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The Lake District

Take a walk on the wild side

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

The Lake District is the UK’s adventure capital and was voted the UK’s Top Holiday Destination at the British Travel Awards in 2008. As I discovered it’s the perfect location for a long weekend away.

Until the 1780s very little was known about the Lake District. Early travellers regarded it as ‘barren, wild and of no use to man or beast’ and ‘melancholy to behold’. In the early 19th century, writers Thomas Gray, William Wordsworth and William Gilpin began to write ‘Guide Books’ to the Lakes and the first real tourists began to arrive. Now travellers come from all over the world to hike the hills, sail the lakes and take in the gorgeous scenery.

Less than an hour’s drive from my arrival point at Blackpool airport, the village of Windermere, where I was taking a lake cruise, was breathtaking. Even the journey to the lakes from the airport was amazing; the sun was shining on the rolling green hills, open waterways and historic buildings.

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

Windermere is England’s largest lake, in the heart of the Lake District. I had the choice of cruises with Windermere Lake Cruises (, lasting from 45 minutes to 3 hours, or I could spend all day on and around the lake with a ‘Freedom of the Lake’ ticket. Even before I left dry land I was having the perfect day out, happily playing with the tame swans and admiring the views in the distance.

No matter where you start your cruise- Bowness, Ambleside or Lakeside- the spectacular voyage gives visitors magnificent views of mountain scenery, secluded bays and the many wooded islands.

Bowness is the ‘heart’ of the Lake District, a holiday village with every sort of shop you can imagine, cafes and restaurants, and just a five minute walk from the pier is the World of Beatrix Potter attraction, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Ambleside is set amongst breathtaking majestic mountains and gentle rolling fells, this distinctive and very attractive Lakeland village is always a popular point to leave the vessel, as I did, before returning on a later boat.

Lakeside, at the most southern point of the lake, is home to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. Connecting with the large Windermere Lake Cruises steamers, the railway is on the opposite side to the jetty and takes you by the river scenery of the beautiful Leven Valley. Also at Lakeside is the award-winning freshwater Lakes Aquarium. The aquarium features over 30 fascinating displays and has a large collection of freshwater fish, as well as mischievous otters and diving ducks.

The next morning I literally took to the hills, rambling around Loughrigg Terrace and Grasmere with guides, Pete Jackson and John Nicholls who run Knobbly Stick, a walking and hiking company. I had a wonderful morning with these two characters, who made great companions and taught me about the surrounding area as I walked. The spectacular view really made the early start worth while. (

photos-012Grasmere is a charming village right in the heart of the Lake District National Park. This was once the home of the famous poet William Wordsworth and where he was laid to rest in the churchyard of St. Oswald’s. I went to visit two of his former homes – Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount and also sampled some of the local gingerbread!

Natural environment

Your almost constant companions during your walking will be sheep. The sheep perform a valuable service in keeping the countryside as it is – without their constant munching, it would revert to less attractive scrubland.

You may see red deer in any part of the Lakes, but they are shy, and make themselves scarce when humans are about and blend in well with the colours of the hillside. You will see many birds in the Lakes including England’s only pair of breeding ospreys which return to Bassenthwaite Lake every Spring (from April) to rear their chicks. Check out Osprey Watch where you can view them by video camera at the Whinlatter visitor centre.

Areas of interest

Borrowdale is arguably one of the Lake District’s finest valleys, running south of Keswick and ending at the hills around Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3210 feet.

Ullswater has long been a source of inspiration for poets. Wordsworth’s famous daffodils were on the shore and Sir Walter Scott also wrote about the lake. Coniston is also a beautiful stretch of water where Donald Campbell broke the world water speed record in Bluebird on 23 July 1955, when he reached a speed of over 215mph.

The Coast-to-Coast Walk was the brainchild of Alfred Wainwright, the well-known writer and hill-walker. It crosses three National Parks, and passes through some of England’s finest scenery.

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