Another Saturday, another trip out, but on foot this time. We donned boots, marched down through Bowness and got the ferry across the lake as foot passengers. A short walk through the woods along the side of the lake brought us to the old ‘viewing station’ at Claife, newly refurbished and re-opened by the National Trust.
The station itself is still a complete ruin, and parts of it are so unsafe that it’s fenced off. But you can stroll up through the courtyard (with a nice café), past the remnants of the Victorian shrubbery, to the platform at the top.
In Victorian times the shrubbery was deliberately planted very thick so that only tantalising glimpses were visible, until the visitors reached the top and could suddenly see the vista unveiled – in some cases through coloured glass windows which changed the ‘season’ they were viewing: yellow for a sunny summer’s day, blue for the winter chill.
Those Victorians knew a thing or two, because the view, even today with half the shrubbery and all the stained glass missing, is quite simply stunning. The lake stretches out at your feet – a gentle, pastoral scene looking south, and much more mountainous to the north, where the Ill Bell ridge punctuates the skyline. When the National Trust complete the conservation work it’s going to be magnificent. In the meantime, it’s well worth a visit – and completely free!