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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lake District

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The Lake District in Cumbria, much of which (900sq.mi/2, was designated a national park in 1951, is an area of incomparable beauty and great variety. With its 16 lakes and numerous small reservoirs it fully justifies the name. Between the lakes are innumerable fells, including 180 over 2,000ft/610m and Scafell Pike (3,210ft/979m), the highest mountain in England. The Lake District covers a distance of some 30mi/48km from north to south and 25mi/40km from east to west. At its center is the little town of Grasmere on the lake of the same name. Five main areas can be distinguished - the southern or Windermere area, the northern or Keswick area, the eastern or Ullswater area and the passes.

Lake Windermere

Sailboats on Lake Windermere in the Lake District.
Lake Windermere, a glacier lake formed during the Ice Age, is England's largest lake, 10mi/16km in length and 230ft/70m deep. At its northern end it is enclosed by rocks; at the southern end it is drained by the River Leven, which flows into Morecambe Bay. Its shores are beautifully wooded, and in some places lined by houses. The largest island, Belle Isle, and some of the smaller ones can be reached by regular boat services. On Ladyholme are the remains of a 13th century chapel.
There is an annual festival in Lake Windermere which takes place during the summer.

Rydal Mount and Gardens

Rydal Mount and Gardens lies between Ambleside and Grasmere and overlooks Lake Windermere. This was a favored home of William Wordsworth. It still belongs to his descendents and contains portraits, personal possessions and first editions of his works. The garden was landscaped by the poet and features seasonal flowers and rare shrubs along paths and hillside terraces.

Hill Top - Beatrix Potter Museum

In Hill Top, near Sawrey the London-born Beatrix Potter (1866) wrote her popular series of little books about animals which she illustrated herself, beginning with "The Tales of Peter Rabbit". She spent the last 30 years of her life in the small cottage which is now a museum.
The museum is restricted to 800 visitors a day on a timed entry system. It is best to avoid peak times: mornings on school holidays.
Address: Hill Top, Sawrey LA22 0LF, England

Windermere, England

The town of Windermere consists of the older part, Bowness-on-Windermere, and the more modern part higher up the hill. The parish church, St Martin's, consecrated in 1483, has been preserved in its Late-Gothic Perpendicular style; the east window of the choir (14/15th century) is interesting. The National Park Information center has its headquarters in the High Street.
Windermere is also a popular centre for watersports and climbing activities or shopping and relaxing for tea. Some of the activities to be enjoyed on Windermere Lake include swimming, water skiing and sailing.

Lakeland Equestrian

The equestrian center is located at Wynbass Beck Stables, and is approved by the British Horse Society and the Association of British Riding Schools. The center offers complete courses for beginners as well as experts. There are also cross-country treks in the nearby countryside. An outdoor, heated swimming pool and other facilities are also located on the site.
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB, England

Lakes District National Park

The Lakes District National Park is a vast protected area in the heart of Lakeland. It has over 3,500 kilometers of public rights-of-way and numerous lakes and tarns. In the northern half of the park Skiddaw rises to 931 metres above sea level offering a dramatic backdrop to the town of Keswick-on-Derwentwater- major attraction amongst serious walkers and climbers.

Orrest Head

A particularly fine view of the southern part of the Lake District and of Morecambe Bay is to be had from Orrest Head, reached on a track which runs through Elleray Woods.

Hawkshead, England

The charming little village of Hawkshead (6mi/10km west; pop. 660) is located at the head of Esthwaite Water. Hawkshead has picturesque old stone houses around the Market Square, Flag Street and Main Street. The latter is the sight of the Victorian Red Lion Hotel (1850). To the north of the market square are the town hall (1790), the parish church of St Michael and All Angels (15th century) and the grammar school founded in 1585 by Edwin Sandys, Archbishop of York, at which William Wordsworth was a pupil from 1779-87.

