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A gem in the heart of the Lake District
1:13pm Thursday 13th August 2009 in Travel
The Lake District has always held a special place in my heart. Its high peaks, rolling hills, deep, clean, clear lakes and woodland trails provide a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of busy life, writes Sarah Hesketh.
Over the years, my family and I have experienced much that the Lakes has to offer - walking, climbing, cycling, canoeing - and we've stayed in a variety of places - hotels, friends' holiday cottages, and on camp sites.
But we had not, until recently, had the opportunity to try a luxury caravan holiday. So it was with great joy that I accepted an invitation to visit the Skelwith Fold Caravan Park.
Skelwith Fold is just a short drive from the centre of Ambleside yet it is right in the heart of the countryside, surrounded by trees and the drive up to the entrance gates is through a wooded glade.
The site is expansive with a five-acre family recreation area, a well-stocked shop, an adventure playground, fully equipped shower and toilet block, and washing up and laundrette facilities for use by touring caravans and motorhomes.
The site has 300 privately-owned holiday homes and 150 touring pitches for caravans and motorhomes. It has been praised by botanist David Bellamy for its many conservation initiatives over the years and the full-grown oak trees that provide the backdrop to its grounds produce up to a quarter of a million acorns annually.
Skelwith Fold seems to be leading the way on conservation as, after a two-year battle against the dominance of grey squirrels in the area, a colony of red squirrels has now been confirmed on the grounds.
The caravans are a more affordable option to a holiday cottage in the Lakes and are not the type many of us associate with the term 'caravan' - you wouldn't tow one behind your car. They are the big static ones that look like a trailer.
They really are a home from home with fitted kitchens, showers, comfy sofas, televisions and - most importantly for me - proper beds.
Many's the time I've turned over on a camp bed during the night and found myself lying on the floor, sleeping bag entwined around my legs.
I've lain there in the pitch dark, listening to the steady rainfall against the fly sheet wondering to myself how long it will take to dry out the tent.
My second thought would then be whether it would be worth all the hastle of unzipping the sleeping bag, unzipping the inner tent, unzipping the outer tent and then dashing through the rain to the toilet block where a huge spider would be lurking on the side of the cistern - or to just wait until the morning. It reaffirms by belief that camping requires three important skills: a sense of humour, good organisational ability and a strong bladder.
But not so at Skelwith Fold. The caravans have wide, luxurious beds complete with quilts, bedside tables, night lights and an en suite. What joy!
The fully fitted kitchen means you have the option to eat in or, if you prefer, to enjoy some of the local hospitality which includes a variety of pubs, cafes and restaurants.
We did both. The on-site shop provided us with locally-produced bacon and eggs for breakfast but we also enjoyed a trip to one of our favourite pubs - Wainwrights - for their not-to-be-missed roast lamb.
And as Harry Potter fever was gripping the nation, we gave in to protests and even fitted in a trip to the small but cosy cinema at Zeffirelli's in Ambleside where you can also have a meal or enjoy the delights of their cafe located in the same building.
The Lakes is a gem in the heart of England and is enjoyed by millions every year. It's an area where you can choose how you spend your time. You can do the full blown adventurous break by scaling the peaks. There are guided walks of various lengths and severity led each week from Skelwith Fold, starting and ending at the holiday park.
But if you'd rather have a sedate break, then why not try a lake cruise, visit one of the National Trust's many homes and gardens, or try an art gallery, museum, or the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. The choice is limitless.
Skelwith Fold is an ideal base from which to access the whole of the Lake District - or if you prefer, put your feet up on sofa in your luxury holiday home and just read the papers!
Skelwith Fold Caravan Park, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0HX.
015394 32277 www.skelwith.com
To stay: Touring caravans and motorhomes from £17.50 per night.
To buy: Luxury caravan holiday homes to own from £25,000 to £60,000. The park is open between March and November (inclusive).