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May. 6th, 2009

Discovering the Magical World of Beatrix Potter

Memorable indeed are the views along almost all the lakes. My favourite is Wastwater, which should not be confused with waste water. Surrounded by peaks called Great Gable, Pillar and Scafell Pike - England's highest mountain at 977 metres - it is remote and relatively inconvenient to reach and thus escapes most of those 16 million visitors. This status might not last, since it was recently voted the best view in Britain. In tiny St Olaf's church - Britain's smallest, so they say - you can visit graves of climbers. I suppose, strictly speaking, they were fallers rather than climbers. Scarcely a year goes by without fatalities, which is not surprising when you consider that 16 million statistic.

On any fine day there's a procession of mountaineers making their way up Scafell Pike, looking for a break in the clouds that will reward them with a glimpse of the Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland, the Snowdonia Ranges in Wales, the hills of Galloway in the Scottish border country and, for good measure, Snaefell on the Isle of Man.

If you think views look better through an open window, there is easy access to dramatic passes between the region's valleys. Favourites include Kirkstone between Windermere and Ullswater and Wrynose, heading west from Coniston Water.

Coniston is the district's third largest lake and a pleasant spot for a cruise on the steamship Gondola, operated by the National Trust. The lake is sheltered, giving the calm surface which tempted Donald Campbell into making a fatal error when trying to break the water speed record on his speedboat Bluebird K7.

The water was just a little rougher than recommended when he reached 500km/h and from then on it was a case of "oh dear, Donald." He hit a tiny ripple and flipped over. That was in 1967; his body was fished out in 2001.

Where you have masses of visitors you generally have masses of places to eat and sleep. The Lake District is no exception, and you can pick from cheap "n" cheerful fish shops and caravan parks through to some of the finest restaurants and hotels in the UK. Personal favourites are the Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite and the Drunken Duck near Hawkshead, both operated by the same company. Each has a high standard of hospitality and accommodation and each benefits from the excellent ales supplied by the owners' Barngates Brewery.

The heart of the Lake District has only a handful of sizeable towns - Kendal and Keswick are among the more attractive. Close by are Barrow-in-Furness, Penrith and Carlisle, while there are several large villages with ample accommodation and all the usual services.

Before you

By Paul Edwards
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