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Right where do I start? Well straight off the bat if you’re coming from abroad to visit the UK for scenery, wildlife and history then you just have to visit the Lake District as it has all three by the bucket load! Luckily for me this the Lake District is only 50 miles up the road from where I am based so frequent days out are the norm, well when I’m in the UK that is.
In this post I’m going to run you through 5 things you MUST do when you visit the lake district but first let’s have some facts:
- Size: The Lake District is the UK’s largest National Park at roughly 36 miles wide by 40 miles long. Covering a total of 912 square miles.
- Mountains: The Lake district is home to the only 3 mountains in England. Scafel Pike being the largest, standing at 3206ft.
- Lakes: Although it’s called the Lake District, there is only actually one “lake”, Bassenthwaite Lake the rest are actually classed as “meres” or “waters”. Windermere is the largest “lake” out of them all at 10.5 miles long and covering a total area of 14.8 square kilometers. During a week of heavy rain and floods, Windermere’s water level rose by 157cm which equates to 35,700,000,000 litres of water!! That’s over 4 litres for every single person in the world!
- Woodland: Just over 12% or 28,000 hectares of the Lake District is covered by woodland.
For more facts and figures, visit the Lake District government website.
Right, that’s the formalities dealt with! Now let’s get into the 5 must do’s when you visit the Lake District:
As mentioned earlier, Windermere is the largest lake in England and well worth a look. Ideally arrive in Bowness on Windermere bright and early and for around £12 you can take a 45 minute boat ride to Lakeside and return on a later boat. Gives you a good chance to explore Lakeside, just remember the last boat back to Bowness is at 14.50. Miss it and it’s a fair trek back to your car/hotel. For an extra £1 you can take your bike onboard.
For more information and things to do there is a tourist information office right next to the boat yard at Bowness.
Visit the Lake District and climb the Red Screes
The Red Screes is a popular walking trail which is accessed from a carpark just off the Kirkstone pass that runs between Windermere and Ambleside. Once on the Kirkstone Pass, just keep driving until you see the INN pub and pull up in the adjacent carpark which is free to park in. Get your walking boots on and that where the trail starts. I’d say it’s a 2-hour round trip including a 30 minute break at the summit.
Although the Red Screes trail is covered in stone steps pretty much all the way up, it’s still a fair walk and a certain degree of fitness is required. Especially the nearer to the summit you get as the walk starts to turn into a climb.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the top as hiking the trail in February meant that as you can see in the photos the tops were still covered in snow. Even from 3 quaters of the way up to the 776m summit views are simply spectacular.
Pro tip: Don’t deviate off the stone steps as I did in search of that perfect camera angle. The ground may look solid but just two feet away from the stone steps this happened….
Why not head into the INN after your trek for some much needed refreshments.
Check out the stone circle at Castlerigg.
Now this one is a little less heard of than Stonehenge but it’s older. Estimated at over 5000 years old in fact. Situated on a natural plateau just outside of Keswick, surrounded by some of the Lake Districts highest peaks including Havellyn, Grassmore and Skiddaw, archaeologist John Waterhouse once said that the natural amphitheatre is “one of the most visually impressive prehistoric monuments in Britain”.
The views here are amazing! Nothing but wilderness and fells all around. The stones are alright too! Ideal place to get the camera out, only thing is it’d pretty popular and trying to get a shot or the stones without people in near impossible. I waited for 20 minutes for this one chap to get out of the frame/walk behind the biggest stone.
The stone circle being situated in an open field, this is an excellent opportunity for a picnic, failing that there is the “Hungry Heffer” cafe literally 30 yards away from the layby that you’ll park in.
There is a layby to park in within 50m of the stone circle. It’s free to see but there is a donation box on the entrance gate, throw a couple of quid in, keep you conscience clear and all that 😉
Visit Beatrix Potters house
Beatrix potter took a lot of inspiration from the rooms and surroundings of Hill Top farm for her characters and Tales. The Hill Top farm was purchased by Beatrix Potter in 1905 and left to the National Trust upon her death in 1943.
