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The Lake District, also known as Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. During the Victorian era, it grew into a popular holiday destination. The precise extent of the Lake District was not defined back then, but the district is traditionally considered to be somewhat larger than the 912 square miles (2,362 km2) Lake District National Park which was established here in 1951.
The Lake District holds several English records. It is for instance home to England’s tallest mountain, the 3,209 ft high Scafell Pike. As a matter of fact, all land in England above 3,000 feet (914 meters) is located within the Lake District National Park. The Lake District is also where you’ll find the glacial lake Wast Water, England’s deepest body of water, and Windermere, England’s largest natural lake.
In an average year, over 16 million people visit the Lake District. Many of them visit for more than a day, bringing the number of annual day visits up to roughly 24 million.
In 2017, the Lake District was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the category Cultural Landscape.
Short facts about the Lake District
Living in the Lake District
The Lake District has been continuously inhabited since prehistoric times; along the seashore as well as more inland. Over the many generations, farming, small-scale industry and settlements have altered the natural scenery, and the ecology has been changed in various ways by humans and their livestock, creating ecological niches such as pasture land and meadows.
Most of today’s Lake District residents live outside the national park, but approximately 40,000 residents have their homes within the park, making it one of the country’s most heavily populated ones. Examples of settlements located within the Lake District National Park are Keswick, Windemere, Ambleside, Coniston, and Bowness-on-Windermere.
Towns in the Lake District
Right outside the park boundary, we find towns such as Grange-over-Sands, Barrow-in-Furness, Dalton-in-Furness, Millom, Ulverston, Kendal, Cockermouth, and Penrith.
The largest of these towns are Barrow-in-Furness, commonly known as Barrow. At the last census in 2011, its population was 57,000, making Barrow the second-largest settlement in Cumbria. Carlisle, the most populous city in Cumbria, is home to over 75,000 residents but is located outside the Lake District, roughly 25 miles north of the Lake District’s northern edge.
Villages in the Lake District
Examples of villages and smaller settlements located within the Lake District:
- Pooley Bridge
- Newby Bridge
For many of these small villages and settlements, tourism is an important source of income, either directly or because their residents work in the tourist sector in other parts of the Lake District.
Lake District National Park
Established in 1951, the Lake District National Park extends just over 32 miles (51 km) from east to west and almost 40 miles (64 km) from north to south, taking up most of the central Lake District. Examples of parts of the Lake District that are not inside the park are the Lakeland Peninsulas to the south.
The Lake District National Park is:
- The most visited national park in the UK per year.
- The largest of the 13 national parks located in England and Wales.
- The second-largest national park in the UK, only Cairngorms in Scotland is larger.
- The second-oldest national park in the UK. It was established on 9 Mary 1951, less than a month after the Peak District National Park.
Visiting the park
- You can freely enter the park.
- There are plenty of routes, footpaths, bridleways and bayways for public use within the park.
- The park authority runs a visitor centre on Windemere, in a former country house named Brockhole. You can read more about it below.
- Please follow the rules of the park, and be mindful of the fact that the park is also the home and workplace of many people, particularly local small-scale farmers.
The park is managed by the Lake District National Park Authority. It’s headquartered in Kendal, which is outside the park.
Roughly 40,000 people live within the national park and most of the land within the park is privately owned. Many of the private landowners are farmers who farm their own lands.
Roughly one-quarter of the park is owned by the conversation organisation National Trust, including some lakes and some land areas especially worthy of protection.
Other notable landowners in the park are The Forestry Commission, United Utilities, and the Lake District National Park Authority.
The BrockholeVistior Center
The Brockhole Visitor Center, managed by the park authority, is located on the shore of Lake Windemere. Examples of activities arranged here are kayaking, exhibitions, and orienteering.
The visitor centre includes, among other things, 10 acres of gardens and an adventure playground. The gardens were created by Thomas Mawson, a famous member of the Arts and Crafts movement when Brockhole House was still a private summer house owned by the rich silk merchant William Gaddum.
Entrance to the centre is free of charge, but there is a fee for parking.
The centre is located off the A591 road, between Windermere and Ambleside.
You can get here by stagecoach bus: route 555 (Lancaster – Keswick) or route 599 (Bowness-on-Windemere to Grasmere). Both of these routes have a stop at the Windermere railway station.
It is also possible to reach the centre by passenger boat. Windemere Lake Cruises use the jetty located by the centre. Transport is available, for a fee, between March and October.