Revisiting The Big Apple

It’s the time of year for reminiscing and after the year its been, a little dreaming will do us some good.

Last December David and I jetted over the Atlantic from Manchester to New York City. It was our first holiday abroad in over ten years, so we were a little nervous. The anxiety levels weren’t helped when our shuttle taking us to the airport was 40 minutes late and wouldn’t have arrived if David hadn’t complained! Thankfully another taxi driver stepped in and we arrived at Manchester Terminal 1 in time to check-in and get through the stressful security, which in reality wasn’t as bad as expected.

We traveled with Jet2 and the service we received I thought was decent, though being a budget airline there was no in-flight entertainment. The flight reached heights of 37,000 ft and took eight hours, which we whiled away by reading, eating a pre-booked lunch, writing about my observations and watching a Christmas film on my laptop. Looking back the eight hours flew by and before we knew it, we were looking out from the planes window onto a snowscape of Canada and north-east USA below.

The landing on American soil at Newark Airport, New Jersey was bumpy, with relieved passengers giving the pilot a round of applause as we touched down. Our first look of the New York skyline was of the Empire State building from the runway. We disembarked the plane to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York! Cheesy!

We spent another hour standing in a queue for passport control. I felt that this was the most stressful part of the whole procedure, the last hurdle to US soil. Having taken digital shots of our finger prints and mug shots I finally got a stamp in my passport and we were allowed through. We collected our luggage and went in search of a Jet2 representative who had details of our shuttle to take us to our hotel in Manhattan.

We sat for what felt like an eternity with other holiday makers in the airports lounge awaiting shuttles to take us to our hotels. Finally David’s name was called and we were on our way! Newark Airport is about an hours drive from Manhattan and it took longer than this due to driving through the heavy traffic of New York City’s roads, and watching as every other passenger was dropped off at their flash looking hotels before we arrived at ours. We were the last to be dropped off at our home for the next six nights, The Redbury.

While we were thinking of going to New York we had been looking at staying at The New Yorker but after the collapse of Thomas Cook all hotel and flight prices doubled, so we had to search for another hotel. It was the room colour scheme of The Redbury that I liked and reading about its history, being a woman’s only hotel, that clinched it for me. The hotel has its very own restaurant, Marta which is where we went after check-in.

After stuffing our face with thin crust pizza, David and I donned our winter coats and headed out for our first foray on the streets of Manhattan. We took in the night-time views of the Empire State Building. Walked along a bustling 5th Avenue, watched a light show beamed onto the building of Sacks and Co, before heading towards the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Our first night in New York was dazzling and we were eager to start on our itinerary the very next day!

After a comfortable night at The Redbury we made an early start come the morning. We walked two hours south towards the One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower, taking a pit stop at Washington Square in Greenwich Village along the way. One World Trade Centre is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776ft and we spent a good hour at the Observatory, enjoying 360° views of the city before visiting the Oculus and the 9/11 Memorial.

We found it easy to navigate around Manhattan and before we knew it we were at the terminal to the Staten Island Ferry, so we jumped on that to get free views of the Statue of Liberty.

For me the highlight of the whole vacation was seeing the Brooklyn Bridge. For years I’ve been in awe of the bridge’s history. Of the Roebling family and the tragedies that plagued them and of Emily Roebling’s determination to get the bridge completed even when the strength of the men of the family had failed. It felt like I was in a dream when I saw the mighty suspension towers draw closer as we walked towards them.

Once we’d crossed the East River we meandered around Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), and took in views of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park. David snapped a photo of the Instagrammable Manhattan Bridge, and we shared another pizza, this time at Ignazio’s. As night fell, we bathed in the lights of the city, before we headed back across the Brooklyn Bridge on our two hour walk to our hotel.

After walking a mammoth 20+ miles the day before, we were tired and sore when the next day dawned bright and crisp. However, we ended up walking just as much but instead of walking south, this time we headed north, taking in sights such as Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.

