The Lake District, in the northwestern corner of England is one of the most visited areas of the country after the capital, London. In addition to its outstanding natural beauty it is closely associated with English literature, especially that of the nineteenth century when writers and poets such as De Quincey, Coleridge, Southey and, most famously, the region’s own son Wordsworth relished the environment of rivers, lakes and mountains.
The Lake District is small by international standards, around 800 square miles and less than fifty miles across in any direction, but within it is a striking variety of scenery. Most of it lies within the boundaries of the Lake District National Park, and although until 1974 it included areas of three historic counties (Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire) a major administrative boundary reform project led to the creation of a new county, Cumbria, which covers the entire Lakes area and more.
Cumbrian weather can be unpredictable. If it were not for the rain, of course, there would not be the scenery that people come to admire. What is more, when the weather changes the lighting in the mountains, the reflections from the lakes, the colours of the fellsides, all change with it, generating a kaleidoscopic beauty.
All told there are fifteen major lakes – Windermere, Ullswater and Coniston Water being the three largest – and also many smaller meres and tarns. The Lake District is an outdoor person’s paradise with an enormous range of options for walking, climbing, sailing, windsurfing, fishing and much more. Furthermore in recent decades the variety of indoor attractions has grown enormously, so that anyone who does not wish to don waterproof clothing on the damper days still has plenty to do and to see. There are museums, art galleries, visitor centres (including an excellent national park centre), literary attractions (relating to Wordsworth, Ruskin and Potter), as well as historic castles, stately homes and other ancient properties to tour around.
Three of the lakes (Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater) have pleasure steamer services, and on a hot summer’s afternoon it can be delightful to observe the passing scenery from the deck of a boat.
Access to the Lake District is easy. The north-south M6 motorway passes its eastern edge, train services are available from many parts of the country, including from London. Kendal, just inside the southern border of Cumbria is only about one and a half hours’ drive from Manchester International Airport which has a wide variety of flights from most major countries of the world, including many daily arrivals from North America.
Some years ago the regional tourist board used the slogan, “The most beautiful corner of England.” Almost two hundred years ago William Wordsworth described the Lake District as, “The loveliest spot that man has ever known.” It lives up to its reputation.