Manchester had their cow parade in 2004…
The pigs came to Bath in 2008…
London had their buses in 2014/5….
And Sheffield is currently under invasion by a herd of elephants…
But the best for me are the Lakeland Sheep!
Welcome to Go Herdwick, a fun public art trail running through the centre of the Lakes between Keswick and Windermere. There are 60 life-size painted Herdwick ewe sculptures situated in various places around the tourist honeypots of Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick, all paying homage to the Herdwick’s iconic status in the landscape and history of Cumbria. Most of the sheep can be visited on trails around the town centres, with a few positioned at more far flung places of interest, tourist attractions, hotels and schools.
Generally the painting of the sheep are sponsored by the company where they are positioned, but some of them are sponsored by Lake District companies that either don’t have official premises or are in places not suited to the trail, like “Wanda” above and “Wilma” at the Bowness Information Centre on Glebe Road who is sponsored by Waverton Investment Management. Details of the artists and sponsors can be found on the plaque by each sheep.
If you’re visiting the Lake District in the next couple of weeks or looking for a great day out in the North, why not try a bit of sheep spotting! It’s fun and great for seeking out new places to visit in the Lakes. I’ve been visiting the Lakes up to half a dozen times a year my whole life, if not more, and following the Go Herdwick trails still unearthed unknown places and tourist attractions. Nearing the end of their reign, the Go Herdwick sheep bolt off on September 4th so you don’t have long left to catch them.
In addition to the 60 ewes, there are 48 little lambs, again life-size sculptures but in a lying down position located within shops and company offices in Windermere/Bowness and Keswick. Many of the lambs are situated in shop windows, but so as not to be disappointed especially if you have kids hunting them out, it’s best to try and visit these during normal opening hours so you can see the ones inside the stores!
You can buy your trail maps in a number of different locations around the Lakes, but if you want to figure out your route ahead of your sheep spotting day, you can order them online from the Go Herdwick website. All funds raised go to the Lake District Calvert Trust to help them deliver challenging outdoor activities for those with disabilities, through the development of a new rehabilitation centre in Keswick. The Hide and Seek Lamb Trail guide is perfect for children as not only does it contain the trail maps, but is full of activities and includes stickers to mark off when you’ve spotted a lamb.
I worked out I could visit all the ewes on 2 days as long as I had a car to get around the sheep situated away from the centres. I also found it handy to bring my husband Kev as chauffeur so he could concentrate on the road while I scoured the sides for sheep. It also made stopping at locations where there was no parking a lot easier so I did not have to find somewhere to leave the car first. Days of doing car rallies as a teen and young adult were brought to mind where a chauffeur proved essential.
So, day 1 saw us visiting Windermere, then Bowness and finishing in Ambleside, calling at the various hotels as we went up the lakeside road from Windermere to Ambleside.
After the two hour journey up to the Lakes, and armed with the trail guide, the shop Lakeland in Windermere was our first stop, where we were a bit disconcerted as we could only find one of the two sheep that were supposed to be there.
Eventually we asked the car park attendant where the other one was and he explained that unfortunately it had been vandalised and so had been taken away for repair. Apparently this had happened a few times now to different sheep in Windermere which I found disheartening. In place of these vandalised sheep was a wooden cut out of a sheep with a red cross painted on it to signify where they should have been.
Parking up on the roadside in Windermere we set off for a wander round the centre and found yet another of the red cross sheep at the next location: Mountain Goat and wondered how many more we might find.
Stumbling across “A Sheep in the Sun” staring out at the road from Lingmoor Guest House, we then clocked up a number of the little lambs, my favourite being “L’al Yan” at the Cumbrian Cottages Office on Main Road.
Lunch was on the cards next and I can recommend The Lighthouse for a drink and bite to eat. Their hot chocolate and tiramisu was divine!
Recovering the car after the hours parking was up, we drove down through Windermere towards Bowness to find the sheep located at Goodly Dale Community Primary School and Our Lady of Windermere and St Herbert Catholic Church.
