Scenes from England’s Lake District

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Lake District

If you’re a longtime reader, you might remember my stint living in Chester, northwest England. Though Chester was a tough place to live as an outsider and especially an American, I loved exploring the region, a place that so many people overlook.

There was city-hopping in Manchester and Liverpool, and discovering adorable pubs in random towns all over the place. I loved the estates and manors holding court in the Cheshire countryside. And I was fascinated by how the scenery changed immediately when you crossed from northwest England into nearby north Wales or vice versa.

But in that year, I never made it to the Lake District: northwest England’s pride and joy. Everyone in Chester seemed to treasure the Lake District and visit regularly. They would wax poetic about the scenery and nature, the walks and the highest mountains in England.

So I was delighted to find out that the itinerary for my #GREATBritishSpirit gin trip would finally bring me to the Lake District, albeit quite briefly.

Castlerigg Lake District

For those of you who have been here a long time, you know that I don’t write authoritatively about topics that I don’t know well. I don’t like when other people do that, so I don’t do it myself. You might have noticed that most of my comprehensive posts are about cities like Paris and Bangkok and regions like Emilia-Romagna — places that I know well.

So for that reason, I’m not going to write an authoritative guide to the Lake District. I will tell you that during my quick visit, I learned that the Lake District is incredibly picturesque. Between this visit and what I learned while living in Chester, I think this is a beautiful region that more people would love to visit if they knew more about it.

I think northwest England is tremendously underrated — as is northern England in general. After you see these photos from the Lake District, I think you’ll agree.

Lake District

About the Lake District

The Lake District is the largest national park in England. You’ll find it in the region of Cumbria in northwest England, not too far from the Scottish border.

First of all, make sure you’re getting the name right — it’s called the Lake District, alternatively the Lakes, but never the Lakes District.

Though you see that area maps are dotted with blue blobs, there is technically only one lake in the Lake District — Bassenthwaite Lake. The others are merely “meres” or “tarns” or “waters.” The largest is Windermere.

Lake District

Beatrix Potter spent much of her life in what is now the Lake District, and she set several of her books there. When she passed away, she left almost all of her fortune to the National Trust, and part of her bequeathed land became the Lake District, which was designated a national park in 1951, eight years after her death.

You can easily imagine Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny bopping around these landscapes!

Lakes Distillery Tasting

Lakes Distillery

My main reason to visit the Lake District was to check out the brand new Lakes Distillery. They distill gin as well as whiskey and have a variety of tasty options to sample.

I think a distillery is a perfect addition to the Lake District — in a region where outdoor activities take center stage, despite how frequently it rains, it’s nice to have a cozy indoor activity available.

Lakes DistilleryLakes DistilleryLakes Distillery

I loved how new the distillery was — you can tell that they spend a lot of money to make it look smashing and modern. Even in the distilling rooms (which I was not allowed to photograph), the metal platforms are cut perfectly to curve around the stills. I mentioned this to the owner and he beamed with pride that I had noticed.

Ashness Bridge, Lake District

Ashness Bridge

One of the most photographed places in the Lake District is Ashness Bridge, a traditional stone bridge not too far from the hub of Keswick.

But even better was the nearby viewpoint overlooking Derwent Water. That little island in the distance is St. Herbert’s Island.

Lake DistrictLake DistrictLake District

As I was walking through the forest, I thought that this would be the kind of place where the Twilight vampires would settle down for a few years until people noticed they weren’t aging.

(Don’t roll your eyes at me! I read the books out of curiosity and now I think of them whenever I go to a cloudy, rainy place.)

Castlerigg Lake District

Sunset at Castlerigg Stone Circle

The best part about my trip was catching the sunset at Castlerigg Stone Circle. Castlerigg may not be as famous as Stonehenge, but it’s older, less touristed, and arguably more impressive. Archaeologists believe it was constructed around 3200 BC.

Its purpose? Unknown, but there’s a chance it could have been a central meeting place for trading.

Sheep at Castlerigg Lake District

Today, sheep are the ones having the meetings!

