For over a hundred years, characters like Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Peter Rabbit have made an indelible impression on children in Britain and beyond. Their creator, author Beatrix Potter, is intimately connected with the Lake District and this charming, compact gallery celebrates that bond with a display of original drawings showing the genesis of her books, which she wrote and illustrated herself.
The Beatrix Potter Gallery is housed in a 17th century building which was once the office of Potter’s solicitor husband, William Heelis, and is situated in the town of Hawkshead. Exhibits also tell the life story of Potter herself and her commitment to conserving the natural beauty of the Lake District.
From the imposing white façade of the Belsfield Hotel to the busy shops in the town centre, much of Bowness reflects its rise to prominence during the Victorian era. It was then that the town’s position on Windermere first made it a magnet for visitors, transforming it from a sleepy village to the hugely popular destination it is today. Many use Bowness as a base for further travels throughout the Lake District, but the town itself is worth exploring. Visit World of Beatrix Potter, dedicated to the life and work of the renowned children’s author, the 15th century St Martin’s Church and Blackwell, an outstanding example of Arts and Crafts architecture.
There are numerous neolithic stone circles in the Lake District and nearby areas, the most popular being at Castlerigg. This more-or-less round grouping of 38 boulders, with a rectangle of 10 more joining the inner edge of the circle, dates back some 5000 years, making it even older than Stonehenge. And like Stonehenge, the arrangement of Castlerigg Stone Circle is clearly linked to movements of the sun and moon, although the original ceremonial purpose of the stones is lost in time. The stones themselves are impressive; add the majestic backdrop of Skiddaw, Blencathra and other mountains and you can see why this site has drawn admirers for millennia. An ideal spot to contemplate the mysteries of the past amidst the serenity of nature.
Beatrix Potter’s love affair with the English Lake District is practically as famous as her children’s tales. Her numerous and extensive holidays in the bucolic North West England region included stays at the Hill Top Farm, which she bought in 1905. The celebrated author spent as much time as she could in her beloved house, where she found inspiration in the farm and neighboring villages. She even used the exterior of Hill Top Farm as the setting of some of her original tales such as The Tale of Samuel Whiskers.
As a major and longtime supporter of the National Trust, it was natural for Potter to bequest the six-room farmhouse and its flourishing grounds to the organization upon her death, with the condition that it be kept exactly as she left it, including china, furniture and decorative items. It has since been open to the public, with over 1.5 million visitors hailing from around the world since 1946.
The third-largest lake in the English Lake District doesn’t fail to impress; at 5 miles (8 km) long, 184 feet (56 m) deep and half a mile (0.8 km) wide, it has been a favorite of kayak and canoe aficionados for several decades now and continues to entice visitors seeking stunning scenery and a feel for the much-hyped Lake District. Once the main fish source for the monks of Furness Abbey in the 13th century, it is now the home of the elegant, Victorian-era steam yacht Gondola, which sails from one end of the lake to the other between March and November.
Around the lake, there are three main villages, Coniston, Brantwood and Hawkshead, where visitors can sleep, eat, drink and shop as they please. Hawkshead is particularly lovely and easy to explore on foot, featuring charming cobble lanes and the fan-favorite Beatrix Potter Gallery.
Nestled in the northwestern part of the English Lake District, Derwentwater is one of the principal bodies of water that characterize the region. It is most famous for the viewpoint from Friar’s Crag promontory (described by John Ruskin as “one of the three most beautiful scenes in Europe”) and the hilly fells of Cat Bells, a picturesque attraction of the Lake District National Park. The lake is circled by an extensive network of trails, including an eight-mile (13-km) long walking trail, which is popular with both locals in need of a good workout and visitors seeking jaw-dropping backdrops. Early mornings treks are well worth the wake-up call, as the lake transforms into a calm, stoic mirror of the mountains that surround it. Photogenic opportunities await! And with such beautiful lakeside scenery comes many marinas, the major ones being in Keswick, Portinscale and Lodore Falls. Boat hire is available from all three villages.
Despite its diminutive size at just over 1 km long, Rydal Water’s strong literary connections have cemented its status as one of the Lake District’s most visited spots. Wordsworth’s Seat, overlooking the western bank, was renowned as the poet’s favorite viewpoint, while nearby points of interest include Nab Cottage, once home to Thomas Quincey and three of Wordworth’s former homes – White Moss House, Rydal Mount and Dove Cottage.
One of the few boat-free lakes, Rydal Water makes a perfect spot for open-air swimming during the warmer months, while the lakeside hills are at their most beautiful in spring and autumn, when fields of wildflowers and colorful foliage add a rich range of hues.
With its three lakes framed by a seemingly expanse of rolling hills and craggy peaks, Buttermere Valley is one of the Lake District’s most striking landscapes, and it’s been a popular spot for walkers and nature enthusiasts since the 18th century.
The tranquil Buttermere village makes the obvious basecamp, but most visitors come to hike the scenic lakeside trails or scale the surrounding peaks, which include the 851-meter Grasmoor and 806-meter High Stile, as well as Scale Force, England’s highest waterfall. Honister Pass is the main road running through the valley and during the summer months, swimming and rowing are popular activities on the lakes.
One of the Lake District’s largest lakes at 6.4 km in length, Bassenthwaite Lake is best known for its abundant native wildlife, now preserved as part of the region’s only wetland nature reserve. Osprey, Grasshopper Warbler, Curlew, Greylag and Meadow Pipit are among the bird species that frequent the wetlands, while the lake is also one of two places in England to see the rare vendace fish.
As well as wildlife watching, Bassenthwaite Lake is a popular spot for sailing, canoeing and fishing (for which a license is required) and the surrounding valley has ample opportunities for hiking, including the popular peaks of Skiddaw, the Lord's Seat and Ullock Pike, all of which offer spectacular views over the lake.
Despite being the largest and central lake of the Buttermere Valley, Crummock Water is often overlooked in favor of neighboring Buttermere Lake, but there are plenty of good reasons to visit both. Measuring around 4 km in length, hiking around the lake from Buttermere takes around 3 hours and takes in highlights like Scale Force, England’s highest waterfall, which feeds into the lake, and the view from the lakeside Rannerdale Knotts.
Rowing, kayaking and canoeing are all popular pastimes on Crummock Water, but the clear waters are also ideal for swimming during the summer months and the abundance of brown trout and salmon make it a popular choice for fishing.
A wild stretch of grassy peaks, oak woodlands and rolling sheep pastures hugging the banks of the River Derwent, the rugged beauty of Borrowdale Valley is undeniable and its central location at the heart of the Lake District makes it a prime through-route for hikers. Linked by the Honistor Path to Buttermere Valley in the West and Derwent Water and Keswick in the north, the scenic valley passes through the villages of Seatoller, Borrowdale and Rosthwaite, and lies en-route to the famous peak of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain.
It’s Borrowdale unique landscape, sculpted by ancient glaciers, that is its biggest draw, and natural highlights include the narrow ravine known as the Jaws of Borrowdale, the nine-meter-tall Bowder Stone, the Lodore Waterfall and the vast woodlands, which host an impressively diverse ecosystem and a large variety of birds.