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Home to England’s largest National Park and Unesco world heritage site, the Lake District is famous for its moody landscapes and dramatic scenery. As its name suggests, lakes dot the national park, including England’s longest and its deepest. Punctuated mountains, including England’s highest, add to the magnificence of the landscape.
Most of what the Lake District is famous for is related to its breathtaking scenery. Famous artists, writers, poets and photographers drew inspiration here. W.P. Haskett Smith’s famous climb of the Napes Needle brought rock-climbing as a sport to the UK general public. With so many natural resources, many early civilizations called the area home, as evidenced by prehistoric rock art, stone circles, and Roman forts.
Today, visitors flock to the Lake District to ramble through the many public pathways, cruise on glass like lakes and relax in cozy bed-and-breakfasts where they munch on gingerbread and mint cakes.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what the Lake District is famous for.
Where is the Lake District?
The Lake District is a National Park area, designated in 1951, located in the Northwest of England in the county of Cumbria. It’s around 260 miles northwest of London, 150 miles southwest of Edinburgh, and about 70 miles north of Manchester.
Why is the Lake District Popular with Tourists?
The simple answer is the area is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Plus, whether you are into hiking, fishing, mountain climbing, cycling, water sports, are a history buff, or just love beautiful drives in the countryside, the Lake District is a perfect place for a break.
Lending to the picturesque landscape, there are few large hotels in the area. The average visitor instead opts for a quaint bed-and-breakfast. They spend a day or two wandering the small villages. Take in one or two of the hundreds of walking trails in the area. Visit a waterfall, a ruin, or a museum. Then, they may take a historic steamer across the Ullswater or a cruise on Windermere.
Why is the Lake District a Unesco World Heritage Site?
Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2017, for its outstanding universal value to humanity. Selected for this honor for several reasons, but primarily because of area’s long history of “combined works of nature and man.”
Over the centuries, much has been done to build a harmony between the natural beauty of the landscape and daily life. The stone walls around farming areas, the rearing of native Herdwick sheep, and the picture-perfect gardens and landscaping all lend to the areas charm.
In addition, the Lake District’s long commitment to preservation and protection of the land embodies the ideals of Unesco.
Is There Only One Lake in the Lake District?
You may have heard there is only one lake in the Lake District, yet look at any map and this doesn’t make sense. I too was confused when I first heard this little piece of trivia.
Basically, only one lake in the Lake District has “lake” in its official name, Bassenthwaite Lake. The rest are still lakes, but they use the titles of “mere”, “tarn” or just “water.”
“Mere” is an old English word for shallow lake, while “tarn” is a Norse (Viking) word for a small lake higher in the fells, and “water” is just because it’s a body of water. In other words, they are all lakes.
What are the Lake District’s Most Famous Lakes?
These are the Lake District’s most popular lakes, mostly because they are the only lakes in the area that have boat trips, boat hire and water activities available for visitors.
Windermere is not only the longest lake in the Lake District, but it is also the longest lake in England.
Derwentwater is closest to the Lake District’s largest town, Keswick.
Wast Water is England’s deepest lake and closest to England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike. It’s not the easiest lake to get to, so it’s not as popular with visitors. However, it’s considered by many to have some of the best views in the Lake District. The view from Wast Water’s south-western end forms the basis for the Lake District’s National Park logo.
Who Were the Lake District’s Most Famous Writers and Poets?
Beatrix Potter (1866 – 1943)
Best known for her children’s book The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix loved the Lake District. Inspired by the landscapes, many of her illustrations depict scenes from the area. During her lifetime she worked closely with the National Trust and acquired large amounts of land in the Lake District. She donated these lands, many of her illustrations, and other personal objects to the National Trust following her death.
If you are a fan of her work, the National Trust has a gallery in Hawkshead, there’s Hill Top, her farmhouse home in Ambleside, and the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere.
William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)
Credited with jump starting mass tourism in the Lake District with his 1810 book Guide Through the District of the Lakes, Wordsworth is one of Britain’s most famous poets.
Quoted in various places throughout the park, his famous line, “I wander’d lonely as a cloud” from his poem Daffodils.
Visit Rydal Mount House and Garden, his family home near Grasmere. Or, pay respect at his grave at St. Oswald’s Church, next door to the lovely Wordsworth Daffodil Garden in Grasmere.
What Foods are the Lake District Famous For?
Only bearing the name “Traditional Cumberland Sausage” if produced, processed and prepared in Cumbria. This long, coiled sausage is typically heavily seasoned, chopped, not mined, pork.
Developed by Sarah Nelson, the Grasmere Gingerbread shop has been selling her famous gingerbread since 1854. Just look for the lines next to St. Oswald’s Church. Visitors patiently wait their turn to enter the tiny little shop to purchase a package of this cake like treat.
Romney’s Kendal Mint Cakes
Started in 1918, Kendal Mint Cakes is part of a 4th generation family business that is synonymous with the small Lake District town of Kendal and mountain climbing. In 1953, the British Expedition team conquered Mt. Everest carrying Kendal Mint Cakes in their ration packs. Today, many British climbers still include the tasty sweet in their packs.
Why is the Lake District Often Regarded as the Birthplace of British Mountaineering?
Seated in a valley near England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike) and England’s deepest lake (Wast Water) is an area called Wasdale Head. In the late 1800’s, the area became popular during what was known as “the Golden Age of early British Climbing.” Many young and wealthy professionals would come to the area to prefect their climbing skills.
Mountaineering as a sport and the area were put on the map in 1886. Walter Parry (W.P.) Haskett Smith, often considered the “Father of British Rock Climbing,” made headlines for his solo ascent of the Napes Needle.
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Want to know more about the Lake District, check out our article 10 Reasons The Lake District Should Be On Your Bucket List.