I tried my best to get good pictures. Hampered by a family that all. but. refused. to get out of the center of the circle, I did my best to take some offbeat shots. Here are a few of my favorites:

Castlerigg Lake District Sunset Castlerigg Lake District Sunset DSCF2604


Lake District

The Takeaway

Less than 24 hours in the Lake District is not enough to even get an idea of the best things to do here — but it was enough to whet my appetite. I know I want to come back and give the Lake District the attention it deserves.

This is by no means a comprehensive guide — just a teaser to show you that high up in northwest England, you’ll find a beautiful national park begging you to explore. I hope these pictures inspired you to add more to your itinerary than just London!

Essential Info: I recommend staying in the Lake District for at least a few days to take advantage of all it has to offer. Renting a car will give you the most flexibility, but you can get by with public transportation, taxis, and guides if you wish. (Even after nearly two years of being based in Britain, I’m still not comfortable driving on the other side of the road!)

I had a private guide through Mountain Goat, who offer a variety of private and group tours through the Lake District. Check out the full list here.

Lakes Distillery is open to visitors — you can take a tour or just drop in for a drink or a bite to eat.

I stayed at Rothay Garden Hotel, a beautiful in Grasmere. I also had an excellent three-course dinner there, one of the best meals of the trip. Grasmere is central and makes a convenient base for visiting the Lake District. Rates start at 150 GBP (212 USD). Find more hotels in Grasmere here.

It rains frequently in the Lake District — be sure to pack a good umbrella and proper rain gear for exploring the outdoors.

The rain makes it easy to slip and fall so make sure to buy travel insurance before you go. I use and recommend World Nomads.

This campaign was created and sponsored by the GREAT Britain campaign and UK Trade & Investment in partnership with iambassador. Adventurous Kate retains 100% editorial control and all opinions, as always, are my own.

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60 thoughts on “Scenes from England’s Lake District”

  1. You’re completely right, Kate. Unfortunately, most people who visit England don’t venture north, and they’re definitely missing out. Beautiful photos! I have to say, a gin pit stop sounds like the best way to round off a trip there 🙂

  2. I’m so glad to see you share a bit of love for the north west – the lake district is beautiful. But I must say, I’m so guilty of often overlooking it. I’ve visited a few places, but most of the time I’ve spent there has been work related (boo), or driving on the motorway up to Glasgow to visit family. Your post is a definite reminder to me that I need to make more of an effort, especially as travel funds are tight following our recent house move. This really is local travel for me! Plus, small businesses in the Lakes need tourism support more than ever as they recover from disastrous floods. It’s been a difficult time, but this part of the world remains as gorgeous as ever!

  3. I love your offbeat sunset photos. They are beautiful. I want to spend more time in England, especially northern England. It’s such a beautiful country.

  4. Hi Kate! I’m visiting a good friend in London in a few months, and we want to spend a few days somewhere else in the UK. I’m torn right now between the Lake District and York… what do you think, for a small group who loves history, culture, and natural beauty? LOVE your blog.

    1. The Yorkshire Dales! That allows you to experience some beautiful nature and also go to York. I think the Lakes are wonderful, but the Dales are even more overlooked.

      1. Hi Emily, thanks for your reply! We’ve changed our original thinking and are now looking between North Wales/Snowdonia and Northampton/Durham. We still want a blend of scenery and history, and I love the medieval castles in both regions. What would you choose of those two? Thanks!

    2. If you love history and culture, I think I would prioritize York above the Lake District. But York has been dealing with some severe floods lately, so I’d check on the current situation first.

  5. Beautiful photos Kate! I grew up not too far from the Lakes and have spent many happy hours climbing up mountains, gorge scrambling, walking, and eating. I really hope you get the chance to spend a few weeks there someday, it’s a nicer, slower pace of life.

  6. I’m embarrassed to say that I live in England, yet I haven’t visited the Lake District since I was a child and had no idea there was a stone circle other than Stone Henge! Your photos of Castlerigg are stunning 🙂

  7. Kate, what made Chester a hard place to live in? From what I have heard it is a great place to visit. I realize visiting does not = living there. Still, I’d like to know. Thanks.

