Sunday, 30 September 2012

Cumbrian Nightlife

I'm taking a break from the outdoors today (well, mainly) and continuing my campaign to prove that there's much more to Cumbria than Wainwright and the fells.  As you'll know if you've been following this blog for any length of time our first 18 months or so up here were very frugal indeed, nothing desperate, but there was certainly no budget for eating out.  In fact during that time we ate "out" only twice, both times were at the fabulous local chippy and on both occasions other people paid.  Last week I ate "out" for 3 nights out of 4, and the variety of experiences show just what Cumbria has to offer.

Windermere
Wednesday night I was in Bowness to meet up with fellow blogger and soon to be published author Heelwalker1 (otherwise known as Tanya Oliver).  Being rather better acquainted with the local hostelries than I am, Tanya selected the venue; the rather lovely Village Inn opposite the church in Bowness.  I was running late and couldn't find the place so after a few laps of the church I finally asked someone where it was.  "Turn around" she said, and there it was, directly opposite with the words Village Inn helpfully written in large letters above the door.  And the windows.  And on the sign at the edge of the road.  Hard to believe I can make it up and down the fells in one piece isn't it?

The dinner and the company were lovely, though I confess to being a little like a fish out of water in such places - I'm always worried I'm wearing the wrong clothes and convinced that I'll drop and break something expensive. (Sorry Tanya - that might explain why I fidgeted and fled so early, it wasn't your company I promise!).  But if you're looking for a wide choice of "gastro pub" style dining options, plus a variety of other restaurants, it would appear that Bowness is your place to go.

The prom, Grange-over-Sands
Friday night saw us visiting an altogether different place; the At Home Bistro in Grange-over-Sands.  This is tucked away underneath the cafe on the corner next to Higginson's and is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings.  The dining area is cosy  but everyone is so friendly that you really do feel as if you're being welcomed into someone's home.  The food was fabulous and all served on non-scary crockery.  The night we went it was really quiet and I worry that small independently run places like this will vanish in the face of corporate chains.  If you're ever in the area do try and take time to visit, I promise you won't be dissapointed.  (And don't just take my word for it - check out the reviews it gets on TripAdvisor.  It really is a hidden away gem of a place.)

A view to dine out on.
And so to Saturday night.  Well now, that was eating out on a whole different level.  What if I could offer you somewhere to eat which had ample parking, was so peaceful & quiet you could actually feel yourself unwinding as you ate and with views like the one to the right from each dining position?  I'm sure restaurateurs across the land would kill for stuff like that.  Well, this time dinning experience came courtesy of the RSPB nature reserve at Leighton Moss .  We had to bring our own food and the "dining room" was the newly rebuilt "Allen Hide" just next to the railway tracks.

Rudimentary but effective.
As we ate dinner we watched Little Egrets, Curlews and Herons fishing for their dinners, we saw Oyster Catchers and Lapwings settling down for the night and we craned our necks to see flocks of geese in wonderful V formations heading south for warmer climates.  Admittedly the food was a rather more basic affair (2 flasks of tea, a box of Ritz crackers, a tube of Primula cheese and 1/2 an Eccles cake each), but the setting really couldn't be beaten.  Plus there was no crockery to be broken, but you'd be well advised to wrap up warm, especially if you want to keep the hide windows open for the best views.

On our way back to the car we both took shots of the moon - I managed a happy accident by wobbling and turning the moon into a heart whereas Steve took a rather more "moon like" shot, but we were both very happy to have our path back to the car well lit enough for me to treat the remaining local wildlife to a rousing rendition of Moon Shadow.

So there you go, next time you visit Cumbria there should be no complaining that you can't find somewhere to eat; just watch out for the singing locals.

My wobbly heart shaped moon.

Steve's rather more lovely shot.