England's Lake District features some of the most impressive landscapes the country has to offer. It is a very popular tourist destination and generally quite busy during peak holiday seasons, but its remote feel and stunning vistas make it a great destination for those wishing to 'get away from it all'. The region covers a relatively small area of approximately 30 miles but is packed full of dramatic lakes cutting through mountains and rolling green hills known as ‘fells’. The spectacular scenery found within the Lake District National Park was created by once-active volcanoes and then retreating glaciers that dug out the lake valleys in the last Ice Age.
Home to England's highest mountain (Scafell Pike) and deepest lake (Wastwater), the Lake District National Park spoils those who love hill walking and water sports. More than 3,500 km of rights of way await those who want to explore the area on foot. The northern area of the region is especially well suited for fell walks. Popular areas for picturesque rambles include the peak of Skiddaw, which is a relatively gentle 2-hour climb and Blencathra, a much more challenging climb at 2,847 feet. Other walks can be designed to include historic places of interest, like Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick. For those wishing to hike long distances, the 70-mile Cumbrian Way and the Coast-to-Coast walk both pass through the district. The region also offers opportunities for rock climbing and cycling.
Water sports aficionados will enjoy activities like canoeing, kayaking, swimming, sailing, lake cruises, diving or the more adventurous ghyll scrambling up the mountain streams. The region contains coast, rivers and lakes, so activities are wide-ranging and can be pursued independently or through one of a number of outdoor activity centres in the region.
The scenery contains more than just beautiful vistas, however. Many of its former inhabitants have left their mark on the area. The Normans and Romans are just two groups whose history is recorded in remains and forts. Some of the more popular heritage sites include Birdoswald Roman Fort and Carlisle Castle. The National Trust has purchased many of the impressive properties of previous residents and is a good source of information on accommodation and visiting the area.
Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole, Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1LJ (015394) 46601
The Lake District covers some 885 square miles, so a good place to start exploring it would be the Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole.
Overlooking the area’s most visited lake (Windermere) and located between Troutbeck Bridge and Ambleside; the visitor centre is equipped with an adventure playground, fabulous gardens and all the information you need to plan a fantastic visit to the Lake District.
Grizedale Forest Park, Hawkshead, Ambleside LA22 0QJ (01229) 860010
Set in the superb scenery of Coniston Water, Windermere and Grizedale Valley; Grizedale Forest Park covers some 6,000 acres and rises to an altitude of 940ft.
The park is renowned for its forest sculptures and wide range of activities that include a high-wire forest adventure course, cycling and walking trails.
Cars of the Stars Museum, Standish Street, Keswick CA12 5LS (017687) 73757
For those who like to enjoy a leisurely journey through history rather than the fells and peaks of the Lake District, then the Cars of the Stars museum in Keswick is just the place.
Opened to the public in 1989 and now showcasing, among others, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, James Bond’s many Aston Martins and Mr Bean’s Mini; the museum is only open on selected dates throughout the year.
Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, Fitz Park, Station Road, Keswick CA12 4NF (017687) 73263
A purpose-built museum with its origins in the late 19th Century, Keswick Museum is a museum in itself.
Constructed using local green volcanic slate and sandstone, it is located in Fitz Park deep in the heart of the Lake District.
Highlights of the tour include a 4m scale model of the Lake District, a 664 year-old cat, and oddly enough; Napoleon’s teacup.
Sizergh Castle & Garden, Sizergh, Near Kendal LA8 8DZ (015395) 60951
Standing at the gateway to the Lake District near Kendal is Sizergh Castle; an imposing house that has been a family home to one of the country’s great military families for 750 years.
Now owned by the National Trust, the castle and grounds cover some 1,600 acres and include some of the country’s finest Elizabethan wood-carvings, a limestone rock garden and a state bed that once belonged to James II.