Top 10: what to do in the Lake District
Cruising 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.
This 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 poet’s 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’, the half-wild garden where he liked to sit and compose poetry. For more information, see:wordsworth.org.uk
Hiking in Great Langdale
A hallowed name amongst fellwalkers, 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.
Driving through 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.
Honister slate mine
Climbing 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.
Visiting Beatrix Potter’s house at Hill Top
This 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.
Escaping the crowds in the 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.
Strolling round the shores of Derwentwater near Keswick
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.
Dining at The Drunken Duck near Hawkshead
Perched on a hilltop between Coniston and Hawkshead, this is the Lake District’s original gastropub, although these days the food is well and truly restaurant standard. It’s a lovely place to dine: the rustic-chic beamed bar is full of antiques and sporting prints, and the menu revolves around old British classics such as pig’s cheek, venison haunch and pork belly with faggots, washed down with ales from the in-house Barngates Brewery.
Drunken Duck restaurant and Inn
Staying a night at the historic Wasdale Head Inn
Miles from anywhere. The inn sits at the end of Wasdale’s only road, a good half-hour drive from the nearest village (Gosforth). It’s overlooked by the Lake District’s loftiest fells, including Scafell Pike, Scafell and Great Gable, and apart from a handful of farmhouses and the miniscule parish church of St Olaf’s, it pretty much has the valley to itself. It’s just as a Lakeland inn should be: snug lounges warmed by crackling fires, a lively walkers’ bar lined in slate, hallways lined with climbing kit and mountaineering photos.