Portmeirion is a small village in North Wales on the…
I’ve been wanting to visit the Lake District for years, but it just never happened. So finally, I just decided to go and organised a long weekend in the Lake District.
Like with any other places in the UK, you would need at least a week to explore things properly, but we managed to cover the main attractions within a long weekend i.e. 4 days. Hope this guide helps you to plan your trip to this beautiful part of the World.
Brief history of the Lake District
England’s second biggest nature park is the Lake District and it lays in the counties of Cumbria and Lancashire in the North of England. It’s the most visited area in England with 15 million visitors each year. But it wasn’t always the case.
The first guide book about the Lake District was published in 1778 and it soon became a popular tourist area. Early tourists could reach the Lakes in three days by coach from London. During the Industrial Revolution with the growing infrastructure more and more people visited the Lakes. With the railway connection to Windermere the travel time reduced from three days to ten and a half hours.
Needless to say that poems by William Wordsworth describing the beauty of the Lakes also inspired many to visit the area. It also became a popular among the wealthy who started to build villas by the lakes.
Having seen the rapid growth in tourism, William Wordsworth suggested using the word District to refer to the area as sort of a National Park in order to preserve it. He also suggested using local building materials and build houses in local styles to preserve the nature and look of the Lake District.
Tourists hired local tour guides to see the mountains and fells or enjoyed boat trips on the lakes and many even did watercolours.
Those who love country houses, stately homes, gardens and other cultural landmarks should be aware that there are far less National Trust, English Heritage or Historic Houses places in the Lake District. This region is mainly about nature and landscape.
Having said that, we started our long weekend in the Lake District with visiting two iconic country houses Sizergh and Levens Hall.
Sizergh has been the home of the Strickland family for 800 years. The earliest parts of the house date back to the 14th and 15th century and history oozes out of its walls.
My favourite part was the rock garden, which was built in 1920. I sat on the bench under the tree as the NT suggested and indeed it was the most gorgeous view and it was very relaxing.
Levens Hall has been on my lists for years but I didn’t think I would make it during my trip to the Lake District. Luckily, I did have time to visit and I’m so pleased I did.
Levens Hall is famous for its gardens but perhaps the most famous part is the Stuart and topiary garden laid out in the of the 17th century.
There are more than 100 pieces in the topiary garden and many of them are over 300 years old. Some pieces do have a name: the chess pieces King and Queen, the Judges Wig, the Great Umbrella or Peacocks. Honestly, it’s so much fun.
I also treated myself to the Head Gardener’s honey. If you like honey, try this one, it’s gorgeous. Nothing like honey from the supermarket.
Levens Hall is still a privately owned house therefore no interior photos. However, I can assure you, it’s worth visiting the house. It has s much character, history and beauty, that it’s difficult take it all in.
Not far from Kendal there’s a little village called Cartmel. I must admit, I was surprised how posh it was. However, when I learnt that the village has its own horse race, I understood why there’s money around here.
One of the most famous person of the Lake District is the author of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter. Perhaps it’s a less known fact that she was the first to donate her farmhouse and estate to the National Trust.
Her farm house stands near Consiton Water and is called Hill Top. It’s such a cute little place. As you look at the house and the cottage garden, you can see where the inspiration for Peter Rabbit and friends came from.
William Wordsworth went to grammar school in the village and Beatrix Potter’s husband, William Heelis had his office in the middle of Hawkshead. Today, the building functions as the Beatrix Potter Gallery owned by the National Trust.
The nearby Coniston Water is the third biggest lake in the Lake District. The famous Victorian writer, philosopher and critic John Ruskin lived here from 1872 until his death.
The lake is also famous for the water speed record attempts in 1939.
There are several picturesque cottages around the lake.
The area around Coniston Water is full of charming cottages inspiring many photographers. Little Langdale is a tiny settlement with cute cottages and farmhouses. It can be tricky to park here as the only sport where you can park is the pub.
I actually stopped by the pub and had lunch there. I must say, I had the best burger ever in this little pub. It was a venison burger and was so tasty and beautiful that I couldn’t believe it. I can only recommend the Three Shires Inn.
Windermer is the biggest holiday spot in the Lake District and it’s also the biggest lake. I must confess, whereby the lake is stunning I wasn’t impressed by the town. There are many beautiful Victorian town houses but it’s heaving all day.
