Just a short half an hour hop from Ronaldsway by Citywing, Blackpool Airport is a gateway to some of Britain’s most beautiful scenery.
Within an hour of touching down at Blackpool and collecting our Europcar hire car, we were turning off the M6 for our first stop on our long weekend break in the South Lakes.
Winding back lanes took us to the picturesque seaside village of Arnside overlooking the Kent estuary, but our first port of call was up a steep track to the National Trust-owned Arnside Knott, a limestone crag that’s a prominent landmark for miles around.
With its summit at just over 159 metres, it has been described as the lowest Marilyn in England – a Marilyn being a pun on the Munro peaks of Scotland and refers to hills with a relative height of at least 150 metres.
The Knott is known for its butterflies and during our visit there were plenty to be seen flitting around the wild flowers.
After a circular tour of the Knott in glorious sunshine with its stunning panoramic views we set off again.
The railway cuts straight across the estuary here on an imposing 505 metre-long viaduct, but we had to take the long way round to reach elegant Grange-over-Sands, our base for our two-night stay.
But before we checked in to our hotel we took a short detour to Cartmel, a mecca for anyone with a sweet tooth.
For nestled in The Square is The Village Shop, which is described by its owners as ‘the home of sticky toffee pudding’.
The company has enjoyed much success and the sticky toffee pudding and its offshoots, including a deliciously warming sticky ginger pudding, is available in some supermarkets.
And while production has now been moved to nearby Flookburgh, nothing beats tucking in to the sumptuously sticky dessert in the place where it first made its name.
After stocking up on some sticky toffee, ginger and chocolate puddings as well as a pot of sticky toffee sauce from the shop downstairs, we headed back to Grange to check in to the Clare House Hotel.
Boasting spectacular views over Morecambe Bay it was conveniently located for all that the South Lakes have to offer.
Before dinner we took the opportunity to try out a game of croquet in Clare House’s gardens, and then took a stroll along the promenade, passing the remains of the lido which is now subject to a community-led campaign to get it restored to its former glory.
Back at Clare House we enjoyed a fabulous five-course evening meal which showcased the best of locally sourced produce.
That same focus on supporting producers was evident again at breakfast time, with the apple and cranberry Cumberland sausage being the highlight of the full English breakfast.
After breakfast we set off for Bowness on Windermere where we boarded one of the cruise boats that operate a frequent tourist service along the length of England’s largest lake.
Round trips take 70 minutes but we chose to break our journey at Ambleside, on the northern end of the lake.
It’s about a mile’s walk from the pier into the town, but once there there’s plenty to see and do.
Ambleside is the base for many walkers and others who enjoy outdoor pursuits, but we were a little less ambitious – opting for a quick round of crazy golf.
Retracing our steps to the pier we boarded the lake cruiser again, which on the return journey took in Windermere’s western shore.
Feeling peckish we had lunch a short drive away at Blackwell, one of Britain’s finest arts and crafts houses dating back to the turn of the last century.
It was designed by Baillie Scott, who during his 12 years in the Isle of Man was also the architect behind Castletown police station and the Red House in Glencrutchery Road as well as the former Majestic Hotel in Onchan.
We set off again, heading north across the dramatic Kirkstone Pass – which at 1,489 feet above sea level is the Lake District’s highest pass open to traffic – and on to Ullswater.
Here, Aira Force, a tumbling waterfall drops an impressive 65 feet and is reached by a delightful stroll through ancient woodland which is home to red squirrels.
In springtime Aira Force is home to the host of golden daffodils immortalised by William Wordsworth’s most famous poem.
With the weather closing in – you can never rely on the sun shining too long in the Lake District – we drove back to Ambleside via the aptly named The Struggle with its one in five gradients, and then took a circuitous route back to Grange via Coniston.
Torrential rain the next day meant we had to abandon our plans to try out one of the Wainwright fell walks to Catbells.
But we headed north anyway to Keswick where we called in at the delightful Cumberland Pencil Museum, home to the world’s largest pencil.
The museum, now in its 32nd year, is located next to the factory which manufactured pencils for 176 years until production transferred to a new site in 2008.
It’s an ideal wet weather attraction and when we arrived there was a quite a crowd queuing to get in.
Inside, an exhibition tells the story of the Cumbrian pencil industry and we learned the fascinating story of the secret artist’s pencil that RAF pilots carried with them during the Second World War to guide them safely home.
Hidden in the pencils were a compass and maps of occupied Europe showing escape routes.
After a warming hot chocolate and a bite to eat we had just enough time to check out the Castlerigg stone circle.
It’s arguably the most dramatically located of all British prehistoric stone circles, with panoramic views of the mountains of Helvellyn as a backdrop.
Enveloped in mist the Neolithic monument which dates back to 3000BC appeared particularly atmospheric during our visit.
It’s a place where time seems to stand still, but sadly for us we had to watch the clock and reluctantly we were soon heading off down the M6 back to Blackpool for our early evening Citywing flight to Ronaldsway.