A while ago we walked from Wray Castle to the Claife Viewing Station, on the shores of Windermere. At the time the National Trust were partially restoring the building, so we promised to return when the work was completed.
As we drove there over the Kirkstone Pass and down The Struggle we were in bright sunshine with clear blue skies in every direction. But below us, over Ambleside and Windermere, was a most magnificent cloud inversion.
We descended into it and by the time we reached Wray Castle we began our walk in the thickest of mists, scarcely seeing a few yards out into Windermere. But after a mile or two the clouds lifted and there were superb views right across to the furthest shore of the lake and the Fairfield Horseshoe beyond.
The viewing station was built in the 1790s as a place from where the beauties of Windermere might be admired. Tinted glass was provided so that the visitors could see the lake in differing aspects of mood. Click on the picture here to enlarge for an explanation of the colour scheme.
The viewing station became very popular with early Victorians, and had some very famous visitors, including Wordsworth. The building became the setting for dances and the landscape around a renowned pleasure garden. It became one of the first and most appreciated of early Lakeland tourist sites.
Though the National Trust has increased the accessibility, how much nicer if they had attempted a full restoration to bring back entirely the experiences of those early visitors.
The walk there from Wray Castle is some eight miles, there and back, and is very much the nicest way to appreciate the setting. This is the quieter side of Windermere, giving the feeling of the lake as portrayed – though mixed with Coniston Water – in Arthur Ransome’s grand Swallows and Amazons novels.
We saw only one or two walkers on the way to Claife, but there were a lot of walkers and cyclists as we made our way back.