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Rydal Hall, Rydal, Ambleside, Cumbria
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Rydal Hall, Rydal, Ambleside, CumbriaWilliam Wordsworth, a man with an eye for a view, loved the hamlet of Rydal so much he took up residence there. His next-door neighbours, the Le Fleming family, owned Rydal Hall and lived the life of contemplative ease one associates with the landed gentry. It's fitting, then, that their home is now a retreat centre, and much of the ample estate is one of the most cultured campsites in England.

Perched on a hill above Rydal Water, the 16th-century mansion (all right, most of it dates from the late 19th century) boasts 34 acres of woodland, a formal Edwardian garden, a 'quiet garden' for peaceful contemplation, a waterfall with a posh hut from which to view it, numerous pieces of sculpture, a croquet lawn, and a tea shop - all of which are open to campers. Clampers are also catered for, there being yurts (run separately from the campsite) and pods dotted about the grounds.

Should you tire of wandering the estate, a 30-second saunter will take you to Rydal Mount, Wordsworth's home for the last 37 years of his life, which is now a museum dedicated to the poet. However, for properly exploring the immediate area, you should bring your walking boots and hit the Coffin Trail. The three-mile path runs right through the site on its way to Grasmere in the north and Ambleside in the south, following the route that coffins were carried along for burial in medieval times. If that sounds a tad too morbid, try the Lake Wilk, which connects Grasmere and Ambleside again, but broadly follows the western side of the waterways that join the two.

COOL FACTOR Camping in the grounds of a stately home? I'll have some of that.

WHO'S IN? Tents, dogs (on leads), groups (mixed-sex and activities-based) - yes. Vanners, single-sex groups - no.

ON SITE Just one campfire pitch, but it can be booked beforehand. A maximum of 100 campers are allowed on site, so overcrowding is never a problem.The loos (3W, 2M) and showers (1W, 1M) are augmented from Easter to August by portaloos (including 4 showers), but there's a new (and one hopes rather shinier) toilet block in the pipeline.There's an adventure playground in the woods; a croquet lawn by the house (mallets and balls available to hire); and Rydal Water is a 5-minute walk away, if anyone fancies a dip.

OFF SITE Free leaflet about the Coffin Trail is available on site, and Rydal Mount and its tea room (01539 433002; www.rydalmount.co.uk) are worth a stanza of any poem.

FOOD AND DRINK A tea shop on the grounds has tables by the river (open daily, 10am-5pm). Sadly, Ambleside isn't piled high with pubs you wish were your local. The Wateredge Inn (01539 432332), though fastidiously characterless, does at least have a beer garden on the shores of Windermere. Ambleside's two art-house cinema-restaurants (one of which is vegetarian) are great, however (www.fellinisambleside.com and www.zeffirellis.com).

GETTING THERE Easy one, this. Get yourself on to the A591, from Keswick to Kendal. Rydal is on this road just north of Ambleside. The turning for Rydal Hall is off to the east, just south of the Glen Rothay Hotel and Badger Bar.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Train to Windermere or Lancaster and bus no. 555 (www.stagecoachbus.com) to Rydal.

OPEN All year.

THE DAMAGE Adult £6.50 p/n; under-18 £4.50; car £3.



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