A short break in the Lake District — 10 reasons to visit
(Updated October 2020)
A Lake District short break
There’s 1 word you’ll hear — or say — quite often when visiting the Lake District: wow. Or ‘bello’ — if you’re with an Italian.
The Lake District in the north-west of England is one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in the UK. A region of untold natural beauty, it’s a place that makes you want to stop and appreciate your surroundings.
According to Cumbria Tourism, there were 19 million visitors, and 29 million tourist days, to the Lake District in 2017. It’s a number I understand well after traveling here for a long weekend break.
If you’re planning on visiting England, I’d nudge you to add it to your travel itinerary. This part of the country has inspired writers, painters and poets, and for reasons you’ll discover throughout this post.
10 reasons to book a Lake District short break
1. There’s a lot of land to see
As its name suggests, the district consisting of lakes, mountains and valleys is huge. Unless you’ve done your research beforehand, it’s something you may not realize. To give you a better understanding of its scale, the Lake District is:
- 583,747 acres or 236,234 hectares
- 58km (36 miles) east to west, and
- 64km (40 miles) north to south.
That said, the best way of seeing as much of the area during your Lake District break is by car. We hired one for our trip from London to the Lake District, and it was a godsend. It gave us the freedom to go where we wanted, and to stay for as long as we chose.
Lake District breaks – a summer evening in the Lake District
2. The star attraction: the lakes
There are 16 lakes in total to visit in the Lake District. Windermere is the largest of them, measuring 14.8 square km. It also holds the title of England’s longest lake at 10.5 miles in length.
Windermere also happens to be the location of where we stayed during our Lake District break. Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa is a 4-star lakeside boutique hotel, with dreamy views overlooking Windermere.
The next 4 largest lakes in terms of size are:
- Ullswater (8.9 square km)
- Derwentwater (5.5 square km)
- Bassenthwaite Lake (5.3 square km), and
- Coniston Water (4.0 square km).
Of all the 16 lakes, only Bassenthwaite Lake is officially a lake by name. The others are ‘meres’ or ‘waters’. A ‘mere’ is a lake that’s wide in relation to its depth.
The gates at Buttermere in the Lake District
“Visiting the Lake District is like having your own Russian doll set: there’s always something else to explore beneath.”
Map: 10 reasons to visit the Lake District
3. The boat cruises
We took a boat cruise from Ambleside to Bowness and then Lakeside, and I highly recommend it.
Windermere Lake Cruises runs boat services and it’s a wonderfully relaxing way to take in the scenery. They also have different ticket types to suit your party and needs. We took the ‘Freedom of the Lakes’ ticket. It lets you hop off and on between the other stops for 24 hours from the time of purchase.
Pack a picnic for the ride, sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
Not all lakes — Lake District short break
I should point out that there are only some lakes that operate boat cruises in the Lake District. Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater and Derwentwater run regular steamer, ferry or launch services. The same rule also goes for private powered boats.
Steamer and ferry services have a 10-mph restriction on all these lakes.
Take a boat cruise during your Lake District break
4. Other bodies of water in the Lake District
Alongside the bigger lakes in the national park, there are also other pieces of water called tarns. The word ‘tarn’ comes from the Old Norse word for pool. It refers to a small mountain lake or pool, although there are some tarns that are bigger than the lakes.
There are 13 named tarns in the region. Two of the largest are Overwater Tarn and Blea Tarn. The others are far smaller in size, and as a result, remain nameless.
A break in the Lake District – Red Tarn
5. Marvelous mountains
The Lake District is paradise if you like your vacation with a touch of adventure. It’s impossible to miss seeing the rugged skyline with the dramatic peaks of the park’s mountain ranges.
The highest mountain in the Lake District, and in England, is Scafell Pike at 978m (3210ft). It’s also the country’s highest war memorial, dedicated to the soldiers that died in World War 1.
Visiting Scafell Pike
Many visitors arrive at Scafell Pike each year to make the arduous climb to the top. It’s a challenging and steep terrain, and you should only attempt it if you’ve done your research beforehand. This includes:
- Checking weather conditions — wind and rain can affect visibility
- Wearing the right clothing — be prepared for all kinds of climates
- Bringing the right equipment, ie compass, food and water, and
- Wearing the right footwear.
