Lots of people have been unwilling or unable to take foreign summer holidays this year. If you’re wondering where everyone has gone instead, you need to look very far to find out.
A quick scan of accommodation booking sites shows that people have headed to the honeypots of the Lake District, Devon and Cornwall, as well as once-famous seaside resort towns.
This provides a much-needed economic lifeline to these places.
However, the coronavirus world we live in means things are very different to normal, as businesses try to balance serving the crowds and making a profit, while ensuring their operations are safe.
Some places manage this better than others.
One place that is doing a great job is the Lakeland favourite, Chesters by the River. Located by the Brathay at Skelwith Bridge, it’s only a few minutes’ drive from Ambleside. It’s been a favourite for years and has only grown in popularity since it embraces a fully vegetarian menu a few years’ back.
Chesters has always been busy, even in winter, even when it’s raining, even when you’d rather be anywhere than the Lake District.
Summer sees queues, and this summer means they’re even bigger than normal.
But a reworking of their operations has meant that this works well. There are now entirely separate entrances (and queues) for the café, shop and takeaway. This means people can quickly and easily be channelled, depending on what they’re looking for.
The takeaway was expanded a couple of years back, and it’s clear that this was a brilliant move. Even though the café is large, it is never going to be without queues at this time of year.
The takeaway gives people a speedier option, with a fab, streamlined range of options. When we visited, there were a couple of homemade savoury pastry options, four fresh homemade salads (though this really is doing a disservice to the creative choices available), a dozen cakes, breads, scones and hot and cold drinks.
Everything has been designed for quick service, and to be eaten on the move.
We chose a couple of pasties (curried veg and leek and cheese), a salad (biriyani rice with roasted aubergine and coriander) and a cake (a wedge of Victoria sponge fit for a queen) along with a competitive flat white.
If you’re going to head somewhere busy, you could do a lot worse than Chesters. The food is always a cut above, and the safety measures they’ve put in place mean you’ll feel as safe as possible too.
The Swan and Tweedies, Grasmere
Having driven through the Lakes a few times recently, we’ve been able to spot the places to visit and those to avoid.
While businesses are having to adapt, new outdoor seating areas in car parks or in alleyways are not going to be a draw, if we can find something better.
The Swan has just that – with a beautiful, socially distanced beer garden. It has views in all directions and has lots of green space.
Real ale and a strong selection of soft and alcoholic drinks are available.
They’re running a simple one-way system, with track and trace taking place as part of your welcome.
Food is available – inside the pub, which has recently changed hands, is a full bar menu. If you’re dining outside, you’re restricted to pizzas.
These are fresh, light and clearly homemade, so it’s a good option.
The real ale was a touch pricey but was worth it for a couple of hours in a relaxing, spot with such outstanding views.
On our last visit, we also walked to Tweedies in the centre of Grasmere. It’s a busy pub at the best of times, but is even more so now.
The good news is that they have a huge garden and a brilliant system for getting served. This means you’ll not be waiting long at all for your food or drink.
If you’re organised and book a table inside you’ll find that it’s a safe, spacious place in which to spend a pleasant few hours.
If you are not, expect to sit outside. But fear not, the marquee will protect you from the worst of the weather. And the full range of amazing cask and key craft beer is available outside.
Tweedies doesn’t really do quiet, so even though the summer is about beyond us, it’s still worth booking – or donning your big coat if you want to sit outside!
Have you got any recommendations for good places in the Lakes that you’re prepared to share? Let us all know!