The Lake District is England’s most hyped scenic area, and for good reasons. Within an area a mere thirty miles across, sixteen major lakes are squeezed between the country’s highest mountains – an almost alpine landscape of glistening water, dramatic valleys and picturesque stone-built villages. Most of what people refer to as the Lake District lies within the Lake District National Park, which, in turn, falls entirely within the northwestern county of Cumbria. The county capital is Carlisle, a place that bears traces of a pedigree that stretches back to Roman times, while both the isolated western coast and eastern market towns like Kendal and Penrith counter the notion that Cumbria is all about its lakes.
Given a week you could easily see most of the famous settlements and lakes – a circuit taking in the towns of Ambleside, Windermere and Bowness, all on Windermere, the Wordsworth houses in Grasmere, and the more dramatic northern scenery near Keswick and Ullswater would give you a fair sample of the whole. But it’s away from the crowds that the Lakes really begin to pay dividends, in the dramatic valleys of Langdale and Eskdale, for example, while over on the coast are more off-the-beaten-track destinations, like the estuary village of Ravenglass – access point for the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway – and the attractive Georgian port of Whitehaven.