Beatrix left strict instructions on how her house should be displayed to the public after her death. So now you can actually walk around her house and see all her furniture and belongings that inspired her to write many of her tales. If you’re fimiliar with any of her books then a walk around her will no doubt bring the tales to life.
Unfortunately you can’t book tickets in advance, you’ve just got to turn up, pay your money and then wait your turn. Entrance into the house is only in small numbers as to stop overcrowding, so you may want to get down there sharpish and beat the rush. Over 100,000 people a year visit Hill Top so getting down there for 9.30 for the 10am opening time may well be a wise move.
£12 for adults and £6 for children is what it’ll cost you for 30 minutes inside of your childhood tales. One thing that I noticed is that there is nowhere to park at all! The nearest village is about a 2 miles away so be prepared for a bit of a walk down a narrow country lane. There was however a space for tour buses directly across the road so maybe its worth booking onto a tour.
This is more my kind of style… If, like me you are a more than a slight adrenaline junkie then Go Ape is a definate must do while in the Lake District. I’ve been here 3 times over the years, I enjoy it that much. It’s all about climbing.
Once you arrive you’re straight into a comprehensive induction on how to use the harnesses and ropes, so you can safely navigate all the different sections. Once you’ve been shown how to use the equipment correctly, you demonstrate it to the instructors on the little test rig before you can go out on the main course. You then set off in your groups, that’s it you are responsible for your own safety.
One of zip lines even crosses the main road, pretty scary when your dangling from a wire flying between trees and look to your left and there’s an arctic lorry not so many feet beneath you…. brown pants anyone?
Set in the Grizdale forest, another beautiful part of the Lake District, Go Ape is a fun and exciting day out. I say day out, really it only takes about 3 hours to complete the course but climbing trees, zip-lining and navigating obstacles all while practically dangling 60ft up in the trees really takes it out of you. By the time you’ve finished here, you’ll be knackered! Well worth the £33!
Or if all that sounds like a bit too much graft, they’ve recently started doing a segway forest tour costing £35.
Best way to tick off this list/see the lakes…
Now, there’s many ways to visit the Lake District, coach tour, by car or my personal favorite by campervan/motorhome. Let’s have a look at the options…
- The logistics of everything is all worked out for you.
- Fixed price makes it easier to budget.
- Accommodation included.
- Expensive, especially if there’s more than one of you there are cheaper ways to get around.
- You’re governerned by the tour operators timetable. You’ll spend half your time worrying about being back at the coach on time for it’s departure.
- You can’t be spontaneous.
- You can stop anywhere for any amount of time.
- you can make your own itinerary.
- Fairly cheap to rent
- You’ve still got to find somewhere to sleep.
- Most of the villages only have pay and display car parks, you could rack up quite a bit of a parking bill if you plan going into lots of villages.
By campervan/motorhome (my choice)
- Freedom to go anywhere you like.
- Save money by being able to cook for yourself.
- No need to worry about accommodation.
- Cost effective, You can rent one for around £400 a week. (+£15 a night for campsite)
- Roads in the Lake District can be quite narrow and twisty. (OK for a small motorhome, I wouldn’t like to do it in a Winnebago type beast!)
How long to spend in the lake district
As discussed earlier, the Lake District is huge and jam packed full of quaint little villages and amazing scenery. The longer you’ve got the better.
To check out the activities I’ve mentioned above 2 days and one night should be sufficient but if you’ve got longer to spend then The Fearless Foreigner has written a great 5 day Lake District itinerary.
All in all…
To sum it all up, for anyone planning to visit the UK or even anyone living in the UK who might read this, a visit to the Lake District is a must! The 5 things on this list are by no means all there is to do, if fact depending on what you’re into I quite confident you’ll find plenty to keep yourself entertained.
You could always fly into Manchester or Liverpool, rent a campervan and easily fill a week with interesting activities on your way up to Scotland to see some of the lochs (Loch Ness) or even head in to wales to see some stunning castles. One thing is for sure, if you’re coming to the UK and hiring any type of vehicle just know that soon as you head into the countryside some of our roads, how do I put this… Take some driving!
So there you have it, just a few of the many reasons why you should visit the Lake District…