I have a particular interest in archaeology and history and I enjoy doing some research before I lead walks. I recently led in Orkney; a paradise for anyone interested in archaeology. There are four UNESCO World Heritage sites on Orkney – the much-photographed Ring of Brodgar, the huge Stones of Stenness, the nearby Maeshowe chambered tomb and northern Europe’s most complete village of Skara Brae. We visited them all.
Which is the most beautiful part of England? For me, it’s the Lake District. I love the tops, the ridges, the drama of the crags, the lakes. And where is one of the most beautiful parts of the Lake District? For me it’s Buttermere. The lake itself is surrounded by magnificent mountains – Red Pike, High Stile, Haystacks, Fleetwith Pike, Robinson – evocative names, beautiful to look at, wonderful to walk. The loveliest low-level ridge walk in the Lakes, along Low Bank to Rannerdale Knotts, is a perfect introduction to the area. There are stunning high-level walks each side of the valley, the High Stile ridge to the south and the Hindscarth-Robinson ridge to the north. The hamlet of Buttermere is a pleasure to visit, with its working farms, its charming church, its couple of pubs and cafes. Best of all though, it’s not overwhelmed by tourists.
The gem of this wonderful area is Hassness House. This lovely house, nestling among the trees 30 metres above the lake, was rebuilt in the 1920s from a 19th century building. It’s a perfect place for exploring the area and, archaeologically and historically speaking, it’s interesting to know that there was a homestead just a few hundred metres from the House about 2000 years ago. In the late 1800s a murder took place at a mine visible from the House on the path up to Scarth Gap. The spoil-heap of a mine originally worked in Elizabethan times is crossed by the footpath around the lake.
And then there’s the pleasure of the House itself. There is always a warm welcome from Paula and Mickey. It’s comfortable, of course and the food is excellent. The tea and cakes at the end of a day’s walking are pure pleasure. But perhaps most of all it’s the atmosphere, obviously in part created by Paula and Mickey, but also created by the House itself – the lovely large views with its views towards the lake, Red Pike, High Stile, High Crag and Haystacks. The fact that there is no television, or mobile phone reception contributes too. People talk to each other, they play cards and games. All these things help to create a wonderful atmosphere; the reason, I’m sure, that many people return again and again.So far I’ve led three different tours from Hassness – Highlights of the Wainwright Memorial Walk, the Cumberland Way and a week’s E grade walking. I’ve loved them all, and find it impossible to nominate my favoute.