There is something so rejuvenating about spending the night away from home, even if it is only in the next valley.
In late October, we hopped on the penultimate bus from Windermere over the Kirkstone Pass to the Ullswater Valley and jumped off the bus into the darkness at Glenridding.
Head torches on, we followed the track that rises from the valley towards one of the main paths to Helvellyn. We felt the gleeful heightened state of awareness you feel when hiking in the dark, stripped of the views, our senses become more tuned into the sounds and smells around us instead. The distant hoot of an owl and the damp, musty smells of autumn.
After half an hour’s gentle incline, we reached our home for the night. YHA Helvellyn is tucked off one of the main routes up to England’s third-highest mountain. We’d booked to stay in a Landpod, a cross between a wooden camping pod and a tent.
The Landpods sit on a small platform adjacent to the hostel, accessed by the tiny tunnel from the main entrance to the hostel.
Inside were two double beds with fitted sheets, and we were given duvets and pillows when we checked in at reception (this is to prevent them from getting damp). We opted to ask for two duvets as it was late October, and there was a bit of a chill in the air – but we had come prepared with plenty of layers and a hot water bottle!
In addition, there is a small sitting area and storage space under the main double bed. Outside, there is also a fire pit and a picnic bench that would be glorious in summer. The Landpod runs on a solar panel connected to a battery which operates the LED lights, plus there are two USB sockets to charge devices.
Dropping our bags, we headed into the self-catering kitchen in the main hostel, where pod users are free to use. We filled our flasks with hot chocolate to hunker down with for the night. Whilst there is WIFI in the main hostel, I had no phone signal in the Landpod, and it was blissful to spend the evening away from devices, curled up in bed reading and eventually falling asleep quite early. I was struck by how beautiful and dark it was compared to my street lamp-lit bedroom at home.
We awoke just after 7 am with the tinkling of the water from the beck a few metres from our Landpod. I love waking up in a new place, especially when I’ve arrived in the dark and couldn’t see the surroundings. And oh! What a view it was!
We padded down to the beck to be treated to silhouetted views back down the valley, grey Lakeland skies lit up by a bolt of sunlight over the neighbouring mountains. Pure magic.
We walked around the grounds, finding some beautiful intact mushrooms in the damp grass and sitting on the rocks to take in the mesmerising view until the rain started to fall when we retreated instead to the hostel for a warm shower in the shared bathrooms.
We added hot water to porridge pots and returned to our pod for the last time, leaving the door open to watch the crazy Herdwick sheep graze across the beck.
And then, it was time to repack our bags and leave our lovely Landpod behind. Before heading back down the valley, we walked up to the old, disused Greenside mine, a few minutes walk from the hostel, and imagined what mining life must have been like back in the day.
As the morning forecast wasn’t great, we walked back down the track – it was lovely to see the autumn colours in the valley after walking up in the darkness with the clouds hanging moody and low.
At Glenridding, we hopped on the steamer boat to Howtown across the lake, enjoying the flask of soup we’d heated up at the hostel.
The last week of October always feels particularly autumnal, and we were treated to a range of stunning colours on our hike up to Steel Knots, which also marked my 100th Wainwright!
And then it was back down to Howtown for the boat back to Glenridding and one of the last buses of the season to head back over the Kirkstone Pass.
Another memorable Lake District micro-adventure to celebrate the beauty of autumn and a chance to remember how even the shortest adventure can leave the most significant of memories.
Just a note: this post isn’t in any way sponsored – I paid £40 (with a seasonal discount) for a night in the Landpod. Summer prices are around £100 (they do sleep four adults). Find out more information about YHA Helvellyn here