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UK: Cumbria – Lake District

The Lake District is England’s largest National Park and is a gem of a place to visit. There are breathtaking lakes, soaring mountains – known locally as ‘fells’, picturesque valleys and even a sandy coastline. The area is home to 16 lakes and numerous tams plus the highest mountain in England.

Each lake and valley has a distinct character of its own.

William Wordsworth, the famous poet who was also a resident of the area, stated that the Lake District is a “sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy”.

The towns

Most people start their Lake District visit in one of the many towns and villages of Cumbria that are dotted between the lakes and fells. Each one has its own unique story.

Two of the larger towns are Carlisle and Kendal, but most people settle for staying in the smaller towns of Ambleside, Coniston and Keswick. 

One of the quaintest towns is Hawkshead, which despite its small size had plenty of places to eat and make merry.

The Lakes

With a name like the Lake District, no visit to the area would be complete without enjoying the spectacular views of the fells along the picturesque lake shores. The Lake District is home to an array of beautiful lakes, waters, and tarns with 16 bodies of water considered to be the main lakes.

Coniston Water

Scenic drives

The Lake District is a beautiful place to visit and one of the best ways to see it is to drive its narrow and windy roads. Unfortunately, unless you go in the middle of winter, and even then, you will most likely find yourself in a traffic jam at some point along the way. In the summer it can be very slow going and require a lot of patience.

One of our favourite drives is the Langdale Valley. The valley runs west of Ambleside up to the Langdale Pikes (Pike is a local term for peak). It splits into two valleys, Great Langdale and Little Langdale. On a sunny day it is truly stunning.It includes the lovely village of Elterwater with its pub and a scattering of craft shops, Chapel Stile and the various pubs along the B5343. There are countless walking routes, both low and high level. In Great Langdale there’s a choice of pubs and a campsite.

The road goes down to the end of the valley, and the options are to turn around or take a tiny road up and over the hills towards Little Langdale.

The stunning Langdale Valley in the Lake District National Park in the United Kingdom
The stunning Langdale Valley in the Lake District National Park

Hikes and walks

Whilst driving can be stressful you can escape by getting out of the car and taking one of the many great hikes or walks that are all over the Lake District. For the more adventurous there are multiday hikes or scaling one of the mountains or hiking along the precipitous Striding Edge. Most people usually take shorter day hikes or even a casual walk around the lakes.

One of our favourite areas to walk around is Tarn Hows in the southern area of the Lake District. There are over 15 hikes you can take around this area and most rate as easy to intermediate.

Tarn Hows is one of the most picturesque spots in the Lake District and has some great walks - Lake District, Cumbria, United Kingdom
Tarn Hows is one of the most picturesque spots in the Lake District and has some great walks

In summary …

The Lake District National Park in Cumbria in northwest England is an amazing area of natural beauty. Being on the northwest coast it can be very wet, even in the summer so it is advisable to take a brolly and rain jacket. Even in the rain, it is beautiful.

This is a very popular place to visit for local and international tourists alike. It can be very busy in the summer with cars and coaches clogging the narrow roads. Parking can be a challenge in the high season.

Don’t let the weather or traffic put you off. It is an amazing place to visit. There are some amazing hikes and walks and the small towns are loverly to stroll around. Also, there are many quaint pubs to visit to have a beer and a nice meal.

Planning your visit to the Lake District

getting there By BusNational Express run coaches to various towns in the Lake District from all over the UK.

getting there By Train

The West Coast mainline runs to the east of the Lake District, connecting Oxenholme (which is near Kendal), Penrith and Carlisle with London and Glasgow. A direct train runs from Manchester to Windermere. Local trains from Oxenholme call at Kendal, Staveley and Windermere. There is also a route following the Cumbrian coastline.

getting there By car

The M6 runs to the east of the Lake District National Park:

Take Junction 36 and then A590 for the southern end of the Lake District
Take Junction 40 and the A66 or A592 for the northern end of the Lake District

Best time to visit the Lake District

Where to stay

1. YOUTH HOSTEL AMBLESIDE

This flagship hostel on Windermere offers backpackers and families a millionaire’s view for the price of a bunk – plus homemade cake.

As one of the largest hostels in the portfolio (with 64 rooms and 249 beds), YHA Ambleside has communal areas to suit all kinds of groups. 

Ambleside is at the northern end of Windermere, a few miles from touristy Bowness. This is an ideal place to explore the natural beauty of the Lakes or visit some of the local tourist attractions, such as the Wray Castle, a National Trust property.

2. DIAMOND LODGE

Situated in Ambleside, between Lake Windermere and the village centre, Diamond Lodge Boutique Guest House features free WiFi access and ample free private parking.

Rooms include a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and scenic views over the gardens and surrounding countryside. All rooms come with a private bathroom.

The historic Diamond Lodge is just a 5-minute walk from Lake Windermere. Windermere Railway Station is a 10-minute drive away.

3. AMBLESIDE INN

Located in the pretty Lake District village of Ambleside, this 18th-century hotel is situated in the centre of this historic town, with all the amenities on your doorstep. Lake Windermere can be reached after a picturesque 15-minute walk from The Ambleside Inn – The Inn Collection Group. Free WiFi is accessible in public areas.

A satellite TV and tea and coffee making facilities are provided in each individually decorated room.

Freshly cooked meals are served throughout the day in the restaurant, which also offers full English breakfasts and daily special menu. Real ales from local breweries are available from the bar and there is also a great selection of malt whiskies.

Restaurants, bars and shops are within 500 feet of The Ambleside Inn – The Inn Collection Group. Dove Cottage, once home to the famous English poet Wordsworth, can be reached after a 5-minute drive.

Where to eat

GINNY’S TEAPOT

Being a tourist hub there are plenty of places to eat in and around Stratford. Of course, these cater for the masses, but if you are like us, vegan, the options are more limited. We did discover a small cafe in the centre of Stratford, the Plantarium, that is completely vegan. So, no need to think! It is a quaint place and the food was amazing – we recommend it highly.

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