Our itinerary for the day was to visit the American Museum of Natural History, famous for being where the Night of the Museum was filmed. We spent a good few hours walking the halls of one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

For lunch we headed even further north passed w110th street towards Tom’s Restaurant, made popular by Jerry Seinfeld’s 1990’s comedy series Seinfeld. It was very busy but we were accommodated and ordered burgers and fries which sated our appetite. It was nice to just sit down for a little while as my feet and back had started to ache from all the miles we’d walked.

For the rest of the afternoon we explored Central Park.

As you can guess we never took the subway but opted to walk everywhere instead. In total we walked over 70+ miles in six days of sightseeing. Everyday we saw something different. A 9 am appointment at Top of the Rock began our next day. Though The Empire State Building is taller than the Rockefeller, the latter has better views of the former and of Central Park. We spent a good hour viewing the iconic 360° views of the city from the Rockefeller.

For the rest of the day we walked along the streets of Manhattan and souvenir shopped. We visited the 1.7 mile former railway line, The High Line, now an elevated park with art work dotted about. A spur of the moment decision saw us taking a pit stop at Max Brenner’s Coffee Bar. I really wanted a warming, restorative coffee and we ended up ordering chocolate desserts as well!

The next morning was our last full day in New York City. It was also the only day that it rained! We walked an hour, dodging the puddles towards museum and air craft carrier, The Intrepid docked at Pier 86 on the Hudson River. David was excited to visit this iconic venue as he wanted to see the space shuttle Enterprise.

After lunch at 5 Napkin Burger, we decided to walk back towards Central Park to see some of the sights we hadn’t seen previously. It was a gloomy, wet day but we managed to see The Met, The Guggenheim and The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir of Central Park before we were soaked through and called it a day.

The shuttle to take us back to Newark Airport was booked for 2 pm the following day. This didn’t leave us much time for sightseeing, so we walked up 5th Avenue, to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree one last time before relaxing in the hotel’s lounge.

The shuttle thankfully turned up on time, we were the first passengers onboard. The next two hours were a reenactment in reverse of our arrival, picking up other passengers along the way. By the time we arrived at Newark Airport night had fallen. Check-in and security went smoothly. The waiting area wasn’t very large, so we stood around for an hour waiting for the call to board. Everything seemed to go swimmingly but once we had boarded the plane and got comfortable in our seats that was when David noticed a kerfuffle with the luggage. Suitcases were taken out of the hold and then put back. The pilot informed us that there was a discrepancy with the luggage paperwork. Then the suitcases were counted by hand and this added a one hour plus delay.

We left American soil with a strong jet stream behind us, cruising at 41,000 ft at a speed of around 700 miles p/h. With no meal provided for our return journey, David and I ordered runny pot noodles to sate our hunger. Again there was no in-flight entertainment so we watched another Christmas film. The flight duration wasn’t as long as the outbound flight and as we crossed time zones back to UK’s future time, we watched as the rising sun pierced the dark horizon.

We touched down at Manchester Airport after 8.30 am, tired after a stupendous vacation to New York City! I struggled to get through an automated passport control but thankfully after a few tries it recognised my face! Our shuttle to take us home was already waiting our arrival and dropped us punctually outside our home at 10 am, to a whingey Artie who couldn’t believe his eyes on our return. Think he missed us!

I’ve really enjoyed this walk down memory lane and I hope you have too? I’ve loved sharing some of our pictures with you! Our visit to New York City seems just like a dream now. In a time where our liberties have been restricted, reminiscing about past travels will get us through the dark nights of winter. And would we go back to New York? Absolutely! There’s still so much to see and do.

What vacation do you reminisce about?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Whinlatter Forest.)

Our last breakfast during this short break to the Lake District, was shared with another couple who had arrived the previous evening. I felt rather sad that we were going home later that day, yet I knew Artie was missing us. Breakfast was a relaxed and leisurely beginning to the day.

On leaving Hermiston, Phil and Helen said goodbye to us with more hugs and handshakes. It was a wrench to leave, they do indeed make you feel like friends.

