With good cause, the Lake District is England’s most-talked-about tourist destination. The country’s tallest mountains are sandwiched between sixteen leading lakes, creating an almost alpine environment of simmering water, steep valleys, and charming stone-built settlements.
Nearly all of the Lake District is included inside Lake District National Park, which is wholly contained within the county of Cumbria in northwest England. To dispel the perception that Cumbria is only about lakes, the county’s capital, Carlisle, has a history dating back to Roman times. Meanwhile, the remote western coast and eastern market towns like Kendal and Penrith provide more evidence.
Most well-known towns and lakes are readily accessible in a week; a tour of towns like Ambleside, Windermere, and Bowness (all on Windermere), Wordsworth-era homes in Grasmere, and the more spectacular northern countryside in Keswick and Ullswater would be sufficient. Those who want to get away from the crowds will find that the Lake District has a lot to offer, including the spectacular valleys of Langdale and Eskdale and the coastal towns of quaint Ravenglass and Whitehaven, all of which are accessible by train.
1. Windermere and Bowness
To give the town its full moniker, Bowness-on-Windermere, a series of terraces lined with guesthouses and hotels stretches back from the lakeside piers. A ferry service has been running over the lake since the 15th century. However, these days you might be excused for believing that Bowness starts and ends with the World of Beatrix Potter, the most popular tourist destination in the area.
The ten-and-a-half-mile-long, one-mile-wide, and just over 200-foot-deep Lake Windermere is the heavyweight of the Lake District. Tourists flock to the stores & restaurants in town during the summer, but there are plenty of places to get away from the crowd & enjoy the scenery, and there are plenty of attractions near town for a wet day.
2. The town of Windermere
There are several outdoor businesses in Ambleside, about five miles northwest of Windermere, which makes it an ideal location for hikers. Clusters of grey-green stone buildings, shops, bars, and B&Bs line a circular one-way system that loops immediately south of the narrow valley of rocky Stock Ghyll in the town center.
Huge parking lots draw in the day-trippers, but Ambleside’s local hikes and dining options make it an excellent destination for staying a little longer. At Waterhead, where the cruise ships land, the grass banks and spreading trees of Borrans Park overlook the rest of town.