Holidays for me have always been about going abroad, laying on a sun lounger and doing as little as possible. A little over a year ago my boyfriend and I took a gamble and booked our only holiday of the year in England, with the intention of getting a very different kind of relaxation.
Living on the South coast of the UK meant an extremely long and tedious drive but at least it was done in good company. Looking back I have no idea why we settled on the Lake District, it was just the first place that spring to mind when we researched staycations. Financially an all inclusive holiday abroad was off the cards but we still wanted time to ourselves and a change of scenery. Unfortunately, Nick had booked off his time from work on what can only be described as the worst possible time, August bank holiday weekend. But we were undeterred, and decided to join (what seemed like half the country) and descend on the rural town of Holmrook nestled in the west side of the Lake District National Park.
Neither Nick nor I were walkers, in fact, the only walking I had ever done was to and from my car or around a bustling shopping centre. Consequently, it may surprise you (as I think it did our B&B landlady) that we decided to take on Scafell Pike as our first venture into the world of walking.
Scafell Pike is Englands highest mountain at 978m. I was an unfit, unprepared and naive tourist and that mountain certainly hammered that home to me pretty quickly. Kitted out in my £29.99 walking boots that I had never worn, a pair of skinny jeans and a fashionable Barbour jacket I set out feeling like an intrepid explorer, unaware of the challenge ahead of me. “Go hard or go home” Nick and I joked in the car, perhaps gaining a little more respect for our surroundings as we parked up in Wasdale Head car park, the hillsides towering above us.
Despite knowing that a flight of stairs could leave me panting we set off following a couple of rudimentary screenshots of a map that we had found earlier that morning. As the trail started we were not alone, a popular walk on one of the busiest weekends of the year left us in the middle of a long snake of people beginning their ascent up the mountain.
By the end of the first few field’s I started to feel a pang of uncertainty. Nick strode off ahead. Was I really this unfit? Did my legs really hurt already? Why did I have ear ache? Oh please don’t need a wee? We soldiered on. How ignorant I had been. My legs were killing me, the ascent at this stage was basically a never ending staircase and my thighs were done. I considered turning back but the shame of watching not only children but the elderly stroll pass me kept me going. Despite how ridiculous I look when I look back at these old photos I felt like the real deal. Surely nobody could tell that I was quite out of my league. A woman in a fur coat and white Addidas trainers was making her way up behind, I had the audacity to make a snide remark to Nick about the impracticality of her attire.
Nick started to leave me behind, the people had strung out now and different routes split off in all directions.
That little arrow points to me, still plodding my way up this never ending path. Shortly after this picture was taken the terrain changed to rock, broken rocks similar to those that can be seen at the bottom left-hand side of this photo. Although a relief for my complaining thighs these posed an entirely new challenge. There was no longer a path and we did not have a proper map.
Suddenly we found ourselves relying entirely on these ‘cairns’ to stop us wandering completely off course, the cloud made visibility poor and these piles of rocks were doing their damnedest to blend into the grey rocky floor.
I realise that this is not painting a particular fond picture, yet the title clearly states that I fell in love with this place? I can tell you now I have never felt elation like that on reaching the top of this bloody mountain. My little cold face lit up, adrenaline coursed through my body and I felt fantastic. I had done it! Me, the person who never sticks to anything, ever.
We didn’t loiter long at the summit, it was bitterly cold and as the sweat cooled on our bodies I knew that I could get a chill very quickly if I stopped moving. The descent was beautiful, a new appreciation for the landscape meant that I now saw everything through a new set of glasses and although a completely ridiculous thing to do given our experience level of ‘zero’ this had set us up for the next few days and now we felt unstoppable!
The next walk that we went on was of a completely different caliber. We decided to walk Muncaster Fell and take the miniature railway back on the return. This journey was the one that cemented my new love for the Lake District, for walking and adventure. Unlike the climb of Scafell Pike, we found ourselves almost entirely alone throughout this walk, which was blissful. I felt like Bear Grylls, I felt a sense of adventure, a sense of freedom and a feeling of complete exhilaration as I used only my body power to walk up and along this most beautiful countryside. This feeling of isolation, the reliance on my body, the completely basic nature of walking had won me over. Sitting eating a packed lunch, sheltering from the wind behind a rock I was in a whole new kind of heaven, there was no traffic, no hustle or bustle just me, the one I love and the beauty of nature.
Unlike the climb of Scafell Pike, we found ourselves almost entirely alone throughout this walk, which was blissful. I felt like Bear Grylls, I felt a sense of adventure, a sense of freedom and a feeling of complete exhilaration as I used only my body power to walk up and along this most beautiful countryside. This feeling of isolation, the reliance on my body, the completely basic nature of walking had won me over. Sitting eating a packed lunch, sheltering from the wind behind a rock I was in a whole new kind of heaven, there was no traffic, no hustle or bustle, just me, the one I love and the beauty of nature.
Typing this now the memories flood back and I feel an overwhelming sense of longing to return to that most beautiful countryside, although I have been walking since and have also invested in some proper attire this holiday will always be special to me. I found a whole new part of myself that I didn’t know existed and although we returned with weary feet and aching bodies my mind was the most relaxed that it had ever been.
Is there anything that you’ve ever done that has surprised you? Let me know in the comments.