Road-trip guide: Lake District

This uniquely wild landscape has long proved an irresistible draw. Piercing crags fall dramatically to vast, shimmering lakes, setting a dramatic scene that beguiles visitors. It’s no surprise that the Romantics had a long established love affair with the area – discover its beauty for yourself.

Lowther Castle

In the land of Romantics, this grandiose folly seems rather apt. Built in the 19th century, its vast, Gothic-revival pomp is an impressive scene; all the more so knowing that it had a room for every day of the year. Now, it sits ruinous, a dramatic sight set in pretty gardens – a rather lavish picnic spot worth visiting.

Aira Force & Ullswater

Quintessential lakeland scenes await you in Aira Force & Ullswater. Fell-top expeditions and woodland glade tree trails unwind in breathtaking surroundings. Away from the shimmering Ullswater, discover Aira Force waterfalls cascading up stream with a selection of paths that cross each. Don’t miss the Ullswater Steamer which glides along the length of the lake, in a landscape that proved one of Wordsworth’s most cherished.

Keswick

Keswick is located in a deep valley, near the shores of the Derwent Water and surrounded by billowing fells. It’s a small, charming town, a perfect base for wandering the local pikes and waters. A good selection of homely pubs and restaurants offer evening respite, with a clutch of independent shops, weekly markets and quirky museums – like the pencil museum – adding to the unique delights waiting to be explored.

Whinlatter Forest Park

England’s only mountain forest, a beautiful and rare sight, promises great outdoor adventures. For starters, it’s a red squirrel sanctuary. Which is irresistibly cute. Long walks under thick canopies are one thing, but Whinlatter is also home to the Go Ape treetop assault course and excellent mountain bike routes with bike hire available from Cyclewise.

Honister Slate Mine

Buried deep into one of the landscape’s dramatic fells, this old slate mine is now a hive of activities for little and big adventures alike. From heritage trails that take you deep into the mines, to climbing the head-spinning Via Ferrata – the old trail the miners would use that scales the side of the cliff – Honister promises intrepid adventure and dizzying heights.

Dove Cottage

The great Romantic, William Wordsworth, lived and wrote much of his work in this cottage. Dove Cottage houses the greatest collection of his personal belongings, from poetry to paintings, that illuminate the life of this seminal English poet and his love affair with the Lake District.

Hike Great Langdale

This rolling valley offers some of the most stunning hikes in the Lakes. Scale vast pikes for epic views or stick to the lowlands and peer upward in awe at this dramatic land. Whichever you choose, ending at the Old Dungeon Ghyll is a welcome prospect to refresh with a local tipple. Don’t miss the series of entrancing waterfalls at Stickle Ghyll!

Scafell Pike

England’s highest mountain is a worthy climb that rewards adventurers with some of the best panorama in the Lakes – naturally, being the highest spot for miles around. The hike is not for the faint hearted, with due care needed to account for weather and other difficulties – but a sensible head will be rewarded dutifully by this vast, looming pike.

Wrynose and Hardknott Passes

No roadtrip in the Lake District would be complete without tackling these challenging mountain passes. Infamous yet irresistibly rewarding, one follows the other in a perfect set of dizzying hairpins, stomach-turning heights, and brake-busting steeps. Impossible in winter and hair-raising in summer, the views are unmissable – don’t miss the Roman fort in the Hardknott lowland.

Hawkshead

Whitewashed cottages and narrow cobbled lanes make Hawkshead an intimate, characterful Lakeland village. A smattering of indulgent cafes and pubs offer respite from wild hikes in the local hills, in a setting quintessentially Cumbrian. Don’t miss the coveted Hawkshead Brewery a short walk out of the village, with a modern tap room and live music at weekends.

Beatrix Potter’s House

A time-capsule home that illuminates the life of Beatrix Potter, beloved children’s author. Each room has a reference to one of her famous tales, and a walk through the garden reveals the rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddle-Duck laid her egg and the garden where Tom Kitten and his sister played – an enchanting space for all ages.

Lake Windermere

The largest body of water in England, Lake Windermere is a spellbinding sight. A seemingly endless expanse stretches shimmering blue into the distance, with steep crags marking the boundaries of this famed beauty spot. It’s this kind of scene that so compelled the Romantics to keep returning to Cumbria. To make a start, head to Bowness-on-Windermere, the premier lakeside town. Its Victorian lakeside charms are perfect for recharging, before heading to the Windermere shores.

From paddle steamers to canoes, don’t miss gliding along Windermere by boat. It truly is the perfect setting for it, with hills rising on all sides of this vast, glistening body of water.

Cartmel

Cartmel is irresistibly pretty. This tiny medieval village has a few big draws that belie its small size, most notably the towering early 12th century priory that is its most recognisable landmark. Or is it the famous racecourse? It’s neither. It’s pudding. Cartmel is the home of sticky toffee pudding, invented here by the Cartmel Village Shop which still is a mecca for all pudding aficionados. Before you head for dessert however, don’t miss Cumbria’s best-known restaurant, L’Enclume.