When friends of mine have been to places as diverse as India and Bolivia this summer, my own pub-hopping trip to the closest wilderness I know of — the Lake District — seems somewhat prosaic. However, I feel that the pubs and prettiness of Cumbria trumps any far-flung land.
My dog, a chirpy little Border Terrier had loads of fun scrambling up and around Derwent Water; my father had rather less fun outside, and rather more in the pub, drink in hand. In all honesty, a decadent early summer of on-demand TV and North-East nightclubs left me empathizing more with my human companion than the one with four legs.
That being said, the view of the top of one of the hills which inspire is always worth the sweat and the cramp. I will always enjoy watching paragliders dance — somewhat dangerously it always seems to me — close to the hilltop from which they have recently launched themselves. Gliding down from Skiddaw in particular appears to be a thrilling way to descend, and most enticingly to this wheezy second-team footballer, it looks a bit less effort than walking.
As I may have alluded to earlier, Keswick has a lot of good pubs; given every other story one reads about a pub these days is mourning the aggressive decline of the good ol’ bastion of Britishness that is the Public House, the Cumbrian market town is a haven of polished wood and pool tables.
That’s not to mention the good food, the good beer, and the good atmosphere. On our first evening my family and I were accosted by one of those impossibly interesting older couples who seem to populate England’s country towns. Several hours and at least two full life-stories later, we stumbled out of The Dog and Gun and into the sort of night one only finds far from the oppressive conurbations which dominate so much of our country.
It remains eye-opening to walk along old tracks past railway bridges and to watch as the countryside reclaims the old sleepers which have long fallen into disuse.
Walking in the lakes has a habit of making you apply poignant literary narratives to the world around you, and as I sneak back to the local in order to enjoy another pint of something with a bright and witty label, this seems all the peace you need in the world. Take that La Paz.