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A traincation to the Lake District

Posted by Richard Hammond at 08:26 on Friday 13 May 2011

Lancrigg Hotel's woodland, Grasmere, was a favourite of Dorothy Wordsworth. Photo Richard HammondLancrigg Hotel's woodland, Grasmere, was a favourite of Dorothy Wordsworth. Photo Richard HammondWe recently went on a traincation mini break as part of a challenge by Virgin Trains to go on a money-saving break in the UK.

The idea was to find as many bargains as possible using £250 spending money provided by Virgin Trains (to be spent partially on a Virgin Trains ticket to a destination of our choice) plus any extras we incurred along the way.

We opted for a trip to the Lake District, taking the train from London Euston to Oxenholme. We tweeted about the trip using the hashtag #virgintraincation.

Here's how we did it:

Booking the Accommodation: We searched on greentraveller's guide to Holidays in Cumbia which revealed 10 green places to stay. Mossgrove Organic Hotel in Grasmere was offering a 50% discount on a its standard B&B price for an Executive Room (£220) ie. reduced to £110. Sally Shalam had given it the thumbs up in her Review of Mossgrove in the Guardian and Grasmere is accessible by public transport so we went ahead and booked the room for one night.

Booking the train ticket: Before planning any journey in the UK we recommend using transportdirect.info - it's a terrific door-to-door journey planner that shows how to get from A to B on foot, by bus and train, includes prices and even shows a carbon comparison of the different modes of transport. To then book the train ticket, we used the Virgin Trains Best Fare Finder, and found a ticket for £29.50 each for the outward journey London Euston to Oxenholme and £21.00 each for the return journey.

The Traincation Mini-Break

We left London Euston and arrived at Oxenholme in just 3 hours 4 minutes. From Oxenholme there's the Transpenine train to Windermere from where you can catch the #555 bus to Grasmere, journey time is about an hour.

After checking it at Mossgrove, we went for an afternoon walk around Grasmere. It's in a beautiful part of the Lakes - William Wordsworth lived here and described it as 'the loveliest spot that man hath ever found'. We visited his grave in the village next to a daffodil garden, visited Sarah Nelson's gingerbread shop and then walked then went up to Lancrigg Hotel for a walk in its woods. Charles Darwin's friend Sir John Richardson once owned Lancrigg and had planted a wonderful variety of trees in the nearby woods. At the entrance, there's a placard that describes the various trees that you can find on the walk, including a giant Sequioa, which has distinctive spongy red bark up to two feet thick.

Lancrigg Hotel has a wonderful vegetarian restaurant. Photo Richard HammondLancrigg Hotel has a wonderful vegetarian restaurant. Photo Richard Hammond

We then headed back into Grasmere for a tipple of local ale at Tweedie's pub - conveniently just opposite Mossgrove Hotel. It's a Camra Real Ale pub and was serving a selection of local ales in a third-of-pint glasses. 

A selection of Real Ales at Tweedies Bar, Grasmere. Photo Richard HammondA selection of Real Ales at Tweedies Bar, Grasmere. Photo Richard Hammond

We then returned to Mossgrove Organic Hotel - it's a smart, funky hotel in the centre of Grasmere. All 11 rooms have spa baths, under floor heating, flat screen Tvs, Bose sytems, free internet access, and large comfortable beds...

Mossgrove Organic Hotel in the centre of Grasmere. Photo Richard HammondMossgrove Organic Hotel in the centre of Grasmere. Photo Richard Hammond

There was a notice in our room saying that if wanted porridge in the morning we had to order the night before, "as we like to soak the oats, seeds and raisins overnight".

Our room at Mossgrove Organic Hotel, Grasmere. Photo Richard HammondOur room at Mossgrove Organic Hotel, Grasmere. Photo Richard Hammond

Mossgrove has done a number of things to reduce its impact on the environment: the property was refurbished using as many natural products as possible (including natural organic clay paints), there's a high efficiency combined heat and power boiler for heating and hot water, a filtration system to remove chlorine - pesticides from the water, it provides organic toiletries, and laundry uses biodegradable detergents.

After a blissful night's sleep, a slap-up breakfast the following morning, including cereals, boiled eggs, and fair trade tea and coffee, we returned to Oxenholme to catch the return train back to London. A terrific mini-break by train! 

Fact File

Return train travel for two, London Euston to Oxenholme, with Virgin Trains Best Fare Finder, cost £101 for two people.

Mossgrove Organic Hotel: Executive Double Room cost £110, including organic Mediterranean style buffet breakfast.

Bus Stagecoach route #555 Grasmere-Windermere (£4.80 single) and Transpenine train Windermere-Oxenholme (£4.60 single) for more information on local public transport in the Lakes, see Traveline North West.

For more information on visiting Grasmere, see: grasmere.com and visitcumbria.com/amb/grasmere.htm

For more information on visiting the Lakes, see: golakes.co.uk, lakedistrictoutdoors.co.uk.

River view at Grasmere in the heart of the Lake District. Photo Richard HammondRiver view at Grasmere in the heart of the Lake District. Photo Richard Hammond

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