Beatrix Potter Gallery

The Beatrix Potter Gallery, impressively restored in 1990, is found on Hawkshead's Main Street and features some original drawings by the writer.
Address: Main Street, Hawkshead LA22 0NS, England

Coniston, England

Sunlight through the clouds in the countryside near Coniston.
Coniston (pop. 1,700) is beautifully situated half a mile from Coniston Water below the jagged peaks of Yewdale Crags.
Coniston was a farming and mining village that became a popular tourist destination when the railway arrived in 1859.Hill-walking and rock climbing are other popular activities in Coniston.
In the Coniston churchyard can be seen the grave of John Ruskin (1819-1900), writer and social reformer, whose books, collections, drawings and other possessions are in the Ruskin Museum to the north of the church. His house at Brantwood, 2.5 mi/4km away on the east side of Coniston Water, contains drawings and water colors by him.

Coniston Water

Mist on Coniston Water in the Lake District of Cumbria.
Coniston Water is a smaller version of Windermere. The most impressive part of the lake is the north end, with Coniston Fells, but the wooded shores are also very attractive. The Old man of Coniston can be climbed in 1.5-2 hours (magnificent views of the surrounding hills).
A popular walk is to the very beautiful Tarn Hows (2.5mi/4km northeast of Coniston Water). The Duddon Valley, celebrated by Wordsworth, can be reached by a footpath which runs over the Walna Scar pass (2,000ft/610m, good views) or by a road, narrow in places, via Broughton-in-Furness.

Ambleside, England

A dock on Lake Windermere at Ambleside.
The best center for the southern part of the Lake District is Ambleside (5mi/8km from Windermere; pop. 2,560), a typical tourist resort below the Fairfield hills with the interesting Bridge House. Hayes Garden World has magnificent flower beds.
Ambleside is noted for the nearby Roman fort ruins; the 17th-century Bridge House, considered one of the smallest houses in Britain; the Ambleside Museum (home to many Beatrix Potter items) as well as walking and boating trips.

Ambleside Roman Fort

Almost 2,000 years ago, Roman soldiers sailed up the Windermere. They came to protect the Empire's northern border and built a fort close to Waterhead. Ruins of the Roman fort dating to the first and second C are visible. Neolithic, Bronze Age and Roman material collected in the area are on display.
Address: Rydal Road, Ambleside LA22 9BL, England

Little Langdale (Loughrigg Fell)

The River Brathay at Little Langdale.
From Ambleside there are lovely walks and excursions - into Little Langdale, to Loughrigg Terrace (good view), up Walsfell Pike and Loughrigg Fell. The ascent of the Langdale Pikes takes about 1.5-2 hours. Dungeon Ghyll is a popular climbing center.

Rydal Water, England

Winter view of Rydal Water in the Lake District, Cumbria.
The very beautiful Rydal Water lies in a sheltered situation below Rydal Fell (2,000ft/610m) and is the first lake to freeze in winter making it popular with skaters. Rydal (pop. 530) is a quiet little village on the River Rothay at the east end of Rydal Water, 1mi/2km northwest of Ambleside.
Walking through the hills and fells, and around the small lake are popular with visitors to Rydal.

Grasmere, England

Rock pool and rapids in Easdale, near Grasmere,.
The village of Grasmere (pop. 1,030) was a great favorite with the Lakeland Poets. In the little church of St Oswald (14th to 17th centuries), which has a beautiful interior, are memorials to Wordsworth and other poets. There are excellent walks from here into Easedale and Borrowdale.
Grasmere has a few annual events including the Rushbearing Ceremony and Grasmere Sports, which has been held since 1852.

Dove Cottage (Wordsworth Museum)

William and Dorothy Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage (now a museum) and is buried in Grasmere.
The Wordsworth Museum contains displays of the author's manuscripts, portraits and memorabilia. It also holds a collection of Lake District watercolors.
Address: Grasmere, Grasmere LA22 9SH, England


View of Red Tarn seen from Helvellyn.
There are excellent walks from Helvellyn, e.g. into Easedale and Borrowdale. The impressive Helvellyn (3,118ft/951m) can be climbed in 3-3.5 hours.

