The ups and downs of the Lake District

Last updated: November 14, 2021

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The vast Lake District National Park is famed for its collection of glittering lakes punctuated by a patchwork of thriving farmland and framed by craggy mountaintops. It’s a land of poetic extremes – home to England’s largest lake, Lake Windermere, and highest mountain, Scafell Pike – as well as quaint English pubs rubbing shoulders with world-class hotels snuggled in dense woodland and along the banks of the lakes.

Covid safer in the Lakes?

The local authorities have set up a useful website where travellers can check the status of local car parks, and plan accordingly if they are busy. Drivers are asked to be especially careful not to park on roads or outside of designated parking spots when parking areas are full. Wild camping, barbecues and fires are all banned throughout the Lakes.

Ferry and boat companies continue to operate limited services to allow for distancing, so it’s advisable to book ahead.

What to see in the Lakes

You could just point yourself in the direction of any of the lakes and simply trek the land, taking in scenic viewpoints atop lush hilltops, diving into the crisp lake waters and journeying via boat from jetty to jetty, exploring the small towns that perch just offshore.

But of the main lakes, Windermere is best for those who want a little bit of everything from their trip. Here, one can stay in beautiful lakeside hotels with resort-like amenities and world-class restaurants, hire self-drive boats for entire days luxuriating on the lake, take a cruise to see the sights, hike easy-going hill walks, have family days at The World of Beatrix Potter, and eat hearty lunches in traditional pubs in charming Bowness-on-Windermere or Windermere Town.

Travellers in search of challenging walks should instead try Ullswater and its circular 20-mile route around the lake, or head into The Fells for a trek from Thirlmere to the Blea Tarn valley, for some of the park’s most photogenic and beautifully wild scenes. Serious hikers should, of course, test their mettle against the mighty Scafell Pike and its delirious mountaintop views, but plan ahead, as conditions can be treacherous. While those wanting something altogether more relaxing should stick to the smaller lakeside circular routes such as the idyllic Brothers Water, or for an inland meander the Old Man of Coniston in the Furness Fells.

Some of the Lakes’ quaintest features are the delightful heritage railways, with trains that quite literally steam their way under arched stone bridges and along lush flower-speckled countryside, but if you’re more of a boat lover, then take a look at Coniston Lake and its slightly odd but utterly charming steam gondola that tours the lake every day of the week, with a captain spinning tales of the lake’s surprisingly colourful history.

Escape the crowds in the Lakes

While not one of the least developed of the Lakes, Derwentwater with its views of the beautiful Borrowdale Valley, narrow ravines, emerald-coloured hills and secluded farmhouses, is an excellent option to escape the crowds. There are plenty of walking and climbing options and some intriguing historic highlights nearby including the fascinating neolithic stones at Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Alternatively, go hunting for yet more of those beguiling Cumbrian contrasts at Wasdale Valley, which is home to Scafell Pike and England’s deepest lake, Wastwater, carved by retreating glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age. Hikes here are pleasant enough, with numerous peaks and fields lush with ferns, but watch out for the Screes – an area of unstable boulders that line a large picturesque chunk of the western side of the lake.

Another, less popular option perhaps, is to take to the very western edge of the Lake District to visit the rustic Cumbrian coastline. Highlights include Walney Island, St Bees and Allonby.

Local comment

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, says: ‘We know how important the national park is to people’s health and wellbeing, particularly at the moment, and we welcome all visitors to the Lake District, however we do ask that people visit us responsibly.

‘Please plan ahead to avoid the busy spots using, take all your litter away with you, stick to the social distancing guidelines and enjoy exploring the Lake District.’

Gill Haigh, Managing Director of Cumbria Tourism, adds: ‘Regular visitors to the region will know we're blessed to have one of the most diverse and spacious parts of the country, while people who haven't been here before may be less familiar with the huge range of attractions and hidden gems to explore which take them off the beaten track. Either way, it's vital to plan your stay beforehand and know exactly where you will be going.’

Checklist for your trip to the Lake District

  • Use the car park status checker and be prepared to visit an alternative spot if your first choice is looking busy
  • Take your rubbish with you when leaving
  • Don’t camp in undesignated camping spots

Useful links Find up-to-date guidance on travel, safety, Covid-19 research and more.

RightRooms believes all information to be correct at time of going to press. As guidance, research and facts around Covid-19 are changing constantly, the information provided here is for general information only and does not constitute professional advice. Please check with venues, locations and attractions before travelling.

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