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For many, junction 36 on the M6 motorway is the gateway into the Lake District. And the A591 is the artery running vertically up and down the spine of one of the UK’s finest ‘breathing spaces’. It picks up hot spot locations like Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick along the way.
Upon leaving the M6, we urge you to resist the temptation of heading straight onto the A591, joining folk destined for Windermere and beyond, charming and delightful as we know they are.
Instead, consider staying south and enjoying a holiday overlooking the white sands of Morecambe Bay.
So, at your first roundabout upon leaving the M6 (signposted Newby Bridge/Barrow in Furness) branch off the duel carriageway to stay on the A590 for 5 minutes or so. And voila, you have arrived at one of “the most beautiful places on earth”, the Lyth Valley.
This pastoral idyll is included in the Lonely Planet’s list of “the most beautiful places on earth”, and we quite agree. This is why we want to share some of what we know about visiting this tranquil part of the Lakes that visitors could easily bypass on the way to some of the more well know attractions.
This is the epitaph from the beer list at the Mason’s Arms, outside Bowland Bridge, one of the Lyth Valley’s superb country pubs. Indeed it sits on the Lyth Valley’s ‘Bermuda triangle’ of quality country pubs that we encourage you to try. All in the name of sampling the region’s beauty!
The valley’s ‘foodie triangle’, as coined by Lyth Valley resident and ‘slow life’ movement founder, Jonathan Denby, sits along what was once the main road into Windermere, from Kendal before the A591. Off the winding country lanes along this road you’ll find some of the very best country inns and gastro pubs in the Lake District. Many have recently enjoyed refurbishments, turning the triangle into more of a dot-to-dot of country living delight. Let’s take a look at our top inns to visit:
Fix your beer goggles firmly on The Punch Bowl, at Crosthwaite. This is perhaps the most widely-acclaimed gastro pub in the Lake District. A microscope is not needed to see why this pub continues to win so many awards for their upmarket and contemporary take on classical dining. They’ve recently picked up Cumbria life 2017 ‘Dining Pub of the Year’. The Old Timer serves extremely good fare suitable for walkers and holidaymakers.
Further towards Kendal, in Underbarrow, is the newly renamed The Black Labrador (formerly another Punch Bowl Inn). Along with the new name The Black Lab has an impressively appointed new extension, with both formal seating and relaxing sofa’s in front of a cosy open log burner. Freddie the black lab awaits at this welcoming 16th century inn, offering a warm welcome and satisfying food. The owners are enthusiastic and energetic about the black lab being a firm fixture on the Lyth valley’s foodie map, but it has strong competition on its doorstep.
At the base of the south Lake District’s famous Scout Scar, an unusual limestone ridge, you will find The Wheatsheaf Inn, in Brigsteer. Another one of the Lyth valley’s pubs that has recently enjoyed a refurbishment, The Wheatsheaf offers a “warm welcome and hearty plateful”. Locals were very pleased that their community drinking hole re-opened in 2014, and already is attracting lots of awards. They are welcoming to dogs too, and even have a muddy paw and boot wash station – perfect for when you’ve just come off Scout Scar. The Wheatsheaf is under the Individual Inns umbrella, along with The Mason’s Arms, and is just the ticket for a pint and refuel in stylish surroundings after a cycle or amble along the idyllic bliss that is the Lyth valley.
The Mason’s Arms, along with the Punch Bowl, is one of the Lake District’s long-standing dining pubs. A CAMRA pub, this inn always has a superb selection of beers and a perfect beer terrace for wiling away some time. This beer garden has one of the best views in the Lakes, perfect at this time of year to take advantage of the long, warm evenings, looking down onto the Winster Valley and Cartmel Fell. A beautiful walk from the Mason’s Arms is up Gummers Howe, with views onto Lake Windermere from the top. A visit to the Mason’s Arms gives a true taste of Lakeland life, and there’s a busy events calendar which is certainly worth sampling . On June 15 2017 look out for #Cheerstobeer as guests celebrate Beer Day Britain and on June 22 2017 join them in their ‘Celebration of Fermentation’, a very good ‘Beer, Cheer and Bread’ event in collaboration with the world-class Hawkshead Brewery and More? The Artisan Bakery.
For 50 years Alfred Wainwright lived in Kendal, only a 6 mile drive or cycle from the Lyth Valley. Wainwright described the 7 mile circular walk up the Lyth Valley’s Whitbarrow Scar to Lord’s Seat, as “beautiful every step of the way”. You start the walk at the head of this hidden valley, in the hamlet of Mill Side. Pass down winding lanes, up a steep stony path, through woodland and up onto the open fell top of the scar. There trees lean tightly towards the ground, showing the prevailing wind direction on this limestone hulk. Owned by Cumbria Wildlife Trust, this is a haven for plants and animals. Look out for deer among the juniper bushes and it is particularly famous for butterflies. What’s more you will likely have this small fell and the breathtaking views down over the Kent estuary, to yourselves.
Other beautiful footsteps we urge you to try in this area includes walking the Sizergh Castle estate. Here you will enjoy rare and unique wildlife, such as the 18th century chestnut trees grown from seeds brought back from pre-Revolution Versailles in 1780. The 1.5 mile wooden play trail is lots of fun too, taking you through wooden archways, across balancing beams and through woven tunnels as you explore the woodland. Nearby Brigsteer wood is superb in spring, with a delightful display of bluebells and daffodils and some of the ancient Yew trees in Holeslack Wood are over 1600 years old.
There’s very little traffic in the Lyth Valley with the A591 carting the hoards to Windermere and beyond. Plus, this is a wide flat-bottomed valley, making it perfect cycling territory for all abilities. There are, however, more challenging options, such as this cycling route, taking in most of the valley including Brigsteer and Crosthwaite. Go Lakes Cumbria Cycling Guides offer some super routes for cycling in and around popular parts of the Lake District, including Winter and Crosthwaite.
The Lonely Planet feature on ‘the most beautiful place on earth encourages us to see the world as we’ve never seen it before. A visit to the Lyth valley, including Bowland Bridge, Crosthwaite, Brigsteer and surrounding countryside, certainly does just that.
Do tell us your favourite parts of the Lyth valley.