Sheep and sleep on Lake District holiday in Langdale Valley, visiting Ambleside and Lake Windermere
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Sheep have an uncanny way of making you smile. They look cute and cuddly and of course you can count them to help you go to sleep.
The hardy Herdwick, native of the Lake District, is a particular favourite of mine. For a tough breed, the sheep have lovely looking faces and fluffy tails.
And my children, Ruaridh (12) and Flossie (10) are among their biggest fans now too. The end of a long journey after a particularly tiring week of school was brightened up by the sight of Herdwicks resting in the passing places for cars.
It may have been pitch black, but we could still see their white faces and hear the bleats of welcome as we made our way, with dad Kenny in tow, to the four-star Langdale Hotel and Spa, just outside Ambleside.
Nestled in the Langdale Valley, this hotel is a real treat. The former gunpowder factory built from traditional slate stone is now a luxurious retreat. Set in 35 acres of woodland, there are 52 bedrooms in the Langdale Hotel, a 16-bedroom boutique hotel and spa at Brimstone and 100 timeshare units.
Amenities include a fabulous leisure area for the Langdale and an exclusive spa at Brimstone, with the Stove Restaurant and Wainwright’s Inn all geared up for hospitality.
We discovered as we headed into our room, the staff here are sheep mad too. A lovely black-and-white sheep portrait greeted us in the entrance and the children thought it was hilarious that the Do Not Disturb sign said “shh, I am a sheep’’ and the towel rack in the bathroom had a “baas can be hot’’ warning.
The hotel is working hard to ensure it protects the world heritage site status it is based in and there are lots of environmentally friendly aspects to a stay, from voluntary donations when you check in, to a recycling area in the bedrooms along with palm oil-free toiletries and a water system designed to stop waste.
Heating is powered by a water wheel and biomass boilers and you can even have your breakfast served in bed in a recyclable paper tray.
The Stove Restaurant serves scrumptious buffet-style breakfasts, with cooked-to-order specialities like smoked salmon and scrambled egg. Lunch and dinner menus are packed with local produce and there is a stone pizza oven.
A walk through the Langdale estate and into the neighbouring village of Chapel Stile is where you will find the hotel’s Wainwright’s Inn, with lots of local beers on offer. The hotel’s pool and fitness suite will help you work off the food and for people staying in the Brimstone complex, there is an even more luxurious spa to enjoy.
But outdoors is the place to be in the Lake District and the lovely town of Ambleside is a joy to visit. Quieter than Bowness, it is just as beautiful and the ideal place to catch one of the many cruises down the water.
Lake Windermere is England’s largest and has some stunning scenery to see, particularly at this time of the year with winter nestling on the trees.
You can choose cruises which range from 45 minutes to three hours and plan your day round them as they take you to different destinations on the lake and some allow you flexibility over your stay.
It is a lovely way to pass the time, especially as the lake is usually so still and you can see why author Arthur Ransome based his 1929 book Swallows and Amazons on the area. Much of it looks the same and you would be hard pushed to find more beautiful scenery elsewhere.
There are plenty of tourist attractions in the Lakes and a great one not far from Ambleside is at Back Barrow, home to the Lakeland Motor Museum.
Full of gleaming classic cars, motorbikes and cycles, the museum is a top spot to visit. There are fascinating historical exhibitions and films to enjoy as well as information on the building which formerly housed Reckitt’s Blue Dye Works.
For Ruaridh and Flossie, it was the chance to have a go at the penny slot old fashioned car games, which were the biggest draw and there was a lovely musical Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang car flying about.
A special exhibition dedicated to the land and water record activities of Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald is also on site.
After all the adventure of the outdoors, it was back to Langdale and – like the Herdwicks – we were ready for ba-ed!
Need to know
The Langdale Hotel and Spa is four star and a real gem hidden in the beautiful Lake District National Park. www.langdale.co.uk
What better way to have a sneak peak at what the Lakes have to offer via one of the many Lake Windermere Cruises? www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk
A fascinating museum at Back Barrow is the Lakeland Motor Museum, crammed full of vintage cars and memorabilia. www.lakelandmotormuseum.co.uk
No need to look further than the Lakes Tourist Board website, full of information and good tips. www.golakes.co.uk