View Full Version : Visiting the Lake District and Scotland

Frank Petronio
27-Nov-2005, 08:05
Hi - We're visiting the Lake District and Scotland next summer. Since we're bringing along my wife's 80-something parents, the pace needs to be relaxed - making it ideal for me to photograph actually (we've done this before). I'll be the dangerous Yank driving on the wrong side in a rental car.

Any advice? I'd like to spend 3-4 days at each, with a "home base" being a nice lodge or interesting hotel/B&B. What are the don't miss sites that aren't overly touristified?


27-Nov-2005, 08:31
The lake district in high summer is to be avoided. School Holidays through July and you can expect traffic jams at all the major lake distrcit towns. Infact, most people will tell you that the Lake District has been completely spoilt by the huge numbers of people visiting. It is beautiful though but mid summer is very very busy.

Lake district is really about serious walking and takes a lifetime to explore properly. There are a lot of lakes there because it rains a lot so make sure you have your brolly with you...

If it has to be high summer I would try somewhere else such as the Northumberland coast, from Newcastle upto Lindisfarne(Holy Island) taking in Alnwick and Bamburgh. Much less people and beautiful coastline with plenty of castles. In fact Northumberland has more castles than any other county in the UK. There's also Hadrians wall. Then its only a short hop upto Scotland / Edinburgh.

On the other hand, if you really want very touristy Tea Rooms then the lake district may be just your cup of tea!!!

Frank Petronio
27-Nov-2005, 08:40
This is exactly what I need to hear. It's the same as if a Brit were coming to Yosemite - all you see are the postcards and you rarely see the traffic jams... I'm trying at all costs to avoid the masses, but still don't want to end up in the armpit areas of Britain.

Where exactly are those quaint little white washed farm villages we see on PBS?

adrian tyler
27-Nov-2005, 08:49

rob is right, lake district is a real nightmare during the tourist season, my "parents" have lived there in ambliside for the last 25 years and recently sold up and moved because they had had enough... so, assuming you are going "in season" if you want this from someone with experience (i lived 15 years in scotland to boot), i'd say skip the lakes and go directly up north.

arrange yor flights directly to glasgow or edinburgh and pick up your car there, from there go directly up to the north west coast and plan to start a trip northwards starting from say fort william, stick the the west coast road, you can not go wrong, and if you get blessed with good weather you will not want to go home!

you can arrange it all here:



Robin Coutts
27-Nov-2005, 09:40
I agree with the above. One thing thoughwatch out for the Scottish Midges get some good insect repellant otherwise they will drive you crazy!

27-Nov-2005, 09:53
Change your schedule so in mid-May you can go to the Lake District rather than Italy. By then, the weather will be turning nice but the crowds haven't arrived yet. I can't recommend anything about Scotland, as I've never been there (but I understand that Summer will be on a Tuesday this year). Northern Italy is nice any time of year.

27-Nov-2005, 10:10
"but I understand that Summer will be on a Tuesday this year"

Thats only on leap years when 29th Feb falls on a Tuesday!

adrian tyler
27-Nov-2005, 10:22
for miges (serious problem in august)


John Flavell
27-Nov-2005, 10:26
Avoid those touristy places. Ask the B&B managers if they have relatives working a family farm out in the rural areas. When I do this, I make friends at local pubs near fishing villages. Buy a pint for the guy who looks like he's been working his tail off all day. Sing loud, and bad, when the music starts. Rural pubs are very social places and you're expected to converse. If you're having fun, they're on your side.

I did this in rural Ireland and had a great time away from the other ugly Americans. You'd be surprised what's hidden away from the crowds.

Martin Courtenay-Blake
27-Nov-2005, 11:15
Hi Frank

Re: summer

We have it on good authority that summer will actually fall on Tuesday at 2.00pm and will last for precisely for 1 hour 37 minutes. It will be followed immeadiately by winter (Scotland doesn't have Autumn (Fall)...the sun fails to appear and the leaves simply fly off the trees in protest)

On a slightly more serious note Scotland is brilliant at any time of the year (yep I live there), with the changeable weather only adding to it's character. When the sun does shine it can get quite hot but we do not suffer the humidity that can affect the south. You can experience all four seasons in an hour, let alone a day. I have sunbathed in 80 degree sunshine and got stuck in 4 foot snow with accompanying blizzards on the same July afternoon.

Edinburgh is a must...the city centre is simply stunning. All my US friends have fallen in love with the city. See the "Old Town" (mostly old), the "New Town" (still 200-300 years old), The Royal Mile with the castle at one end and Holyrood Palace at the other. For those who are interested the ex royal yacht "Britannia" is moored in Leith. Try to avoid in August when the world's largest arts festival takes place in the city and the population nearly doubles.

