Guest post by Joe McQuillan of www.coolwilderness.com
The Lake District in the UK welcomes over 15.8 million tourists each year. Most come to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life in this idyllic part of England. Despite its name a little-known fact about the Lake District is that it is home to only one lake. Instead it hosts several large bodies of water and some of the most beautiful views in all of Europe. With so many visitors it may seem that all of the hidden gems are, well, no longer hidden. But, as a local to the Lake District I can assure you that there are some secret spots left. Here are my top five.
1. Coniston Old Man
The Old man of Coniston is no person. It is a mountain. And a beautiful one at that. For those who climb her embark on a journey which literally transports them back in time. From the foot of the mountain you can see the abandoned mining equipment of the 17th Century. As you climb, you stumble upon the ruined houses of the 18th Century where workers slept. When you reach the summit, you encounter the old railway tracks of the 19th Century which seem to suspend (almost) vertically off the top of the mountain.
Despite the changes this mountain has seen through the centuries one constant is the spectacular views over Coniston Water which sits below. This view is unrivalled in all of the Lake District. For those who witness it get lost in its beauty. It is unsurprising that writers such as William Wordsworth found inspiration on this mountain.
Coniston Old Man is accessible to anyone who wants to explore. You do not need to be an expert or have specialist equipment (walking boots are recommended though). Once you are done there are several local pubs which all boast their own specialist ales brewed on site. Whether you are looking for a luxurious place to stay or want to spend the weekend camping – Coniston is for you.
2. Aira Force
Aira Force is a natural beauty of the Lake District which has been attracting people to see it for 300 years. When it rains the water is collected on the fells. From there it trickles down to Aira Force where it thunders over a 65-foot waterfall. This waterfall is like a symphony which plays the most magical tune as the water makes its descent.
Once you have seen this delight you can head over to Ullswater Village. This Village is to the north of Windermere Water. You will be welcomed by the locals who offer the most amazing afternoon tea (tea, scones, cream and jam). Ullswater is also home to a variety of independent shops where you can pick up a genuine one in a kind gift. Unlike Windermere village, Ullswater is often forgotten by tourists so you get an authentic local experience whilst keeping all the charm and luxury of Windermere village.
3. Tarn Hows
Tarn Hows was gifted to the people of the Lake District by children’s author Beatrix Potter who is most famous for her book The Tales of Peter Rabbit. This majestic 3-kilometre walk is a hidden gem which should be a ‘must-do’ on anyone’s travel itinerary. It offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountain range whilst you walk around a stunning body of water. You are guaranteed to bump into friendly wildlife such as red squirrels and grazing sheep who wander the tarn with no cares in the world. This walk is suitable for wheelchair users and small children. Such is the beauty of this spot the local travel bureau even allows you to hire motorised scooters so that you can take it in.
4. Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway
It may seem odd recommending a railway line as a hidden gem but, a hidden gem it is. Volunteers work all year round to maintain one of the last remaining steam train routes in England. With its old-fashioned carriages and on-board catering, the ride is extremely comfortable. However, all of this grandeur takes a backseat to the views on display. This railway is an amazing way to experience the countryside and rolling hills of the Lake District. An added bonus of this railway, for those willing, is that you can actually become a locomotive train driver for the day (although this needs to be booked in advance).
Last but certainly not least on this list is Grasmere. Described by William Wordsworth as the ‘loveliest spot that man hath ever found’ Grasmere is one of the most compelling places to visit in the Lake District. Furthermore, it is (arguably) one of the most important places too. Grasmere was the inspiration for a number of famous authors who started the romantics era of English Literature. Some of the most famous books, poems and articles in English history were dreamt up whilst in Grasmere. You can still visit Dove Cottage which was the local house of Wordsworth. The house has been preserved exactly how Wordsworth had it which offers you an opportunity to step inside one of the world’s greatest writers. If you visit in August, and you might catch the famous Grasmere Sports, including Cumberland wrestling, fell running and hound trails.
Whether you are looking for luxury, adventure or spectacular beauty. The Lake District has something for everyone. You will be surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world in the world. Perhaps the best thing about the Lakes is that despite its enduring popularity, everyone who visits finds their own unique snippet which they keep with them. There are loads of hidden gems still to be discovered. The above are my top five but I expect that if you spend a couple of days in the lakes you will discover your own.
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