THE Jaws of Borrowdale have been described as “the loveliest square mile in Lakeland”.
That was the verdict of Alfred Wainwright, the legendary fell-walker who was more familiar with the Lake District than most, having criss-crossed it to compile his famous guidebooks.
And when you gaze down Derwentwater to the Jaws – a lush, narrow valley carved by the River Derwent set between two rocky, tree-covered fells – it’s impossible to argue with ‘AW’.
Which must make the Leathes Head Hotel a strong contender for the most perfectly-situated hotel in the country.
This 11-bedroom beauty is nestled in little Troutdale, whose pastures are home to a host of Lakeland’s iconic Herdwick sheep, with Grange Fell – one of the aforementioned ‘Jaws’, the other being Castle Crag across the way – basically on the back doorstep.
And it’s that proximity to so many wonderful walks that makes this the ideal destination for fell-lovers who want a little bit of luxury – and a superb dinner – when they come off the hill.
You really could park your car outside this Edwardian country house hotel for a week and stride out every morning on a different path.
And on your return, you can’t beat a drink from the well-stocked Graphite Bar, with a glass of champagne and a pint of Keswick Bitter just the ticket after we’d spent a day on the hills.
Which was odd, because my missus, Gwen, isn’t normally a real ale kinda gal.
We took our drinks outside to the lovely grassy terrace so we could drink in the views but, to be honest, the view from our room was even better.
It’s our proud boast that we’ve climbed every hill surrounding Derwentwater and you can see most of them from Room 4’s big bay window.
I thought it would take a lot to drag me away from that view of Cat Bells et al but the Leathes Head menu did the trick. Cumbria boasts some of the best ingredients and head chef Daniel Hopkins makes the most of them, so I had a three-way decision to make between the local hogget, pork and beef.
Couldn’t I just have them all?
To work off that little lot – and a substantial breakfast – we took to the hills but again we were spoiled for choice.
Gwen then had a great idea – it sometimes happens – and we caught the local bus that winds its way up through the Honister pass to the slate mine.
The last working slate mine in England, you could explore its cavernous galleries, cling to the side of Fleetwith Pike on the dizzying Via Ferrata or dangle 2000 feet above the valley floor on their infinity bridge. But we contented ourselves with rambling back down the path to Borrowdale and the Leathes Head.
This is the best way to appreciate this cracking bit of Britain, and I’d recommend a quick detour up Castle Crag.
Nearby you’ll also find the cave where the hermit-like Millican Dalton, the self-styled ‘Professor of Adventure’, lived and began Lakeland’s camping and adventure holiday trade.
Now, we spend a lot of time in the area so a new attraction is always welcome and the Lingholm Estate fits the bill. The former holiday home of Beatrix Potter — the grand listed Victorian house’s kitchen garden was her inspiration for The Tale of Peter Rabbit and she wrote Squirrel Nutkin here — now has a smashing tearoom and great grounds.
Next time we’re down, we’ll set off from the Leathes Head, catch one of the regular launches across to Lingholm, clamber up Cat Bells and make our way along the ridge and back down to the Graphite Bar.
And considering Keswick is only two-and-a-bit hours of easy driving from Glasgow, that’ll be sooner rather than later.
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