Marion Ainge spends a weekend in picture-perfect Patterdale village.
The wetter the better for a waterfall walk in Ullswater
If you’re looking for a hotel which offers fine dining, designer bedrooms and luxury at a price, the Patterdale Hotel, Ullswater may not be for you. But if location is paramount, plus cosy rooms, home-cooked meals, the warmest welcome and smiling, helpful staff, then this friendly, affordable, no-frills hostelry could well fit the bill.
The Patterdale Hotel is a popular favourite of many regulars. During our stay, residents included families and young couples, but the majority of contented-looking guests were in the over-50s age group.
Picture-perfect Patterdale village is located on the main Penrith to Windermere route at the head of Ullswater.
The hotel is ideally placed for both walking/activity holidays and a peaceful, relaxing break. Keswick, Ambleside and Penrith are all within a 15-mile drive. Close by, the village of Glenridding was devastated by flooding when a river burst its banks, in December 2015. The Patterdale Mountain Rescue team provided support.
From Glenridding, the Ullswater steamer sails daily to Howtown and Pooley Bridge. Nearby amenities include water sports, sailing and climbing schools, pony trekking, canoeing, rowing and fishing.
Following our journey to Patterdale over the spectacular, but mist-veiled Kirkstone Pass, we settled down in the hotel’s retro-style bar with a cup of tea, warm scone, jam and cream.
Our bedroom window afforded splendid views across Patterdale Valley. The en suite featured a white enamel-coated bath – a pleasing nod to the past – TV and ample wardrobe space. Tea and coffee-making facilities were provided, but you have to bring your own biscuits!
In the evening, the restaurant was buzzing. I’ve eaten at posher places where it’s so quiet you have to whisper. Forewarned re the speed of service, we requested a break between courses in order to take our time. When our chosen bottle of wine arrived, it was left for us to open and pour it. Fine with me. I can do without over-zealous waiters refilling glasses whenever they pass the table. However, to keep the wine chilled, a wine cooler and ice would be good.
The chef prepares an appealing selection of three different starters, main courses and desserts every day. The roast lamb shoulder with rosemary and redcurrant sauce is recommended. Try the sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and semi-whipped cream.
Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges, the slate-grey Patterdale village has 200 residents, and boasts a hotel, pub, primary school, church, fire station run by volunteers, handful of cottages plus a few holiday rental properties and B&Bs.
Gillian Beggs and partner, Tom Driscoll, are at the helm of the village Post Office and shop. The shelves and display units within this tiny outlet are crammed with anything and everything a local or visitor could want. Bottles of wine and beer, nets of logs, Patterdale terrier merchandise, walking and camping gear, you name it. Pick up a freshly-baked loaf, a hot Cumberland sausage baguette and Nespresso coffee here, too.
Julia Bradbury popped into the Patterdale Post Office during her Wainwright’s 192-mile Coast to Coast walk, documented by BBC TV.
Late fell-walker, Alfred Wainwright loved Patterdale. In 1955, Patterdale Post Office was the first shop to sell his first guide book. Described as the ‘font of all knowledge’ Gillian supplied me with directions to Wordsworth’s Barn. Down the lane, across the bridge and up a slope, the whitewashed barn is now a stylish holiday home. Although he never lived there, the poet once owned the property. Almost 200 hundred years ago, during a walk, Wordsworth ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ with his sister, Dorothy, around the Patterdale area and shores of Ullswater, where it is said, he was inspired to pen his famous Daffodils’ verse.
At breakfast, most Patterdale Hotel residents tucked into a hearty, traditional English breakfast, fuelling up for a day’s activities.
Our day began with a pleasant, 20-minute Ullswater steamer trip from Glenridding Pier to the landing jetty at Aira Force shore.
The National Trust cabin offers information re the Aira Force waterfall walk.
The drizzle set in, well, it is the Lake District, but this didn’t deter the people who followed the trail on land owned by the National Trust.
Wetter is better for this experience, according to experts.
Old and young, mums holding tight to toddlers’ hands and dads with bright-eyed babies strapped to their backs, tackled the tree-rooted paths, slippery slate steps, rocks, boulders and bridges. Much of the track edged a steep drop to the fast-flowing stream.
Below the falls an arboretum features more than 200 specimen conifers, such as firs, pines, spruces and cedars, from all over the world, including a Sitka Spruce, which is now 118 feet high.
It was but a two-mile circular trip, although it felt longer and took an hour and a half. The roar and breathtaking view of the Aira Force waterfall, which falls 70ft from below a stone footbridge, was the reward. It was an exhilarating experience, one I wouldn’t have missed. But without handrails or fences I’d be frightened to steer my lively little grandchildren along this route.
We were ready for lunch at the busy little Aira Force National Trust Tea Room. A bowl of tasty, hot leek and onion soup plus a slice of home-made Victoria sponge cake went down well.
On two evenings a week, the Patterdale Hotel provides entertainment in their Placefell Inn bar. Fantastic vocalist/guitarist, Andrew ‘Spud’ Sinclair had us singing along to lots of our favourites. I’d have got up and danced if anyone had asked me.
The Patterdale Hotel, Patterdale, Cumbria. www.patterdalehotel.co.uk
Two-night weekend stay from £96 pp, DB&B. Reservations: 08448 115585