There are rangers at Scafell Pike that work to maintain the fell paths throughout the year. The Lake District Mountain Rescue has more advice on keeping safe in the fells.
Other mountains in the region — in height order —are:
- Scafell: 964m / 3162ft
- Helvellyn: 950m / 3114ft
- Skiddaw: 931m / 3053 ft, and
- Great End: 910m / 2986ft.
Scafell Pike in the Lake District is the highest mountain in England
6. Visit 2 lakes for the price of 1
While it may be tempting to try and squeeze in all 16 lakes during your visit, I’d advise otherwise. Most of the lakes are quite a distance apart, and there’s nothing enjoyable about speeding from one to the other.
Instead, take a leaf out of the slow travel handbook and choose quality over quantity.
Grasmere and Rydal Water — Lake District short break
We visited several lakes in 3 days, some places with 2 within a short (20 minutes) walk of the other. Grasmere isn’t just home to the 13th biggest lake in the Lake District, it’s also close to Rydal Water.
Both lakes are surrounded by plenty of woodland, green hills and open spaces. I was enamored the second I laid eyes upon Rydal Water. The lake and its leafy backdrop look as if it’s been lifted straight from a painting.
From Grasmere, you can also make the (relatively easy) climb to Rydal Cave. Along with seeing the cave itself, the views from the top are spectacular, more so on a bright sunny day.
Grasmere Lake is a must-see during your break in the Lake District
Buttermere and Crummock Water
There aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe the beauty of Buttermere. It’s the 12th largest of the lakes and was my favorite from the ones we visited.
The drive to reach Buttermere can be challenging in parts, but it’s insanely beautiful. A winding road with deep green valleys on either side, you’ll need to pinch yourself to check that it’s real.
Whether you decide to walk, hike or relax around Buttermere, don’t leave it off your Lake District break itinerary.
Crummock Water is about a 15-minute trek from Buttermere, give or take the route you follow. It’s bigger than its neighboring lake at 2.5 square km, but for me, not as appealing.
However, while you’re here, it’s worth seeing. The surrounding land is an awesome sight and with hardly many people around.
Nature at its finest – Buttermere Lake in the Lake District
7. Check out a listed building
Though many people come to the Lake District to enjoy the outdoors, there are also other notable sights to see. Take the 1779 listed buildings and structures. These are buildings or structures that have a special architectural or historic interest. I won’t attempt to list them all, but you may be interested in visiting a few when in the area.
Grade I listed buildings
Borran’s Field is a Grade I listed site, which dates back to the 1st century. Grade I listed buildings are those of exceptional national interest. There are 2 Roman forts here, consisting of the ruins of the building and a defense ditch.
Another Grade I listed building in the Lake District is St Oswald’s Church in Grasmere. The church was built in the 14th century in roughcast stone. It has a slate roof, a double nave and a memorial inside to English poet William Wordsworth.
Grade I listed Roman Fort in Ambleside ©Simon Burchell
Lake District Grade II listed buildings
The Travellers Rest is a Grade II listed building dating back to the 16th century. It was once used as a coaching inn, providing a resting point for people and their horses.
Like the church, it’s also built in roughcast stone and has a slate roof. Today, it’s an inn and a pub, meaning you can sleep, eat and drink in a historic building.
The bank barn in Townend was built in the 17th century and is also a Grade II listed building. It had several uses, including housing cattle, dog kennels and a small carriage.
It’s one of the few remaining bank barns in the Lake District, and is still in use today.
A break in the Lake District – Grade II listed Townend Bank Barn ©Mike Peel
8. The forests within the national park
Visiting the Lake District is like having your own Russian doll set: there’s always something else to explore beneath.
Along with boasting around 28,500 hectares of woodland, there are also some magnificent forests in the Lake District National Park.
Whinlatter Forest Park — Lake District short break
Whinlatter Forest Park is near Keswick in the north lakes. It’s the only mountain forest in England, with views overlooking Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwentwater and the town of Keswick.
