The lakes for less
It doesn’t get much better than the Lake District. This is England’s closest approximation of a true mountain wilderness and the views from the iconic tops of Helvellyn, pikes peak and a thousand other iconic spots are what memories are made of.
This is where Wordsworth saw his daffodils in spring and Beatrix Potter first saw Peter Rabbit.
The great news for those of us on a budget is that the Lakes can be enjoyed by everyone, at (surprisingly for the UK) a very low cost.
Firstly, transport. Trains and coaches will get you there and busses will get you around, but if you choose your base wisely then all you really need are your legs to get around. Pick a famous climbing town such as Ambleside and you will have the mountains quite literally on your doorstep.
We mistakenly stayed in nearby Windermere so we had to catch a bus or drive into Ambleside every morning and pay for parking, but after that, we were on shanks pony all day. As a special treat one day we walked in the other direction, down the hill to Bowness on Windermere, and took the ferry up to Ambleside. This cost twice as much as the bus, but buy, what a lovely trip.
From Ambleside, it was onto footpaths and straight up into the hills. There are plenty of options depending on your fitness. The low crags of Langdale to the east are great fun to explore and are a perfect starter hill for little ones. Loughrigg has great views over the water. If you want something more challenging, then Hellvelyn is there on your doorstep, but don’t be deceived by its nearness. This is high-up walking and not for the faint-hearted or ill-prepared.
The food you need when hill walking is good filling stuff, so a pasty is pretty much the perfect choice. Pastys are cheap, they fill you up, taste great, and don’t get too damaged in a paper bag on the top of your rucksack.
Aside from a pasty and a bottle of water, other necessary expenses are a good map and compass, decent weatherproof clothing, and decent walking boots.
In the local ‘outdoor’ shops there is a whole range of equipment that you can mostly ignore, although we did end up buying walking poles which made climbing to the tops of the mountains a lot easier. If you are unsure of what is necessary and what is just a useful extra, talk to the shop assistants. They are mostly mountain lovers themselves and have a wealth of knowledge to impart for free.
If you are like us and find that walking all day is what you want to do, then the evenings become very budget friendly as you are likely to be too exhausted to do anything except flop on the sofa. If you do have the energy left to get out in the evening, many pubs in Cumbria have live music as a regular feature of the evening entertainment.
If you have come to the lakes with kids then why not visit the seaside while you are here. Allonby, St. Bees and all great beaches. St Bees is my favorite because of the interesting old industrial buildings that litter the headland.