Down in Bowness, the town was heaving with visitors and parking was impossible, so quick stops and pick up locations outside the tourist information centre and the MacDonald Old England Hotel while I nipped in to take piccies were established. I decided at this point we weren’t going to even try to see the sheep positioned on the MV Teal and MV Swan ferries. There were just too many people around and potentially not enough hours in the day to fit in a ferry trip, however nice it would have been! These were the only two sheep we did not see.
A stop at Cedar Manor Hotel to see “Beatrix” and “Baarnaby” in the next door church of St Mary started the stream of various quick hotel stops between Windermere and Ambleside which included the Cragwood, the Low Wood Bay and the Langdale Chase. My favourite sheep was “Burly” at the Low Wood Bay Hotel who was painted as a dry stone wall! Her design is inspired by the drystone walls which criss-cross the Lake District amongst which the Herdwicks’ roam. Her colours reflect the range of quarried stones produced by her sponsor Burlington.
We made a bit of a mistake trying to locate “Hello Dolly” at Broadoaks Country House hotel which we thought was up the Troutbeck road from Windermere as indicated on the map, but we should have continued on the lake road to Troutbeck Bridge and turned right there. After switching on the sat nav for the first time to figure out where we should be, our massive detour brought us back through the centre of Troutbeck on a stupidly narrow road eventually finding the hotel with a large sigh of relief. However, we didn’t realise the hotel was closed for a wedding, so I stumbled into the wedding photographers shot and got shouted at by the wedding party. Oooops… I did get a very quick photo before skidaddling! Was glad for my chauffeur husband for a quick get-away!
Along the way, another drinks stop was to be had at Brockhole – The Lake District Visitor Centre where further sustenance for one of the hottest days of the year came in the form of lemon ice cream and another hot chocolate – my body didn’t know whether to be hot or cold after that. After walking round the centre, somewhere I had never visited in all the years of coming to the Lakes, we finally found “Parker” whose body was covered in tiny mirror pieces!
We discovered that Brockhole has a lot to offer, from the high ropes course for the adventurous to gentle lakeside walks and is worth another visit when we have more time!
Once in Ambleside, we found the three sheep hiding at Hays Garden World and the “Ewe With a View” outside the Heart of the Lakes Self Catering Cottages Office, then parked up in the main car park at Waterhead (Ambleside’s lakeside counterpart) and went to rest the ‘starting to ache’ limbs at The Regent Hotel. “Ewe of the Bay” greeted us! Her design depicts the stunning views across Lake Windermere from the hotel.
After a chill out in the bar’s comfy armchairs with a cuppa, we ventured up into Ambleside itself and went for a walk round the centre to find the remaining sheep. At this point the shops had shut for the day and many of the sheep could only be spotted through windows, but we did manage to find them all. Outside the Smallwood House Hotel was “Rosemaaaary, The Souper Ewe” a tribute to the Campbell’s Soup Can as well as Andy Warhol and the Herdwick sheep – she is superb and I ranked her up in my top three favourite sheep of the day.
There was a cute patchwork sheep, funnily enough called “Patchy” in the ‘Detail’ shop window and “Nettie” sported sun glasses in the window of popular Lakeland outdoor shop Gaynor Sports, a nice quirky touch. Well done Burnetts, Nettie’s sponsor!
After finding all the Ambleside sheep, it was unfortunately time to head back down the M6 to home.
Lake District Sheep Spotting makes a great day out and is fantastic for checking out hotels for future Lakeland stays. We were very tempted by the Low Wood Bay, the Cedar Manor and the Regent, all in beautiful locations, and can be recommended as suitable refreshment stops while on the sheep trails.
Two days later I returned to the Northern Lakes with my Mum to sheep spot around Keswick, then Grasmere, but that’s another story and another blog post! Keep your eyes peeled for my next post! Here’s a sneaky peek!
Remember: The Go Herdwick Sheep project winds up on the 4th September so if you miss them, you have one more chance to see them, this time in one location: The Rheged Centre near Penrith will exhibit all the sheep for one week from Thursday 22nd to Thursday 29th September. I know I’ll be heading up there on one day to see them all together – I should catch the couple that were on the MV Teal and Swan ferries and the ones that were being repaired.
There’s then an auction on Saturday 8th October at the Low Wood Bay Hotel, where all the sheep will be auctioned off!
Happy Sheep Spotting!
How many did you find? Which were your favourites?