Steve Sharpe and family get away from it all on a break in Cumbria
Getting up in the dark, working all day and then returning home in the gloom can be damaging to the soul, so any break in the routine is a good one as far as I’m concerned.
And so with this in mind we found ourselves travelling down winding lanes in the Lake District – one eye on the satnav and one on the howling wind and torrential rain – heading for Coniston village on a blustery, wet and wild Friday night in November.
It’s a world away from a leisurely July saunter through leafy lanes and sunsoaked villages, yet it has to be said that there’s something adventurous and exciting about a post-work dash on a Friday with the weekend stretching ahead.
We arrived at our home for the weekend, in the heart of Coniston village, slightly frazzled from the journey, but as soon as we let ourselves into The Gallery and shut the door on the storm, all was calm again.
The Gallery is a beautiful little house near the centre of the village, just a five-minute walk from the water’s edge.
It’s actually more an apartment than a cottage, a self-contained Victorian property accessed through a traditional timber and slate porch. From a tall hallway you enter into the long, tastefully decorated living area: from kitchen, through dining area to living room.
There’s plenty of light throughout and the kitchen is modern and extremely well-equipped. Upstairs there’s a glossy new shower/bathroom and two double bedrooms. With two large, comfortable leather sofas in the living room – plus a good quality TV, Freeview, board games, books and even a table football game tucked away if you fancy it – the cottage provides all you could need for a leisurely weekend away.
Our Freddie was relieved to find out there was free wifi as well – vital for an 11-year-old.
One of the good things about a winter break is that you don’t necessarily feel obligated to fill every waking minute with activities.
With November’s tempestuous weather howling away outside, it was enough to load up the car with food and drink, batten down the hatches and enjoy a relaxing weekend with just the three of us.
But if you can drag yourself away from The Gallery, there are numerous walks to take advantage of in and around Coniston.
Coniston village, a two-minute walk from the cottage, is a picture-postcard Cumbrian village.
There are any number of little shops selling Lake District memorabilia and trinkets, and much more.
There are also a surprisingly large number of pubs and restaurants, and we decided it would be rude to visit without sampling some of their fare.
There’s not much better than a pint and a meal in front of a real fire while the rain beats against the window on a Saturday afternoon.
Suitably refreshed, we wandered down to Coniston lake, for a bracing walk around the shore of the lake.
The lake is perhaps best known for tragically claiming the life of the legendary Donald Campbell while he was attempting to break the water speed record in 1967.
His boat, the Bluebird7, lay undisturbed at the bottom of the lake until 2001, when she was finally recovered.
Currently undergoing restoration, she will eventually be housed in a museum in Coniston village.
After coffee and scone in the Bluebird Cafe, a smart eaterie on the shores of the lake, we wandered back up the hill in the blustery winds, skirting a huge horizontal tree blocking the road that was vertical when we passed it half an hour earlier.
There’s plenty more to do within a short drive, including Go Ape, which has Segway adventures and Tree Top adventures for both adults and children, and Brockhole Activity Centre, and there are many local walks to be tackled, of varying levels of difficulty.
That’s the joy of the Lake District – it can be enjoyed at any time of year, in any weather and by people of all ages and interests.
This time it presented the perfect opportunity to get away from normal life and recharge the batteries.
Cottage prices for ‘The Gallery’ start from £284 for a short break for up to four people or from £441 for full week’s stay.
For more details see www.coppermines.co.uk
Go Ape – Forest Segway: Riders must be over 10 years of age or over 7 stone. Price £35pp. Tree Top Junior: Mini Tarzans over 1 metre tall. Price £18pp. Visit www.goape.co.uk/days-out/grizedale