David and I headed 10 minutes up the road to the visitor centre at Whinlatter Forest. I had planned a three hour walk to the top of Seat How. On arrival the car park was already busy with bikers and families. We donned our walking boots and headed towards the red way-markers.

The winding pathway took us past a Gruffalo and through tall trees. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and we got to the top of Seat How earlier than planned. I thought the pathways were better sign posted than our visit to Grizedale last year. We stopped and ate our packed lunch with views of the surrounding fells, Keswick and Derwent Water before us. We watched transfixed as a pair of buzzards drifted elegantly on the breeze.

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Seat How Summit

As we made our journey back to the car park, the clouds broke and the sun came out!

Our time at Whinlatter Forest was shorter than I had planned, though we had enjoyed our time spent beneath the trees. The paths towards Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike will have to be revisited some other time. After 1pm we decided to make the journey home. I was sad to leave the Lake District but knew I would return again soon. My wild swims beckon!

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Fudge

The news we were greeted on arrival home, was that we had lost one of our finches while away. R.I.P. Fudge, you are still sadly missed.

Artie however was happy to see us and for this past week has been more clingy than normal. He is usually such an independent cat.

Thank you for joining me as I recap my short break to the Lake District. The change of scenery was much needed, and even David said he had a good time! Thank you Phil and Helen for making our stay at Hermiston such a relaxing and pleasant time.

Are you planning a trip/day out to the lake District? Do you know of any sights David and I would enjoy visiting?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Thirlmere and Castlerigg Stone Circle.)

Breakfast at Hermiston is served between 8am and 9am. As we were the only guests staying with them during this week, we had the entire buffet to ourselves!

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David enjoying the view from the breakfast room

On offer there is a selection of cereals, muesli and gorgeous fruit salad. You can request a cooked breakfast but as David and I are not big morning eaters we stayed with the continental. Phil served us fresh coffee and tea, and as we sat gazing out at the freshly fallen snow on the peaks, we chatted with Phil and Helen about our plans for the day.

I had planned a day around Thirmlere, with a walk up Raven Crag and then a lakeside stroll.

Thirlmere is about 20 minutes drive from Braithwaite. We parked the car in a lay-by opposite the start of the walk, crossed over the road, entered through a gate and began our ascent. It was tough going to start with. We passed another two gates and walked along a path through recently fallen trees, before we walked up steps towards the viewpoint.

From Raven Crag there is unparalleled views of Thirlmere below, and of the snow covered Helvellyn range. We even spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying over the tree tops!

Once we had navigated the route back to the car, we headed further up the road to Armboth car park (and toilets). Parking is free at present due to damage to some of the paths by Storm Desmond last December. We had our packed lunch in the warmth of the car and watched as the weather turned squally.

For the next hour or so we traversed the lakeside path. Some of the going was tough due to boulders blocking the way. Low lying cloud obscured the view and we were soon cold and wet.

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Thirlmere

Deciding that the weather was not going to improve for the rest of the afternoon, we decided to head back to the B&B. On our way we took a whistle stop tour of Castlerigg Stone Circle, just so I could see Blencathra! The snow caps from the morning had melted in the rain!

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Castlerigg Stone Circle and Blencathra

We returned to Hermiston cold and tired. Phil offered us tea and coffee which we gladly accepted and the homemade cake was very restorative. Just what we needed! From the guest lounge we watched as clouds obscured the mountains.

For dinner we planned on popping into Keswick and trying our luck with their only Indian restaurant, Lakeland Spice Cuisine.

They serve evening meals from 5.30pm. We got a table straight away, indeed we were only one of two couples eating at that time. Keswick in March seems to be really quiet, well especially around 5pm! David ordered a chicken tikka masala and I a vegetable balti. David enjoyed his coconut infused meal, while mine at first was tasty but got samey as the meal progressed and there was a lot of oil! A bit more vegetables wouldn’t have gone amiss! I still think the meal we had at India, Kendal a few years back was of better quality.

