With lockdown easing, we’re hungry for adventure. Hopping in the low-emission Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid, this epicurean Lake District road trip sidesteps Windermere and Keswick in favour of hidden foodie gems and secluded stays (okay, and some Michelin-starred restaurants), stopping to forage, hike and wild swim en route.
Fsoaring peaks to glassy tarns and fells trimmed with dense woodland, the Lake District is our destination of choice for slipping away from the fray and into nature’s unadulterated embrace. Sure, plenty of visitors succumb to its allure each summer, but with this itinerary you’ll reach the places where social distancing happens by chance rather than choice. After months of pandemic protocols, a road trip here is just what the doctor ordered.
Of course, gutsy exploration (and, honestly, peaceful relaxation) requires a little fuel. That’s why we’ve curated an itinerary that plays dot-to-dot with the foodie gems secreted across the national park and Cumbria beyond, running the gamut from unassuming Michelin-starred restaurants to forests ripe for foraging and family-run producers behind the region’s favourite victuals. En route, we’re highlighting off-beat activities for working up an appetite and the boltholes where you can recuperate in sweet seclusion.
Far less energy-hungry is our low-emission ride, the Volvo XC60 Recharge. This plug-in hybrid SUV is as deliciously designed as this itinerary, while its twin engines go down just as well with the environment without compromising on the power you need to tackle the fells. Win, win. Whether you’re planning a last-minute summer staycation or holding on to watch these leaves change colour in autumn, Volvo’s driver-assist technology and On Call app (which lets you preheat or precool the car) guarantee a comfortable ride home, no matter what adventure the day may bring. Strap in; this is a real taste of the Lakes.
Day One: South Lakeland and the Eden Valley
Cartmel has been on the epicurean map since L’Enclume bagged its second Michelin star, though more people pay lip service to this appetiser-sized village than make the pilgrimage. Be the contrarian and sidestep the smithy-turned-restaurant in favour of the more casual (but no less delicious) Rogan & Co before tucking into Unsworth’s Yard‘s smorgasbord of regional produce shops. Don’t leave without Cartmel Village Shop‘s sticky toffee pudding.
From here, drive north, teetering between the eastern Lake District and the Eden Valley. The Volvo XC60 has handy pockets for stashing snacks, so stop outside Kendal where Low Sizergh Barn peddles raw, organic milk from a vending machine or dip into Kirkby Lonsdale’s Kircabi Roasters for a caffeine fix. No spills on the driftwood inlays, please. Four nature reserves hug nearby Kirkby Stephen – peer through the open-and-tilt panoramic sunroof and you might spot a parrot as you park up for a hike in the wistful Mallerstang Valley. Photographers: you’ll want your camera for this one.
The drive over Shap summit is atmospheric but tough – refuel with farm-to-fork fare at Tebay Services while your car charges. No worries if there’s traffic on the M6; the Volvo’s blind spot information system uses active alerts and steer assist to help you make your move, while a world-first filtration system keeps the car’s air as clean as that atop Scafell Pike.
For the night, check in to the newly renovated Brownber Hall & House, a mod-vintage Victorian pile overlooking the Howgill Fells, or drive to the eco-friendly Edenhall Estate in lesser-visited Penrith. We love spotting otters and kingfishers from the self-catered waterside Lodge. For a flavour of the Lakes, book delivery of local artisan produce from A Day’s Walk.
Day Two: Keswick? No thanks.
Today you’re looping back south and west, heading into the national park proper. After a quick dunk into holistic whisky maker The Lakes Distillery near Bassenthwaite (stock up on a few bottles for later), most visitors would set their sat nav for Keswick – but you’re not most visitors.
Instead, flick into the high-traction Power mode to navigate the vertiginous Kirkstone Pass, (locals call it “the struggle”) to peaceful Rydal Water for a wild swim backed by Loughrigg Fell. Skip popular Ambleside in favour of lunch at The Yan in Grasmere, where (surprisingly affordable) dishes crafted from local produce are served in a converted farm building. With towbar-mounted bicycle holder, the Volvo XC60 can carry up to four bikes, so switch to two wheels to make the reverse journey along Kirkstone; there’s no feeling like the wind rippling your hair as you gaze over Brothers Water on the descent to Patterdale. Grab a bar of Kendal mint cake to keep you going.
Recuperate at Another Place, where playful luxury and adventure-rich landscapes meet on a private swathe of Ullswater’s shore. The XC60’s sleek Inscription design is befitting of the vibe here. Grab a wetsuit to go paddleboarding or detangle with a massage before tucking into Cumbrian beef wellington at Rampsbeck restaurant. Not off-grid enough? Journey to Crummock Water, around which Hinterlandes’ pimped-up American bus parks in jaw-dropping locations. Stargazing from its wood-fired hot tub is essential.
Day Three: Beyond Windermere
As England’s largest natural lake, Windermere has drawn tourists since railway lines were first built here in 1847. Skim over the crowds as you venture west to the lesser-trodden Langdale Valley, studded with pikes and reed-fringed tarns. Shrouded by woods, Cathedral Cave is bypassed by many fell walkers. You’ll need to pack a torch to explore its network of 16th-century slate mines; there’s no visitor centre here. Stop for lunch in The Drunken Duck Inn, which welcomes muddy-shoed ramblers with international-style gastropub dishes.
Descend to Grizedale Forest, cutting emissions by flicking into Pure mode while amping up the ambience with concert-worthy Bower & Wilkins speakers. Here, discover the bounty of the Lakes’ natural larder on a foraging expedition (season depending, you’ll pick up rosehips mushrooms, wild sorrel and more), or learn the art of open-fire cooking, shelter building and wood carving as part of a bushcraft class.
The Volvo XC60 proves that a sense of adventure and eco-awareness needn’t mean forgoing luxury. Enjoy dinner at The Forest Side where Michelin-starred garden-to-fork fare is served without the stuffiness of an overly formal restaurant. Satisfied, head to the Gilpin, steering clear of its haute main house in favour of a detached spa lodge in which aching calves are remedied in a personal hydrotherapy tub and outdoor sauna. Alternatively, take the rare opportunity to soak up the beauty of Windermere from the self-catered, sustainable-luxe Lake District Love Shack where Japanese-style minimalism is given a mid-century edge amid private, mossy woodland – filling your fridge at Booths is a northerner’s right of passage. This is how to go off-grid in style.