The Lake District is a National Park in the north-west corner of England. As the name suggests the area is famous for its many lakes, but it also is home to the highest mountains in England.
The region’s stunning scenery has attracted tourists since the 1700s due to the wide range of walks, boating and other outdoor activities available. It has also inspired artists writers and poets including William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome.
How to get there
The Lake District is wholly within the English county of Cumbria, which is the north-western most part of the country.
It can be reached by road from the M6 motorway, visitors should exit via one of junctions 36-42 depending on which part of the Lakes you are heading for.
National Express run coaches to Windermere and Keswick while the former can also be reached by rail from the West Coast mainline.
For those travelling from further afield Manchester and Liverpool airports are the closest to the area and can be reached from a number of domestic and international locations.
The National Park has 20 major lakes as well as a number of smaller lakes, reservoirs and tarns, below we list some of the main ones.
Windermere is the largest natural lake in England, 10.5 miles long and up to a mile wide in places with 18 islands in it. There are two main towns on the lake, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside, while the town of Windermere is set a mile back from lake and has now grown into Bowness.
Power boating and water skiing are both poplar pursuits on the lake despite the introduction of a speed limit in recent years.
Fans of Peter Rabbit & Co should look out for The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, which is near the centre of Bowness.
Orrest Head is a 20-minute easy uphill walk from Windermere station. The view across Windermere and across the surrounding mountains is truly spectacular and well worth the minimal effort it takes to reach the top.
Ullswater is regarded by many as the most beautiful of the Cumbrian lakes, the springtime flowers on its shores inspiring Wordsworth to write his famous poem ‘Daffodils’. The villages of Glenridding and Pooley Bridge lie respectively at the northern and southern ends of the lake. The two villages are connected by road and the lake’s steamers, which also stop at Howtown on Ullswater’s eastern shore.
Ullswater is very popular with sailing enthusiasts and boasts a number of marinas along its shores. It also plays host to the Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy every July, which sees over 200 sailing boats competing on its waters.
Glenridding is a popular departure point for hikers tackling Helvellyn while those looking for a gentler challenge should walk the shore between Glenridding and Howtown.
The beautiful waterfall of Aira Force is close to the western shore of Ullswater and is well worth a visit.
Lying at the northern end of the Borowdale valley Derwent Water is fed by the river of the same name and overlooked by several of the better known Lake District fells, including Skiddaw, Catbells and Blencathra.
The lake contains four main islands and a number of other smaller ones, the house on Derwent House can be visited five days a year through the National Trust.
Hiking on the surrounding fells is a major tourist activity in the area and an extensive network of footpaths exists within the hills and woods surrounding the lake.
At the northern end of the lake is Keswick, an ancient market town that now primarily serves the tourist industry with places to stay, places to eat and outdoor activities.
Castlerigg Stone Circle is a well preserved prehistoric monument, two miles away from Keswick. Outstanding views of Derwent Water and the nearby hills can be seen from the site.
William Wordsworth’s home at Dove Cottage is on the shores of Grasmere and the poet is buried alongside his sister in the village’s churchyard.
Since 1852 the village of Grasmere has hosted a sports festival that features Cumberland wrestling, fell running and hound trails.
The deepest lake in England is framed by a backdrop of the highest peaks in the country, Scafell and Scafell Pike. The views of the lake including the backdrop of Great Gable have often been voted the most beautiful in England.
Coniston has been the site of many attempts at the world water speed record and the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons novels. It is overlooked by the Old Man of Coniston on one side and John Ruskin’s house at Brantwood on the other.
The National Trust’s restored steam gondola is an excellent way to see the lake and its surrounds.
The above forms a brief guide to the main lakes and their surrounding hills and towns, it is no means an exhaustive guide to the Lake District. The area is blessed with many more lakes, rivers, tarns, streams and mountains.
These can be explored by foot, bike, car, off-road vehicle or boat. There are many guides out there to help visitors to the area find their way around, for walkers Alfred Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells is still considered the best of its type.
Where to stay
The Lake District has a huge range and variety of places to stay. From campsites and youth hostels to self-catered caravans and cottages. Hotels range from bed and breakfasts to five-star luxury.
Many establishments will boast spectacular views over the nearby lakes and fells. For those wishing to spend time doing a particular activity, such as hiking or sailing, it will be worth searching out somewhere that specialises in catering for that activity.