Walking in a winter wonderland
The first dusting of snow has covered the fells and the autumn leaves have fallen from the trees.
The west shore of Windermere is the perfect spot to admire views, see wildlife and help yourself to a sweet treat at one of our cafés.
Set out from Claife Viewing Station and wander along the lakeshore path. You will skirt along the edge of the woodland and with the branches bare at this time of year there are wonderful views looking north across the lake to the fells beyond. Spot overwintering wildfowl such as goldeneye and find tracks of animals and birds in the frost. Greater spotted woodpeckers begin their courtship displays at this time of year, so listen out for their drumming in the woodland. Mini murmerations of starlings come to roost as the sun sets and flocks of redwing and fieldfare can be seen darting between trees. The gaggling geese are almost permanent residents down by the shore; look out for the native graylag geese which have pale pink legs and bright orange bills.
Boathouses, exotic trees and archaeology
As you meander along the lake look out for evidence of charcoal burning platforms in the woodland beside you. To the untrained eye these look like the slightly haphazard remnants of a dry stone wall; a collection of stones, with a fairly level surface, originally built to form the foundation of a charcoal burner. These burners were made from curved branches stacked neatly to form a dome shape, and then covered in damp turf to allow the wood to burn slowly in a controlled way. The charcoal produced was then used to manufacture iron and as many as 185 charcoal-burning platforms have been recorded in these woods, some of which are visible from the lakeshore track.
The lakeshore path leads to Wray Castle, a Gothic Revival castle on the edge of the lake. Keep an eye out for the grand boathouses by the lake and explore the parkland at your leisure. The Kitchen Court Café is open throughout the winter for a bite to eat and a hot drink, or if it's warm enough and the sun’s shining you’re guaranteed a good spot for a picnic.
" Wonderful family picnic spots can be found at Harrowslack and High Wray Bay, just south of Wray Castle. Take some time to explore the gardens and parkland around the Castle; some of the impressive exotic trees in the grounds are county and national champions."
It may seem like all has gone quiet now in the Lake District, but Claife Viewing Station and the Café in the Courtyard are open all year round, as are Wray Castle’s grounds, its outdoor play trail and its café. Hill Top’s garden and shop are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until the 23 December. Tarn Hows is open all year round and is the perfect place for a wintery walk. From Tarn Hows you can walk into Hawkshead for a spot of Christmas shopping - the National Trust's Corner Shop has a lovely selection of gifts including a range of specially selected local products.