The Lake District

Grasmere, Lake District © Mick Knapton
The Lake District sits within Cumbria, in the northwest of England, and is home to a series of expansive lakes and rocky mountains that together form some of the most strikingly beautiful vistas in the country. The landscape is a mix of rolling farmlands, green valleys and heather-covered moors, interrupted here and there by bustling towns and villages that have been popular holiday destinations in England for hundreds of years. Despite attracting more than 10 million visitors each year, the Lake District retains its peaceful and pastoral atmosphere, and hikers can go for miles without seeing any living creatures but sheep and cows.

The Lake District is the largest national park in England and stretches some 885 square miles (2,292 sq km), from Caldbeck in the north to Lindale in the south, and from Ravenglass in the west to Shap in the east. Each of the lakes within the area has its own character: Windermere, Grasmere and Ullswater are considered the prettiest, but those wishing to avoid the crowds can head for Wast Water, Crummock Water or Buttermere.

Some of Cumbria's famous residents include William Wordsworth, Robert Southey, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin, all writers and poets who drew inspiration from the land and the lakes. Today, the rugged beauty of Cumbria and the Lake District continues to inspire both visitors and locals alike, and it remains one of the most popular regions in England.



Attractions

Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle © Gjoseph

Castlerigg Stone Circle

One of Britain's most popular and most mysterious attractions, Castlerigg Stone Circle is a must-see for visitors to the Lake District. The Neolithic structure, which is comprised of 38 free-standing stones, some of which reach as high as 10 feet (3m), continues to intrigue eminent archaeologists and casual visitors alike, and its original purpose is still not exactly known. Demonstrating a remarkable geometric and astronomical precision (parts of the circle align perfectly with the sun, moon and stars), it is thought that the 5,000-year-old circle once filled a very important ceremonial or religious function. However, part of what makes Castlerigg such a wonderful sight for modern-day visitors to Cumbria, is its breathtakingly beautiful natural setting. Located on a slight plateau, the views afforded from the Castlerigg site are simply phenomenal: 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding fells, and excellent vistas of Cumbria's highest peaks, such as Helvellyn, Skiddaw, Grasmoor and Blencathra. Castlerigg has been called 'the most visually-impressive prehistoric monument in Britain' by archaeologist John Waterhouse, and those who make the short trip from Keswick to view the site certainly will not be disappointed.

Website: www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/castlerigg-stone-circle/


Dove Cottage
Dove Cottage © Menage a Moi

Dove Cottage and the William Wordsworth Museum

Legendary English poet William Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage from 1799 to 1813, after which time he moved down the road to the more upmarket Rydal Mount and Gardens. The Dove Cottage residence was the site of his most creative phase and is home to the Wordsworth Museum, exhibiting many artefacts that inspired the writer. The Wordsworth Museum has been described as giving 'the most attention to the fusion of English literature and English art' of any similar establishment in Britain, and is well worth a look. Wordsworth's final abode at Rydal Mount was a stately Victorian house with beautiful views across the valley. This house is also open to the public, and offers visitors lovely walks around the gardens and delicious scones in the tearoom.

Website: www.wordsworth.org.uk


Grizedale Forest
Grizedale Forest © Russ McGinn/CC_BY

Grizedale Forest

There are some wonderful things to see and do in Grizedale Forest, located in the Lake District near the village of Hawkshead. Visitors can go hiking or ride mountain bikes along the beautiful sculpture trail, or else peruse the galleries of the Brewery Arts Centre. There are easy walking trails and longer routes for the fit. The forest is situated between the lakes of Coniston and Windermere, and offers lovely views of the lakes and mountains between the tree trunks. Grizedale Forest also has an on-site café, bike shop and gift shop for visitors to enjoy. Don't forget to pack your camera, as the area is almost unbelievably picturesque.

Website: www.forestry.gov.uk/grizedale


Hill Top
Hill Top © Chris Brown

Hill Top

Hill Top is a working farm formerly owned by Beatrix Potter, the famous author of children's books such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Story of Miss Moppet. The cottage, along with Miss Potter's original furnishings and artworks, has been well preserved, and the quaint garden is still kept as she had made it, with a random selection of flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables. The 2006 film Miss Potter is a wonderful introduction to the life and work of the author, and features stunning scenes of Hill Top and the surrounding countryside. Fans of this interesting author and her quaint English world will relish a visit to the farm.

Website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hilltop


Holker Estate
Holker Estate © Holker Estate 2008

Holker Estate

Holker Estate, the home of Lord and Lady Cavendish, is a wonderful attraction for visitors to the Lake District; in fact, it is known as one of the best-loved stately homes in Britain. The elegant Holker Hall and its gardens are open to the public, and there is a fantastic restaurant and gift shop on the premises. The lovely gardens extend into parkland and many visitors will enjoy a ramble in the countryside starting at the house. The estate also hosts the Cartmel Racecourse, a favourite among horse racing enthusiasts. An estate of rare class and elegance, Holker has recently been featured on the popular TV series Masterchef UK.

Website: www.holker.co.uk


Windermere
Windermere © jack berry

Windermere

One of the prettiest lakes in Cumbria, Windermere has gathered around it a number of bustling communities offering a lot of fun things to see and do, and has become a very popular tourist destination in the Lake District. The pretty towns that surround the lake offer a number of good restaurants, cafes, shops and pubs. The town of Windermere, which includes the merged Bowness-on-Windermere, has a steamboat museum that operates cruises on the lake; while Ambleside is home to Stock Ghyll Force, a spectacular 70 foot (21m) waterfall, and a local history repository at the Armitt Library and Museum. At the southern end of the lake is Lakeside Pier, which is home to the Aquarium of the Lakes.