I fire up my Ford Focus seven days a week and at least twice each day thanks to a combination of work and my other job as a mum taxi to teenagers. So when I get the rare chance of a weekend break, I have a strict rule: no driving, apart from travelling to the destination.
I also prefer to be in the countryside and like to get around by bus or train to see the sights, so that narrows my options.
Most rural locations are poorly served by public transport but there is one glorious exception. The Lake District is exceptionally well catered for thanks to Stagecoach buses.
I discovered this on a recent trip to Grasmere. Based at the Daffodil Hotel and Spa, which has gardens down to the lake, I vowed to rely solely on Shanks’s pony so I could get plenty of fresh air and break in my new walking boots.
There are lots of places to eat in Grasmere so it helps to do some homework. A friend recommended The Jumble Room, a small, bohemian-style restaurant with a great chef. It was so good we couldn’t get a table and had to settle for an average meal elsewhere.
Back at the hotel, there was a reminder of another must-have on my list: a big, comfy bed. TripAdvisor is a godsend to those of us who know what the lead character in Princess and the Pea went through. There’s always someone on the review site who comments on the mattress, bed size, cleanliness and thread count of the sheets.
The Daffodil, a friendly four star with some great offers, scores very highly for the quality and size of its beds. In fact, this was the comfiest hotel bed I have ever slept in. If you choose the right room you wake up to views of the lake and then there’s a fantastic breakfast.
Fuelled with a vegetarian full English and good, strong coffee I laced up the Brasher boots for the walk into nearby Ambleside.
The road was busy with traffic. It was raining and cold, and I’m sure there were other good excuses, so I got the bus. There are plenty of them too, every few minutes and there’s a range of unlimited travel day tickets from £8 that take you all over the area. The buses are free after 9.30am for those with a senior citizen’s bus pass. There’s a lot to see and do in Ambleside, a busy little town with some great independent shops, cafes and restaurants.
I enjoyed The Rock Shop, which has fossils and gems plus a gem pit for children to play in. Fred Holdsworth’s bookshop was another big treat. For food you are spoilt for choice but top of my list is Zeffirellis, a restaurant with a cinema and jazz bar.
Stuffed to the gills, it was back to The Daffodil and a visit to the spa. The thermal pool isn’t really meant for swimming but I still managed to do a few strokes before having a Mud Rasul. This is the only treatment I can cope with as I struggle to stay still and relax for massages and facials. For the uninitiated, it is vigorous DIY rub-down with salts. You then apply mineral-rich mud and lie in your own steam room for half an hour, or in my case 20 minutes.
I ate in the hotel and the service and the food were exceptionally good. The restaurant has a famous faces theme with photographs of celebrities old and new lining the walls. The corridors at the Daffodil are also a pleasure thanks to prints by Sue Macartney-Snape’s superbly observed caricatures. It offers a wonderfully warm welcome after a bracing walk, which is essential when in the Lake District. There are lots of great walks from this hotel, just across the road from William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage. It’s a great place to end up or as Wordsworth put it: “It is the loveliest spot that man hath found.”
• Daffodil Hotel, Restaurant and Spa, tel: 015394 63550, www.daffodilhotel.co.uk
Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s former home, www.wordsworth.org.uk
The Jumble Room, Grasmere, www.thejumbleroom.co.uk
Zeffirellis restaurant, www.zeffirellis.com
Lakes buses, www.stagecoachbus.com/cumbrianorthlancs
The Rock Shop, www.rockshop.co.uk
Fred Holdsworth Bookshop, www.fredontheweb.co.uk