Our North East Canine Critics, Willow and Bobby, visited the Lake District for their first assignment, sniffing out the best dog-friendly accommodation, beaches and food. Their owner, Lynn, tells us what they got up to:
The Lake District is one our favourite places to holiday in the UK but there's still so much of it we have yet to see. So, when we won the Canine Critics competition as top dogs for the North East, we knew we would love to go back.
The smooth drive to the Lake District never disappoints, with stunning views of rolling hills, winding roads through valleys and fields full of grazing cattle and sheep. You know you're entering real countryside.
The property we were staying at is called Old Barn - Hawkshead, one of two 17th-century Lakeland barn conversions. The fact that the cottage is so old is really appealing to us as a family; from the photos and some previous reviews, we knew we wouldn't be greeted with a five-star modern property featuring the most up-to-date fixtures and fittings but that wasn't what we were looking for at all. We wanted real country living and that's exactly what we got!
From the outside, the cottage looks small but, once inside, it is extremely spacious. At the front of the cottage, there is a porch which is ideal for leaving your walking gear and we were pleased to see a superb welcome pack waiting for us full of locally produced goodies for us to try. Along with this was a beautiful goody box for Willow and Bobby from Love Louie. Inside was a fantastic selection of good-quality treats and toys that came in handy over the week.
With two excellent sized bedrooms (one featuring a handy en-suite), the living space was perfect for our family of three humans and two pooches; especially with a teenager who likes her own space! The kitchen and utility room had everything you needed to make it home from home, including a dishwasher, washer/dryer and – an extra bonus – a huge drying cabinet for freshening up all your walking gear! Perfect, as you can expect to get wet when visiting the Lakes anytime of the year. We also took advantage of the daily milk that was delivered fresh from the local dairy. This was optional, but we like to support local businesses whenever we can.
The best part of the cottage, though, was the log burner; there's nothing better than spending the day hiking over the fells, exploring lakes and towns then returning to your cottage (worn out but happy) to put your feet and paws up in front of a lovely, warm fire. Especially on chilly autumnal evenings! The spaniels certainly enjoyed that, as did we. You don't need to worry about getting your own logs either as there is a large log shed which is regularly topped up, so you'll never run out! There was also a variety of board games for you to play which we took advantage of most evenings.
Another fabulous feature of this rural cottage was the secluded, secure garden which allowed Willow and Bobby to run around without the worry of them escaping and chasing some sheep down the lane! The garden attracted plenty of birds which they enjoyed watching out of the French doors that lead straight out into the garden.
Old Barn is tucked away in a quiet, rural location just 1.5 miles away from the historic village of Hawkshead which is famous for inspiring William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. You could, if feeling energetic, walk into Hawkshead or if not, you can drive as there's a large car park on the outskirts.
Cars are banned from the village which is great because you then get a real feel for its history as you walk through the higgledy-piggledy streets. Walk through the churchyard and up the hill and the views are amazing. There is a range of gift shops, pubs and cafes, all of which we found were dog friendly, but to be honest, The Lake District is the most dog-friendly place we've visited; more often than not, there are more wet noses and wagging tails than humans. If you’re visiting Hawkshead then you can't leave without trying a huge slice of cake from The Sun Cottage Café.
Another worthy visit just 5 to 10 minutes’ drive from the cottage (again, you could walk there) is Tarn Hows. Part of the National Trust, it offers a peaceful circular walk through beautiful countryside and with stunning mountain views. The fact that there was a tarn was even better as Willow and Bobby enjoyed having a swim – there was nothing that would stop them jumping in!
The Lakeland Motor Museum is a museum that’s worthy of a visit whether you’re a car fanatic or not. It’s dog-friendly throughout the whole museum and café and very appealing to young and old. You can explore a fascinating collection of automobiles that takes you through the development of transport throughout the 20th century – a perfect outing for a rainy day.
We wanted to visit Coniston Water one day, which again was only a short drive away, so we headed off driving round the country lanes that followed the huge lake. Whilst driving round, we saw a small car park and a National Trust sign that read Dodgson Wood so we decided to park and explore. We are so glad that we did, as we followed the trail through the woods and up the fells and ended up with the most beautiful views of Coniston Water on the sunniest day. And, it was the perfect place for Willow and Bobby to burn off their abundance of energy!
Following that, we drove into Ulverston – the birthplace of Stan Laurel – where we enjoyed a fabulous pub lunch in the The Rose and Crown while Willow and Bobby relaxed by the open fire.
Other places we visited and would recommend:
Aira Force - A beautiful waterfall set amongst ancient woodland
Bowness-on-Windermere - A bustling town on the shore of Lake Windermere. Perfect for boat trips.
After spending the days exploring, it was always lovely to return to Old Barn and relax for the evening. We were so lucky that the weather was on our side for much of the week but, if it hadn't have been, this cosy cottage is more than well equipped for all your needs when exploring the Lakes with your furry friends.
We award five paws to this hidden gem!
Your North East, crazy Canine Critic spaniels, Willow and Bobby and their humans, Lynn, Norman and Ellie xx