I'd read it was England's playground -- where the English headed to enjoy nature's glory and get away from London. I wanted to see it for myself. We arrived in London, and after a few days there, set out on the M6 for points North. The terrain change was our first clue that we were approaching, as the highway sunk further from the ridges and hills sprung up around us. Before long, the reasons Britains flock to the Lake District were obvious, and the week we spent there was delightful.
When booking residences for the trip, I picked Penrith for it's proximity to the lakes, and maybe the Scottish Border -- but we were far too enamored with the Lake District to explore beyond it's borders. For starters, our condo was in a village both ancient and tiny, Tirril.
We walked from the modern two-story flat (at the end of this lane) -- an old, old building with foot thick walls, but great wifi -- past this old arched wooden door in a stacked stone wall, along the one-lane road, through a truly modern neighborhood, to reach the centuries old village center.
How many centuries you ask? Well, for our first meal at The Queen's Head, local pub, and b&b, we sat next to the fireplace with a date on it: 1719; an accomplishment to be in business for 380 years. And the place was hopping!
This photo was taken the next morning after breakfast when the room was empty. I was charmed by the friendliness of both staff and customers. And the food, which was remarkably good with enlightened choices. But most of all, it was the patina.
Wood finishes warmed by wear, worn smooth by hands, preserved by the oil and toil of a community thriving on wool and beef, growing their food, and drinking evenings with their friends at this local establishment.
After breakfast we wandered out into a local art festival -- one where you visited each artist at their own studio, and where we met the nicest painter. (Please look up Hadyn Morris). He let me shoot his garden. England's climate is damp, no doubt, but it provides the best growing conditions for fruit and beautiful flowers.
Then onward -- into the park. First of all, it's huge. Lots of acres, many different lakes and the wonderful hills. Stone buildings, churches, farm buildings, and mile after mile of fences. Fields dotted with sheep. Skies full of moisture-laden clouds. And green.
The narrow lanes took us deep into the park, winding into a rural countryside with steep sides and running water.
Small rivulets. And major falls. These two at Aira Force.
Narrow roads lead through the hills, winding across bridges, past stone barns both occupied and abandoned. In the first week of October the greens are taking on shades of Autumn.
I especially loved the hills beyond Lake Ullswater. As one drives on one-lane roads, more evidence of communities appear, some active still. Small chapels were built along the way to serve the their needs. These photos of the Martindale Valley, and the "Old Church" dated pre-1220 CE.
If you like your religious sites even older, evidence of ancient rites are easily accessible. Castlerigg Stone Circle lies near the town of Keswick and is estimated to have been erected about 3200 BCE. Unlike Stonehenge, this site is in an open field. You can picnic on the stones if you choose.
The photo above is Keswick, one of several quaint villages enjoyed by tourists, but also a thriving community with plenty of places where locals go. I can also recommend Ambleside and Kendal.
There were many, many places we did not reach in our week in the area. It is slow going on the beautiful backroads, so do take your time. I don't believe it can't be enjoyed in a hurry. You'll find a number of self-catering offerings in the area, and that is a splendid way to go.
If you love bucolic scenery, (this one across from the church referred to as the "New church" at Martindale, circa 1880 CE) there is no better place to start on your visit to England. I encourage you to find your own way, explore and enjoy this unique environment, the rugged landscape and historic culture that is the Lake District.
If you have enjoyed this post and the photos, please leave a comment. I also have a 2019 Lake District calendar with several of the photos featured here, and a few more. Please let me know if you are interested.