There’s a wide range of activities to do at Whinlatter, such as walking, mountain biking or wildlife spotting. The park has 9 walking trails, 3 cycling trails, play areas for the kids and a picnic and barbecue area.
One activity that caught my eye here is the Nordic Walking. It’s a suitable walk for all ages and fitness levels, and lets you enjoy the best of the outdoors.
At the south side of the lakes, in between Windermere and Coniston is Grizedale Forest. Similar to Whinlatter, there are 10 walking trails, 9 cycling trails, Nordic Walking and a Forest Segway.
Where it differs is that Grizedale Forest has several wooden sculptures around the park. They also have some fun — and educational — activities for children like the Zog Activity Trail and the Forest Classroom.
The colors of Whinlatter Forest in the Lake District ©Roger Ward
9. Its photogenic coastlines
You may think that it’s just a mass of green in the Lake District but you’d be wrong. The National Park includes 26 miles of coastline and estuaries, with some hauntingly beautiful places to visit.
St Bees Head is to the west of the Lake District, and quite a drive depending on your starting point. Visitors come here to make the climb to the clifftop nature reserve, which is a nesting site for seabirds.
What’s more, St Bees Head has spectacular views of the Irish Sea, which will rack up the likes on Instagram.
Plenty to explore — Lake District short break
Talk a walk along the promenade on a dusky summer’s evening and indulge in the views of the setting sun.
A trip to the Lake District – St Bees Head
10. The inspiration of English literary greats
It’s easy to see why so many English writers and poets were inspired by the landscape of the Lake District.
Beatrix Potter — Lake District short break
The revival of Peter Rabbit and friends has brought a renewed popularity to the author behind the books. Beatrix Potter took inspiration for many of her books from her immediate home and surroundings. Her house at Hill Top is a present-day tribute, with each room containing a reference to one of her tales.
It’s possible to visit Hill Top, but there’s a timed system given its size and the number of visitors. They advise booking tickets in advance as they do sell out.
Other notable places of interest for die-hard Beatrix Potter fans include The World of Beatrix Potter and the Beatrix Potter trail. The former is in Bowness-on-Windermere and is mightily popular for all ages, with tickets going fast.
The trail at Brockhole takes you on an adventure of the lake-shore places and wildlife that inspired Beatrix Potter. In fact, she even named one of her characters, Mr Brock the badger, after the town’s name.
Born in a town north of the Lake District, William Wordsworth was a much-loved English poet. He wrote some of his best pieces inspired by his environment he knew, and loved, best. His most famous poem is Daffodils, a piece that captures the nature, beauty and solitude of the region.
He also published a ‘Guide through the District of the Lakes’ in 1820. It was the first publication of its kind, leading to the first influx of tourists to visit.
You can visit Wordsworth’s last family home at Rydal Mount. It’s where he wrote many of his famous poems and gives insight into his life and career.
Visit the family home of William Wordsworth in Rydal Mount on your break in the Lake District
The weather: what to expect in the Lake District
Often than not, it tends to be quite wet in the Lake District. In an extreme case, heavy rainfall in November 2009 resulted in Lake Windermere rising by 157cm.
Average temperatures in July range from a minimum of 11.8°C (53.24F) to a maximum of 19.9°C (67.82F). Come January, you can expect maximum temperatures of 6.8°C (44.24F) and a minimum of 1°C (33.8F). In truth, I’m not a huge fan of the cold weather, but the snowy landscape is pretty magical.
We traveled to the Lake District in June and were very lucky with the weather. It was mild and humid for the most part, and it didn’t rain once. That said, I’d recommend visiting during the same time if you prefer similar temperatures.
However, given the unpredictability of the English weather, I’d also suggest to be prepared for any weather change.
Admiring the view at Derwentwater in the Lake District
A destination to remember
The Lake District is one destination that deserves a place on everyone’s bucket list. It’s not just for nature lovers or hikers; it’s a place where everyone’s welcome, and can discover, learn and grow. And after all, this is the true beauty of why we travel.
Have you fallen in love with the Lake District after reading this post? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended. Thank you for your support.
Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....