  8. Lovely post Kate! So glad to see something about the North-West of England. I’m from the North myself so the Lake District was always on our doorstep. In fact, my family live in Cheshire and I did my Masters Degree in Chester!

    The Lake District really is beautiful but I guess I appreciate it more now that it’s not nearby, ‘cos as a child, the Peak District and the Lake District were a bit of “oh no, not again” at the time lol!

  9. Wow !
    Lake District is such a nice place with full of greenery..
    All the scene are great and truly very nice. Your photography is too good.
    Images looks very different with color combination of your photography.

    Thanks for sharing this pictures. 🙂

  10. My aunt traveled England for 3 weeks and the Lake District was her favorite – and that’s how I first heard about it. Love your photos! And for another stone circle you can touch and walk around – albeit not in such beautiful scenery – there is Avebury in Southern England. It’s huge – it actually surrounds the town and there is a small museum detailing it’s history.

  11. Wow, Castlerigg Stone Circle looks amazing. Do you get to walk around between the stones there? (Because I know Stonehenge, understandably, requires some very special permissions…)

  12. I still don’t understand why I’ve never been to Lake District after having lived in England for nearly five years. It’s almost embarrassing to admit!

  13. The photos are beautiful but I have a question. You stated that it was hard living there espically as an American.. Can you tell me how or why? Also, have you been to the Cornwell area of England?

  14. Hey Kate! Just wanted to say a brilliant and timely post for me. Planning to visit the Lake District in a couple of months time precisely for finding picturesque places (new camera). Will certainly visit the distillery as well.

  15. I have always wanted to visit the Lake District – your photos are beautiful! Oddly enough, last year someone made a reservation at the Lakeside Hotel & Spa, but mixed up the email address and used mine instead….so now I’m on their email list and am taunted on a regular basis to come visit. One of these days I’ll get there 🙂

  16. Lovely photos especially of Castlerigg Stone Circle! The stone circle reminds me of the Outlander series which I’ve been reading. 🙂 Hopefully we’ll get to explore more of the UK as we’ll probably be moving to London later this year. Cheers from Down Under!

  17. Carla, I spoke to you privately already, but I just want to reiterate how proud of you I am and how much I appreciate you sharing your story. There are so many more adventures waiting for you!

  18. This post makes me so happy! I’ll be visiting this fall and the Lake District is on my list, however I don’t see it pop up too often in blogs. I love the idea of hiking and being active while traveling and this is such a great place to do so. Also the Black Sail YHA Hostel……

    Thanks for the tips and pictures!!

  19. Although you mentioned that you would not be writing “an authoritative guide to the Lake District”, your post gave enough details of what to expect there. I have been planning a holiday in England, and after reading your post and looking at the pictures, the northwest region is definitely going to be on my itinerary! And, of course, the distillery at Lake District sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  20. Living in the Lake District, I’m probably biased (!), but it is a truly beautiful place, and you’re quite right in saying it is best to spend a few days exploring here. I like it that there are so many different landscapes to enjoy in a relatively small area, as you’ve shown in your lovely photos – great light you found! I hope you’ll have chance to visit again – and now it’s just become a World Heritage Site too!

  21. Another quality article Kate!
    How bloody amazing is the Lake district!? More like “Mere” District eh 😉

    I noticed you posted a snap from just off the Kirkstone Pass, I actually took the same photo form the same carpark. Small world eh!? If you ever end up back that way again with more time you should do the hike up the Red Screes. Park up in the carpark next to the inn pub just off the Kirkstone Pass, the trail starts from there… Stunning views from the top.

    As for the Castlerigg stones, I hear ya on the trying to get a clear shot without people… I had to wait 15 minutes, until 2 people both aligned behind the largest boulders at the exact same time.

    Jesus Christ! It was like waiting for a total eclipse!

    P.s it’s nice to see people visit this beautiful country for something other than London 🙂

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