Haweswater - Lake Thirlmere

Pine trees around Lake Thirlmere.
At the foot of Helvellyn is Thirlmere, a reservoir belonging to the city of Manchester, which draws its water from Haweswater to the east, a relatively isolated lake, its banks lined with pine woods.

Ullswater, England

Jetty at Pooley Bridge in Ullswater in the Lake District.
Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District, offering ideal conditions for sailing and fishing. On the shores of the lake is Gowborrow Park, the scene of Wordsworth's best known poem "Daffodils". Glenriding and Patterdale are beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Ullswater and make excellent centers for walkers.
Steam boats, that have been in operation since the 1850's, offering trips around the lake from Pooley Bridge, Glenridding, and Howtown.

Keswick, England

Snow covered mountains near Keswick.
From Patterdale a very attractive road runs past the Great Mell Fell (1,760ft/537m) to Keswick, one of the most popular Lake District centers (pop. 5,000). The town lies on the River Greta, close to Derwentwater, in the middle of a beautiful range of hills, where according to Arthurian legend Sir Gawain came across the green knight. Keswick offers cycling, climbing and walking opportunities, as well as golf and water sports.
There is an interesting town hall. Greta Hall, now part of the local school, was the home of Coleridge and later of Southey. Further information is available from the Fitz Park Museum.

Cars of the Stars Motor Museum

Opened in 1989 the Motor Museum has vehicles on display which have featured in well known films and television series. Among the prize exhibits are the Lotus Esprit Turbo driven by James Bond in "For Your Eyes Only" and his Aston Martin DB 5 from "Goldfinger", the comic duo Laurel and Hardy's 1923 Ford T and the 32ft/10m-long pink Rolls Royce from the children's television series "Thunderbirds".
Address: Standish Street, Keswick CA12 5LS, England

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Winter at the Castlerigg stone circle, Keswick.
Just 2mi/3km to the east of Keswick is Castlerigg Stone Circle (98ft/30m radius). It consists of 38 stones erected in the shape of a circle and is estimated to be a place of worship between 4,000 to 5,000 years old.

Derwent Water

Haze over the mountains at Derwent Water.
Derwent Water is generally agreed to be the most beautiful of the lakes, with its grandiose backdrop of hills and the wooded crags and green fells which rise from its shores. A number of pretty little islands in the lake invite the visitor to visit them by boat. The River Derwent flows in at one end and out at the other, and the lake is famed for its trout and salmon. A fine view of the lake can be had from Castle Head.
Derwent Island House is set on an idyllic wooded island in Derwentwater. It is an Italianate house from the 1840s with a classic interior and restored garden.


View across the Borrowdale Valley.
There are pleasant trips into Borrowdale, one of the most beautiful valleys in the Lake District, or round Derwentwater (10mi/16km), passing the Falls of Lodore, made famous by Southey's poem. Particular beauty spots in Borrowdale, which is famed for its fine birch trees and its good-quality slate, are Grange-in-Borrowdale and Rosthwaite.
The National Trust protects 11,806ha (29,173 acres) in Borrowdale including eleven farms, half of Derwent Water, the hamlet of Watenlath and well known sites such as the Bowder Stone, Casterligg Stone Circle, Friar's Craig and Ashness Bridge.
Address: Grange-in-Borrowdale, Keswick CA12 5UQ, England

Buttermere and Ennerdale, England

Road beside Ennerdale Water in the Lake District of Cumbria.
The village of Buttermere lies between Buttermere and Crummock Water, two small lakes belonging to the National Trust, linked by a stream 0.75mi/1km long.
The National Trust maintains 3,588ha (8,866 acres) of fell and commonland that include the lakes of Buttermere and Loweswater. There is also lakeshore access to Ennerdale Water where there are extensive prehistoric settlements on the fells south of Ennerdale.
Buttermere is noted for the scenic walks around Buttermere Lake and the wide main street lined with specialty shops.

