There’s more to the Lake District than stunning views and huge bodies of water.
Sure, those are the main draws, but nestled amongst the mountainous terrain is a bevy of brilliant eateries, watering holes, museums and historic buildings.
Look out for Wordsworth’s old home, the last working mine in the country and gingerbread made to a 160-year-old recipe, to name but a few.
Here are 13 things to tick off your list next time you explore this fascinating part of the world.
Lark about on Lake Windermere
Stretching for more than 10 miles between Ambleside and Newby Bridge, Windermere is not only the largest lake in the Lake District – it’s the largest lake anywhere in England. The main focus of attention is touristy Bowness-on-Windermere, where you can brave the quayside crowds before catching a scenic boat trip around the lake and its 18 islands.
Unleash your inner poet
The illustrious whitewashed cottage near Grasmere was William Wordsworth’s first home in the Lake District. Now owned by the Wordsworth Trust, the cottage is full of memorabilia, including the poets ice-skates, his passport, a pair of his reading glasses and a portrait of one of his favourite dogs, Pepper, given to him as a present by Sir Walter Scott. At the back of the cottage is Wordsworth’s ‘domestic slip of mountain’ and the half-wild garden where he liked to sit and compose poetry. For more information, visit: wordsworth.org.uk
Take a Hike in Great Langdale
A hallowed name amongst fell walkers, Great Langdale is home to some of the Lake District’s most iconic hikes. Most people choose to tackle the Langdale Pikes, a spiky chain of hills on the valley’s northern side, but more experienced hikers might feel up to the challenging circuit along the Crinkle Crags and Bowfell. The official car-parks fill up early, although extra spaces are often available in nearby fields.
Tour the Lakes Distillery
The Lakes Distillery is a relative newbie to the scene, having only opened in 2014, but it’s fast becoming a go-to- destination in Cumbria. Tours and tastings run daily and at the weekend you can meet their resident alpacas. There’s also a fully-stocked shop, should you want to take a little something home. Need to soak up some of that booze? There’s a decent little restaurant here, too.
Explore Borrowdale, Buttermere & Honister Slate Mine
With its green fields, cob cottages, drystone walls and rolling fells, Borrowdale seems to sum up the spirit of the Lake District landscape. Neighbouring Buttermere feels altogether wilder and emptier; its twin lakes, Buttermere and Crummock Water, are overlooked by a string of dramatic fells. Separating the two valleys, the windswept Honister Pass is home to one of the Lake District’s last working slate mines, where you can take a 1.5-hour guided tour.
Get to the point
This modest building, which sits in the shadow of the old Cumberland Pencils factory, is home to the world’s first ever pencil. You’ll also find spy pencils from World War Two, an 8m colouring pencil, a café and a shop. Keen artists should take a look at the ‘Artist in Residence’ courses, with notable and local artists hosting classy-looking workshops.
Say Hello to Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Helvellyn (3,117ft) is famous (or infamous) for its twin ridges, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, carved out by glacial action during the last ice age. There are some considerable drops and steep sections involved, and at one or two points you’ll be climbing hand over hand, so it’s not for vertigo-sufferers. Don’t be deterred by the challenge, though – thousands of people manage Helvellyn every year. The most popular routes start in Glenridding or Patterdale.
Climb Scafell Pike
A journey to its summit and back will likely leave you with blisters and wind or rain-blasted skin. But you’ll also get a stunning view of the National Park and an enormous sense of smugness. Just make sure you prepare properly. That means checking the mountain forecast and getting the right gear (primarily, decent footwear). Sure it’s fun, but it’s also a pretty chunky undertaking.
Go on a rabbit hunt
A farmhouse in Near Sawrey is where Beatrix Potter created some of her best-known stories. She bought the house in 1905 (funded largely by royalties from her first book, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny) and bequeathed it to the National Trust following her death in 1943. Potter scholars will spot many features from the author’s illustrations – including Mrs Tiggywinkle’s kitchen and Mr MacGregor’s cottage garden.
Sample the Local Tucker
Victorian baker Sarah Nelson, who once lived in the cottage, came up with the concoction there in 1854. This delicate, spiced, wonderfully chewy gingerbread has been a big seller ever since, and you can only get it from a few select places. Our recommendations would be the shop, naturally, or the Wordsworth Hotel next door, where you can sit down and enjoy your gingerbread with a cuppa.
Escape the crowds in Newlands Valley
There’s precious little to see in Newlands valley other than miles of empty fells and open countryside, but that’s the attraction. The Newlands Round makes a classic 10-mile loop around the valley’s main summits, and it stays fairly quiet even in the height of summer. The shortest route begins in the tiny village of Little Town, but it’s easier to park in Keswick and walk southwest through Brandelhow Park.
Stroll around the shores of Derwentwater
Keswick’s fortunes were founded on graphite and slate-mining, but this busy market town is now chiefly worth visiting for its handsome location beside Derwentwater, said to be Beatrix Potter’s favourite lake. Cruisers putter across the lake from the jetties beside Hope Park, or there are traditional wooden rowing boats if you want to explore at your own pace.
Saunter to Castlerigg Stone Circle
From the centre of Keswick it’ll take you roughly half an hour to walk to the circle. Look out for grazing sheep while you’re at it; they roam freely around the stone circle. If you’re after something free and family or dog-friendly, this is a good option. Plus, the Stone Circle has a solar alignment, so head along for summer solstice – it’s one of the more tranquil midsummer celebrations.