Where exactly is it? The Quiet Site is a few miles from the busy town of Penrith by Ullswater, the Lake District’s second largest lake. Be environmentally-friendly, as we were, and take the train, just three hours from London Euston, then it’s a 20-minute bus ride to the Brackenrigg Inn (see below). Alight there and embark on an easy, though uphill, 1.5 mile walk to the site (if you prefer, the site’s helpful staff can also pick you up at the station or bus stop at no extra cost).
So what goes on there? Quiet Site is a 100% eco-focused camp site, with an emphasis on sustainability, recycling, refills and zero waste. In recent years they’ve added glamping burrows, cabins, pods and ‘gingerbread’ houses: the site is split between these modern, hip scandi-style dwellings and more traditional campsite 1970s spearmint-green static caravans. There’s even a new zero-waste shop (including wine and beer) to top up on your groceries.
Where do I stay? We chose the wood-lined glamping cabins that sleep two. Outside is a good-sized deck with picnic bench – part-covered for the inevitable Lake District rain – and a pale-wood lined interior, with teal panelling, a petite sofa and living room area (yep, telly included) with kitchenette. A decent-sized comfortable double bed is cosy, too, while the ensuite with shower is pleasingly un-caravanesque. Sitting on the picnic bench, once the rain had finally cleared, and clinking our first flutes of fizz in the evening sun, was a glorious moment.
What should I eat? Well, the Quiet Bite café opened a year ago and is a useful addition to the site: breakfast sees an excellent crispy bacon-in-sourdough roll (£4, with vegan option), with good strong coffee, while evenings offer a small range of wood-fired pizzas with daily specials. The sourdough is made on-site, and our smoked ham and garlic mushroom, from the regular menu, was as tasty as that day’s pastrami, mustard and braised leek special. Service is friendly and chatty, with anecdotes and observations from the good-natured staff.
And what do I drink? You’re in luck if you’re partial to a uniquely rustic pub. This one is housed in a barn dating back to 1680, with an interior that’s remained untouched for half a century. As such, it’s like a Game-of-Thrones set, all stained glass, barrel seating, crumbling taxidermy and sets of antlers nailed to stone walls. Red-faced post-fells drinkers gather round the biggest roaring fire we’ve ever seen in a watering hole, and on tap are two craft beers from Lakeland brewery Tirril, including a gluten-free pilsner, as well as well-priced wine, cask ales and more.
Any entertainment? On Sunday evening a live musician captivates the room. During our stay local star Pete Lashley performed note-perfect renditions of Bowie, Oasis and the Beatles: by the end, us tipsy holidaymakers were belting out choruses around the fire and clapping. We had even made new friends – both human and canine.
What else can you do? Well, this is the Lakes, so there’s simply too much choice. Hikers will rejoice in the many routes, including the Ullswater Way, a 20-mile circular around the lake, as well as the eight-mile walk to 70-foot Aria Waterfalls. We personally loved renting e-bikes (ask at reception): as newbies to such techy transport, it’s a revelation being powered uphill by a ‘helping hand’ motor and yet still somehow feeling that you’re putting the work in. My friend Rachel hadn’t ridden a bike for 15 years and was an instant convert: we spent a morning touring fells and valleys, all with spectacular views. Just be careful going downhill as the bikes can go super-fast.
Nearest off-site pub? We strolled down to the Brackenrigg Inn for a leisurely lunch, which boasts an on-site microbrewery so you can taste beers as local as it gets. Smoked trout starters and both a steak pie and medium-rare sirloin impressed, while there are panoramic lakeside views from the terrace and bar.
Can we take a cruise? Of course. Ullswater is visible from various points in the Quiet Site, as well as almost every vantage point in the surrounding lanes. At Pooley Bridge – a nearby village, with decent pubs and cafes at its northernmost tip – we took the 150-year-old steamer across the zigzag-shaped body of water down to its southern tip Glenridding, just past a densely wooded steep hill. On board, a commentary offers a decent backstory, but even in summer it can cold in the middle of the lake, so bring a coat.
A more urban day trip? Nearest town centre Penrith is a low-key but vibrant Cumbrian hotspot, with a couple of bookshops (including a lovely second-hand one by the church), cinema, theatre, many restaurants (try Grant’s of Castlegate) and the best two pubs being Dockray Hall and craft beer bar The Fell. It’s also chocka with delis, tea rooms and coffee shops aplenty, especially on Little Dockray.
For fish and chips, try Angel Lane Chippie: they’re best eaten on the grassy moat overlooking the spectacular hilltop remains of the 14th century castle. I also liked the Devonshire Arcade for its independent fishmongers, cafes, artists’ studios: plant-based eaters will appreciate the tucked-away bistro Simple Goodness, whose mixed salad lunch bowl was completely delicious (and one of my fave meals of the whole stay).
The Verdict: Eco credentials aside, not only is The Quiet Site is staffed by an enthusiastic, super-helpful team, it’s stunningly located in a spot boasting all manner of modern-day conveniences. And yet magically it still feels remote.
Main image: PR. Accommodation was provided by the Quiet Site.