The Lake District is a mountainous region in North West England offering a dramatic beauty that has inspired the likes of William Wordsworth. From the limestone outcrops of the Furness Peninsula to the fen covered hillsides of the Duddon Estuary, its landscape is one of stony ruggedness and rural tranquility,
There are 16 major lakes varying in size from Windermere at 10 miles, to the tiny Brother’s Water which is less than half a mile. Towering above them are great brooding mountains like 3210ft Scaffell Pike, Britain’s highest peak. Roads and pathways carry travellers high up into the surrounding mountain passes towards Esk Hause, Sticks Pass and Nan Bield Pass.
Cartmel, a cathedral town in miniature dates back to 1188 and offers treasures such as a 14th century gatehouse and 12th century church. Some of the best walking country surrounds this little town with footpaths winding their way through bracken and holly covered hillsides.
Hawkshead, another countryside gem, with its stone cottages is one of the Lake District’s finest beauty spots and epitomises the character of these parts.
Then there’s the Old Man of Coniston, rising to 2635 ft and affording some majestic visas of the waterfalls and green hills of Furness Fells. Read on as we profile some of the most notable Lake District visitor attractions and historical places of interest.
History and Culture
Keswick Museum and Art Gallery provides a history of the town and houses original manuscripts of the Lake Poets, William Wordsworth, Hugh Walpole and Robert Southay. Brougham Castle is another notable historical site and is a well-restored 13th century keep which is owned by the English Heritage.
There’s a rich variety of outdoor activities in the Lake District. The region is ideal for walking and there are a number of centres that offer professional guided walks. Sailing and boat hire is also available on most of the lakes and is relatively cheap.
The Brewery Arts Centre, in Kendal is also a popular cultural attraction and runs shows which embrace the disciplines of theatre, dance, comedy and visual art. There’s also a collection of craft studios and galleries.
Towns and Villages
As well as the Lake District visitor attractions mentioned above, there are countless picturesque towns and villages located throughout the region. Here’s a profile of four locations that we think characterise this magnificent region of England.
Bassenthwaite village is situated in the Lake District National Park, about a mile from the north shore of Bassenthwaite Lake, one of the largest in the Lake District. The village consisting of a green, a pub and two churches contrasts with some of the busier towns of the region.
St Bega’s Church is one of Bassenthwaite’s most notable historical attractions. Set on the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite, it can be reached by a footpath from the village. The church is Norman in construction and dates back to the 14th century.
Mirehouse is also worth visiting and is an historic country house built in 1666. It is located near Keswick and has large grounds, picturesque gardens and a function room that plays host to various activities including parties and exhibitions.
Lake Bassenthwaite is around 4 miles long and nearly a mile wide but, despite its size, is very shallow, reaching a depth of about 70 feet. It is the most northern of the lakes and is fed by the Rive Derwent. Bassenthwaite Sailing Club lies on its shores and is used to launch a variety of pleasure craft.
Skiddaw Mountain overlooks Bassenthwaite to the east and provides an inspiring backdrop to the village and lake. The steady breezes of the region prove ideal for sailing and the countryside is also well-suited to ramblers and hikers.
Broughton in Furness is a market town located in the Lake District National Park and near the River Duddon. It is a popular centre for walking and climbing enthusiasts who come to enjoy the inspiring views of the Duddon Valley and Lake District Fells.
The rugged woodlands and wild, hilly country which surround Broughton in Furness attract ramblers and hikers from far and wide. The town is also gateway to Ulpha Fell and a high mountain plateau that provides walks over Birker Fell. From here one is able to see Scafell Pike in the distance. The scenery in these parts exudes a magnificence that inspired the likes of poets such as Wordsworth and Norman Nicholson.
Established during the 11th century, the town has a number of historical attractions. These include the obelisk in the market square, erected in 1810 to mark the jubilee of King George III, and St Mary’s Church, which is the oldest building in the town. Constructed in Saxon Times, its was extensively rebuilt during the 18th century and houses a number of antiquities.
The terraced Georgian houses that dominate the market square offer reminders of the town’s past – it was an important centre for a variety of trades including livestock and wool. Now, tourism is the town’s main economy.
Glenridding is situated on the shores of Ullswater in the Lake District. Once a centre for lead mining, the town now attracts walkers and climbers from all over, who use it as a base for exploring the surrounding fells and peaks.
Greenside Lead mine is located above Ullswater and is a reminder of the region’s industrial heritage. It is the largest mining site in the Lake District and was the first to use electricity to power its winding gear. The mine was in use from the late 17th century to the 1950s and was the principal economy for towns such as Glenridding.
A selection of trails and footpaths can be found around Glendridding such as Striding Hike, which is well-known for some of the precarious terrain that it winds through. It is however a rewarding experience due to the magnificent views that can be had from Raise Fell and other peaks.
Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District after Windermere. It is almost 10 miles in length and approximately 1 mile wide and is considered to be one of the most picturesque lakes in the region. The lake is popular for watersports such as sailing, fishing and cruising and is surrounded by a number of charming lakeside towns such as Glenridding.
The Ullswater Steamers are a popular attraction and stop at Glenridding, Howtown and Pooley Bridge. There are four steamers named ‘Raven’, ‘Lady of the Lake’, ‘Lady Dorothy’ and Lady Wakefield’. Originally used to transport lead from Greenside mine, they now ferry tourists along Lakeland’s most inspiring expanse of water.
There are a number of picturesque waterfalls found dotted around the lake district. Aira Beck Stream which flows under a bridge before falling 20 metres down a rocky ravine forms one of the most famous, Aira Force. Protected by the National Trust the waterfall is one of the finest in Central Cumbria.
Ullswater Lake, another place of idyllic beauty, is surrounded by loft fells and green, fertile valleys that inspired great English literary figures such as William Wordsworth and Sir Walter Scott.
Windermere. which is merged with Bowness on Windermere, is a centre for sailing and water sports enthusiasts. Its also surrounded by easily accessible vantage points that afford some magnificent views of the lake and surrounding landscape.
Orrest Head provides the most impressive vista and is located north of the town – its peak stands at 784ft but can be reached relatively easily via a meandering mountain trail. Biskey How, which lies east of Bowness can also be climbed easily and is around 300ft.
Windermere’s narrow streets offer a glimpse of how the town once looked before tourism took hold. St Martin’s Church, which dates back to these pre-tourism times, is one of the most important historical attractions in the region. The church itself has some fine stained glass windows which depict John Washington, ancestor of George Washington, the first American President.
The nearby Lake Windermere is over 10 miles long and up to 1 mile wide in places. Its waters are constantly busy with pleasure craft and ferries that travel between the surrounding towns. Rowing and sailing boats are available for hire in Windermere and other towns.
Looking to stay in the region? Then take a look at our hand-picked collection of Lake District Holiday Cottages and self catering properties.