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The Lake District

The Lake District in Cumbria is one of England’s greatest and most famous natural gems and attracts millions of visitors to its shores from all over the world. The magnificence of its beautiful glacial lakes, soaring mountains, lush forests, green rolling hills and rural villages has inspired poets, painters and writers who have all been enchanted by this stunning region.

The Lake District includes England’s largest lake; Windermere, deepest lake; Wast Water, and highest mountain; Scafell Pike and is forever associated with the lyrical poems of William Wordsworth who extolled its beauty and the lakeland set children’s stories of Beatrix Potter. The Kendal mintcake, a hard, energy giving peppermint confection, is also synonymous with the area – Sir Edmund Hillary even took some with him to the top of Mount Everest – and it is still immensely popular with walkers, climbers and sweet lovers today.

The region became a magnet for tourism as a result of the appeal of the natural landscape to the Victorians and in 1951 The Lake District National Park covering 880 square miles was created to protect the area from “inappropriate development”. Perhaps the most famous of all the lakes is Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake. Windermere is idyllically beautiful with its wooded banks and islands and waterside resorts and you can cruise across its waters in a modern cruiser or vintage steamer, picnic on its banks or climb the hills of Orrest Head to marvel at the fantastic panorama around you. The Windermere Steamboat Museum on the lake shore has a fascinating and unique collection of vintage steam launches and other water- craft including Beatrix Potter’s rowing boat, the 1850’s “Dolly” perhaps the world’s oldest mechanically driven boat as well as “Esperance” the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s Captain Flint boat in Swallows and Amazons.

Another hugely popular tourist attraction nearby is The World of Beatrix Potter with charming recreations of her Lakeland stories. The poet Wordsworth thought “None of the other Lakes unfold so many fresh beauties” and most visitors to Windermere today would agree with him! If Windermere is the Lakes’ most famous lake Wordsworth must be one of the Lakes’ most famous residents. Dove Cottage in Grasmere where he lived with his wife and sister and wrote some of his greatest poems is a site of pilgrimage for his legions of admirers as is Rydal Mount where he later lived and the churchyard at St Oswald’s in which he is buried. Dove Cottage, which has been preserved practically as it was, along with Rydal Mount are owned by the Wordsworth Trust and among the fascinating memorabilia to be found are some original manuscripts and a pair of Wordsworth’s ice skates (at Dove Cottage and its museum) and Wordsworth’s black leather sofa, ink stand and despatch box (at Rydal Mount.) Coniston Water is another of the legendary lakes.

This is the idyllic location that inspired Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons after spending his childhood summer holidays there. The waters of Coniston are also associated with world water-speed hero Donald Campbell and his ill-fated boat Bluebird. After breaking the world water speed record in the 1950’s he attempted to beat his own record on Coniston Water in 1967 but when he reached 320 mph his jet powered Bluebird went into a somersault and Campbell was killed. His body and the wrecked Bluebird lay at the bottom of the lake until 2001 when both were recovered and Campbell is now buried in the village cemetery. Boats on Coniston are now restricted to 10 mph and the Coniston Boating Centre has all sorts of boats for hire while the Coniston Launch offers lake cruises including special tours to see the sites associated with Donald Campbell and Swallows and Amazons. The highlight of any trip has to be a cruise in the fabulous 19th century steam yacht Gondola who was originally launched on Coniston Water in 1859 and is now restored to all her glory.

The Victorian art critic and social reformer John Ruskin also lived on the shores of Coniston from 1872-1900 and his scenically situated house Brantwood is frequented visited as is the Ruskin Museum. Fans of Beatrix Potter should love the Beatrix Potter Gallery in nearby Hawkshead while Beatrix Potter’s house “Hill Top” is one of the most popular visitor attractions in the area. After happy childhood holidays in the lakes Beatrix Potter bought the Lakeland farmhouse Hill Top with the proceeds of her first book The Tale of Peter Rabbit and many of her later books are set in and around the farmhouse – lovers of her stories will find the whole area familiar from her beautiful illustrations. You might catch sight of a red squirrel like Squirrel Nutkins or spot the inn from The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck! On her death she left the house and land to the National Trust to preserve.

Keswick town in the north on the shores of Derwent Water is, for many visitors, classic Lake District and makes a good base for exploring the exquisitely beautiful Borrowdale and Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. Borrowdale’s beauty has inspired writers and artists over the centuries, Turner and Constable painted it, Thomas Grey, Wordsworth and Keats praised it and it is regarded by many as one of the most picturesque stretches of countryside in the area.

On a plateau above Keswick is the strange, prehistoric Castlerigg Stone Circle; a well preserved circle of standing blocks of stones believed to have been erected 4000 years ago and vaguely reminiscent of Stonehenge. Also accessible from Keswick is the gorgeously named and gorgeously pretty “Buttermere” lake ringed by crags and peaks and a great draw to visitors. Finally the remoteness and grandeur of Wast Water, England’s deepest lake surrounded by England’s highest peaks is a sight not to be missed! Recently voted Britain’s favourite view on national television Wast Water incorporates some of the most dramatic and wild scenery of the area and is arguably the highlight of The Lake District.

The Lake District is one of England and Britain’s top scenic attractions and whatever time of year you choose to visit always retains its beauty and charm. If you haven’t visited The Lake District you’ve missed out on something really special!

Ricki Crookes has worked as an actress in the film and television business throughout most of her life. She has appeared in numerous commercials which have been shown on television and cinemas world-wide. She has also worked as a model and been in many prestigious photo- shoots which have featured in magazines and bill-boards. In addition she has written articles for both newspapers and magazines and is an award winning poet.