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An Introduction to the
Lake District National Park
Where is the English Lake District?
The Lake District National Park is situated in the North West of England and is an area of outstanding natural beauty. It became the second National Park in the UK in 1951 and is the largest (and most visited) of all the English National Parks. It contains the highest peaks as well as the deepest and longest lakes in England.
Covering an area of 885 sqaure miles the Lake District has a great variety of scenery to enjoy including fells, woodlands, valleys, lakes and waterfalls. This diverse landscape is home to a wide range of wildlife and fauna.
With such a small permanent population and such a large influx of visitors it is not surprising that almost all economic activity in the area depends on the tourist trade. With so many visitors it would be understandable to think that every part of the National park is teeming with people, but this is not the case. The area is large enough to absorb everyone and you can find peace and solitude if that is what you are looking for.
Travelling through the Lake District has to be done at a leisurely pace as roads twist and wind around the fells. In winter and spring some roads may be blocked by snow and in summer some centres may be particularly crowded, especially going through towns and villages where the roads tend to be narrow.
But going on holiday is time to leave the hustle and bustle behind, and this is the perfect area to take a step back and be prepared to take things easy - in other words, the perfect holiday!
Holidays and Short Breaks in the Lake District
It is not surprising that with its variety of landscapes and scenery, most people head to the Lake District to enjoy the opportunity for outdoor activities. Yet even for the less active it can offer the ideal holiday centre for families, couples and singles of all ages with something for everyone whether you are looking for somewhere to go for a short break or a longer holiday.
Although one of the wettest areas of the UK, the Lake District is well used to entertaining visitors on wetter days. And there are plenty of shops where you can purchase wet weather clothing and thus continue your outdoor pursuits whatever the elements throw at you.
Our page Outdoor Activities in the Lake District gives you some ideas of what's on offer in the area.
For more detail on the areas of the Lake District to help you decide which you might want to use as a holiday base the pages listed below give a brief guide to each of the areas, and the main attractions.
Windermere and the Southern Lakes Probably the most popular or well known area of the Lake District catering well for families along with walkers and hikers. Many links with William Wordsworth and Beatrice Potter, historic houses, beautiful scenery and waterfalls as well as catering for watersports on the lakes. Deserving of it's popularity, but possibly the most crowded locations.
Kendal and District Ideally situated for exploring both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Good central place to stay.
Keswick and the North Lakes A popular area for walking and cycling holidays with lots of interest closeby. Cockermouth is an attractive town but not so populated with tourists. Walks including Scafell Pike from Seathwaite in Borrowdale and the more gentle accessible route round Buttermere.
Coast and Western Lakes Holidays on the coastal side of the Lake District can offer long sandy beaches, small seaside towns against the backdrop of mountains. Teeming with history from the Romans to the Industrial Revolution.
Penrith and Eastern Lake District Making a base in Penrith will give access both to the Lake District and to the Eden Valley. Close to Ullswater, the second largest lake in the National Park.
Ulverston and South West Cumbria - Whilst not in the Lake District itself Ulverston is just a few miles from Windermere, and the delights of Morecambe Bay and the coastal resorts are just as close. Plenty to do for both children and adults.
The National Trust in the Lake District
Much of the Lake District is owned and/or managed by the National Trust. The National Trust properties can provide entertainment for all the family on wet dismal days, and many of the natural attractions (waterfalls, starting points for walks etc) have pay and display car parks which are free for National Trust members. Joining the National Trust before you go on holiday could save you quite a lot of money
What you can do in the Lake District
It is an interesting fact that despite the bodies of water that give the area its name, Bassenthwaite Lake is the only official Lake in the Lake District. The other 20 major bodies of water are named simply 'water' (e.g. Ullswater) 'mere' (e.g. Windermere) or Tarn (e.g. Tarn Hows). If you are looking for a holiday featuring watersports then look no further as water skiing, sailing, wild swimming, diving, wakeboarding, canoeing, kayaking and rowing are on offer. If you want something less energetic then you can hire a motor boat for the day on some of the larger lakes or take a cruise on a steam boat.
