“A sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.” – William Wordsworth, Guide to the Lakes (1810).
Wordsworth, the Lake District’s most famous son, puts it so well: the truth is we all can find something to love about the Lakes.
And with holidays at home firmly back on the agenda, it’s a region that is surprisingly adept at reinventing itself for a new generation of eager-to-explore visitors.
We all have our own Lakeland favourites but, to inspire, inform and initiate some discussion, here are my own top 10 top reasons to go – right now.
For the national park
We’re focusing here primarily on the central Lakes, the area defined within the Lake District National Park. It’s still the largest national park in England, covering 885sq miles of pristine landscape and includes the key honey-pot destinations – see the individual destination overviews for more on each.
For the lakes
Well, obviously. There are 16 so-called waters, meres or tarns, although only Bassenthwaite is officially a fully-fledged lake. A great way to explore is to the take to the water with boat trips available on Windermere, Ullswater, Derwentwater and Coniston, plus numerous water-bound activities on other ‘lakes’; for more details, see my Lake District Things to do page.
For the walking
You don’t have to be Alfred Wainwright to have an affinity for the Lakeland fells. The wide-open skies and rolling countryside can offer something to inspire us all. Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain for serious hikers but even children can try on their first walking boots – try Catbells near Keswick for a family-friendly hike. The community guide Best foot forward on Britain's coast-to-coast hike has more.
For local produce
Can anything ever beat watching the sunset over Ambleside with a pint of Tag Lag from the Barngates Brewery at the The Drunken Duck Inn after a long walk? Well, maybe a plate of Cumberland sausage and mash, or slow-cooked dish of local Herdwick lamb to follow. The Lakes takes its food and drink very seriously and local producers dominate the burgeoning foodie scene. Tasty. The community guide A foodie weekend in Windermere has more.
For literary connections
Wordsworth and his Romantic-poet acolytes put the literary Lakes on the map in the 19th century. See my Lake District Things to do page to find out how to follow his trail. John Rushkin, Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome later followed in Wordsworth’s wake. As, of course, did John Cunliffe, creator of Cumbria’s favourite feline-loving postman, Pat.
For a luxury escape
Fact: the Lake District is not all about muddy boots and flasks of stewed tea. There’s a seriously swanky side to the region with Michelin-stared chefs (dinner at Sharrow Bay Hotel anyone?) and Champagne in the hot tub outside your luxury cottage at The Samling. So bring your Gold Card, the Lakes has gone luxury.
For a family-bonding trip
The Lakes is built on the memories of family holidays and, crucially, has the necessary infrastructure to cater for all ages from toddlers to teens. Well, it had generations of experience to get it right. So, whether you need a bottle warmer for a newborn baby, or a cool venue to impress a sulky teenager, then you can something to share some of that elusive quality time.
For year-round attractions
The good news is that the Lakes has an unusually long season, typically mid-February to December, plus a busy calendar of annual events – see my When to go to Lake District page for more details. And so what if the weather turns ugly. There are plenty of wet-weather attractions, such as the excellent Rheged Centre near Penrith, to keep everyone busy.
For ease of access
The Lakes is primarily a driving destination but you can go green and ditch the car. There are good public transport connections and Oxenholme train station (for connections on the West Coast main line to the Midlands and London) is no more than 30 minutes by taxi to most of the featured hotels listed here. See my How to get around Lake District page for more.
For the best of British
The Lakes epitomises all that’s great about a British holiday: close to home, well organised for visitors, great tourist information centres, an abundance of good-value options for days out and a variety of activities from National Trust properties to adrenaline sports. So who needs those airport parking fees and the security scramble for the departure gate. It’s a no brainer.
The community guide The very best of the Lake District has more details.
But that’s just for starters. Now you can click through to my carefully selected suggestions of places to stay, eat, drink and explore, and my insider tips – see the links on the left-hand panel of this page.
There’s something for everyone, so let’s get exploring.