Fulled by a warming meal, we headed back to the B&B to relax with a film. Hermiston’s guest internet is of a good speed. A full day out in the elements had tired us so we had yet another early night.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #22

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed to the weekly Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie. This is my first Sunday Seven’s of 2017, I hope you enjoy?!

After a visit to Lady Green Garden Centre, I had a few new plants to place in the yarden. So on Sunday David and I managed to do some tidying and landscaping.

The beginning of the week saw me with a stinker of a head cold. Tuesday was World Scouse Day, so I made a warming vegetarian version, Blind Scouse.

Wednesday was the beginning of our much anticipated little break to the Lake District. Before David and I returned to our B&B for three nights, Hermiston in Braithwaite, we stopped off at Hodge Close Quarry.

Thursday was all about exploring Thirlmere. Unfortunately due to last years storm Desmond, some paths were closed, but that did not stop David and I heading up towards a snowy Raven Crag.

Friday was a cold and cloudy day in the Lake District. As part of our travels we revisited Buttermere, and finally got to see the lone tree!

Saturday was our 11 years anniversary! What better way to celebrate than to walk through Whinlatter Forest and pose for a selfie atop of Seat How?!

Sadly on our return home after three nights away, we found one of our finches, Fudge on the bottom of the cage. His friend Pi was seen sitting on his body, trying to keep him warm. It was news to bring us back home with a bump!

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RIP Fudge

So there you have it, a whistle stop tour of my past week!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good week ahead!

Christine x

Wainwrights #1

Recently I saw a post on the I Love the Lake District Facebook page, asking members to name ‘what was their first Wainwright’. Any walker visiting Cumbria will have heard of these Wainwrights, hills or mountains outlined by British Fell Walker Alfred Wainwright.  On my many swim walks of 2016, David and I had not intentionally walked any of the routes, so notice my surprise when I checked the list of 214 fells, and read that David and I had bagged three! With Cat Bells a sorry attempt at a fourth!

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Loughrigg Fell

Loughrigg Fell:

  • 335m
  • Classification, Marilyn (hill)/Wainwright
  • Central Fell

Unknown to us as we walked towards Loughrigg Fell after a magical swim at Rydal Water, Loughrigg would be our first Wainwright! It was a hard slog up steep steps cut into the hill, but after a few blind summits, we finally managed to get to the top!

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Derwentwater from Walla Crag

Walla Crag:

  • 379m
  • Wainwright
  • Central Fell

Our second and third Wainwrights were Walla Crag and Gowbarrow Fell respectively. We did both these walks back to back on a break to the Kewsick area. No wonder we were both knackered after just Walla Crag! To then walk 100m higher the next day, is testament to our grit and determination!

Gowbarrow Fell:

  • 481m
  • Wainwright
  • Eastern Fell

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Gowbarrow Fell

Way back in May 2016, we attempted Cat Bells, which would have been our first Wainwright, but with a scramble to the summit, sadly it eluded us! This was the highest we got!

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Below Cat Bells

Cat Bells:

  • 451m
  • Wainwright
  • North Western Fell

So, even though we are not actively seeking Wainwright routes to bag, you will probably read about a few more in 2017 as I embark on my wild swim walks once again!

Have you attempted to walk the Wainwrights? How many have you done, and what was your favourite?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Banishead Quarry and Coniston Water

1st January 2017. A new year stretched out before us unwritten. David and I decided to start our 2017 adventures in earnest. While many nursed their heads after the previous nights joviality, we headed up an empty M6 towards Cumbria, the Lake District. Our first destination, Banishead Quarry north of Torver.

map-3We parked the car at Torver Village Hall, where they asked for a £3 donation. There was free parking further along the road, but as the day progressed they became very busy.

From the village hall we turned right onto the A593 and walked towards Crook Corner, and took the left-hand path that lead to Scar Head Caravans and Campsite. From there we followed signs to Tranearth before taking the right-hand path onto the Coniston Fells with the Old Man ahead.

