake.
Set on the southern shores of Windermere, Lakeside was once a 17th century coaching inn. It has been transformed into a stylish hotel – I could have moved into.
We had dinner there on the final night. It was artistic treat after artistic treat, with the highlight being an eucalyptus sorbet, a must for those who, like me, possess a sweet tooth.
The hotel was hit by flooding that caused it to close earlier this year while it was refurbished. It gave the owners a blank canvas to create a modern hotel that has managed to keep its original charm.
It’s within easy travelling distance to all the tourist attractions, but far away enough for a bit of peace, quiet and tranquility.
And it was at the Lakeside I and two friends decided to end our adventure trip on a high – jumping into the lake from the pier. Yes, it seemed icy cold, but it was a thrilling experience that topped off a great trip to take in the adventurous side of Cumbria.
I stayed at the North Lakes Hotel, Penrith www.northlakeshotel.com
On the second night I stayed at the Lakeside Hotel, Newby Bridge www.lakesidehotel.co.uk
Go Ape www.goape.co.uk – there are 26 nationally.
Canoeing, kayaking, trekking and climbing, among many other activities, can be organised by Total Adventure www.total-adventure.co.uk
Visit my place cumbria (Carlisle & Cumbria Conference Group) www.myplacecumbria.co.uk for further details.