What it's like
Before the 18th century the Lake District was shunned as being barbaric and dangerous and a largely unknown corner of England. All that changed when poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge explored deep into the valleys, hills and mountains, wrote about their experiences and gave birth to Lakeland tourism in the late 18th century.
The collective works of the Lakes Poets tempted well educated walkers with money and time to spare. Many of these were young OxBridge men who soon began to explore the steeper cliffs and higher mountains at a time when the sport of rock climbing was emerging as a separate activity apart from merely trying to get to the top of a mountain. This second injection of romantic adventures, guidebooks and mountain photography has driven the exploration of the area into the 19th century.
The 20th century has seen hill-walking develop as an activity of its own worth, without reference to poet or rock climber. The guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright created the first walker’s guides to the mountains in the 1950s and 60s and these allowed people to explore the valleys, hills and mountains far more easily.
The Lake District in the 21st century is a rich tapestry of scenery and activity, where people can challenge themselves to a lesser or greater degree by foot, bike, horse, boat. Dissected by narrow lanes and dotted by pubs, so while a walker can lose themselves in the scenery, they can easily escape back to safety.
- Scafell Pike England’s highest mountain as a natural ‘must do’ and the ascent from Borrowdale, England’s most beautiful valley is a popular classic
- Back o’ skidda The forgotten fells, that lie north of Skiddaw and Blencathra are in direct contrast to the craggy bulk of Lakeland and offer solitude even on a Bank Holiday weekend!
- St Bees It is easy to assume that only the heart of the Lake District is worth exploring. But just outside the National Park boundary are some great walks, including the red sandstone cliffs of St Bees, the start of the Coast to Coast walk and also home to one of the largest sea bird colonies in the UK.
Must see and do
- See Britain’s favourite view - Wastwater On 9th September 2007 Wast Water was voted the best view in the UK in the ITV programme 'Britain's Favourite View', beating 15 other nominated locations – poets knew this in the 19th century! You can also drink Trail Ale in the Wasdale Head Inn, while you are there.
- Explore the Honister Slate mines by Via Ferrata Between the 16th and 19th century Lakeland was an industrial workhorse and slate was dug from the ground, used to build homes and exported. Today mine activity has reduced to a trickle, but you can still explore the mines and discover a little of what it was like for Victorian miners by following a unique via ferrata route through the mountains from Honister Pass.
- Take a steamer Steamers plough the waters of Windermere, Coniston Water and Derwentwater and Ullswater and all can be combined with a walk on the neighbouring fells for a perfect blend of leisure and exercise! One of the best is the Ullswater Steamer than links Glenridding with Howtown from where a shorline or mountain walk can be taken back to the start. www.ullswater-steamers.co.uk/
Destination County : Cumbria