The poet William Wordsworth once described it as “the loveliest spot man hath found” and, on a sunny day, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be…
Now everyone on the planet will know just how brilliant the Lake District is because it’s deservedly been made a World Heritage Site, joining the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Taj Mahal among the 1,052 around the globe.
It also joins 30 other UNESCO World Heritage sites in the UK, including Bath, Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall, but at 885 sq-miles, it’s the country’s biggest and the only National Park that’s entirely a World Heritage Site.
There were three key reasons the Lake District National Park was recognised as ‘a cultural landscape of international significance’, which were: the dramatic farmed landscape; art, literature and love of the place; and conservation – that people fought to look after this special corner of England.
Here’s why we think 18 million visitors flock there each year…
1. Scafell Pike
Known to those hard hiker types who do the Three Peaks Challenge as the one in the middle (between Ben Nevis and Snowdon), Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain, at 978m, and was scaled by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1802. At the top is a boulder field you’ll have to scramble through, but it’s worth the effort to be rewarded with views over the Lakes and as far as Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man (on a clear day).
While the landscape of the Lake District is a heady mix of valleys and lakes, mountains and fells, the man-made bits are pretty too. One of the most photographed scenes in Lakeland is the National Trust-owned 17th Century Bridge House over Stock Ghyll in Ambleside, which has just two small rooms that apparently once housed a family with six kids. It’s well worth an amble around Ambleside’s winding streets, to explore its Victorian stone houses, contemporary restaurants and gift shops.
The best known of the Lakes’ lakes is also its biggest – at 10 and a half miles long, dotted with 18 islands. Legend has it that its name comes from the Scandinavian for ‘lake of a man called Vinandr’ and in 1930, Sir Henry Segrave broke the world water speed record, going at an average of 98.76 mph in his boat, Miss England II. Visitors can go at a much more leisurely pace in one of the ‘steamers’, which stop at Lakeside, Ambleside and Bowness.
Quieter than Windermere and arguably the most beautiful of the lakes is Ullswater, with steamers that run between Pooley Bridge, Howtown and Glenridding, which serves as a basecamp for those tackling Helvellyn and its narrow ridges, Striding and Swirral Edge.
Wordsworth was so inspired by a field of daffodils he saw growing around Glencoyne Bay on the west of the lake that he wrote his famous poem ‘I wondered lonely as a cloud…’ The Ullswater Way is a 20-mile route around the lake, with the section between Glenridding and Howtown described by Wainwright as “the most beautiful and rewarding walk in Lakeland”.
The view up Wastwater towards Wasdale Head, a small hamlet from which many people begin their ascent of Scafell Pike, was voted Britain’s ‘favourite’ in 2007, and as far as ‘untouched’ lakes go, this is the best. It’s so remote, that even Wordsworth called it ‘long, narrow, stern, and desolate’, but after a long day’s walking, the Wasdale Head Inn is perhaps the cosiest pub you could hope to find.
6. Hill Top
Beatrix Potter’s house, near Hawkshead, is a real honeypot for tourists because it inspired so many of her characters and she left strict instructions to the National Trust that it should be left exactly as she lived in it. She bought the Grade II-listed house and land as a working farm in 1906 and here wrote tales of Jemima Puddle-Duck, Tom Kitten and co.
7. Dove Cottage
Another ‘must-see’ on the literary tour of the Lakes is William Wordsworth’s home in Grasmere, where he lived with his sister Dorothy and wrote his poetry. The stone floors, coal fires and dark interiors of what was once a pub called the ‘Dove and Olive Bough’ will give you a feel for what life was like in the early 1800s. Then stroll in the gardens they created together.
8. Tarn Hows
A favourite for picnickers, Tarn Hows was given to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter. The gentle 1.75 mile walk around the tarn is perfect for those with buggies or wheelchairs and offers stunning views of the natural landscape of the Lakes.
9. Coniston Water
The third-largest lake sits at the foot of the Old Man of Coniston, which is a great fell hike for moody teens and those warming up for bigger challenges. Arthur Ransome based his Swallows And Amazons adventure and sequels on a combination of Coniston and Windermere, and it’s the perfect spot for kayaking.
10. Kirkstone Pass
The drive from Windermere to Ullswater is not for the faint-hearted, but those who can cope with the blind bends and steep gradient, on the Lakes’ highest pass, will be rewarded with spectacular views. The Kirkstone Pass Inn, the third-highest pub in England, sits close to the summit, and the way up from Ambleside is nicknamed ‘The Struggle’ – enough said.