As far as touring is concerned don't ignore the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. There is a lot to see in a more gentle way than further North. Heading upwards from Edinburgh you could either take the route through Fife, visiting the old (and very quaint) fishing villages of Pittenweem and Anstruther as well as St Andrews of golf, university and Prince something or other fame. Onwards into the Grampian mountains past the royal castles at Glamis and Balmoral.

The more westerly route will take you into the somewhat more rugged scenery of the Western Highlands. Most folk like to take in Loch Lomand or the Trossachs then head further to Oban and the islands, including Skye which for me is another must, or through the stunningly beautiful scenery of Rannoch Moor and Glencoe to Fort William. From Fort William you can take in the rest of the Western and Northern mountains including our highest - Ben Nevis. The hills of Wester Ross and coastal scenery simply have to be experienced.

If you do decide to take a look at Northumberland en-route IMHO it is best to avoid the coastal villages such as Bamburgh during the height of summer as they are mobbed with tourists (I speak as someone with a number of friends who live there and has spent a lot of time there over the years). However, as has already been stated it will be far less crowded than the Lake District.

Whatever area you decide to visit I am sure you, and your parents will enjoy it and will be made very welcome by the local inhabitants.

If you want any more ideas just drop me a mail...will be only too pleased to help in any way I can.


Paul Ewins
27-Nov-2005, 14:50
I spent all of August in Scotland this year and absolutely loved it. Started in Glasgow, wandered through the Trossachs, up along Loch Ness then went further North and spent a week on Orkney.
Then down the east coast a little before cutting right across to the west coast on Skye. On that day it was sunny and the scenery in the higlands was just spectacular. That was six or seven hours of driving I would happily do again and again. From Skye we went to Edinburgh in time for the end of the festival and the Tattoo.

The weather was mostly good - meaning only a few days where it rained all day. Finding a good B&B is easy, just use the "star" or "diamond" ratings and never choose one with less than four. Getting a great B&B is a lot harder and more like pot-luck. If people give recommendations try and find out why they loved the place as their reasoning may not be the same as yours.

Unfortunately pretty much everything is touristy. Orkney was like that until we learned patience. The tourist buses don't stay long and then we had most places to ourselves. I guess any LF landscape photographer would have learned patience by now! The further North you go the fewer cars (and caravans) there are, but the narrower the roads become. Be prepared for single lane roads with lay-bys to let the on-coming traffic past.

I'd recommend Doune and Stirling Castles for people who want classic castles (and Monty Python fans). Orkney was fantastic, lots of prehistoric sites along with picturesque ruinous buildings, sea cliffs, bird-life, rural views, tiny fishing villages etc. etc. Skye was one of those days where it rained, but the afternoon we arrived and the morning we left showed why it is so highly regarded. Edinburgh is a must and the Tattoo was more than worth the modest ticket price, even if the seats are cramped and windy. Edinburgh also has some excellent galleries and museums - I managed to see a Cartier-Bresson exhibition that would never make it to Australia.

Feel free to email me for more info, because I could ramble on for hours.


Paul Ewins

Melbourne, Australia

Colin Carron
28-Nov-2005, 00:45

All good advice. It depends what you and your folk like to see.

The Lake District is about walking as said above but I would not miss it. On my list of places to take the in-laws and large camera would be Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick. Go at sunrise or sunset when you will be accompanied by other photographers and maybe a stone-hugger or two but no coaches at that time of day.

Northumberland coast is a beautiful place with ruined castles dotting the landscape. (A relic of endless skirmishing between Scots and English). My favourite here is Dunstanburgh Castle but it can only be accessed by a walk of about half a mile along a level grassy path along the coast from the little fishing village of Craster.

Edinburgh - a wonderful mixture of medieval old town with castle and the 18th century 'new town' in black Georgian stone. Busy but unmissable.

West of Scotland is beautiful as said above. In this case much of the driving will be on single track roads with marked passing places (spot the white diamond on a pole for your next passing place). These roads will have the advantage that no one will notice which side you are driving on.

Be aware that on Sundays the remoter parts of Scotland are normally closed for business so fill up on the Saturday.

Have a great time!

George Hart
28-Nov-2005, 00:55
Frank, I can't let this thread run any longer without saying something to counter the negative vibes which you may have got from our doubtless well-intentioned colleagues about the Lake District! You have not said just when you plan to visit, and I would not want you to get the impression that the Lakes is a photographic no-go area from the end of May to the end of September!!!! Of course they are correct in that during school holidays, the principal towns can be a slowly-moving mass of humanity. But that's not where you would go to take pictures, and getting about at dawn can be a pleasure even in mid-summer. Although you would have to queue to get to the top of Helvellyn in high season the lesser fells can be almost deserted, and there are large areas where you would hardly see a soul. It all depends on knowing where to go! If nearer the time you decide to visit the Lakes, feel free to email me offline and I will try to help. I have spent many enjoyable weeks taking photographs in the Lakes, even when the towns are clogged!

