A Durham Student’s Pocket-Guide to a North-West getaway

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If there was one thing I took away from my time studying abroad is that us Durham students can be quite insular. It is fairly easy to circumnavigate Durham, I’m quite certain that I could complete a thorough tour in a matter of hours. So, if it is possible to polish off Durham in such a short space of time, what is there left to do for the remaining three years of your degree.     

Having recently returned from the Lake District myself, I feel inclined to tell you about the possibility of a weekend retreat in the North-West. 

On a reasonable day it is possible to get to the Lake District in an hour and a half via the A66 which will take you just south of the Pennines towards Penrith. If you’re able to get yourself away from your Friday lectures even earlier it is worth taking the slightly longer route through the North Pennines, which will provide you with a dose of winding roads and rolling hills.

The North Pennines will provide you with a dose of winding roads and rolling hills

Once arriving in Penrith, you have the whole of the Lake District preceding you. Try not to linger in Penrith too long – it is definitely one of the least scenic parts of the Lake District –  although, it might be a good opportunity to pick up some steeply valued groceries at Booths. 

For my getaway I stayed in a small cabin with my girlfriend just off the A66 towards Keswick. If you’re new to the Lakes, Keswick is a great place to start, although definitely not something to limit yourself to. Staying out of town can definitely improve the affordability of your stay, although staying in town leaves you central to walks, cafés and craft beer. 

The most obvious activity to occupy yourself with in the Lakes is hiking. The most infamous of the hikes in the Lake District are known as ‘Wainwrights’, a collection of 214 peaks coined by fell walker Alfred Wainwright in his imperious seven volume guide to the Lakeland Fells. 

Evidently you will be unable to complete the 214 Wainwrights in one single getaway – I myself have only been able to complete three – thus if you plan on doing some significant hiking, it is a good idea to have done some research on which Wainwrights will quench your thirst for perambulation. 

On our retreat, we completed three Wainwrights: Latrigg Fell, the Catbells, and Blencathra. 

Latrigg Fell is one of the lower Wainwrights, although it does provide some really excellent views looking down onto Keswick. The carpark at Latrigg can become both busy and icy, with one car becoming stranded and barricading the exit the morning of our walk – not ideal. The Catbells is a great walk to do for a sunrise, or so I am told, sadly the day we went up it was gloomy – it is also a great walk to do if you’re based in Keswick as there is a boat which can ferry you across the Derwent to the base of the hike in summer.

Blencathra was certainly the highlight of my trip with some excellent scrambles over Halls Fell Ridge. Alfred Wainwright described the route as “positively the finest way to any mountain top in the district” – high praise indeed. 

These three Wainwrights barely scratch the surface of what the Lakes have to offer to any avid tramper, or fed-up Durham student. There is still a list of 211 other Wainwrights, each highly regarded in their own right. Why not try Skiddaw or Scafell Pike, the list goes on, and if you get fed up with all the wayfaring, just pop into town –  Keswick, Windermere, Buttermere, all have plenty to entertain oneself with after a long day on foot. 

The average UK citizen will need to climb 2.64 Wainwrights a year in order to complete them all before they die. What better time to get started? Best get walking.

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