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Lake District/Cumbria, England

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Only one lake in the district is called a lake: Bassenthwaite Lake; all others use the words water or mere.
  • The first pencils were made in the Lake District after graphite was found locally around 1500.
  • Lawyers and politicians are banned from entering Cumbria’s annual Biggest Liar in the World contest.
  • Beatrix Potter’s “Tale of Peter Rabbit” was first published commercially in 1902.
  • Wordsworth wrote a Lake District guidebook (1810), after calling tourists “moping son[s] of idleness.”

Of becks and bunnies

The area of England called the Lake District is essentially the same as the Lake District National Park, which covers 885 square miles in the country’s northwest, not far from the border with Scotland. It is a big part of Cumbria, but the county seat Carlisle — famous in its own right for its castle and cathedral — is outside the Lake District and even closer to Scotland. Hadrian’s Wall winds its way across northern Cumbria, as well.

The district has its name for obvious reasons, but it also encompasses England’s only true mountains, with the tallest surpassing 3,000 feet. Its distinctive landscape of mountains, broad U-shaped valleys and numerous lakes was created by glaciers about 15,000 years ago.

With that mix, it is easy to understand why the Lake District rates highly with active travelers, who enjoy opportunities for cycling, hiking, sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing and more. Plus, the rugged terrain lends itself to abseiling, caving and rock climbing. Visitors pursue their fun amidst the area’s becks, dales, fells, ghylls, tarns and thwaites, 10th century Norse words for streams, valleys, mountains, gorges, mountain lakes and clearings, respectively. The ambitious go fell walking; the vigorous take up fell running.

That said, the Lake District appeals just as surely to those who relish a restful holiday with country walks, stunning lake and mountain scenery and the pleasures of small inns and fine foods crafted from local produce. The scenery is enriched by its small villages, typical whitewashed cottages, dry stone fences and pastures of grazing sheep. There are no cities; Keswick and Windermere are the largest towns.

Poet William Wordsworth was a native son, but the region attracted other poets and writers. Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey lived in the district in the 19th century and were dubbed the Lake Poets. Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit and other beloved characters, bought property in the Lake District where she did much of her writing, She became a breeder of Herdwick sheep, too.

Today’s visitors may plan itineraries around Wordsworth and Potter. Choices also include overnights in hotels and guesthouses that were Edwardian villas and farmhouses owned by Potter.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Choose a marked route and head off for sightseeing from the seat of a bicycle. Make that a mountain bike and climb higher.
  • Plan your trip in November to coincide with the annual Biggest Liar in the World contest in Santon Bridge, Cumbria.
  • Order an ale at the Pheasant Inn in Cockermouth. It is a historic coaching inn near Bassenthwaite Lake.
  • Choose your spot for diving. For example, you can explore a submerged village called Mardale in Haweswater. To undertake the dives, expert training in required, as well as permission to dive at certain sites. Or, stay above the water for waterskiing or windsurfing.
  • There are numerous choices for rock climbing. Choose Wasdale and you are in the place that calls itself the birthplace in 1886 of modern rock climbing.
  • Have a go at ghyll scrambling, a popular area sport that involves making your way up, or scrambling up, one of the region’s mountain streams, sometimes climbing waterfalls en route.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take a themed walk in summer. The walks have names like Walk With the Romans and Hawkshead — a Tale of Vikings and Monks. Another is Wordsworth’s Duddon [river].
  • Board a public bus to see the scenery along Hadrian’s Wall.
  • Take a cruise on Derwentwater, Ullswater, Windermere or any of several other lakes.
  • Walk as much of the Hadrian’s Wall 84-mile footpath as you wish.
  • See the area from a hot-air balloon.
  • Sail on one of the lakes. Or, paddle, choosing canoe or kayak, on one of the fabled lakes.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Allow a day for sightseeing in Carlisle focusing on the Carlisle Cathedral, founded in 1122, and the Carlisle Castle, also dated from the 12th century but later briefly a prison to Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • Overnight in one of the Edwardian villas or old farmhouses once owned by children’s book author Beatrix Potter. The properties have been converted into hotels and guest houses.
  • It is said Britain’s favorite view is found at Wastwater in the Lake District. Visit the lake, which also is England’s deepest lake, and see if you agree.
  • Entertain the children, or entertain yourself, at the Upfront Gallery Puppet Theatre near Penrith, or see the World of Beatrix Potter, the attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere that brings all Potter’s 23 tales to life in an indoor re-creation of the characters and Lake Country settings.
  • See the gardens at Muncaster Castle. Home to the Pennington family since 1208, the castle is said to be one of the country’s most haunted. It also is the headquarters of the World Owl Trust.
  • Overnight at the Augill Castle for a country house feeling. The backdrop is the North Pennines.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Cumbria Tourism at www.golakes.co.uk