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I wake at the crack of dawn and step out of the bothy into the cool, crisp air.

The early morning light has turned a nearby lake flamingo pink, and the cluster of golden and green trees are reflected in the water. A speckled duck is giving her little ones a gentle swimming lesson and the birds are just starting to sing. I keep my blanket wrapped snugly around me and take a seat by the water’s edge, thinking that as early morning starts go, this takes some beating.

I’m out here in the wilderness with my friend Ben, on a mission we’d dreamed up in a Dalston bar together a few weeks earlier – to spend as much time in the great outdoors of this spectacularly scenic region as we could. We decided to try spending a few nights in the numerous bothies and barns scattered across the land, in spite of the fact the nights are still decidedly chilly.

After a long drive from London, we reach the campsite of Borrowdale’s Chapel House Farm at the ungodly hour of 2am. Rain is bucketing down to the point it’s impossible to pitch our back-up tent, so we resort to spending the night in the car, tucked up with our blankets and pillows. 

Things pick up in the morning when the cheerful owner of the farm comes and asks us how we slept, sympathises about the pouring rain and kindly offers the use of his barn should we need to sleep in it later. 

Looking forward to spending the night in such a unique shelter (there are even mattresses inside, which makes it practically luxurious), Ben and I set off for a hike.

Laid back: Buttermere

What seems like a thousand shades of green make the meadows and hills a stunning sight. Near the farm we discover a beautiful waterfall crashing over slate and into rivers that weave through the scenery. It feels as though we’re the only people for miles – we probably are.

Just as the sun is setting, we make it to Derwentwater, one of the biggest lakes in the district. A National Trust four-wheel drive is doing the rounds here, and we get chatting to the ranger, who’s accompanied by a friendly Alsatian. We tell him we’re on a much-needed break from the Big Smoke. 


The Lake District's great outdoors: Stay for free in a bothy shelter and wake up with stunning water views
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