The Lake District is England’s great breathing space. In October, deep ever-changing waters mirror the surrounding majestic mountains and their fiery autumnal hues. This craggy wilderness has a strong legacy of inspiring awe in both locals and visitors. The imposing moon reflecting on the still water, the vast mountain tops jutting into the sky and the shards of sunlight shattering the clouds as they pierce into the valleys. The poetic landscape has influenced our literary traditions. For it was in the lakes that Wordsworth ‘wandered lonely as a cloud’ and Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ set sail.
Stretching across the north-west of England, the Lake District is home to 12 of the largest lakes in the country. A scenic patchwork of lakes, valleys, fells and woods covers over 885 square miles and allows the true experience of the great outdoors. Like any destination in Britain, weather is unpredictable in the lakes so pack in preparation for any climate, but particularly rain. Of course, the fluidity of the weather only works to amplify the striking scenery, particularly in autumn when the burning colours of the woodlands are illuminated by the sun through the settling mist.
Once you’ve visited the Lakes, you’ll find it unsurprising that it was the prime influence for much poetry written in the romantic era, as well as being an inspiration for other writers and artists throughout history. A huge legacy of writers found their muse in the lakes, including William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas Grey, Robert Southey, Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin, Arthur Ransome and Sir Hugh Walpole. For literary buffs, an interesting way to explore this vast area is by tracing its poetic past. Three of Wordsworth’s properties are open to explore: his childhood home in Cockermouth; Dove Cottage (his inspirational home) in Grasmere and Rydal Mount owned by his family in Rydal. Dove Cottage contains manuscripts of previous work as well as some enchanting gardens and a cute tea room. Beatrix Potter spent much of her time writing and illustrating her famous stories in a farmhouse at Near Sawrey. There you can see her house completely as she left it, or for a look at her beautiful illustrations of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and friends, head to the Beatrix Potter Gallery at Hawkshead. An unbeatable way to enjoy the literary scene is by heading to the charming Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, currently showing Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
Windermere is the district’s biggest lake and it dominates the centre. At 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep it is also the largest natural lake in England. Towns and villages hug the shore of the lake, the most popular for visitors being Bowness-on-Windermere. This holiday resort is a hub for boating activities and the best way to experience the lakes is certainly by sailing their waters. Windermere village hugs Bowness and is another great jumping off point for excursions, particularly because of its railway station connecting the area to the rest of the country. Ambleside sits on the end of the lake, a bustling town with craft shops, cafes and traditional pubs serving hearty grub. Ambleside is also a haven for walking trails, stretching up to the Rydal and Grasmere valleys and even to Stock Ghyll Force, a 70 foot waterfall.
Northwest of Windermere is Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. Many visitors come to climb Scafell Pike, a challenging but certainly not impossible hike. The views from the top are exceptional and the climb doesn’t take too long. If you’re seeking a bigger challenge, the Three Peaks climb includes Scafell Pike as well as the highest mountains in Scotland and Wales. Plus, it must be completed in 24 hours- not for those after a pleasant amble. Another challenge can be found at, Honister Slate Mine, north of Scafell Pike, as visitors bravely attempt the Via Ferrata. The Via Ferrata is a hair-raising adventure. Originally from the Dolomites in Italy, Via Ferrata means “Iron Way” and it’s an exhilarating journey across the Honister Crag using fixed iron footholds and handholds. Dangle off the slippery edges and narrow gorges for more than four hours with views of the surrounding Lake District. The Via Ferrata Xtreme is twice as high as The Shard and seven times the height of Big Ben. The journey ends with a ‘skywalk’; across the formidable Infinity Bridge that sits more than 2,000 feet above the valley floor.
To the north lies Keswick, a country market town set between Derwentwater, Blencathra and Skiddaw. Keswick has no shortage of afternoon tea as well as offering plenty of culture, in galleries, music and the previously mention Theatre by the Lake. Visitors often think Derwentwater is the most magnificent of the lakes, it’s studded with islands and surrounded by fells. One of the larger islands, Lord’s island, was once the home of the Earl of Derwentwater and the ruins of his house can still be spotted in the undergrowth. This area is most popular for fell walking, as well as paragliding, rock climbing, cycling, canoeing and sailing. However, Derwentwater, although brimming with activities, is remarkably peaceful. Aged 19, Beatrix Potter occupied two stately homes in the summer at the northern side of Derwentwater and it was this landscape that provided material for several of her books. Rowing boats are available to hire from many points, so you can pack a picnic and glide through the still waters absorbing the scenery.
Ullswater dominates the north eastern lakes, and its curving shores are lined with gentle slopes. The winding shape of the lake means it’s impossible to stand at any shore point and see its entire length. Over the western edge towers the imposing Helvellyn range, another popular hiking area. Immense and splendid, the Helvellyn range stretches up into the clouds and swiftly down into deep long valleys. Glenridding and Patterdale are relaxed villages used as jumping off points into the hills. Helvellyn is England’s third largest mountain and the most exciting way to climb it is via Striding Edge. The narrow ridge has a frightening reputation but the views are worth the scramble. To the north of Ullswater is Penrith an attractive town leading into the Eden Valley region. Penrith was once the capital of Cumbria dating back to the 9th century. The ruins of Penrith Castle stand in a public park surrounding by the original moat and have an interesting history worth discovering.
For scrambling the mountain ranges, style yourself with these Oakley sunglasses. The Five Squared sunglasses feature in a wraparound sport style that has been designed to blend with the curvature of the wearers face for optimum support all day.
Or, for getting lost in a book by the water’s edge, try these dainty Tom Ford round glasses. They’re quirky, vintage and timeless.
The Lake District is full of history, nature and adventure. Which lake is you favourite? Let us know in the comments below.