If crowds and traffic jams don’t phase you, then your best bet is to visit the Lake District in late spring or high summer. This is when traffic flocks to the honeypot destinations as everyone clamours to get a piece of the Lakes action.
But the benefit of going at this time of year is the greater number of activities for all ages. There’s also a higher chance of enjoying the undulating landscapes of the Lakes under a golden sun rather than a looming raincloud – well, we can but hope.
But, if you would rather feel like you have the Lakes to yourself, and don’t mind wrapping up against the elements, take your pick of what the Lakes has to offer out of season – spring and autumn can be glorious and much less hectic.
Spring for nature
The Lake District comes alive in spring. Wordsworth’s daffodils stand proud against a backdrop of bouncing newborn lambs and newly budding foliage. Take time to soak up the newly awaking landscape ahead of the summer crowds.
For culture vultures, Words by the Water (www.wayswithwords.co.uk) in early March attracts big-name literary stars to Keswick.
Summer for festivals
Summer is much busier for visitors but it’s also the key time of year for festivals and events.
Keen gardeners should check out the blooming-good Holker Garden Festival at Holker Hall and Gardens (Cark-in-Cartmel, near Grange-over-Sands LA11 7PL; +44 1539 558328; www.holker.co.uk) from June 3-5. It promises live entertainment, food and activities to keep the kids entertained.
Some of the biggest names in UK stand-up comedy, including Al Murray and Mark Thomas, will be appearing at the first ever Free Range Comedy Festival from June 16-19. This festival, which also includes a comedy session aimed at children, will be staged at a variety of unusual venues, including on a boat on Ullswater, on the fells and in a VW camper van. The festival is being organised by the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal (122a Highgate, Kendal LA9 4HE; +44 1539 725133; www.breweryarts.co.uk).
The annual summer spectacular is the Lakes Alive festival (www.lakesalive.org), which promises a world class – and mostly free – series of arts and performance events across the Lakes. This year’s feast for the senses includes Harmonic Fields, an installation of 500 Aeolian instruments by acclaimed French artist and composer Pierre Sauvageot. It will be staged at Birkrigg Common, near Ulverston, from June 3-5.
Also, in Whitehaven a troupe of French performers and aerialists will take the harbour by storm on July 23 with their carefully choreographed show, which is set to mark one year until the 2012 Olympics in London.
Autumn for harvest produce
What’s not to like about the mellow colours of autumn creating a chilled out Lake District vibe? Numbers dwindle somewhat and there’s a chance to imagine having the Lake District all to yourself.
Foodies hungry for a taste of Cumbria’s gourmet delights should try the Taste Cumbria Food Festival (www.tastecumbria.com) taking place at a variety of venues in Cockermouth from September 24-25.
For an adrenaline-fuelled kind of visit, head to Coniston between October 31 and November 4 to check out some of the action at the Coniston Power Boats Record Week (www.conistonpowerboatrecords.co.uk).
Winter for festive fun
Let’s be honest here, it’s cold round here. But if you are prepared to wrap up warm and brave a bit of wind and rain, then the Lake District is a place of peace and cosiness.
It’s also home to the World’s Biggest Liar Competition, annual event held in honour of local farmer and raconteur Will Ritson, whose great tales of a century ago were even said to have entertained William Wordsworth. The event is at the Santon Bridge Inn (Santon Bridge, Holmrook CA19 1UX; +44 1946 726221; www.santonbridgeinn.com/liar) on November 18.
Fearless types with a head for heights should stock up on Kendal mint cake and head for Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre. Europe’s biggest festival of mountain cultures, the Kendal Mountain Festival (www.mountainfest.co.uk) is staged November 17-20.
Finally, to get in the festive mood, check out Keswick’s Traditional Christmas Fayre, including street entertainment, stalls and carol singing, each December.