With over 22 million visitors a year visiting 12 of the largest lakes in England and 3,500 miles of public walkways set within 885 square miles (2,292 km2) of lush mountainous territory, Cumbria’s Lake District rightly deserves its place as a leading UK attraction.
Since the time of the Lake Poets – William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor-Coleridge and Robert Southey – visitors have flocked to this jewel of the British Isles that through the words of these men has come to embody the visceral link between the English people and the rolling hills and vast waters that make up the Lake District.
No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.
Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge!
You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
But hear no murmuring: it flows silently.
O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still.
The Nightingale, Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The valleys and the hills of the Lake District are the result of glaciations that finished a mere 15,000 years ago, creating large troughs which today house the lakes that give the area its name. The upper parts of the Lake District are characterised by cirques – large bowls cut into the rock by glaciers – which are now tarns – an Old Norse term meaning pool. The Lake Districts upper fells are rocky and typically mountainous, while lower down heather-covered moorland dominates. The Lake District was made a national park in 1951.
The Lake District is a UK attraction of superlatives with England’s highest mountain – Scaffel Pike 978 m (3,210 ft), England’s largest natural lake – Windermere 17 km (11 miles) x 2 km (1.2 miles), and some of the UK’s most stunning landscapes. As such, the Lake District is an irresistible UK attraction for mountain biking, mountain climbers, fell walkers and sailors of small craft the world over.
Major conurbations in the Lake District include Kendall, a charming market town on the River Kent, famous for its mint cake, pipe-tobacco and snuff; Keswick, a 16th century market town of just under five thousand people that produced the world’s first graphite pencils and is home to the world’s largest pencil; Ambleside, established by the Romans in AD59, it is now a popular UK attraction on the banks of Lake Windermere, with plenty of character, boutiques and tea shops where visitors can rest weary feet with a nice cup of English tea served with scones.
The Lake District is also home to a wealth of wildlife. The red squirrel, superseded in most of England by the American grey squirrel finds sanctuary here, as does England’s only pair of golden eagles; although the female hasn’t been seen for four years. The waters of the Lake District are home to the UK’s rarest fish the verdace, as well as three other endangered species. If it’s flora rather than fauna that ticks your box then it’s worth knowing that the Lake District is home to two of the few carnivorous plants – sundew and butterwort.
Whether its gently strolling around the Lakes, or clawing your way up England’s highest peaks, a visit to the Lake District will give you a quintessentially English experience that has been enjoyed by the millions who have already followed in the footsteps of Wordsworth in the hills of this majestic UK attraction that offers so much in so many different ways.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.