Cumbria and The Lake District

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It was Cumbrian Cockermouth’s own son, the illustrious English Romantic poet William Wordsworth who wrote in 1810 of the Lake District that it was “a sort of national property in which every man has a right and interest”. For Wordsworth himself, the region was to be an endless source of Romantic ideas his life over; a representative of the wild and formative influence of nature on man. After years in London and abroad he was destined to return home to the Lake District in later life, and was buried right in its heart after his death in 1850, in the quaint village graveyard of St. Oswald's church in Grasmere.

Today the raw beauty and wilderness of the Lake District that was made legendary by the poetic works of many early 19th century poets of the English heritage, continues to be one of the most popular tourist destinations on the map of the UK. It’s estimated that the park as a whole attracts as many as 15 million annual visitors, both domestically and internationally. What’s more, the area is one of superlatives for England, and is home to the highest peak in the country, Scaffel Pike, the deepest lake, Wastwater, the longest lake, Windermere, and all of the English highlands more than 900 meters above sea level.

With so much touristic interest the Lake District is now home to a real variety of hotels options that are peppered all over its vast area. Boutique hotels and five-star luxury are very common in the cute English villages that are nestled amidst the peaks, while hostel accommodation for the more outdoorsy among the park’s visitors is very well advanced. Around Scaffel Pike alone there are two Hostel Association YHAs that allow hikers to approach the various faces of the mountain with ease.

Wild camping is permitted within the borders of the district, but there are some strict laws and a well-observed etiquette to follow. If you don’t want to make use of one of 15 or more dedicated camp sites here, make sure you have permission from any land owners, always leave the site in the condition it was found, and remember that camping on so called free land (the areas of the park that aren’t private property, is strictly forbidden by the park authorities).

There are hundreds of marked and unmarked walking routes through the district, and even 42 that are suitable for people with limited mobility. Many of these start around the various lakes and work their way gradually up the highlands. For hikers who want to attempt England’s highest peak, there are more than 5 generally used routes to the summit of Scaffel Pike. Some are much more difficult than others, so it’s always a good idea to do some homework before hitting the trails.

For those who want to explore the picturesque towns and villages of Cumbria rather than the mountainous nature that envelopes them, try starting out at Cockermouth on the north corner of the park; it’s famous as the birth place of the aforementioned William Wordsworth and home to a fantastic example of English country church architecture. Burgh-by-Sands on the coast is also worth a visit; it’s the final resting place of the English King Edward I, who was interred here before here could reach the far north to do battle with the Scots in 1297.

With some of England’s most picture-perfect lakes nestled in the deep valleys between the high peaks here, the Lake District is also home to a real variety of water sports. Aside from open water swimming, which has long been a favourite among locals willing to brave the cold, fresh waters of Derwent, there are opportunities to some more exotic activities. Try ghyll scrambling, for example, and conquer some of the difficult water gorges that carve their way through the Cumbrian geology, or opt for the more traditional sports available at the lakes, with a number of canoe rental spots and windsurfing tuition centres that make the most of the rough breezes that come down from the peaks.

Covering an area of 890 square miles, this most famous of English national parks is a melange of nature and wildlife. From the soft contoured hills in the Valley of Coniston Water Lake on the Holme Fell, to the craggy summit of Scaffel with its breath taking panoramas that range from Derwent Water in the north, through Windermere, and deep Wastwater in the west, the Lake District is the natural gem of North East England, and seriously worth a visit. After all, 15 million people can’t be wrong!