Where there's water you'll find fish and fishermen! Most fishing permits cost £8 a day (game fishing £18). If you want to purchase permits online or need details of where to fish visit lakedistrictfishing.net. On some lakes, including Windermere, you do not need a permit.
But the lakes that give the area its name are not the only reason for visiting the Lake District - the fells, mountains or hills offer many opportunities for novice or experienced walkers or climbers. Whether you want a gentle stroll around a lake or to attempt to climb the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, there is something for everyone.
The Lakes offer plenty of opportunities to visit historic sites either just to admire, or to learn. From prehistoric remains and Roman forts to castles and stately homes you will be spoilt for choice. Many of the coastal ports grew up at the time of the industrial revolution when coal and iron ore needed to be shipped overseas. Railways traversed the inland valleys to bring the raw material to the ports and the ship building trade flourished. Museums abound to explain the history of the region and some mines and railways remain to explore and learn about the industrial past.
This area has long been a draw for poets and authors - Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons was based around Windermere. You can visit where William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter lived and worked and take in the scenery, flora and fauna which inspired their work.
Weather in the Lake District
If you've heard that this is a wet place to visit then you've heard right and it is the topography of the Lake District which causes this, making it officially England's wettest region. Clouds coming in from the Atlantic hit the mountains of the Lake District and rise over them. As they do so the water vapour cools, condenses, and then falls as rain or, in the cooler months, as snow. Although it's not nice to have a holiday spoilt by rainy weather, without all the water from the atmosphere there would be no lush green valleys, no rivers or streams and no lakes.
The wettest months of the year are October to January, and the driest months are March to June, but in reality there is not a lot of difference, and you should be prepared for rain at any time of the year and at some point during your holiday (unless you are extremely lucky). On average the valleys normally have around 145 days when it doesn't rain, 200 days when it does, and 20 days of snowfall a year. Considerable snowfall can be expected on the high peaks from November to April.
Possible worse than rain for any tourist, hiker or walker is the hill fog. This is common at any time throughout the year and often affects the peaks. Walkers attempting the high summits should check the weather forecast before they set out as many a person has become disoriented in fog. For the more sedentary tourist the fog can mean those wonderful scenic views stay elusive.
Weather changes quickly in the area, so you may have rain for part of the day, and sunshine for the rest. And the weather should not put you off a holiday in this area. The amount of rain means that every town or village will have a shop with waterproofs and umbrellas prominently on display in case you forgot to pack these, and there are many indoor attractions if the rain is persistent.
The best advice is dress appropriately and just get out there and enjoy it!
Best Times to Visit the Lake District
English school holidays are the most popular times for vacationers, and particularly the 3 weeks around Easter, the week of the Spring Bank Holiday, and mid July to the beginning of September. Due to demand the prices for accommodation tend to rise at these times, and with an influx of people, the attractions tend to be more crowded. If you do not have children it may be advisable to avoid these peak periods.
Winter is a quieter time, but the scenery can be quite magical. Just like any other time of the year you can expect rain or sunshine with the added addition of snow and/or ice which can make some walks which would be easy in summer more treacherous. Some of the higher roads and passes may well be blocked by snow.
The Lake District with Children
The National Park is a great place to holiday with children. Hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants are child friendly, and many attractions cater especially for them. There is something for everyone to enjoy from castles and ruins, Go Ape activity centres in forests, zoos and animal parks, aquariums, museums as well as boat trips on the lakes and rides on steam trains.
Although you cannot depend on good weather for your holiday there are many attractions which will keep children amused whether rain or shine.
For a complete guide to what to go, see and do in the various areas of the Lake District check out the following pages on this site:
This least heavily populated area of England, with less than 50,000 permanent inhabitants, sees up to 20 million visitors each year all wanting to enjoy the scenic beauty and attractions on offer.