Camping in Eskdale – May bank holiday

Gazing at the stars over the mountain peaks

Last year a bunch of us went camping in the Lake District, at Fisherground campsite in Eskdale. We had such a good time we did it again this year on the May bank holiday weekend. And we were lucky as it was hot, hot, hot!

There’s nothing better than relaxing by a warm campfire with a glass of chilled wine at hand and having hilarious conversations with old friends. And if the weather is great it feels like a proper holiday that you’d pay hundreds for via a travel agent. I love the smell of campfire smoke, even when it permeates all your clothes and sleeping bags. It’s a comforting cosy smell that reminds me of childhood Brownie camps and Bonfire nights.

This isn’t a review of the campsites we stay at by the way, just some diary-style notes about our camping weekend, but the campsite at Fisherground is highly recommended for family trips. These two munchkins below had a blast and the weather was fab, did I already say that in a smug kind of way? 😉

Fisherground Campsite, Eskdale

The campsite also has it’s own train station for the L’al Ratty, a miniature steam train which runs from Boot at the top of the valley to Ravenglass at the coast and back again. A must trip for everyone, and very relaxing sitting either in the open air coaches, or in the oldey worldy wooden compartments which are under cover.

Getting to Eskdale Green is a fun drive, just as you think the last six miles will be a breeze, the road suddenly points up and begins twisting and turning at an angle of almost 45 degrees in places. Make sure your brakes work! If you see a sign to Hardknott pass make sure you’re going in the other direction. It’s called that for a few very good reasons.

Camping paddling ponds

The children’s rafting pond!

Fisherground campsite is in the beautiful Esk valley just outside the small village of Eskdale Green, and has a pub at the end of the road. The owners bend over backwards to welcome happy campers, even though May bank holiday is their busiest weekend of the year, they were still smiling as hundreds of campers arrived throughout the day and evening. It’s a fabulous camping site for children too. It has a large naturally created paddling pond fed from a fresh water stream that the owners have made into a watery pirates den. There are 2 or 3 old tractor tyres transformed into rafts with ropes and big sticks to pole each other across the pond by. There were a few Swallows and Amazons style games being played and even though the water was cold it didn’t bother the kids.

Right beside the pond is a great adventure playground in the wooded copse. A zip wire, more swinging tyres, climbing ropes and a couple of rope swings, one of which flies over the water, were all more than enough to make it a kids heaven.

The adventure playground at Fisherground

Rafting in the ponds

Trying not to fall in!

Trying not to fall in! (but of course they did).

Facepaint makes the pirate games more authentic.

Facepaint makes the pirate games more authentic.

Teamwork

Rescue mission to the Rocks

Taking turns to push

Taking turns to push

Firepits, our essential camping requirement, were provided at no extra charge. A wheel rim balanced safely on a stone slab in the centre of our circle of tents, and the wood was bought from, and delivered by, a very cheerful man with a van, with optional marshmallows if you’d forgotten your own. The smoke from the fire is also useful when the midgies descended in the early evening. Only a slight irritant as there was water nearby and trees of course. We found the local pubs even sold Avon’s Sun So Soft spray which is the only, I mean the only, lotion that keeps the little blighters away.

The first day after arriving, we headed round the valley to Wastwater to gaze at the view towards Scafell Pike and fells, we realised we had headed went in the wrong direction and left the sun behind us in the Esk valley! The view is still spectacular under cloud, and it’s so peaceful, as hardly any tourists hang out at this side of the lakes which is further west of the more popular areas. More serious walkers and outward bounders can be found here.

Wastwater

Wastwater views over to Scafell Pike.

The next day we took the steam train to Muncaster Castle for fun day and even found a slow worm basking in the sun at the side of the pavement. I’ve never seen one before and they are very pretty close up.

The view from Muncaster Castle grounds.

The view from Muncaster Castle grounds.

Sam the slow worm

Sam the slow worm.

A bone-rattling ride on a recommissioned army truck takes you direct from the campsite up to the Woolpack Inn for an evening meal. You’ve got to watch how much alcohol you consume at the pub, as the ride back down can be even hairier! Especially as the roads are single tracks. Stomach churning.

Marshmallows round the campfire and a few glasses of wine with friends rounds off the evenings well. As soon as the kids got their bearings it was great that they all made friends and dashed from tents, to ponds, to the playground and the ‘mountain’ by themselves. All larger groups were camping in a separate field, presumably to keep any late night noise to a minimum, or at least all together but we found no unpleasant noise at all which was nice, unless we were the culprits!

We can’t wait to go back, it’s beautiful camping countryside, with loads of places to visit and things to do, and a relaxing cuckoo calling every morning as we woke up.

Low Greenside campsite – Camping as it used to be

Last weekend was our first camping trip of this year, and only the second time we’d used our new Vango tent. Deciding to go for a couple of nights at short notice, even at this time of year it proved tricky to find a campsite that met with our strict prerequisites for camping, distance to travel for a short trip and interesting countryside to explore. I fired off several emails to likely looking places and settled on Low Greenside Campsite at Ravenstonedale in Cumbria. Five miles south of Kirkby Stephen it is far enough away for us to feel like we’re in a different place to home, but not too far for a short weekend break. Just dodge the colourful macaws on your way through Kirkby, (yes really) and it’s basically a field on a small farm surrounded by the Pennines on one side and the Lake District on the other. Camping as it used to be.

