Discover the Lake District England
The Lake District comprises some of the spectacular and dramatic scenery in the United Kingdom. Designated as a national park in 1951, this breathtaking mountainous region has attracted visitors for centuries. The region is famous primarily for its landscapes, but it is also famous as the birthplace of British Romanticism. Many poets central to this movement lived in the England’s Lake District. Travellers still make pilgrimages to various sites connected to the Romantics. Along with the Lake Poets, the region is also famous in the literary world for its association with John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter.
The Lake District was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017, which will protect its natural beauty into perpetuity. It joins such iconic landmarks as Stonehenge, The Great Barrier Reef, and The Taj Mahal in the ranks of sites with international significance. It is the first national park in the United Kingdom to be granted this status.
The UNESCO committee singled out the area’s beauty and agriculture. They also noted the inspiration it has given to a diverse range of artists and writers, including Ruskin, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Beatrix Potter.
The Lake District England
The Lake District, part of the county of Cumbria, is the largest of the United Kingdom’s National Parks, and contains 16 lakes, including Windermere, England’s largest natural lake, more than 150 high peaks, with four over 3000 feet, including England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike.
About 18 million people visit the Lake District each year, injecting roughly £1.2bn into the local economy, and providing around 18,000 jobs.
Geography of the Lake District
The vast majority of the Lake District National Park comprises three broad bands of rock. These formations trend from SW to NE. This rock band is made up of the Skiddaw Group in the northwest, formed about 500 million years ago. Skiddaw mainly consists of metamorphosed mudstones. The Borrowdale Volcanic Group has outcrops in central Lake District. This region comprises lavas and ash flows that erupted during a cataclysmic period of vulcanism, which occured over 450 million years’ ago. The Windermere Group, in the Park’s southeast, includes slates, siltstones, sandstones, and limestones formed in shallow tropical seas. Hidden beneath is a batholith of granite. This batholith has moved them upwards, over millennia, into a central dome of mountains.
The Central Lake District is ringed by a glaciated massif of mountains and ridges intersected by wide, steep-sided U-shaped valleys often occupied by ribbon lakes. The southern Lake District fringes are typified by limestone ridges flanked by wooded slopes and lake-filled valleys. On the mountain fringes the fells give way to more muted scenery; low hills and valleys often filled by drumlin suites. The coast is a mixture of sandstone cliffs and depositional dunes, which also occur in the south along the fringes of wide, silt filled estuaries with large tidal ranges.
The Lake District is a textbook instance of glacial landforms. The landscape still bears evidence of the fact that it was formed, millions of years ago, by a series of ice flows moving out from a central core. This ancient geological process gives the region the distinctive geography that tourists enjoy exploring to this day.
A Geographically Distinctive Region
The Lake District’s rich soil has built up over the course of millenia, and is largely the result of high rainfall. What makes the National Park especially wet and the rainfall more intense is the process of relief (orographic) rainfall caused by the upland area of fells. The young, characteristically shallow, acid, stony soils formed of glacial till found in the high fells are known as rankers. Excessive leaching led to the formation of podsols: pale, sandy bands beneath the organic horizon, often underlain by an iron pans. Brown Earths, loesses and rendzinas occur over the foothills of the Lake District where drainage is improved, and marine sediments can be found around the shores of Morecambe Bay.
The Lake District National Park includes nearly all of the Lake District, though the town of Kendal and the Lakeland Peninsulas are currently outside the park boundary. Its landowners form a diverse group, and includes United Utilities, private landowners/farmers, the National Trust, and the Forestry Commission.
The region’s dramatic lakes and mountains form impressive scenery. Farmland and settlement have altered the natural scenery, and the ecology has been modified by human influence for millennia and includes important wildlife habitats. Having failed in a previous attempt to gain World Heritage status as a natural World Heritage Site, because of human activities, it was eventually successful in the category of cultural landscape and was awarded the status in 2017.
Tourism in the Lake District
Tourism in the Lake District began in the late-eighteenth century. Previously, it was considered too wild and desolate. Its untouched peaks and craggy valleys inspired the imaginations of previous Britons, but it was for the most part uninhabited and inhospitable to travelers. Although the region was a site of artistic pilgrimage in the nineteenth-century, with Romantic Poetry readers touring the area, it began in earnest in the early twentieth century. Before then it was considered a wild and desolate place.
In 1724, Daniel Defoe described the area in a way that chimes with other assessments of the time. Defoe called the Lake District the “wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England.”
Eighteenth-Century Visitors to the Lake District
In 1778, Father Thomas West published A Guide to the Lakes, in which he recommended the best spots for visitors to take in the landscape. Before long, the writings of poets such as Wordsworth, Robert Southey, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were promoting the beauty and splendour of the landscape to a nation eager to escape the growing cities. City life was not infrequently bad for the health in this period, and many doctors prescribed rest in the country as a cure for numerous ailments.
In 1820, William Wordsworth published A Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England, which sold rapidly and drew many more visitors. His readers were eager to experience the sites described for themselves, and take in the sublime landscapes he evokes. Indeed, Wordsworth’s evocative description of the area generated a great deal of tourism in subsequent years. Political unrest across Europe in this period motivated wealthy Britons to explore the interior, instead of heading overseas for Grand Tours.
Daytrippers in the Lake District England
The expanding British railway network had an enormous impact on tourism in the nineteenth century. In 1847, the railway was extended to Windermere, which made short day trips possible from many parts of the UK. In later years, extensions to Lakeside and Keswick made the area even more accessible to tourists. These new transport possibilities allowed for an easy day’s return journey from cities such as Newcastle, Manchester, and Liverpool.
At the same time, improved conditions for Britain’s working classes allowed a new subsection of British society to enjoy the Lake District. Various gains in labor conditions – including a shorter working week, paid holidays and sick leave, and higher wages – allowed the working class to experience the area. In the twentieth century, motorways and private car ownership made the Lake District even more accessible to visitors.
Odyssey Tours to the Lake District
Odyssey is offering travellers an unforgettable experience of Ireland and the Lake District England through our popular Small Group Walking Tour for Retirees. This eighteen-day tour has been specially designed to cater to the active senior. The tour offers a guided walking tour through the beautiful countryside of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Northern England. Together, we spend up to five nights in each locality and head out each day to explore the surrounding area in some depth. A good level of fitness is required for this walking tour, but the effort expended will be well rewarded.
Our tour begins in Eire (the Republic of Ireland). It then continues on in the UK’s Northern Ireland, the Lake District England, before finishing in the Yorkshire Dales. These regions each provide dramatic and unique scenery. Each one contains remote wilderness areas waiting to be explored, along with fascinating, living history and picturesque villages. There is something on this tour of Lake District for almost everyone.
For more details, and a full itinerary, please visit this link. You may also be interested in our popular small group tour, “Discovering the art and literature of England; Jane Austen, Shakespeare.” You can find more details on this tour here.
Lake District England, discover more!
If you’re curious to learn more about the Lake District England, and what you can find there, here are some resources:
The Guardian: A Guide to Cumbria and the Lake District
New York Times: The Other Wordsworth