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.
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.
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 soon 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.
Spring showed its face in the flowers.
And fun was had when we returned to the campsite.
Thoroughly recommend this campsite if you’re looking for space, beautiful scenery, campfires and camping as it used to be.
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.
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 sheepdogs who always came to say hello as we passed by. The closest shop was about 21 miles away in Granton-on-Spey.
We had optimistically booked skiing lessons at the Lecht, a small family-friendly ski and snowboard centre close by. Luckily, despite a few more snowstorms, 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 downhills. 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.
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.
I almost forgot to mention the AMAZING views.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.