 

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The Old Man of Coniston

Banishead Quarry wasn’t hard to miss. A rocky path wound between huge peaks of spoil heaps.

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Banishead Quarry

The gem of this disused quarry is a flooded excavation site, featuring its very own waterfall.

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Banishead Waterfall

We could have carried on towards the Old Man, or indeed took a path from Torver towards Coniston lakeside but we decided to retrace our steps back to the car and head towards the car park at Coniston Boat Centre.

torver to coniston water.jpgIt was a perfect winters day, save for the bone chilling wind and the bright sunlight that seared the backs of our retinas.

After lunch we walked away from the car park, through a collection of shops (among them, one was an outdoor shop and another sold fudge), then through a kissing gate to a path that meandered towards Coniston Waterpassing Coniston Hall and another campsite.

The path was popular with dog walkers and families with pushchairs alike. We spent a leisurely three hours walking to the shoreline and back.

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Coniston Water

Have you visited Coniston? Any memories of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Grizedale Forest and Hermiston B&B.

On our journey north towards our bed for two nights, I planned an excursion to Grizedale Forest. It was the perfect opportunity to look for the colours of autumn. However, the day dawned grey and oppressive. Indeed all weekend the weather forecast was for heavy cloud cover.

Grizedale is the UK’s first sculpture forest and while David and I walked the route towards Carron Crag we looked for sculptures en-route.

The walk to Carron Crag took two hours. There are many other walks, some strenuous, others less so. Our visit was brief but Grizedale is definitely a place to re-visit. Have you been? What did you think of the place?


Grizedale was an hours drive from our B&B, Hermiston Guest HouseHermiston is situated in the quiet village of Braithwaite, just 10 minutes drive from Keswick. On arrival we were met at the door by Helen who welcomed us inside. She carried my suitcase and showed us to our room, Skiddaw. The room was well appointed, in neutral colours with an en-suite (the shower was lovely!) The window opened to glorious views of the Skiddaw mountain range.

While we chatted about my wild swims over coffee, tea and cake in the guest lounge, Helen informed us that she had left me a gift for my birthday from herself and husband Phil. I was astounded by their generosity. They had gifted a bottle of bucks fizz! I was warmed by their kindness!

David and I had planned on an early rise the next morning, meaning we would miss breakfast. Helen offered to make me a fruit salad to take on my travels, which I kindly accepted.

Even breakfast the day after was a relaxed and friendly affair. Phil served the meals and friendly chatted to the guests, showing real interest and giving suggestions on places to visit. Helen and Phil made us feel very welcome in their home. David and I really enjoyed our stay and would recommend their B&B. It would be nice to visit again in the future.

I can’t wait to write up and tell you all about my next adventure. Our full day in the Lake District was EPIC! 14 hours of wondrous sights and experiences! Do continue to follow me as I recount my short but wonderful trip to Cumbria.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #2

Today is Global Scouse Day! So to mark this celebration of the famous regional dish, I made a vegetarian/vegan version, Blind Scouse. I served it with some homemade wholemeal bread.

Monday, David as usual left for work at 7am. I found Artie, sitting by the front door waiting for him to come home. Midweek, Mum bought me some daffodils to cheer me up!

Thursday David had a day off work so we headed up to the Lake District. We got up at an ungodly hour, but saw the sunrise over Haweswater Reservoir and enjoyed a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater.

I’ll finish this post with our Saturday dinner. I made vegetarian bean burgers, using cannellini and borlotti beans. David helped sculpt them to fit the sesame buns. I served the burgers with bistro salad.

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Have you tried scouse? What did you think of the stew?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

Up Before the Lark.

Knowing that David had Thursday off work, I had high hopes that we would have another great outdoors adventure! David was in agreement, however he pinned his hopes on seeing the sunrise hit the mountains around Haweswater Reservoir, Cumbria, (inspired by Thomas Heaton‘s Youtube post.

