REVIEW: Autumn camping in the Lake District

The Camping pods at Windermere Camping and Caravanning Club site.
The Camping pods at Windermere Camping and Caravanning Club site.

Warm colours, crunching leaves, surging waterways and majestic sunsets over shadowy mountainsides all collude to make the English Lakes well worth a visit in late October.

Hugely popular sometimes to the point of nausea in the summer months, the Cumbrian mountains and Lake District towns and villages are much quieter in the run up to winter.

View from the Windermere Camping and Caravanning Club site.

View from the Windermere Camping and Caravanning Club site.

However, if anything, the beauty is more profound.

Reds, oranges, yellows and browns sweep the landscape.

Patterdale is serene and sun dappled, the road alongside Ullswater is virtually empty, and you can actually get a space in the National Trust’s Aira Force car park. Just.

We crammed everything into the car for one last long-weekend jaunt into the fields, fells and forests, this time leaving the tent at home – which of course didn’t seem to make any difference in terms of having absolutely no space left as we set off.

Ullswater from the Brackenrigg Inn.

Ullswater from the Brackenrigg Inn.

We had booked to stay in a camping pod at Windermere Camping and Caravanning Club Site, which is actually a few miles east of Windermere, just south near Staveley, off the A591.

Camping pods, or “glamping pods”, have seriously taken off in the UK over the past decade, with many campsites, and even pubs and hotels, investing in the ark shaped wooden sleeping shelters to provide an alternative to traditional camping.

The pods are insulated, with a carpeted wooden floor, a heater, spot lights and double electric socket, and a small, sheltered veranda at the front.

There was a small shelf for a kettle and four hooks for coats inside, but perhaps a few extra shelves and hooks to hang towels and lay out belongings wouldn’t go amiss in the pod.

A red sky over Lowther Castle

A red sky over Lowther Castle

It also came with a wooden dining table and four chairs, and once the doors were closed, the blinds were drawn, and the heating switched on, you couldn’t get much cosier.

There are three pods at the Windermere site, and at this time of year, the sun sets on them and the moon rises briefly in front before sliding off behind the horizon again, leaving behind a blanket of stars to marvel over.

The temperature got down to around five degrees at night, but inside the pod, it was toasty, and it was a great feeling to get wrapped up for a glass of wine on the veranda, before scurrying inside to warm up again.

We stayed for three nights on the site.

The fire installation at Lowther Castle, which can be seen lit up in the distance.

The fire installation at Lowther Castle, which can be seen lit up in the distance.

Although the pods can accommodate two adults and two small children, we were fortunate enough to have the grandparents staying close by in their four berth caravan, so the kids bunked in with them.

This allowed more space in the pod, which would have been cramped, but not impossible, with four.

We still managed to cram nine of us in to share a curry on Saturday night though!

The site is quite large, accommodating mainly caravans, with a small camping field, and around eight ‘safari tents’, which were empty during our time there.

It also has a kid’s play area, a reception and shop, and a pub/restaurant called The Whistling Pig.

The Whistling Pig is over 18s only in the bar area, but there is an adjoining family room, which on the Saturday night held its annual Halloween and fancy dress party.

There was a pumpkin carving and fancy dress competition, face painting, witch racing, and a free buffet with pizza, sausage rolls, and, of course, lots of sweets.

The face painter who expertly turned me into Dracula for the night told me she’d won the fancy dress eight years in a row and was now banned from entering, opting to glam everyone else up instead.

There was a nice, family feel to the event which ended in our Halloween Quiz win, putting us two bottles of wine up.

Hundreds of rabbits can be found keeping the grass down on the site, which provides a lot of fun for the kids, and there’s a gate at one end that leads into fields for a two mile walk into Staveley town, where Hawkshead Brewery’s famous beer hall can be found.

Whilst in the area, we enjoyed breakfast at the 2 Sisters Cafe at Plumgarths Farm Shop, which is run by Polish sisters Monika and Magda, and has some delicious food and drink on offer.

We also took the A591 and A592 via Ings, Kirkstone Pass, Patterdale, Glenridding and Ullswater to Aira Force, where we enjoyed the autumnal colours and air, and awoke the senses peering down into Aira Force from the old stone bridge above.

A brief pit stop at The Brackenrigg Inn, which affords quite frankly outstanding views over Ullswater from its roadside terrace, led us on to Lowther Castle, near Penrith which was hosting a Halloween Party in the grounds and courtyard.

A woodland walk revealed spookily dressed actors hiding behind trees, or walking through the woods, stunning lighting effects, and, at the end, a huge fire installation surrounded by candles as the dark descended completely.

There was also live music, an outside bar and food stalls back at the castle itself, a lively performance by Lancaster’s Batala drummers, Ghostbusters on the screen, and the castle ruins themselves were lit up ‘spooktacularly’.

Lowther Castle is quite a sight to behold at any time of the year, and there are more events planned around Bonfire night and Christmas.

See www.lowthercastle.org for more information.

After packing up on Sunday (sighing contentedly that there was no tent to dry and fold) more sunshine led us back out into the woods and along the river out of Staveley for a few hours.

It was great to get back out into nature so late in the year, and for those without the luxury of a caravan, the camping pod provides adequate warmth and shelter, and a unique experience for all the family.

The staff on the site are friendly and helpful, and the shower, toilet and washing up facilities are plentiful and clean.

Prices for the pods start at £40/£50 in low season and £55/£65 in high season, depending on Camping and Caravanning Club membership.

For more information, visit HERE.