28-Nov-2005, 02:15
"Where exactly are those quaint little white washed farm villages we see on PBS"

They are all over Britain, mostly in rural farming areas (most of Britain) well away from the tourist hotspots.

For whitewashed thatched cottages visit (In the south of England) Wiltshire, Dorset, Hampshire, Devon, Cornwall. But the fact is you can find them in any county but in abundance in the counties I mention. Architecture is dependant on local stone and availability of reed for thatching and many reed beds no longer exist and many thatched cottages have been converted to tiled roofs.

In the south, Gloucestershire is in the Geological area called the Cotswolds. This has very beautiful yellow sandstone cottages. In Devon we have a mix of thatch and whitewash or red sandstone or slate. In Scotland you will find some houses thatched with heather. Really depends where you go as to what you will find.

Steve Lewis
28-Nov-2005, 05:59

The fact is that most, if not all, of Britain's national narks (including the Lake District) can be a nightmare during the school holidays. I would suggest that you have a look at the northern end of the Lake District (Keswick?) in late May/early June, before the holidays start, then go on up to Scotland after. I've spent time in Ullapool, Toridon and Fort William in early summer, and it's still possible to have an entire lake shore or hillside to yourself. The further north you go, the better! HTH.



Struan Gray
28-Nov-2005, 14:12
What do you like to photograph?

I've never been that enthusiastic about the lakes, and I love the Borders and N.W.Scotland, so I'll join the chorus pointing you that way.

Northumberland and Berwickshire are fantastic, and the A-roads sneaking through and across the border fells make for lovely scenic drives, even in August when the the north-south arteries will be solid with traffic. Lots of ruined abbeys and castles if you're into that sort of thing, as well as dinky coastal villages, strange local customs, and fish and chips to die for. Smailholm and the Hermitage ("A frown set in granite") make Eilean Donan look as frothy and frivolous as Neuschwanstein. St. Abbs and Coldingham are the Clovellys of the North, without the crowds or the clotted cream. Selkirk Bannocks are, well, excellent selling inducements on eBay.

Then there's N.W. Scotland. I'm biased: as a youth we went to Kinlochbervie for the summer, and I now inflict midges, horizontal rain and Mighty White on my kids in turn. Coigach, where we now go, is relatively midge-free (too much wind), has no real tourist attractions to speak of, and even at the height of the season more than a couple of families on the beach starts to feel unnaturally crowded. Lord Hunt (of Everest) declared the view better than that in the Western Cwm, and he had a point.


Ken Lee
18-Jan-2007, 10:53
I am planning a visit for the end of May 2007.

Lake Windermere, etc.

Is this a good idea ? Is the place good for LF work ?

Frank Petronio
18-Jan-2007, 11:08
The Brits will know what the crowds will be like, the place is set up for mass industrial tourism. We were very lucky with the weather and the crowds were minor -- non existent really -- in mid-September.

Some very pretty landscape and architecture there. Just meandering down quiet farm roads and walking over the next hill was very rewarding, even with our three-year old and an 83-year old cane user in tow.

I also think that British girls are pretty, now that they have good dental care ;)

18-Jan-2007, 11:13
I want to go to the Lake District..... :( Someday, perhaps.

Richard Kelham
18-Jan-2007, 12:47
As has been said, Rannoch Moor, the Trossachs and Skye are stunning – and much photographed. But there is plenty of space out there to lose yourself in. Mull is rather cute too.

The Lake District is less crowded in April (except Easter) and in late September when the great unwashed are back in their classrooms Yup, and the kids too!

If you do do the Lakes there are photos around every corner (almost) – even Windermere. Then take the old A7 road from Carlisle to Edinburgh before heading north to the Highlands. Vernacular architecture in the Highlands is not much to write home about as most of the crofters have given up their quaint hovels and moved to nondescript modern bungalows. Still a few midges about in September but only really problematic if you stray into damp forests: you'll be eaten alive!

Fortunately I can buy Selkirk Bannocks here in Norfolk...

Have a great trip, and bring/buy plenty of film.