Buttermere Water - Scale Force

Scale Force, on a stream which flows into Crummock Water (near Buttermere), is acknowledged to be the most beautiful waterfall in the Lake District (156ft/47m high).

Kendal, England

Office building along the River Kent at Kendal.
Kendal is situated on the east side of the Lake District and there are ruins of a 12th century castle.
Kendal is a popular tourist destination offering a number of places of interest such as the Kendal Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Abbott Hall Art Gallery and the Brewery Arts Centre. Most of the local buildings were constructed of grey limestone including the Friends Meeting House, home of the Quaker Tapestry.

Abbot Hall

Abbot Hall designed by John Carr in 1759 in Georgian style has a remarkable collection of paintings including portraits by George Romney and Daniel Gardner.
Housed in the former stables of Abbot Hall the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry provides a comprehensive picture of the history of local crafts and industry.
Address: Abbot Hall, Kirkland, Kendal LA9 5AL, England

Sizergh Castle & Garden

Remains of the Kendal Castle.
Sizergh Castle is a National Trust property located in Kendal. A large rock garden has been planted to the north of the 14th century castle.

Ulverston, England

The Hoad Monument above Ulverston.
Ulverston (pop. 11,963) is located on Morecambe Bay, 55mi/89km north of Liverpool. The main street is cobbled and features many specialty shops and a war memorial dedicated to soldiers from WW I. Hoad Monument, in Ulverston, is a concrete structure that was completed in 1850 and provides scenic views of the surrounding area.

Furness Abbey

No visitor to the Lake District should omit the excursion to Furness Abbey in the wooded "Vale of Deadly Nightshade", 6mi/10km from Ulverston, in the southern part of the Lake District.
Furness Abbey was founded in 1173 by King Stephen for the Benedictine monks, who later adopted Cistercian rule. It was a rich and powerful house, since the abbots held feudal superiority over Furness. At one time it was the second richest Cistercian house in England surpassed only by Fountains Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales. There are extensive ruins of the red sandstone buildings. The transepts, choir and west tower of the church still stand to their full height, but the nave is in ruins. The round-headed arches of the cloister, the Early English chapterhouse, the dormitories and the infirmary are also preserved. The chapel contains two effigies of knights, believed to be the oldest of their kind (12th century). Large parts of the church also date from the 12th century, only the east end and the west tower were added about 1500.

Carlisle, England

River Eden in Carlisle.
Carlisle, an old border town on the River Eden and now county town of Cumbria, is mainly an industrial center and a road and rail junction. In addition to historic buildings such as the cathedral, the Norman castle and the nearby Hadrian's Wall, the city also has a good modern shopping center. Carlisle Castle is a notable feature of the town, managed by the English Heritage. Tullie House features local history displays and an art gallery. The lovely Scottish border country to the north (the Southern Uplands) and the magical Lake District to the south are both within easy reach.
Hadrian's Wall ran just north of Carlisle, through what is now the suburb of Stanwix, where the Roman fortifications crossed the river. The fort later developed into the Romano-British town of Luguvalium. In the 11th and 12th centuries the Scots claimed the town, but after it was fortified by William Rufus had little chance of taking it. In 1645 however Carlisle did fall to a Scottish army under General Leslie after an eight month long siege.
In November 1745 the city was taken again, this time by the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), without a shot being fired. It was retaken by George II's son, the Duke of Cumberland, after the Prince's resounding defeat at Culloden the following year.


The Carlisle Cathedral.
The Carlisle Cathedral was originally the church of an Augustinian priory founded in 1102, and was made the see of a bishop by Henry I in 1133. The south transept and the two bays of the nave are Norman (1123). The beautiful choir was rebuilt in the Decorated style after a fire in 1292, but was not completed until 1362. The north transept and central tower, destroyed in a later fire, were rebuilt between 1400 and 1419. The great east window in the choir is particularly fine. Completed in 1380 and measuring 62ft/19m by 33ft/10m, it comprises a Doom, or representation of the Last Judgment. The choir stalls, with 46misericords, date from 1400 to 1433 and are carved with scenes from the lives of saints. The delicately carved capitals of the Early English style pillars depict the labors of the months. The nave suffered serious damage in the 17th century and was shortened. The oak pulpit dates from 1599. Sir Walter Scott was married in the cathedral in 1797.

