It's not surprising that English writers have flocked to the Lake District for many years. After all, the lush green countryside, craggy mountains, quaint villages and tranquil lakes would surely put anyone in the right frame of mind for writing. During my visit to this picturesque part of England this year I was able to see just what it is that attracts so many people to the region.
Hikers are really spoilt for choice in this part of the world with an abundance of walking paths available in the Lake District National Park but my short time in the Lake District was filled with less taxing pursuits.
In this article, I'll share with you the things I did on my weekend visit to the Lake District including my suggestions on where to eat, where to stay and how to get to the Lake District.
Highlights of the English Lake District
Lake Windermere cruise
A 40 minute cruise on Lake Windermere from Bowness-on-Windermere (commonly referred to as Bowness) to Ambleside was the perfect introduction to the area. Departing from the busy Bowness jetty which was brimming with tourists, we drank in the scenery as our comfy boat made its way to Ambleside.
The Ambleside jetty (not quite in the village itself) offers a number of shops and cafes where you can while away the time until your return cruise or, you can do as we did, and wander into Ambleside itself for a look around. The village is quintessentially English with narrow streets and shops and houses with slate roofs.
During the peak summer season - when I visited, there are regular cruises throughout the day giving you plenty of time to explore your destination. The cruise fare of GBP10 return from Bowness to Ambleside was money well spent.
Lake Windermere is the largest natural lake in England at 18 km in length and 1.5 km wide, and cruises also operate from Bowness in the other direction, giving cruise lovers plenty of choice. Sailing is also a popular pastime on Lake Windermere and over 10,000 boats are registered at Bowness.
Shopping in Bowness
Like most towns frequented by tourists, Bowness has a huge array of shops and whilst there were a number of souvenir-type shops, the majority of shops seemed to sell clothes, home wares and local arts and crafts, which was a pleasant change. One very popular shop is the World of Beatrix Potter, a museum/shop which includes life size re-creations of scenes from the popular author's books. Kids will love 'meeting' Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and friends.
The Lakes Connection
The best way to see the Lake District without the hassle of driving is to buy a ticket on The Lakes Connection. Run along the lines of a Hop On Hop Off bus, The Lakes Connection service runs from Bowness to Grasmere (where you’ll find the William Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery) via Windermere, Ambleside and Rydal every 20 to 30 minutes.
At just £7.70 per adult for a day ticket, the bus service offers the opportunity to hop off at each stop and explore. If you're short on time, the double decker buses are the perfect way to enjoy the scenery from the top deck.
Lakeland Motor Museum
Relatively small in size but bursting with an interesting collection of over 30,000 exhibits, the Lakeland Motor Museum is a must-visit for any motoring enthusiast. Exhibits include cars, motorbikes, antique children's pedal cars, old petrol bowsers and much more.
Located at Newby Bridge, about a 15 minute drive from Bowness, the museum is also home to replicas of Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell's 'Bluebird' in which the father and son broke numerous world land and speed records. (Donald Campbell died on Coniston Water in the Lake District while attempting a new record.) The museum is open daily except Christmas Day, and entry costs £5.75 per adult - excellent value.
Whilst only sampling a small taste of the Lake District, like Wordsworth and Potter before me, I could easily spend a lot more time here. Perhaps, I too, would be inspired to write a literary masterpiece.
Where to Stay in the Lake District
There are endless accommodation options in The Lake District. We chose to stay in Bowness-on-Windermere at Sandown Guesthouse, a B&B. The rooms were small but very well furnished and included tea and coffee facilities with biscuits, a TV and free WiFi. The upstairs lounge area (adjacent to the breakfast room) was a good place to relax at night with a book. Breakfast (served each morning at 9am) was delicious and the hosts were very friendly.
Where to Eat in the Lake District
We tried out two fabulous restaurants in Bowness. At Villa Portofino we enjoyed a fantastic Italian meal served by real Italian staff. The service and food was excellent and prices were reasonable.
For an English country pub meal we headed to The Sutherland Restaurant, also in Bowness. Meal sizes were huge, the food was tasty and prices reasonable.
Bowness-on-Windermere is situated in Cumbria. Travel time by car from London is around five hours. For easier access (and to avoid the London congestion), you could fly into Manchester with Emirates, reducing your travel time (by car) to around 1 hour 40 minutes and just 135 kilometres.
If you won't have access to hire car whilst in the area, it is possible to book a number of day tours and cruises around Lake Windemere.
This article was written in conjunction with Emirates but all words and opinions are my own. All prices current 2013.
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If you've visited England's lovely Lake District, I'd love to hear the highlights of your visit in the comments below.