A vegan trip to the Lake District: walking in Ambleside

On the first real sunny weekend of the year we escaped to the Lakes. The sunshine was a happy coincidence rather than specifically running away to the sun, and it turned out to be the perfect weekend, with great vegan food, beautiful scenery and a gorgeous quiet little b&b to make our base. I’d never been to Ambleside before, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

The trip was officially for the hub’s 30th (for mine, we had a long weekend in Venice). We set off Friday morning, and the drive took a little over two hours. We were staying at Yewfield Lodge, a small vegetarian b&b set in 80 acres of woods and meadows, with rumours of red squirrels. Our room was in an outbuilding, with patio doors that opened out onto the gardens and gave us somewhere to leave our muddy boots. It was huge – a giant bed, huge bathroom with separate walk in shower and bath, plus a sitting area with futon, armchair and TV. They’d even left us some vegan biscuits alongside the kettle.


We arrived in the Lakes around lunchtime on the Friday, checked in, and headed into Ambleside for some food, which was a 15min drive away. Literally the first place we wandered into looking for food had a homemade vegan falafel burger with homemade hummus – super garlicky and creamy! Their specialty, and namesake, was apple pie – which also happened to be vegan! We were in heaven. This place was made for us.

After eating our own body weights, we aimed to walk to Loughrigg Tarn, which was supposed to be an easy afternoon wander. We did wander a little off course, and in trying to follow Google Maps (amateurs, I know!) we ended up at the much, much smaller Lily Tarn. Which was nice enough in its own right, but not really what we were looking for. However, in our wandering round in circles we were also rewarded with a stunning view over Windermere.  By the time we found the real Loughrigg Tarn we were starting to melt, and I threw off my boots (brand new Merrell vegan boots, no breaking in required! And waterproof!) to jump in for a cheeky paddle on my hot feet. The walk back, sticking to the main path was much quicker – which was fortunate as we’d made a booking at Zeffirelli’s that evening.

 

So – the person who owned our B&B, as well as another vegetarian B&B closer to Ambleside, also owned two vegetarian restaurants in the middle of town – Zeffirelli’s, which is a bit more casual, pizza menu and slight art nouveau feel to it, and Fellini’s, which is more fine dining style, Mediterranean-inspired and a much calmer atmosphere compared to the buzz at Zeffirelli’s. Both are attached to cinemas and show a mix of arthouse films, as well as showings from the RSC and National Opera, plus the usual Hollywood. With such perfect weather we didn’t bother with the cinemas though. For both venues, booking is advised for eating in the evening.

We hit up Zeffirelli’s the Friday evening.  It did not disappoint, check out this vegan pizza:

zeff-pizzawine

*drooling*. Even the wine list clearly labels which wines are vegan friendly. The only slight downside was the desserts were a bit unimaginative – the veggie desserts had tiramisu, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate orange torte or banoffe pie. Vegans just had sorbet or a summer berry dish to choose from – but I was pretty full from my pizza anyway!

The next morning started with breakfast at the hotel. Homemade berry smoothie, fresh fruit and muesli with soy yoghurt to start, followed by rye bread, scrambled tofu and vegan sausage. It was just perfect.

That day we aimed to do a circular walk starting in Skelwith bridge, which we found online. The walk was supposed to be around 5 miles, however, with it being such a gorgeous day we thought we’d walk to Skelwith Bridge and back from our hotel rather than drive, making it around 12 miles in total. We also, unsurprisingly, got lost here and there – added an extra hill (Lingmoor Fell), came the long way around Little Langdale. We think it was maybe 13 miles by the time we made it home, including woods, fields, country lanes, a quarry and two waterfalls. The sun was strong and I sunburt badly – but what a gorgeous walk (and we made a few friends along the way).

The evening we were red faced and exhausted – but still made it out to Fellini’s – and wow! Each course was presented with care and tasted amazing – I had a beetroot roulade thing for my main, and the beetroot was sweet and rich, pasty was flaky and crisp. Alan had an aubergine dhal, complete with coconut raita. Both of us had the cinnamon poached pair with nut brittle to finish – check out this bad boy:

For our final morning, we had another great breakfast then headed to explore the grounds of Yewfield itself, heading towards Tarn Hows. We walked quietly and carefully, as there were red squirrels in the area and every time we come to the Lakes we’ve been desperate to see one. This time wasn’t our lucky day either.  In any case, it was a beautiful walk through woodland, opening up into a view looking down on Tarn Hows. We even found one of Yewfield’s horses having an early morning bath on our way. At the back of the lake, a small footpath leads you to a tiny but beautiful waterfall. I also find a pretty good tree branch for a decent straddle – at last, right?

To finish off the weekend we headed back into Ambleside for some lunch before a sad drive home. We found Bilbo’s cafe: where muddy boots and dogs are welcome. In the style of a backpacker’s hostel, it’s slightly off the main road so a little bit quieter than the busy team rooms and pubs. It had a very chilled out, semi-psychadelic atmosphere, and served vegan burritos which were just what we needed.

Minimal phone signal, perfect weather, fresh air and great food – we couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’d go back to this region in a heartbeat.

xxx

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