Monday, October 22, 2012

Mountain Goat, part 1

goat van side

I am not a fan of tours. I, rightly or wrongly, think I’ll be crammed in with a bunch of Americans to see stuff that doesn’t fit my (perhaps narrow) interests. For example, Brantwood, John Ruskin’s home, is in the Lake District, but it’s Victorian. If I had unlimited time, I might visit it, but with a tight schedule, it doesn’t’ make the cut. Wray Castle, also Victorian, also not on the list.

But I wanted to see Muncaster Castle and taking one of the Mountain Goat tours was the only way to do that, so we reluctantly signed up for this tour. I’m so glad we did! It was well worth the time and price. And somewhere along the line—maybe when we were signing up—I learned that only about 10 percent of visitors to the Lake District are Americans. I do know the woman who took our reservation said they get a lot of older British folks who don’t want to drive. According to Malcolm, our guide/driver, they have a number of repeat customers. And since each guide has his or her own interests, the basic tour outline gets embellished in many different ways. You can learn different things even if you take the same tour again, but with a different driver. (Mr. M. thought Malcolm’s “bias” was economics.)

The Mountain Goat van picked us up at our B&B. We happened to be the first of Malcolm’s stops, so we sat up front and got a chance to chat with him a little. I can’t remember where he was from originally—not, I think, the Lake District, but somewhere in northern England—but he spent 30 years teaching elementary school in Scotland. Doing Mountain Goat tours is his retirement job. He told us many of the guides are retired from other careers.

Once our van was full—only two other Americans aboard—we headed out. I couldn’t remember why I took this photo.

goat farmhouse

Until I looked at the closer shot.

goat fell foot farm

This is Fell Foot Farm, built in the 17th century, in Little Langdale.

Not too far into the trip, we stopped for a coffee break.

goat coffee break

and photo shoot.

goat coffee break landscape

We think this lake is Elterwater.

goat coffee break landscape 2

Mr. M has a telephoto function on his camera.

goat  elterwater

We took the tour on Tuesday, the day after the big rain. We had a little rain during the tour and a little flooding, and the clouds were low so we didn’t get the great views we would have had on a clear day, but we did get to see a lot.

As we drove along, Malcolm pointed out small streams that had formed because of all the rain.

goat small streams

You may have to look closely to see them. There’s one on the left, just above the rocks, and another, longer one on the right. Here are some more that are much easier to spot.

goat other streams heron and sheep

There’s a heron—though it may be hard to see—in the center of the picture, just below the fence. He—or she—was the reason I took the shot. And above the fence to the left, the things that might look a little like dogs with dark coats and white faces are Herdwick sheep.

I realized that we’d encountered a few of these little impromptu streams on our hikes. I think they form because the ground is so rocky, the water just runs off any way it can after a rainstorm.  Here’s another view, just because I like it.

goat stream and hill

Malcolm stopped the van again so those of us eager to take pictures could get out and do so. I took the opportunity to get a shot of two cars that had passed us while we were stopped. Notice the width of the road. And I think the water on the right might be the River Duddon.

goat narrow road by second stop

Here’s a front view of our Mountain Goat. Mr. M is looking at me, I think indicating that I should stop taking pictures and get into the van, for goodness sakes. The balding fellow in the red jacket is our guide, Malcolm.

goat front of van

More of our Mountain Goat adventure to come.


  1. Absolutely loving your Lake District Blog, and trying to work out where you got lost. Your route back from Rydal Mount to Waterhead was particularly unusual, but you will be pleased to know that the stepping stones over the River Rothay do exist. I used them yesterday!

    The Lake that you thought was Elterwater at the top of this page, is actually Little Langdale Tarn. It's one of the prettiest, yet least known of the tarns, and stands next door to the delightful Slater's Bridge, which looks as though it should be 16th century or older, but is in fact late 18th century.

    I do need to correct you on one thing though. It is Americans that drive on the wrong side of the road, although as you will have gathered from your trip over Wrynose and Hardknott passes, sometimes there is no right or wrong side, we all have to drive down the middle.

    1. Eric the Read, I'm sorry to say I'm just now seeing this wonderful comment. In my continuing attempt to figure out how best to inhabit the web, I moved on from this blog. It was such a delight to find your comment when I was looking to see what I had left here. And yes about the "wrong" side of the road. On one of our flights to England, I sat next to a Scot who'd rented a car to tour the Washington, D. C., suburbs. He recounted the same sort of terror we would have felt had we been brave enough to drive in Britain.