“You must be totally mad – weren’t you lonely?”, asked my brother.
He couldn’t get his head around why I’d chosen to spend a weekend alone in a remote YHA camping barn in West Cumbria.
“Who needs company when the accommodation has rustic charm by the bucket load, is located in a wild valley of incredible natural beauty and is surrounded by some of the UK’s most iconic mountains?”, I replied.
He seemed satisfied with my justification.
When I added it only cost £9 a night his jaw nearly hit the floor.
Everybody loves a bargain and staying at High Gillerthwaite camping barn for two nights in March for less than £20 was the deal of the decade for me.
The 16th century barn is brimming full of character, with a postcard perfect exterior and all the features – a wood burning stove and a loo with a view – you could want from a countryside getaway.
It is the setting however that really sets the accommodation apart.
Ennerdale valley, which has benefitted from one of the longest running wild land restoration projects in the UK, is simply magnificent.
Poet William Wordsworth said whoever makes the long walk to the valley will “discover a vista which cannot fail to strike the most indifferent observer with astonishment and pleasure”.
He was not wrong.
With its big four – the 4km long lake, the impressive River Liza, a mosaic of colourful forests and the surrounding majestic peaks – Ennerdale is certainly one of Lakeland’s wildest and most beautiful places.
It was these features that had convinced me to travel hundreds of miles for a two-night visit.
Arriving at 5pm on Friday, I lobbed my rucksack into the barn, got changed and headed out for a dusk run around the lake.
I was eager to sample the delights of Ennerdale and I wasn’t disappointed.
The fresh air was replenishing, the views of misty mountains were magnificent and the setting of the calm, quiet lake was relaxing. I didn’t see a soul and that only added to the experience.
Back at the camping barn I unpacked, rustled up some food and settled down in the communal dining room for my meal.
There were no other guests in the camping barn. I had it all to myself – but I didn’t feel lonely.
The flames flickered in the wood burning stove, creating a cosy ambience, and I began to get excited about what tomorrow would bring.
On Saturday – having already got to grips with the lake – I set my sights on the mountains.
Visitors are spoilt for choice for peaks in Ennerdale.
Great Borne and Starling Dodd to the north of the lake and Grike and Crag Fell to the south are excellent for shorter day walks.
But I was heading for the big boys – Steeple and Pillar, two of the best-known and most-loved fells in the UK.
The walking was enjoyable, as I set off from the camping barn, crossed the river and battled up the Long Crag ridge for my first top.
It was a slog of an ascent but my efforts were rewarded with a moment of joy and adrenaline. The exposed summit of Steeple is a special place to stand – the sort of spot you really do feel like you’re on top of world.
Alfred Wainwright described it as “a slender pinnacle of lofty and delicate proportions which justify its name” and I, for one, was enthralled with the experience.
The rest of the day was equally exciting.
Ridge walking enabled me to enjoy the scenery from the summits of Scoat Fell, Black Crag and Pillar – a giant craggy mass known as the birthplace of rock climbing in the Lakes – with minimal effort.
Views from Looking Stead towards Great Gable, another favourite amongst hill walkers across the UK, were similarly spectacular and by the time I’d completed my long, looping walk I’d certainly had my fair share of mountain magnificence.
A conversation over dinner with the only other guest at the camping barn – a man solo walking Wainwright’s coast to coast trail – provided some welcome socialising.
But I couldn’t stay awake for long and, after a refreshing hot shower in the camping barn’s bathroom, I was soon dozing off in my sleeping bag.
Laid across one of the rows of mattresses that provide basic sleeping areas in the building, it provided a surprisingly comfortable spot for the night.
I awoke well rested but in need of coffee.
Boiling up a hot drink at the back of the barn, which is located a short distance from the main YHA Ennerdale building, I gazed up at the fells and listened to the noise of the river.
I felt sad that I’d soon be heading home to the concrete jungle of the city, in order to give my mum a kiss and a bunch of flowers on Mother’s Day.
But I knew the memories of my stay in Ennerdale – a bargain weekend of rustic charm, wilderness, majestic mountains and outdoor adventure – would make the hours on the M6 just about bearable.