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Tents were set up when we arrived on Friday evening and we toasted marshmallows around the fire. And kept warm as the sun went down at the same time as the temperature dropped below zero.

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During the night we were woken by the cold, as well as a nosy lamb pawing (hoofing?) at our tent. But the morning dawned sunny and it sooned warmed us up again.

The next morning after the bacon butties and cups of tea we set off for a ramble to Smardale Gill and the nature reserve.

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Spring showed it’s face in the flowers.

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And fun was had when we returned to the campsite.  IMG_2330

Thoroughly recommend this campsite if you’re looking for space, beautiful scenery, campfires and camping as it used to be.

Lecht Skiing Centre & a Cairngorm Cottage

Or trying to remember what it takes to go skiing after 10 years

Finding an outdoor adventure, or skiing break, during the bitterly cold February school holidays was going to be a challenge this year but we decided, as it was much too cold for camping, to rent a cottage in the Cairngorms for a week instead. We knew the Scottish Highlands had had a bumper winter sports season the previous winter and although this year seemed more wind and rain than icy snow we thought the risk was worth it.

Glenlivet Cottage at Bluefolds, Cairngorms for skiing

Bluefolds Cottage in Glenlivet was a last minute change of venue as the first Tomintoul cottage we’d booked suffered a fire over the New Year. But it was fabulous, spacious and clean with a very friendly helpful owner. He even ferried us up to the cottage in his 4×4 as the farm track was under snow and ice when we arrived. Our little car would never have made it. One evening he even brought us some sledges and some of his own whisky collection to try.  The cottage had the added bonus of a coal-fired burner which, even though it was bitterly cold outside kept the cottage cosy all the time. The farm below the cottage had some friendly sheep dogs who always came to say hello as we passed by. The closest shop was about 21 miles away in Granton-on-Spey.

The Lecht Skiing centre in the sunshine

We had optimistically booked skiing lessons at the Lecht, a small family friendly ski and snowboard centre close by. Luckily, despite a few more snow storms, the three days we enjoyed at the Lecht were sunny and actually warm. Once I’d managed to get my old ski boots on, having not skied for 10 years they’d gone a bit stiff to say the least, we quickly remembered how to slide down hills. The route up to the ski resort could be hairy at times with no 4×4 but with a bit of skidding and sliding we made it each day.

Me at the Lecht skiing

It was certainly chillier at the top of the ski lift and we soon found the best runs to try and avoid both the real beginners and to not get in the way of the experts. I think we’re in-betweeners. I was very glad of my new Trespass skiing jacket to keep me warm. Skiing in Scotland is a hit and miss business due to the inclement (love that word) weather. If the wind is too strong no lifts are open except the nursery slopes. So glad we gave it a go and had such an unexpected brilliant time, highly recommend the cottages at Bluefold if you want a quiet, in the middle-of-nowhere kind of getaway too.

Almost forgot to mention the AMAZING views.

Amazing views

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Whinlatter Forest adventure, a few years ago

Walking in Whinlatter Forest trails and adventure playground

One of our most favourite places in the UK is Keswick, and just up the road from there is the brilliant Whinlatter Forest trails and adventure playground for kids. It has a lovely big visitor centre, a cafe, osprey webcams , forest walks, mountain biking and the adventure playground it’s worth visiting if you’re in the area. The views over Bassenthwaite are amazing rain or shine and it’s just 15 minutes drive from Keswick town centre.

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We visited in spring time to take advantage of the café, and have an reasonable walk through the woods. The forest walks range from easy to strenuous but the one we did this time was just was 3-4 miles of trails, sometimes deep in the trees, and sometimes out in the open, past streams and  a couple of waterfalls. Plenty to do and see on the way round too, collect pine cones and leaves, watch siskins  and spot sun-seeking lizards.

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We passed lots of mountain bikers zooming past on the trickier trails, but the real highlight for our daughter was the amazing adventure playground. It had only been completed in the last year or so and is a long trail of fun through the forest just above the activity centre. Starting with slides and wobbly wooden bridges, past wooden sculptures and tyre swings.

Scary tree carvings

There’s a rope climbing frame, a climbing wall, and one of those dragon style swings too. As well as some little wooden chalets built like Wendy houses in the trees for children to enjoy.

Children's adventure playground at Whinlatter Forest

The massive sand/gravel pits were a great favourite too. These were complete with pulleys and buckets for scooping up sand and working out how to move the gravel elsewhere to then drop it down tunnels and tubes. At the end of the adventure trail there are tree stumps with mysterious fairy-style doors that could be opened to reveal carvings behind. It’s a lovely forest, full of wildlife and places to discover. Older children and adults can sign up for a GoApe adventure. Can’t wait to go again.

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Update: Last October 2015 we stayed one night at Lanefoot Farm campsite which is located in Thornthwaite just below Whinlatter. They allow campfires and is a lovely place to camp and they have wooden pods too if you prefer.