The Lakes District - Keswick, England

Keswick, Lakes DistrictAhhh, the Lakes District. After a recent visit, I fell in love like I knew I would - stunning natural beauty, clean air, beautiful lakes, great people (both locals and tons of visitors from all corners of England), hikes, and best of all...DOGS EVERYWHERE!

So much is written about southern England - London, Oxford, Cambridge, the Cotswolds, Bath, etc.. I had a tough time finding great intel about the Lakes District so I hope this helps you as you're planning.

We based ourselves in Keswick, which was the best choice after seeing all the other towns. I loved them but they can get very crowded. In Keswick, we were further from the main lures of the district like Beatrix Potter & William Wordsworth sites but it felt much more like an authentic, only in England feel. We met so many wonderful people here.

If you have very limited time, I'd recommend staying in Grasmere (The Red Lion has great deals) to be closer to all the sites. But I think 3-4 nights is really ideal to get a good handle on all the lakes and to feel the local rhythm.

In Keswick, Howe Keld is a dream B&B - great owners, fab breakfast (smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, local sausage, pancakes, etc), comfortable rooms, cozy beds, great value. I had a single room and my parents shared another room. I saw many of the more expensive hotels and I'd pick Howe Keld hands-down.

My room at Howe KeldOne of my favorite pubs I've found anywhere in the world was The Dog & Gun and we went every night. One couple had five border collies; another from Cambridge brought their dog eight weekends a year. We talked for a long time to Joe & Caroline, who had a white boxer and filled me in on their recent trip to Vietnam. Basically, EVERYONE we met was beyond friendly - exactly what you want in an English pub. Bonus: The food is great too! Nothing on the menu is fried but there are great soups, salads, and roasted deliciousness.

Outside The Dog & GunEvery time the door opened, I'd look to see what dog came inJust chillin' Nothing is very far in Keswick. A five-min walk leads you to the beautiful lake, Derwentwater, which I'm sure looks much different in the summer. There was something wonderfully atmospheric about being here in the off-season though.

With my dad at DerwentwaterThe town itself is cute but not overly so - it hasn't been taken over by shops only for the visiting hordes. I saw kids skipping home from school, moms shopping with their babies, friends strolling around with coffees. 

Keswick's main streetKeswickKeswick town from the park  I'd highly recommend Bel Cibo for dinner one night while you're in town - we couldn't get into the so-called "best" Italian restaurant, Casa Bella, but stumbled upon this place instead. LOVED IT - cozy, great eats, and we met the most wonderful couple at the table over. They warned us about our next destination, Haworth, and I am kicking myself for not listening to them - but more to come on that disastrous night.

Big smiles at Bel Cibo after pizza & pasta - of course! The Lakes District is a good five-hour car ride from London, but it goes by fast. You can take a train but you REALLY need a car when you're there.

If you're doing York, consider renting at Heathrow, driving to Lakes District, dropping car in York, then taking train back to London from there, which is what I did.

You will love it - I can't wait to go back!

Perfect Pubs: The Feathered Nest in The Cotswolds

The Feathered NestI've been to The Cotswolds a few times and there are so many ways to map out a charming route no matter how much time you have. You really do need a car to zip around properly - don't be afraid! That terrified pit in your stomach will lessen least it did for me. It's really not that bad - but you should know how to drive stick as the cars are so much cheaper! Watch out for the roundabouts. And you'll feel so smug and skilled after driving in England - it gave me confidence to drive in Tel Aviv, Belgium and other countries.

I'm often in search of the quintessential English pubs around the U.K. and I found it at The Feathered Nest in Nether Westcote (I feel so charming just saying these names!) - the photos speak for themselves. If you're in search of a Nancy Meyers movie set in England, you'll find it here. Mismatched pillows, roaring fires, cozy puddings, and cold beer - along with panoramic Cotswolds views - well, The Feathered Nest is just about the perfect place. You can also stay for the night, which I haven't done yet - but I will!

If you're lucky, you might come across the butts of a man and his horse...which reminds me, in my next life, I want to be on the English riding circuit.