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A Lake District travel guide – dramatic Lakeland scenery, bustling market towns and literary homes

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Lake District holidays conjure up images of sweeping hills, craggy peaks and glistening lakes. Book a Lake District hotel for landscapes that have inspired writers and artists for centuries.

Get your bearings

In the far northwest of England, the Lake District’s long coastline looks west onto the Irish Sea and north to Scotland. At its heart is Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake and the most popular Lake District holiday spot. The tourist trail leads west to Rydal Water, Grasmere and Coniston Water -Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter country dotted with forests, stone cottages and country villages. To the west and north rise England’s highest peaks and passes, remote lakes and forest parks. Popular Ullswater and Derwentwater reach further north towards the bustling market towns of Keswick and Penrith.

Outdoor Adventure

Walkers flock to the Lake District to holiday outdoors among England’s highest peaks - Scafell Pike, Scafell and Helvellyn. High on Honister Pass novice climbers can traverse rock faces using harnesses and the purposely placed via ferrata footholds. Water sport enthusiasts bob around on Lake Windermere and Derwentwater, where many of the Lake District’s hotels cluster. Cyclists tackle the steep, winding Kirkstone Pass, and mountain bikers head deep into Grizedale Forest for single track and muddy trails.

Family fun

Sit back and relax on a long leisurely steam-boat trip down Ullswater and watch the scenic surroundings drift by. On Lake Windermere boat trips are combined with tickets for the Lakes Aquarium and the antique Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. Children can meet lions face to face at the South Lakes Animal Park and tawny owls at haunted Muncaster Castle. In Keswick, the new Bond Museum is a film-fan’s favourite, featuring cars, bikes and boats once driven by James Bond and the baddies.

Romantic ruins and writers

Part of the Hadrian’s Wall defences during Roman times, the Lake District is home to the ruined Ambleside Roman Fort and Maryport Roman Museum. Castlerigg Stone Circle is an even more ancient megalithic site, and you can visit Sizergh Castle, the ancestral home of the Strickland family since the Middle Ages. Bustling Grasmere village is home to Wordsworth’s former house Dove Cottage, where he wrote his most popular poems. Children’s writer and illustrator Beatrix Potter settled nearby at Hill Top Farm, a typical Lakeland cottage open to visitors in the village of Near Sawrey.

Herdwick lamb and homebrew

Michelin-starred restaurants L’Enclume and Sharrow Bay provide fine dining opportunities, but you’ll find hearty meals of lamb or Cumberland sausage throughout the Lake District. You can buy Hawkshead Relish pickles and chutneys at its store and find farm shops, like Low Sizergh Barn, packed with local produce. Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth offers a tour and tasting of its award-winning ales. Or you might prefer the Black Bull Inn, where you can prop up the bar and sample the in-house micro-brewery beers.