Mountains and lakes? Check. Cool friends and even cooler dog, Nico? Check. Land Rover Discovery Sport? Check. Let’s go have some fun for a couple days.
Lake District is always an excellent place to come back to. Rugged and beautiful year round and lush and vibrant in summer, it’s easy to see why JJ Abrams decided that the scenery here would make a great backdrop in his Star Wars film.
With the English weather being how it often is, taking refuge in the Discovery Sport seemed like a good idea, so we headed out on Saturday to see just how much of the area we could cover in one day. The route takes us over three mountain passes – first off was Honister Pass – the location of the only operating slate mine in the country.
The drive is quite popular with car enthusiasts for good reason – it's downright beautiful. The Discovery Sport feels at home snaking up the pass, thanks to its ability to optimize the vehicle’s engine, transmission, differentials and other factors to maximize the comfort and traction. We swapped from General Driving to Grass/Gravel/Snow to Mud/Ruts throughout the drive, and it even has a mode for Sand when the situation calls for it. Towering slate cliffs jutting overhead are easy to take in comfortably thanks to the huge panoramic sunroof and around every turn is an Instagram-worthy view – it's perfect.
Kirkstone Inn is our next stop, a pub at the peak of the highest pass in the area, at just over 450m. We take in the views over Ambleside and Ullswater, grab a bite to eat, and enjoy some tunes in the Land Rover thanks to its Meridian-powered, 16-speaker sound system. Crystal clear highs and deep bass notes sound good anywhere, but they're especially satisfying when surrounded by these views.
Refreshed, we descend The Struggle, an aptly named back road en route towards Ambleside and our final crossing over Wrynose and Hardknott Passes.
We have hop on the verge a few times for oncoming cars, but it’s never too much of a chore in the Land Rover. Once over Wrynose Pass you’re given a very rare sight in a place as densely-inhabited as the Lake District – a completely empty valley, save for the bumpy ribbon of tarmac that culminates in the steep switchbacks of Hardknott. Small streams running off the fellside are confidently forded thanks to the 600mm wading depth of our ride, which can calculate the water depth thanks to sensors on the bottom of the door mirrors. It's all relayed via the touchscreen, so we knew exactly how to drive. We start our ascent up Hardknott Pass – the steepest road in the UK isn’t really noticed by the Discovery Sport.
Views over the empty valley as well as looking out to sea over the Esk estuary are suitably appreciated as we stop at the summit. Slightly down the hill is the Hardknott Roman Fort – our final stop for the day. Almost at the northernmost reach of the Roman Empire, there isn’t much save for stone foundations now. It’s eerily quiet here, as some sheep graze in the old bath house.
We end our day here, and take the scenic route back by Ennerdale and a small stone circle that lies nearby.
The SUV is wildly versatile and practical, with five traditional seats plus two fold away ones, which allow for seven people to comfortably fit in the Discovery Sport. For our smaller crew, that meant Nico enjoyed some extra legroom in the trunk, and we head towards Ennerdale Water – the most gorgeous place in the Lake District.
We hike along the edge of the lake before peeling into the forest, stopping at a little waterfall, and then start climbing. We pass by an old smithy and blast furnace, a few piles of rocks that are all that remain from the valley’s history of iron smelting. As the conifers thin out we begin to wade through the dense heather on approach to the summit. At the top we find ourselves awarded with another stunning view of the area – with the sea on one side, and seemingly endless valleys, forests and fells on the other.
By the time we make it back to the car, it’s unfortunately time to call an end to our weekend in the Lakes. Real life is calling, and it’s a long drive home. It’s always a blast to come here, and it became much easier with this stunning SUV by our side.