18-Jan-2007, 16:07
The Brits will know what the crowds will be like, the place is set up for mass industrial tourism. We were very lucky with the weather and the crowds were minor -- non existent really -- in mid-September. Mid-September is good as all the kids have gone back to school (1st Monday in Sept), and there is as good a chance as any of good weather. It's often a case of: if you don't like the weather now, hang about for half an hour and something different will come along (not necessarily better you understand, just different...). July and August are school holidays so avoid like the plague - ditto Easter and August Bank Holiday.

Ken: May is also a very good choice but there are a couple of bank holidays (7th and 28th) this year which means those 3-day weekends will be busy if the weather is fine (or even if not fine - they breed a hardy bunch in the north-west ;) ).

Keswick (pronounced Kez-ik - a lot of place names around there are from Anglo Saxon times so matching spelling to pronunciation is often optional) in the north is less busy than Windermere or Ambleside. This gives you fairly easy access to the northern lakes, and Derwentwater is on the doorstep. A boat trip around Derwentwater or Windermere is a good option for the elderly - there are a few stop-off points you can jump off at and explore, then take a later boat to finish the trip.

A drive from Keswick along the Derwentwater shore and down in to Borrowdale (a very picturesque valley), continuing round and over the Honister Pass (1st gear required in parts) passing (or stopping in) the slate mine and along Buttermere (a beautifully situated lake) to Buttermere village for a pub lunch in the village followed by a leisurely walk/photo-op around the lake (3-4 miles mostly flat) is a mighty fine way to spend a day... The approach to the lake from the village is quite rough: 300 yards of farm track - stones embedded in clay/mud - very easy to twist an ankle. However, there is a pay car park (you will spend a small fortune on car park fees in the Lakes) owned by the farmer at the other, Honister Pass, end with much easier access to the lake shore.

Put "Buttermere" into google and hit "images" to get some idea. Go back to Keswick the way you came - you can complete a big circle by turning right just before the village but the scenery is less interesting and the roads are even narrower...

This is up/down country on narrow country lanes with the road only slightly more than two car widths wide in parts (sometimes less) sometimes with sheer drops on one side (but usually guarded). The roads were made for horse-drawn carts and no one ever got around to widening them...

Have fun, Bob.

Frank Petronio
18-Jan-2007, 16:16
I lost the damage deposit on our rental mini-van -- I wacked the side view mirror on the stone walls several times, cracked the airfoil under the bumper on the hills (dumb design) and taught the 80-something church-going grands some new parts of the English language. So if you drive those narrow roads, try to get something smaller rather than larger, or just be patient and go for the lowest insurance exemption.

CP Goerz
22-Jul-2007, 18:08
Hey Frank,

Its no accident that the most beautiful part of England happens to be next to Scotland....it only gets better the further North you go.

CP Goerz

Ben R
23-Jul-2007, 03:20
I love the lake district, got quite a bit of work from there on my site www.beni-art.net, but I went there last week and it almost put me off completely, horrible amount of tourists, litter everywhere including an abandoned tent even! Driving was a nightmare. My best shots there are from the winter when it's snowing and it's probably no wonder why. On the other hand almost all my Scotland stuff is mid summer. Scotland is far better in mid summer, the days are so long that when you are shooting early and late most people are safetly tucked up in bed or out of the way, Scotland is big enough to cope with the tourists, I found that the Lake District was too small and claustrophobic mid summer for any artistic mind set never mind photography!

Helen Bach
23-Jul-2007, 04:00
If you are going to visit Northumberland, fight your way past the other tourist and see Alnmouth. The entire town was almost destroyed when the awful pirate John Paul Jones, so-called 'Admiral of the American Navy', fired a single playful cannonball from the Bonhomme Richard at what his pilot (a Scotsman, taken on board at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, ie near Edinburgh) may have thought was Bamburgh (pron. Bambruh) castle. He missed Bamburgh and hit Wooden Farm, just outside Alnmouth. The cad. Later he sailed south to beat HMS Serapis at Flamborough Head in a very unfair fight (the Serapis was a fine, well-armed, new copper-bottomed Royal Navy ship and the Bonhomme Richard was a weedy old armed merchantman with unreliable guns). He must have been a naughty cheat as well as a cad. Well, he was born in England. The Wooden Farm American Revolutionary Cannonball may still be sitting beside someone's fireplace. I'd ask for it back if I were you. Imagine how much you could get for it on eBay.

On the other side of the country, ie not so far away, is the quiet Solway Firth. Just north of the Lake District, but usually a million miles from tourists. Here famous photographer Raymond Moore took many of his famous pictures. Silloth, Allonby - once these were resorts. That's one good thing about the central Lakes - they corral all the tourists into one place. The fringes north and south are usually much quieter.

Enjoy yourself,

PS I'm from Northumberland, and used to spend almost all my free time climbing and walking in the Lakes - I had a tiny cottage beside Buttermere.