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How to travel slowly in the Lake District

With Jo Tinsley

The Lake District is a place often described in superlatives; here you have England’s largest national park, its highest mountain and deepest lakes. But while challenging hikes and windblown peaks are certainly within reach, slow travel is all about experiencing a landscape on a deeper and more meaningful level, rather than racing about ticking off a list of ‘must-sees’. Jo Tinsley, author of The Slow Traveller, shares ways to slow your pace in the Lakes.

Jo Tinsley in Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands/Graeme Owsianski

Explore one place well

Slow travel is all about doing less so you can experience a more meaningful connection with a destination. I’ve often found that one of the simplest ways to do this is either to stay for longer in one place or to slow your pace and be curious about what’s immediately on your doorstep rather than racing around trying to see everything in a region. Visiting the Lake District can feel daunting at first as there’s so much to see, but rather than packing your trip with ‘must-sees’, why not take the opportunity to get to know Ullswater like an old friend?

Ullswater steamer

This could mean exploring the length of the lake on a traditional Steamer, taking a guided swim to its wilder reachers, exploring a stretch of the Ullswater Way on foot, or allowing yourself a whole afternoon to dawdle in independent bookshops such as Verey Books (“the Ullswater Bookshop for Curious Minds”) in Pooley Bridge. Giving yourself permission to not pack everything in will leave you feeling refreshed. As slow travellers understand, ‘there is always another trip’.

Create daily rituals to slow your pace

Even on a short stay, you can establish simple daily rituals to help you to get to know the landscape at different times of day and in different lights such as walking to the end of the hotel’s private jetty for a quiet moment before breakfast each morning, skimming stones over the lake at dusk or going for a daily dip. During a recent stay in one of the ‘Outside’ Shepherd’s Huts, my early morning ritual was to walk across the dew-covered lawn and drink my coffee while wandering around the kitchen garden, looking out over the lake and fells and listening to the tail end of the dawn chorus. For me, this felt like a good way to ground myself in the Lakes and set the mood for the rest of the day.

Shepherd Hut at Another Place
Ullswater jetty by Athena Mellor

Take a walk from the door

Walking is the most successful way of moving slowly through a landscape. The simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other gives us a sense of freedom like no other form of movement, allowing us space to connect both with ourselves and with the landscapes we’re moving through.

Another Place walking loop

Walking also helps us to tune into the subtle sights and sounds of nature, and to pay attention to the small things such as the extraordinary mosses and lichens that blanket the trees by the lakeshore or the wing beats of swans taking flight over the lake. To get the lay of the land, you can follow a 5.8km ‘Another Place Loop’ straight from the door, which leads you past the marina’s gently chiming sails up to charming Watermillock church before snaking back through fields to The Brackenrigg Inn where you will soon be able to reward your efforts with hearty homegrown Cumbrian food and drink.

Climb a small hill

I recently had the chance to talk about the joys of climbing small hills as a guest of The Simple Things ‘Hibernacle’ podcast, which got me thinking about how well seeking out small hills (as opposed to the highest peaks or longest trails) chimes with the slow travel philosophy.

For a start, not having to worry about covering miles in dwindling daylight, you can take the climb at your own pace and stop more often to soak in the views. But also, for their diminutive size, small hills often give wondrous views for far less effort. This is particularly true of ‘Marilyns’, hills that have a drop of at least 150 metres on all sides giving them far reaching views that feel much loftier than their height would suggest. There are 55 Marilyns in the Lake District and 288m high Hallin Fell the craggy ridge you can see from the pool, must be one of the Lakes’ finest small hills. A short but steep 1.9 km walk rewards you with views over gleaming Ullswater, Martindale and all the way to Helvellyn.

Hallin Fell - Howtown

Immerse yourself in nature

Finding new ways of experiencing a landscape is at the heart of slow travel, and with a giant blackboard by reception updated daily with ideas for getting out on the water, Another Place has ample opportunities to gain these new perspectives. On my recent trip, I signed up to an enchanting stargazing night swim with champion cold water swimmer Colin Hill.

Stargazing night swim at Another Place

With a bright crescent moon rising over the end of the lake and a nip in the air, I could barely imagine a better night for a dip. Piling on warm clothes, I filled a thermos with sweet minty tea and headed down to the Sheep Shed, where Colin was waiting to kit our small group out in wetsuits, boots and gloves. We tucked LED lights into our tow floats and padded down to the jetty like a trail of glow worms, before swimming along the shore and floating on our backs to gaze up and chat about the stars. Clambering out onto the submerged jetty in the moonlight was a surreal and memorable experience.

Read more about Jo's stay in the 'Outside' shepherd's hut in the April issue of The Simple Things magazine

Buy the April issue

Jo Tinsley

Jo Tinsley

Jo Tinsley is the author of The Slow Traveller: An intention path to mindful adventures. (Quarto, 2023). Illustrations by Aidan Meighan.

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