Explore the Lake District

Catch the Lake District on a fine winter’s day and you might think there could be nowhere more beautiful. Endless blue skies, glassy water, and the heather-clad hills that William Wordsworth described as ‘towering above each other, or lifting themselves in ridges like the waves of a tumultuous sea, an in the beauty and variety of their surfaces and colours, they are surpassed by none’.

It’s from these towering peaks that the lakes are best viewed, so grab a sandwich, a camera and a hipflask, and head for the hills. There are more than 500 marked trails but I can hardly imagine a lovelier one than a circular walk over Loughrigg Fell.

Beginning in quaintly touristy little Ambleside, head north out of the village before turning left on to Miller Bridge. Turn immediately right into Under Loughrigg Road and then, after about 100m, turn left sharply up hill. At the top of this tarmac path is a gate leading directly on to the open fell. From here, there are many paths of varying difficulty across the top but all converge summit.

Although not particularly high, Loughrigg Fell offers more in terms of views and variety than almost any other, and the view over Windermere is eye-watering. After a warming sip from your flask, head over the peak for your first glimpse of tiny Grasmere and neighbouring Rydal Water. Head down the steep stone path to Loughrigg Terrace, a softly undulating lakeside path that skirts the bottom of the fell back into town. Taking in mountain, lake, village and forest, it’s an excellent walk.

Those of you less interested in life preservation might like to take on Striding Edge, the razor-sharp backbone of Helvellyn. This precipitous ridge is flanked by the sheer, scree-covered mountainside of England’s third-highest peak and a fall from either side could be fatal. Needless to say it’s wildly popular.

Try its Country Hotels

As one of the country’s most-visited national parks, the Lakes are not short of lodgings. The country house hotel reigns supreme here, and wannabe aristos must try Holbeck Ghyll (www.holbeckghyll.com), a shooting lodge once belonging to the Earl of Lonsdale. Stately, rustic, and high on a hill overlooking Windermere and the Langdale Pikes, it’s storybook country retreat of open log fires, well-worn armchairs and four-poster beds.

Its location also means you can walk straight out from the hotel to the fells, and Stefan the sommelier is as handy with an Ordnance Survey map as he is with a wine list.

For something more glam, check out Gilpin Hotel (ww.theglipin.co.uk). This idyllic bolthole has been run by the same family for more than 25 years , and from the four unique dining rooms to the perfectly curated bookshelves and the in-room massages, nothing has been left to chance. Sybarites will adore the bedrooms – an artful fusion of luxury and comfort, with fresh flowers and Ralph Lauren-esque colour palettes – and the sleek bathrooms (with Jacuzzi tubs) are welcome after a long day hiking. Food and service are outrageously good, and the fireside lounges make for the ultimate lazy Sunday.

It is not only pub food

Cumbria’s dining scene has collective culinary conscience in recent years, with four Michelin stars in a rural area just 32 miles by 40. Most notable is Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume (www.lenclume.co.uk). Rogan is widely regarded as ‘the Heston Blumenthal of the lakes ’, with a molecular approach to local ingredients.

Getting there

A smooth three hours direct train ride from London Euston, and you’ll be tumbling off the train into cool, crisp evening air of Oxenholme, just 15 minutes from Windermere.

Of the hundreds of meres, waters, tarns and reservoirs in the Lake District, only Bassenthwaite Lake is the owner of the official title (‘Lake’ Windermere is just a mere).