If you’d like to explore it, do it early in the morning as it gets very busy during the day and in the evening.
As you leave Windermere, close to Ecclerigg by the main road is one of the most iconic cottages of the Lake District. It can be tricky to stop there by car.
Leaving Windermere we get to the charming town of Ambleside. This town has much more character and I loved it.
Its most famous landmark is the Bridge House which is owned by the National Trust.
It was built in the 17th century by the Braithwaite family who lived on the nearby Ambleside estate. They built the bridge first to get access to their land on the other side of Stock Beck.
They added the house later to stock apples from their orchards. Although the house is incredibly small, there was a family of six and a family of eight living here during the centuries.
The house soon became a tourist attraction and many artists came here to draw or paint it, but it was let down and was in desperate need of a repair in the beginning of the 20th century. Beatrix Potter and her husband raised money, along with a local group, and saved it from demolition in 1926.
Grasmere is a small village north of Ambleside. Our accommodation was in this village an dI was so pleased we stayed here as opposed to Windermere. Getting in and out of Windermere can be really painful because of the traffic, but Grasmere was much better as we ventured our more towards the North.
Besides, it is such a tranquil and lovely place. As we walked down the streets I started to understand why Wordsworth loved this place.
The village has two main attraction: Dove Cottage where William Wordsworth lived and Grasmere Gingerbread. (You can also find Wordsworth’s grave in the churchyard.)
Grasmere Gingerbread is indeed unique. I haven’t eaten anything like this before. It’s between a biscuit and a cake and it also has a crunch to it.
A local woman Sarah Nelson started to make them in 1854 and sold them for locals and tourists. But it was so good that the gingerbread soon became famous and Sarah Nelson could open her shop in her cottage.
If you are in Grasmere, do pop in. Shop assistants are dressed in Victorian attire.
William Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage with his young family and sister, Dorothy from 1799 to 1808.
Wordsworth wrote many of his greatest poems here and Dorothy kept her Grasmere journal. The latter gives fantastic insight into the life in the Lake District.
I visited Dove Cottage sort of last minute but it was a fantastic experience. I learnt s much about Wordsworth, Dorothy and the Lake District. The cottage as well as the exhibition including the ‘To the Lakes!’ exhibition is so beautifully presented that I cannot recommend Wordsworth Grasmere highly enough.
Rydal is a small village close to Grasmere. The iconic and Instagram famous church and churchyard with the gas lamp really have a special ambience. Allegedly Wordsworth helped to choose where to build the church.
When visiting this atmospheric place, it’s worth walking around Rydal Hall (it’s a hotel today) and explore its beautiful garden including the waterfall with the small stone booth. It’s free but there’s a donation box by the gate.
It can be tricky to park here, but you can buy daily parking tickets at Rydal Hall.
Keswick is a charming town, however it can get very crowded as well. It’s still worth stopping by the lake and have a wonder around. You can see the traditional wooden boats and steamers here and you can even go on a boat ride.
The best of all programmes in the Lake District is hiking. There are many public footpaths wand walks where you can enjoy the beautiful views of the Lake District. It must be gorgeous in all seasons however, the most beautiful time of the year here is autumn.
I was very pleased to go on a walk during our long weekend. It’s something I always love to include into our programme. We ventured out to find the Instagram famous Warnscale Bothy.
We were told it’s difficult to find and indeed it was. Even following detailed descriptions we got lost. Luckily, there were many other people looking for it, so we did find it in the end. The view from there was gorgeous.
Disclaimer: As the weather can change very quickly in the Lake District, make sure you have the proper equipment (shoes, clothing), food and drink and maps. There’s no signal up there, so you can’t use your phone. Alternatively, join a guide who can show you the bothy.
I highly recommend visiting the Lake District and you can cover the main attractions in 3-4 days. But like with everything else in England and the UK, ideally you’d need a week or two to explore it properly.
As I said in my newsletter (if not yet signed up, you can do it here) I can’t get enough of the Lake District.
One thing is for sure: since our visit I keep checking the property market in the Lake District and I cannot wait to visit again. Hopefully I can visit in the autumn and take some gorgeous photos and can do more walks.