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The Rigg and Haweswater

Unfortunately, the bugbear for me was that we live at least two hours drive from Cumbria and the sunrise on Thursday being at 7.11am, meant that I had to get up at 4am!! I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, so I knew this plan would seriously upset my circadian rhythm.

Despite this hiccup, I longed to get out of the house and breathe the free air again! So I agreed. The alarm clock sounded at 4am and I crawled out of bed after a fitful sleep, for breakfast and to get dressed.

By 5am, the car had been packed and so we hit the road.

It took us just over two hours to get to Haweswater Reservoir. We parked up with the first rays of dawn touching the tops of the mountains. We scurried up Swinside Common in the hope of catching the moon above Kidsty Pike, but alas we failed and only had sore calves to show for our climb.

We spent over an hour taking hundreds of pictures in -7° temperatures.

With it being just after 8am, we drove to Derwentwater for a two hour leisurely walk along the banks of the lake, with Blencathra (Saddleback) looking resplendent in the winter sunshine. We took the route to the lake via Kewsick and took the road towards Portinscale then on towards the Adventure Centre. There is free parking but this can get very busy.

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Derwentwater is fast becoming my second favourite lake in Cumbria. The lakeside was so tranquil, it healed my soul. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk.  I got covered in mud on the return journey but it was worth it as I even had a go of a swing tied to a tree by Hawes End Jetty. The Jetty can be found by taking a path through woodland as you walk towards the Adventure Centre.

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There were many ducks and geese quietly drifting on the lake. The woodland walk was graced with the drumming of woodpeckers and the cackle of blue tits. On our journey back to the car David spied a pheasant feather lying on the ground, so I took it as a memento of our lovely day.

I am busily planning the next adventure. Do you have any suggestions of where to go?

Christine x

‘The Road Goes Ever On and On.’

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Friday the 12th February was International Darwin Day. Coincidentally David had taken a day off work, so we both headed off on our second adventure to Wales. Again we drove towards Snowdonia National Park, this time to Llyn Idwal.

The valley or cwn around Llyn Idwal is recognised as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve and a site of special scientific Interest. The area is famous for its rock formations (moraines) and rare plants. Notables, the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, visited Llyn Idwal to prepare for his ascent of Everest. Happily, I also read that Charles Darwin also visited the area before embarking on his voyage on the Beagle.

So on the day, David and I walked in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest men.

However the weather didn’t measure up to the forecast and when we arrived at the National Trust car park (off the A5,) there was a thick blanket of white cloud all around. We paid £5 for the day as we didn’t know how long it would take to walk around the lake. There is a charge of £2.50 for four hours for people who are more experienced and more equipped! As you can see I still sported my Parker!

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Photo by David Evans

The first thing you notice is the snow capped mountains, (Glyderau or Glyders.) It was nice to finally see some snow! The designated path takes you over a stream with a pretty waterfall.

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Then the path meanders around most of the glacial, fresh water lake. We took the path anti-clock wise.

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Most of the path is navigable except for the Idwal Slabs and boulder field which is beneath the towering heights of the Devil’s Kitchen. I am no climber (some would say not much of a walker, either,) so David left me to explore.

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While David was scurrying over the rocks like Gollum, I turned and appreciated the view of the lake below me. The name Idwal comes from the myth of the Gwynedd princes. Idwal’s father, Prince Owain one day entrusted the care of his son to Nefydd Hardd (a bondsman.) However under his care Idwal drowned in the lake. Some tales tell of Nefydd’s son, Dunawd, having pushed poor Idwal into the lake due to his jealousy! As punishment, Nefydd was forced to give up his lands and was banished from the kingdom of Gwynedd. Owain, in his sorrow named the lake after his son. The tale recalls that no bird will fly over the lake because of this tragedy!

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Llyn Idwal

We found the area very popular with tourists and walkers alike, and as we took our leave of Llyn Idwal, there were coaches full of students arriving, all hoping to do what David and I had done. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Do you like to go walking? Where are your favourite walks in the UK?

Christine x