William Wordsworth once described the UK’s Lake District as “the loveliest spot man hath ever found”. And the people at UNESCO seem to agree.
The national park has just been rewarded UNESCO World Heritage status, joining the likes of Bath and Stonehenge in the UK – as well as bucket-list international sights like the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon.
Delegates from the Lakes first tried to obtain UNESCO status in 1986, so we at Rough Guides think the announcement is cause for celebration.
Here are five ways to celebrate the Lake District’s new UNESCO World Heritage status, from osprey-spotting at Bassenthwaite Lake to a white-knuckle afternoon at the Via Ferrata.
1. Spot wild ospreys at Bassenthwaite Lake
Wild ospreys recolonised Bassenthwaite in 2001 and, although there’s no guarantee, they have returned every year since to nest and breed on the lakeshore here.
At the upper viewpoint, high-powered telescopes are provided. On most days during the season (April till August or September) you’ll be able to see these majestic birds fishing and feeding, hovering over the lake, then plunging feet first to catch their prey.
2. Test your nerves at the Via Ferrata
The Via Ferrata (“Iron Way”) uses a system pioneered in the Italian Dolomites as a way to get troops and equipment over unforgiving mountain terrain.
By means of a permanently fixed cableway and clip-on harness, you follow the miners’ old route up the exposed face of the mountain, clambering up and along iron rungs, ladders and supports to reach the top of Fleetwith Pike.
The Classic route is exhilarating enough. Die-hard thrill seekers can take things one step further with the Xtreme route, with more vertical climbs and cliff-face ladders.
3. Visit the Castlerigg Stone Circle
One of the Lake District’s most mysterious landmarks, Castlerigg Stone Circle sits atop a sweeping plateau, dwarfed by the encroaching fells. Some 38 hunks of Borrowdale volcanic stone, the largest almost 8ft tall, form a circle 100ft in diameter. The stone circle probably had an astronomical or timekeeping function when it was erected four or five thousand years ago, but no one really knows. Whatever its origins, it’s a magical spot.
4. Hop aboard the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
You’d have to have a heart of stone not to enjoy the ride on the fabulous Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway (known locally as “La’al Ratty”), a narrow-gauge steam trip from the Esk estuary to the foot of the western fells.
It originally opened in 1875 to carry iron ore from the Eskdale mines to the coast at Ravenglass, but now pays its way by transporting gleeful passengers on a seven-mile, forty-minute ride up two of the Lake District’s prettiest valleys.
5. Take a hike in the rugged Langdale Valley
Great Langdale is flanked by some of the Lake District’s most famous peaks – Crinkle Crags, Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes. It’s a dramatic, yet sobering valley, and one of a few in the Lakes where you get a real sense of scale from the lie of the land.
Walking in Great Langdale isn’t necessarily an expeditionary undertaking, but you do need to be more aware than usual of time, weather conditions and your own ability before setting off on a hike.
Persevere and you’ll be rewarded with some of the finest views in the region.
Explore more of the Lake District with The Rough Guide to the Lake District. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go. Header image: Craig/Flickr