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

Tullie House in Castle Street is of particular interest. Built in 1689 in the Jacobean Renaissance style, by a family of German extraction who originally arrived in England to work in the Keswick gold and silver mines, the house became a museum and art school in 1893. Between 1989 and 1991 it was completely restored, a new wing being added at the same time.
The Museum possesses a comprehensive collection of prehistoric and Roman finds from the Border area, documents relating to the many battles fought between the English and the Scots from the 14th to the 17th centuries, and an exhibition specifically devoted to Bonnie Prince Charlie and 1745, a year of great significance in the nation's history. There is also a well presented collection of the region's flora and fauna.
The adjoining Art Gallery contains some 2,000 works (17th-20th centuries) including paintings by Paul Nash, Sam Bough and Peter Blake.
Address: Castle Street, Carlisle CA3 8TP, England

Carlisle Castle

Manicured lawn in front of the Carlisle Castle.
The first castle in Carlisle was built by William Rufus in about 1092, providing protection against the ever troublesome Scots; the present castle, with its magnificent Norman keep, took shape in the course of several subsequent stages of rebuilding.
Carlisle Castle now houses the regimental museum of the King's Own Royal Border Regiment. Not only the Keep but also the 13th century Ireby Tower and 14th century Captain's Tower are extremely impressive. Visitors can see the dungeons in which more than 300 Scottish prisoners were held in 1745, as well as various mementos of Mary Queen of Scots, imprisoned in the 14th century Queen Mary's Tower for two months in 1568.
Address: Castle Way, Carlisle CA3 8UR, England

Lanercost Priory

About 12mi/19km northeast of Carlisle is Lanercost Priory, a former Augustinian house founded by William de Vaux in 1166. The choir (1175) and transepts (1220) of the church are roofless, but the nave, dating from the first third of the 13th century, is still used as the parish church. The Jupiter Altar is made of stone taken from Hadrian's Wall. Note also the handsome arcading and the stained glass window by Edward Burne-Jones.
Address: Brampton, Carlisle CA8 2HQ, England

Penrith, England

Snowy day at Beacon Hill, Penrith.
Penrith (pop. 12,290) is a tourist resort. It is located on the M6 16mi/26km southeast of Carlisle. Penrith is an important shopping centre with an array of traditional and specialty shops.
Penrith Castle was completed in 1399 and added to over the next 70 years. The commanding ruins still stand in Castle Park. Brougham Castle lies just outside Penrith, it was built on the site of a Roman fort.

Brougham Castle

Brougham Castle was built in 1092, on the site of a Roman fort, by William Rufus. The original castle was destroyed in 1172 and rebuilt by Henry II. His tower survives, but later buildings were destroyed by fire in 1521. A stone-curtain wall was added around 1300. The castle is an impressive ruin which stands on the bank of the river Eamont.
Address: Brougham, Penrith CA10 2AA, England

Penrith Castle

The ruins of Penrith Castle.
Penrith Castle is a 14th C castle on the edge of Penrith, inside a large park next to the railway station. The castle was begun in 1399 when William Strickland, later to become Bishop of Carlisle and Archbishop of Canterbury, added a stone wall to the earlier pele tower. Over the next 70 years, the castle was improved and added to becoming a Royal fortress for Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

Maryport, England

An old steam boat in Maryport harbor.
Maryport (pop. 11,598) is an old port village on Solway Firth at the mouth of the Ellen River 28mi/45km southwest of Carlisle. It has a maritime museum, summer festivals and well-preserved Georgian houses. Maryport also offers golfing, shoreline walks and sailing opportunities.
The Maryport Aquaria is located near the harbor and offers an amazing glimpse at the underwater world of Cumbria's seas and coasts. See congers, sharks, octopus and rays, as well as a ship wreck.

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