Lake District, England, United Kingdom
Also known as: The Lake, Lakeland
Holiday in England’s Lake District, and you will find sparkling lakes set amidst stunning mountain scenery, wild heather carpeting gently rolling hills, and green fields surrounding pastoral farmland and historic villages. Located along the country’s northwest coast, in the county of Cumbria, the Lake District is England’s largest national park. Whether you come to watch the sunset over the Irish Sea, hike the fells and valleys or delight in the community of arts, the Lake District (also known as Lakeland) will charm and delight you.
The Lake District is an ancient place with bed rock dating back 500 million years, and fells and valleys carved by the advancing and retreating of glaciers during each ice age. There are over 6,000 archeological sites within the Lake District National Park providing evidence of occupation by Stone Age inhabitants, Roman armies and Norse invaders. The region’s earliest commodity was Lake District stone. Found in sites throughout the United Kingdom, the rock was used to make ancient tools and axes. Farming has been a predominant industry since the Roman occupation with sheep being the heartiest animal for the climate and terrain. From the 16th to the 19th century mining of copper, lead, barite, graphite and slate became the region’s leading industry. During the 19th century tourism began to grow. While the first guide to the Lake District was published in 1778, it was William Wordsworth’s 1820 guide that captured the interest of holiday travelers numbering in the millions today.
With well over 18,000 acres of water, the Lake District actually holds only one lake – Bassenthwaite Lake. The remaining bodies of water are called meres (a lake that is broad in relation to its depth), tarns (small mountain lake), waters (lakes) and reservoirs. Based on statistics of the 20 major lakes, surface areas run from Windermere’s 3,640 acres to Blelham Tarn’s 25 acres with the average a sizeable 909 acres. Of the same 20 lakes, Haweswater sits at the highest elevation (807 feet) with Windermere sitting at the lowest elevation (128 feet) giving an average lake elevation of 297 feet above sea level. With well over 70 water features to explore the Lake District can claim many of England’s lake records.
Lakeland’s Windermere is England’s largest natural lake, covering 3,640 acres. At 11 miles long and half-mile wide, Windermere is large enough to have a slight but discernable tide. With depths reaching 219 feet, Windermere is a popular Lake District resort area where anglers come to troll the waters for trout, char, pike and perch. Three lakeside communities – Bowness, Windermere, and Ambleside – offer lake cruises, boat rentals, marinas and holiday homes to make your visit complete.
The deepest lake in the Lake District is Wastwater (or Wast Water). With a mean depth of 132 feet and maximum depth of 249 feet, Wastwater is also the slowest moving body of water with an average water residence time of 500 days. Wastwater sits in Wasdale Valley surrounded by spectacular views of England’s highest mountains (called fells); Scafell Pike reaches 3,210 feet, Great Gable reaches 2,949 feet, and Lingmell reaches 2,649 feet.
At approximately 170 feet, Scale Force is said to be England’s highest waterfall. The picturesque fall feeds Crummock Water (635 acres). Originally Crummock Water and nearby Buttermere (230 acres) formed a single glacially carved lake. Now the two separate lakes and surrounding countryside are owned and protected by England’s National Trust as part of an effort to return this portion of the Lake District into a “wilder landscape.”
A number of reservoirs are contained within the Lake District. Kentmere Reservoir was started in 1848 to provide power for local mills and remains the property of James Cropper Paper Mill, one of the original businesses. Two controversial reservoirs now provide approximately 30% of the northwest’s drinking water. Haweswater (964 acres) flooded the two lakeside villages of Measand and Mardale Green when it was completed in 1935. Thirlmere (814 acres) submerged the villages of Amboth and Wythburn in 1894. Today, Thirlmere is surrounded by 2,000 acres of forest, and the reservoir’s water is transported almost 100 miles down England’s longest gravity-fed aqueduct.
In an effort to protect Lakeland’s landscape, Lake District National Park was established in 1951. The park covers 885 square miles and contains 214 fells, making up England’s only true mountain range. Over 2,000 miles of “rights of way” allow visitors to hike, cycle or ride through the countryside. Over 39 miles of trail are designed specifically for visitors with limited mobility.
The Lake District (sometimes called The Lake) countryside is filled with opportunities for bird watching and wildlife watching. The reed beds along Windermere provide excellent winter habitat for birds. It is one of the best places to observe a Canada goose, coot, cormorant, graylag goose, mallard duck, mute swan, red-breasted merganser, goldeneye, gull, great-crested grebe, pochard or tufted duck. The Lake is one of the few places in England where the native red squirrel can still be found. Continue exploring and you may catch a glimpse of bats, roe deer, otters, badgers, peregrine falcons or the protected Natterjack toad.
According to National Park reports, the lakes support three rare species of fish: “the vendance, found only in Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwent Water, the schelly which lives in Brothers Water, Haweswater, Red Tarn and Ullswater, and the Arctic charr which can be found in Buttermere, Coniston Water, Crummock Water, Ennerdale Water, Hawes Water, Loweswater, Thirlmere, Wast Water and Windermere.” The Lake is also an excellent place to fish for salmon, eel and sea trout. Anglers over the age of 12 need to secure a rod license and permission from the fishery owner before tossing a line into the water.
The Lake District’s beauty inspired many artists and writers to work or live among the lakes and fells. Samuel Coleridge, Robert Southey, Thomas de Quncey, John Ruskin, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Tennyson and William Wordsworth became associated with the Lake District’s cultural past. William Wordsworth moved to Lakeland in 1799 with his “Guide through the District of the Lakes” credited for spurring the interest in Lake District tourism. Visitors can walk in the footsteps of children’s author Beatrix Potter or novelists Melvyn Bragg and Sir Hugh Walpole. The Lake District continues to inspire with outstanding exhibits, galleries and art studios found in almost every village and town. A growing number of in-door and lakeside theatres offer a selection of opera, comedy, music and drama for your evening’s entertainment. Delight in fine lakeside dining or taste the local fare in a cozy pub, and a visit to the Lake District is complete.
Come to the Lake District and be inspired by the beauty of the land, the water and the people. Designed with holiday travelers in mind, Lake District accommodations range from youth hostels, pod-camping (wooden tents) and camping barns (converted farm buildings) to bed & breakfasts, holiday homes, holiday lodges and real estate properties. Built to suit every taste and budget, the selection is as large as Lakeland itself. Select your holiday retreat and begin your perfect vacation today.
Things to do at Lake District
- Vacation Rentals
- Wildlife Viewing
- National Park
Fish species found at Lake District
Lake District Photo Gallery
Lake District Statistics & Helpful Links
Spread the word! Share our Lake District article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!