Living it up in the Lakes; Few people realise the Lakes are now very much a resort for all year. Once the throngs of daytrippers and walkers depart, you''ll find beautiful peaceful days with snowy peaks and frosty lakes as ANGELA UPEX discovered.
WE are very lucky to have the Lake District on our doorstep. It's within a couple of hours of most people in the region, but it's a favourite with visitors from around the globe.
The Lake District National Park covers more than 1,000 square miles and many contrasting landscapes, and that is where people who live in this region have the advantage.
Because we live so close to the Lakes we can choose to focus on a small area and really enjoy it, rather than trying to rush round packing the whole lot in.
We were off to Ambleside to a lovely renovated house right in the heart of the charming town. Our home for the weekend was Tethera, which has undergone a major refurbishment over the past few months. It now boasts a gold award from Enjoy England.
Hand on heart, Tethera proved one of the best places we have stayed at. The house is opposite the National Trust's 15th century watermill, its location is perfect and the accommodation was outstanding.
This spacious house offers accommodation for six. Bedrooms are huge, beds could accommodate a small army, and a wood burner in the living room entices you to fall into the strategically placed sleep-inducing settees dotted around the inviting lounge.
A wealth of interesting characteristics have been exposed at Tethera, the local stone wall in the open plan living area is a superb focal point. A well-stocked kitchen is part of the open-plan living space. It has a hob, fridge/freezer, dishwasher and washing machine. And there's also a boot room with a tumble drier and is a great place to hang and dry wet walking gear.
Despite traditional appearances there are some nice modern touches, such as iPod docking stations, free wi-fi and wall-mounted flat-screen TVs in the bedroom.
We picked the largest bedroom on the third floor with a sumptuously-appointed bathroom - it all adds to the sense of luxury.
The shower is vast but the huge stand-alone tub was my favourite spot all weekend.
All of the bedrooms have bespoke oak units, locally-sourced linens and comfy mattresses. The second floor, with its own bathroom, has two bedroom,s one with a double bed and the other with twin beds.
You really do want for nothing here, and my other half and I could have quite easily spent the duration of our weekend stay venturing no further than the front door.
But that would have been a shame, as the town itself and the surrounding area has a lot to offer.
The beauty of the Lakes is that it provides something for everyone, from weekend ramblers like us to pure adrenaline junkies plunging through the forests or scrambling up the mountains.
Tearing ourselves away from such bliss, we headed out to explore Ambleside. This bustling, busy market town offers visitors numerous shops, cosy pubs and plenty of places to eat out.
With its twisty little streets, lined with the slate-built buildings typical of this part of the world, its home to a great assortment of shops. Whether you want little souvenirs to take back for the children or to splash out on a watercolour by a local artist, it is definitely worth exploring.
With rain lashing down, we decided to visit Bowness on Windermere.
It sits on the lake itself and is home to Beatrix Potter World, a museum dedicated to the work of the famous children's author who lived for many years in Near Sawrey on the other side of the lake.
But if you were after more hardy pursuits, Ambleside has easy access to the surrounding fells and mountains.
A short walk from Ambleside is Stock Ghyll Force, a spectacular 70ft waterfall and to the South East is Jenkins Crag (730ft), with its great views of Ambleside and the surrounding hills.
Well worth a visit is Stagshaw Garden, a woodland garden with lovely floral displays set on a steep hillside overlooking Lake Windermere.
From the garden of the house, walks lead through Skelghyll Woods to the fells beyond.
After our first day exploring it was back to Ambleside. Just over the road from the cottage is the Glasshouse which is an excellent place to eat. Our first night we tried Dodd's Italian which offers excellent value. They only do walk-ins so it's best to go early. Other restaurants which caught our eye are Lucy's on a Plate and Sheila's Cottage.
And there's lot of pubs to choose from. We also watched Newcastle get stuffed by Man City at the Ambleside Tavern.
Other good pubs are the Golden Rule, a traditional pub with open fires cosy rooms and several real ales, but they don't do food. The Unicorn is also worth a visit, it serves real ales and pub grub.
The next day we enjoyed a good stomp. A great walk is Skelwith Bridge to Elterwater on to Chapel Stile then to Little Langdale and back to Skelwith Bridge.
There are pubs at all of these villages which do real ales and food. It was a low level walk of about six miles or so - perfect for a Sunday afternoon.
Other good walks direct from Tethera are to Grasmere via Under Loughrigg and the south side of Rydal Water and Grasmere Lake. Tweedies Bar is great for lunch and just hop on a bus back to Ambleside.
For the less energetic, there are strolls along the shore of Lake Windermere, boat trips down the lake and back, or maybe just potter around the many craft shops and galleries before a good pub lunch.
As we packed up the car we both agreed we'd enjoyed a splendid weekend. The spectacular scenery and wonderful cottage succeeded in banishing any winter blues. I can't wait to go back.
Angela stayed courtesy of Tethera which is in Ambleside, Cumbria. The house is part of the Cumbrian Cumbrian Cottages group.
The website is www.cumbrian-cottages.co.uk/ and the reference number of Tethera is 123325. The booking office number is 01228 599 960.
Majestic Four Rivers Cruise - Sailing from North Shields Departs May 27, 2013, 11 days from PS1,159pp
Open your heart and mind to the diverse influences of the mighty River Rhine on its journey from the mountains of Switzerland to the flatter landscape of the Netherlands.
The Rhine links diverse landscapes and cultures and whether we're gazing at the Moselle's steep vine-clad slopes, Heidelberg's romantic castle on the Neckar or the Main's high-rise "Manhattan" skyline of Frankfurt, our Four Rivers Cruise admirably pays tribute to the mighty Rhine and her tributaries.
* Return ferry crossing from Newcastle to Amsterdam
* En-suite cabin accommodation aboard the mps Lady Anne
* Full board during your cruise
* Visits to Koblenz,
Rudesheim, Frankfurt, Mainz, Mannheim, Boppard, Cochem and Koblenz For a complimentary colour Majestic Four Rivers Cruise brochure telephone The Journal Reader Travel Department on 0191 201 6000 or the River Cruise Line on 0844 544 6585 quoting code NC or log onto www.rivercruiseline.co.uk Or call into our Front Reception, Groat Market, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 1ED.
"My other half and I could have quite easily spent the duration of our weekend stay venturing no further than the front door
WINTER WONDERS Sheep graze in the meadow at Ambleside in the shadow of the snow-topped mountains
LUXURY IN THE LAKES Tethera in Ambleside