One morning, I was riding on a shuttle bus to the Bristol bus station on my way to Wales, and the driver asked about my travels and where I had visited. “Have you been to the Lake District?” she asked. When I replied that I hadn’t, she said, “Oh, it’s so beautiful! You can hike up on the fells and there are so many wonderful attractions to visit. I just love the Lake District. You really should go.”
“You know,” I said, “That sounds nice. I think I will!” And that was that.
Two weeks later, after I had traveled around Wales, I returned to England for a week-long visit to the Lake District. I’m very thankful that the shuttle bus driver took the time to recommend the area to me. I won’t soon forget the magical natural beauty and wonderful history so present in England’s Lake District.
The Lake District, England’s largest national park, is a region in the northwest of England made up of mountains, lakes and several towns and villages. Artists, authors and poets have found inspiration in its sweeping vistas and breathtaking landscapes for centuries.
My first stop in the Lake District was the bustling little town of Ambleside. The central shopping district is equal parts hiking and outdoor stores and independent cafes. With easy access to Lake Windermere and various hiking trails as well as a reliable bus service that travels throughout the District, Aviemore is an ideal location from which to explore the area. I stayed at a great youth hostel and enjoyed hiking, sightseeing and taking a ferry ride across Lake Windermere while staying in Ambleside.
While staying in Ambleside, I took a short bus ride to the nearby village of Grasmere, where the poet William Wordsworth once lived. I found village truly enchanting and well worth the visit. In addition to the Wordsworth house, museum and gravesite, the Grasmere is home to a number of cute local shops and cafes as well as trails offering amazing views of the “fells” (mountains).
Low Wray and Near Sawrey
In addition to seeing the Wordsworth sites in Grasmere, I took the ferry from Ambleside Pier across Lake Windermere to visit some interesting sites including Wray Castle and Beatrix Potter’s Lake District home, Hill Top.
I visited both of these attractions in one day and on foot, which I would not necessarily recommend. Wray Castle is easily accessible from the dock, but Hill Top is a several miles away from Wray Castle (it looked closer on the map!) without a great trail connecting the two. It’s a better idea to access Hill Top using the directions listed here.
If you visit Wray Castle, be sure to participate in the guided tour, which is included in the entry fee. It provides a very interesting historical context to this imposing building. Built in 1840, the “castle” was constructed in a gothic style meant to look much older than it is. Most of the rooms are used as children’s activity areas and only a few are furnished as they would have been when Beatrix Potter visited in her youth, but I found the architecture and history interesting nonetheless.
I found it fascinating to visit Hill Top, the Lake District home of Beatrix Potter, author of “Peter Rabbit” and many other children’s stories. Potter left the house to the National Trust when she died, and it still contains all of her furniture and possessions, just as she left them. Though photography is not allowed, there are no roped-off areas in the home, which I found surprising. Visitors are free to walk through the rooms as though they were just stopping by for tea with Mrs. Potter herself!
Keswick and Borrowdale
I wanted to experience as much as I could of the Lake District, so after spending a few days in Ambleside, I packed up my backpack and rode the bus to another hostel about 20 minutes outside of Keswick, which is located in the north of the district. Keswick is a key hub for the Lake District. It’s a comparatively large, busy town with access to numerous bus lines and more extensive shopping and dining options.
I had originally planned to stay in Keswick but could not find any hostels with availability when I visited in August. As it turns out, I was glad the circumstances required me to stay at YHA Borrowdale, which in a more remote but much more picturesque environment.
YHA Borrowdale, which has a Keswick address but is located outside the town, is a youth hostel that caters to campers and hikers and is ideally situated for outdoor activities. While I didn’t hike extensively while staying at the hostel, I did enjoy a couple of shorter hikes that lasted a couple of hours and afforded absolutely breathtaking views.
My visit to England’s storied Lake District was truly a memorable and wonderful experience. I enjoyed the history and natural beauty of the area, and could easily have spent another week hiking and enjoying other historical sites. Next time you’re in England, don’t miss the chance to visit this amazing national park.