While England is perhaps most often associated with its big cities and quaint seaside towns, there is no region that matches the sheer beauty and grandeur of the Lake District. Wide valleys and tall mountain peaks create an almost Alpine-like landscape that can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Things to do in the Lake District
The Lake District is one of the best places in England to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Along with access to designated walking paths, the Countryside Rights of Way Act gives walkers the right to roam freely on 500 square miles of National Park. From light rambles to scaling mountain ridges, the area offers walking opportunities for all levels of abilities.
The Lake District National Park also offers volunteer-led guided walks, as well as map-reading instruction, and you can pick up walking books and guides at one of the park’s Information Centres. One thing to remember is that this area is green and lush for a reason: don’t forget your waterproof gear.
Most of what is called the Lake District lies within the Lake District National Park, in the county of Cumbria in northwestern England. The park is the second-largest national park in the United Kingdom and is home to 16 of England’s longest and deepest lakes, as well as ancient woodland, abundant wildlife and the country’s highest peaks.
The 978-metre Scafell Pike is England’s tallest mountain and you can reach the summit via several different routes. The easiest and most common ascent is from the village of Wasdale Head, which is home to the Wasdale Head Inn; England’s smallest church; and the annual World’s Biggest Liar competition. A more scenic but challenging route begins at Seathwaite Farm and travels along the western side of Sca Fell, England’s second-tallest mountain, and returns along the peaks of Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Glaramara, Great End and Allen Crags.
Go by bike
Cyclists can explore the Lake District via the many country lanes, cycle ways and bridle paths. One of the most attractive routes is the fourteen-kilometre Eskdale Trail. Starting at Ravenglass, cyclists can take their bikes on the historic steam train to Dalegarth Visitor Centre, then follow the marked cycle route back to the coast at Ravenglass, following the River Esk and passing mountains, woodlands, Muncaster Castle, and the Ravenglass Roman Bath House — one of the largest surviving Roman buildings in England. The train has a specially-designated bicycle carriage but you will need to make reservations a day in advance to secure a space.
The Lake District offers plenty of opportunities for rowing, fishing, sailing, windsurfing and kayaking; you can hire boats from the watersport centres at Coniston, Windermere, Derwentwater and Ullswater lakes. Other popular water activities include steamboat cruises on Ullswater lake and cruises across Windermere, England’s largest lake. The Windermere Lake Cruises company transports visitors to Lakeside at Windermere’s southern end, and to Brockhole and Waterhead in the north. The company also operates a scenic circle cruise around all of the lake’s islands.
A glimpse of history
The Lake District is strongly connected to the 18th and 19th century poets Robert Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth, whose poem I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud was inspired by the sight of daffodils on the shores of Ullswater. You can see his birthplace and childhood home at the Wordsworth House in the village of Cockermouth, while Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere offer guided tours of another one of his homes, as well as museum artifacts, tearooms and book and gift shop. The poet’s most-loved home was at Rydal Mount and Gardens in the village of Rydal, and you can walk through the house and gardens and see for yourself the inspirational views of Lake Windermere and Rydal Water.
Where to stay
Staying in Windermere offers easy access to lake trips, walking trails, transportation and amenities. It does tend to get busy, though, especially in the peak summer season, so look elsewhere if you are trying to get away from it all.
The pretty little village of Grasmere lies at the base of a valley and is surrounded by woodlands and open fields. Here you can visit one of Wordsworth’s homes, the Wordsworth Museum, and his final resting place at St. Oswald’s.
Keswick, which is just a short distance from Bassenthwaite Lake, makes a good base for exploring the northern part of the Lake District. Attractions in the town include a sixth-century church, the Theatre by the Lake and an annual beer festival. The Castlerigg stone circle, two miles outside of town, is thought to be 4,000 years old.
Penrith is a lively market town home to many traditional tea and cake shops, plenty of accommodations and the ruins of a 14th century castle. Just outside the town you will find the ancient King Arthur’s Round Table.
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This page by Karen Dion.