Cumbria – the Lake District, call it what you will (Cumbria is specifically a county while the Lake District is a National Park but the two fit synonymously together) is, arguably, one of Britain’s most well known ‘landmarks’ with its collection of fells, valleys and home to the largest lakes in England.
Windermere, Ullswater and Derwentwater are virtually household names, though each has its own character, much like Coniston Water, Haweswater and Wastwater, a lakeland landscape that became designated as ‘Britain’s Favourite View’ by public vote. The Lake District is also inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its uniqueness and global Outstanding Universal Value.
With Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3,209 feet, and other great peaks known to fell walkers such as Great Gable, Helvellyn and The Old Man of Coniston, the Lake District has a landscape like no other. Caravan holidays in the Lake District are very much for those who enjoy getting outdoors and making the most of the spectacular scenery, especially as the area brands itself as the UK’s Adventure Capital.
Though the Lake District is not just for active lifestyles. Following in the footsteps of poet Wordsworth, children’s author Beatrix Potter, social commentator John Ruskin and novelist Arthur Ransome are all possible for visitors looking for artistic inspiration or simply a relaxing time messing about in boats or wandering, ‘lonely as a cloud’.
There’s no doubting that the Lake District can get very busy, such is its popularity as a tourist destination. Villages such as Grasmere and Hawkshead plus towns like Keswick and Windermere are on the well-trodden tourist path. But, it is possible to venture away from the crowds; Cumbria’s coast sees less visitors than the lakeland area, with attractive places to visit like Ravenglass. Nearby Muncaster Castle and Gardens is a lovely place for a walk. Or you can visit the colourful Whitehaven Coast, further north, with miles of rocky cliffs and some fabulous coastal walks.
Inland, you can opt to visit some of the lesser-known lakes like Ennerdale Water or Loweswater, or enjoy a walk alongside Thirlmere, surrounded by woodland. And, of course, keep an eye out for red squirrels – the Lake District is one of the few places in England left to see them.
Things to do
2.Go walking and mountaineering in the Lake District, either taking a gentle stroll around a lake or following in Wainwright’s illustrious footsteps travelling east-west. For climbers, scaling the heights of the fells is a real challenge, with Scafell Pike being one of the high points.
3.The Lake District is so wild and scenic that it has inspired poets, landscape artists and photographers over the centuries. The Lake Artists Society, founded in 1904 by John Ruskin’s secretary, the artist WG Collingwood, still holds an annual art exhibition, in Grasmere, where you can see how The Lakes inspires today’s artists. Try a little photography and wildlife-spotting yourself and we think you’ll end up with the best holiday photos you’ve ever taken.
4.Who can resist a ride on a steam train? Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway offers steam train rides from the only coastal village in the Lake District. So, too, the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, at the southern end of Lake Windermere.
5.Take a tour of National Trust land and historic houses in the Lake District, including Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top and The Beatrix Potter Gallery, where you’ll be able to see her charming original drawings of Peter Rabbit and other characters. If that’s all a bit too cute for you, why not Climb the Mine deep inside a Lake District mountain at Honister. It’s bound to get the adrenalin flowing!
From London, take the M6 north. Leave the motorway at junction 36 for Kendal, or junction 40 for Penrith, junctions 42, 43 and 44 good for roads into Carlisle. If you’re travelling across from the east coast to the west, you’ll need the main A66 trunk road.
For a truly scenic drive, try the winding A686 from Penrith in Cumbria to Haydon Bridge in Northumberland. It is often thought of as one of the UK’s best driving roads and offers amazing views.
The tiny roads within the Lake District do get congested at peak times of the year, so you’re encouraged to use buses or trains to get around once you’ve arrived and pitched your caravan. However, if you enjoy driving, some of the most challenging drives cross mountain passes, such as Hard Knott and Wrynose. But of course, you must remember that in bad weather, some mountain roads may be closed.
Where to stay
You can find out about the other top parks that were included by reading our guide to the best caravan sites.
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The Lake District's connections with William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter draw a large number of fans to the region