With the rolling hills of the Dales on our doorstep, the appeal of a close-to-home weekend away is always there.
We know better than most that the UK has much to offer as far as natural beauty is concerned, but where should you go to see the best of the Lake District?
For a start, when you’re spending your hard earned cash on a getaway within driving distance of home, the proposition of a country retreat a stone’s throw from the M6 doesn’t exactly fill you with optimism.
But the George and Dragon, in the village of Clifton, has credentials. The renovated coaching inn was voted Cumbria’s Food and Dining Pub of the Year 2014 and is at probably the most easily accessible point of the national park for Yorkshire visitors.
Upon arriving outside this historic luxury inn, we were whisked up to our room through a nondescript door in the reception area and into our very own snug. The sizable, plushly decorated room was an escape in itself, with its monstrous soft white bed complete with cosy fur throw and elegant roll-top bath.
Located just two miles from the Cumbrian market town of Penrith, Clifton somehow feels a million miles from the hustle and bustle of modern life but in reality it neighbours it. Pinned to the north eastern corner of the Lake District National Park, here you’re just a 15-minute drive from the still calm of Ullswater lake and minutes away from natural and man-made beauty spots of all kinds, from medieval castles to mountains and spellbinding waterfalls.
It’s not best advised to go sightseeing on an empty stomach of course, so we made a beeline for the inn’s celebrated menu. It’s made clear from the off, whether you’re sitting down for a buxom cooked breakfast or a three-course meal here, that there is an emphasis on local produce – much of the ingredients are sourced from the estate of its nearby Grade II-listed sister venue, Askham Hall, which has a walking trail and cafe of its own.
Intent on exploring all that this corner of the Lakes has to offer, we used our two-day stay to first take in some of the sights closest to Clifton. Among the nearest is the 13th Century Brougham Castle, which is set beside the picturesque River Eamont. On a crisp Saturday we had the landmark, once a barrier to Scottish invaders, all to ourselves. It’s an architectural gem that is still largely intact, and comes with panoramic views over Cumbria.
Taking in deep breaths of the fresh country air, we then made the short drive down to Ullswater. There’s only one way to make the most of this gloriously calm body of water, which is the second largest in the area, so we set sail on the Ullswater Steamer boat which stops at three points of the lake. Jumping on at Pooley Bridge, we took strategically warm seats aside the vessel’s chimney and coasted to beautiful Glenridding – an isolated getaway at the foot of the towering Helvellyn mountain – as part of a tour that has been running here for 150 years.
There are also endless walking trails all around the area – one such was the trek that we took up through to the breathtaking 65ft Aira Force waterfall.
And it doesn’t get much better than to return from the crisp Cumbrian weather to a roaring log fire, steaming roll-top bath and home-cooked food fit for a king.
Families are welcome at the George and Dragon, as are cyclists and walkers and well-behaved dogs. It has a secure place to store bikes overnight.
Double rooms start from £95 per night (B&B, based on two people sharing).