Cumbria

Introduction

Great Britain - Cumbria

Cumbria is home of the Lake District and is absolutely stunning. Located in the extreme north-west of England it borders Scotland and the Irish Sea with the Isle of Mann 60 or so km to the west. The coastal areas are fairly flat and industrial with the interior of Cumbria full of the lakes, mountains, and beautiful scenery of the Lake District National Park (free to visit).

Scenery

Highlights

Scenery

A few places I have visited and found to be well worth a visit. We were based just outside the Lake District park itself (which is much cheaper than staying in the park) in a house near Kirkby-in-Furness to the south so much of our exploration was the south, west and central parts of the area.

One of the best ideas is to just stop somewhere and go for a walk with well-marked trails everywhere (though see the note about parking below).

Water

Gallery Exterior

Galleries

Manuscript

For fans of Beatrix Potter the Gallery in Hawkshead is well worth a visit showcasing a small number of Beatrix's original works which are regularly rotated. The building in which the gallery is housed was originally where her husband worked and is itself interesting to see with it's wonky woodwork, severely slopped floors and small rooms. The gallery is on the ground and first floors (up a narrow staircase).

Upstairs

There are things to amuse young children as well including crafts and hands-on displays.

Arts and Crafts

Parking is in the nearby Hawkshead town pay and display car park. There is also a small admission charge and a gift shop.

For further information please see National Trust - Beatrix Potter Gallery and Hawkshead.

Claife Viewing Station

Claife Viewing Station

Offering tremendous views of Windermere, it is worth the short walk up a hill from the small nearby car park to this quirky Victorian folly. Located just a short distance from the west shore of the Windermere car ferry there is also a small cafe here. Entrance to this newly restored monument is free.

View from the Station

For further information please see National Trust - Claife Viewing Station and Windermere West Shore.

Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway

Engine

Up to Eskdale

A restored Victorian miniature railway offering regular service from the coast town of Ravenglass to the town of Boot in the small Lake District area of Eskdale with a number of picturesque stops along the way. Each stop can be used as a base for exploring the area on foot. A trip from one end to the other takes approximately 40 minutes. There are a number of small open and enclosed carriages. Note that they run simple diesel engines occasionally in the day which are not as pretty…

Turning Around

Eskdale features a walk to the stunning Stanley Ghyll waterfalls which is highly recommended as is a bite to eat at Brook House Inn in Boot (which we found a lot less busy than the nearby “The Boot Inn”. Also worth a visit is the “Eskdale Mill” which was closed for renovations when we were there.

Waterfall

Ravenglass is a small village with a nearby ruin of a Roman Bathhouse but the railways has a very good museum that is also worth a visit.

Museum

A free phone app provides commentary for the train journey as well as helpful maps and information about the area. There is a pay and display car park for the railway at Ravenglass (including day rates).

For further information please see Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.

Hill Top

Exterior

This was Beatrix Potter's first house in the Lake District in “Near Sawry” (on the road to/from the Windermere ferry) and she came to own a great amount of land in the area eventually leaving it to the nation as a donation to the National Trust (who now run the house as a museum). This can be extremely busy with only a small car park for the museum but is well worth a visit, not only for the wonderful 17th-century farmhouse and small gardens but also for the town where Potter drew much inspiration for her well-loved series of “Peter Rabbit” children's books.

Kitchen

The farmhouse is decorated with numerous personal items owned by Potter and arranged as she should have had it so it really gives you a feeling for what it would have been like when the great woman lived here. There is a small admission charge and timed entry into the house (an audio guide is provided) and there is also a good gift shop on-site.

Village Postbox

For further information please see National Trust - Hill Top.

Village

Honister Slate Mine

Honister Pass

Located at the top of Honister Pass a short distance north of Skafell Pike (tallest mountain in England) this is a working slate mine that offers both tours of the mines but also active adventure activities such as the “Via Ferrata” where you follow cables hammered into the side of the mountain. Worth a trip for the view of the valley alone there is a car park (free for paying visitors), a small, reasonably priced, cafe and an excellent shop which also has a small museum and windows allowing you to view workers cutting and shaping slate.

Going into the Mine

Mine Shaft

Inside the Mine

The mine tour is quite good which shows (and demonstrates) what it was like in the past to work in the mines but also touches on how they are reinventing themselves as more than just a mine in order to remain profitable in the modern day.

Sample Goods

For further information please see honister.com.

Kirkstone Pass

The Kirkston Pass Inn

Interior

Ok, there is not much here, just a pub/inn (The Kirkstone Pass Inn) that offers quite reasonably priced food and drink, but the views are amazing and it also serves as a gateway to the north of the Lake District and Ullswater. “The Struggle” is a famous road between the pass and Ambleside which is a great challenge for drivers. Most stunning scenery…

Scenery

Steam Yacht Gondola

Steam Yacht "Gondola"

Interior

Engine

Operating on Coniston Water the “Steam Yacht” “Gondola” is operated by the National Trust (the only boat operated by the trust) and is boarded at Coniston Pier (in Coniston). It is a wonderful example of Victorian engineering and is a truly luxurious way to take in the amazing scenery around the lake with the extremely quiet and smooth operation of the engine. The operators give a light commentary of what you see but most of the time you are left to simply soak it all in.

Scenery

There is a large “pay and display” parking lot at the pier but this can get very busy with a number of lake side attractions in the area including boat and board hires. There are numerous ticket options for trips on the boat including half-lake and full-lake, prices vary. There are no refreshments on board (but they do have souvenirs). Seating is both inside and outside.

Scenery

For further information please see National Trust - Steam Yacht Gondola.

Towns

There are lots of small towns throughout the region. Many of them are certainly worth a visit and most are picture postcards…

Grasmere

Wordsworth's Grave

A tiny town located in the middle of the Lake District (north west of Windermere), Grasmere is known for it's connection to the poet William Wordsworth who lived here. Now it is also popular for it's unusual Grasmere Gingerbread - A treacle-like base with crumble topping that is oddly addictive sold from an extremely tiny shop that makes a trip to Grasmere worth it for this alone.

Outside the Shop

Inside the Shop

There are several pay and display car parks throughout the town.

For further information please see Visit Cumbria - Grasmere.

Keswick

Town Centre

Waterfront

Located on Derwent Water, Keswick is busy and quite tourist-y. It features some wonderful walks around the lake as well as some pretty parks in the town itself. Parking can be a problem but there are several large pay and display car parks (“Lakeside” is by far the biggest, located in Hope Park) the as well as additional parking in numerous National Park car parks around the lake itself. Boat trips are also available.

Hope Park

Derwent Water Monument

For further information please see Visit Keswick.

Getting Around

With numerous small, winding roads making even short distances a challenge really a car is the only way to see the area effectively. There are trains to the coastal areas and local buses throughout but a car is needed if you want to really see the area. The area around Windermere, particularly the north-east corner (the towns of Ableside and Windermere) can be particularly busy often suffers from massive traffic jams as people visiting the area often only come to this particular bit as it is the most famous and closest to the motorway. Parking can be a problem with most car parks “pay and display”, even if in the middle of no-where and often cash (coins) only so it is best to have a large amount of change on hand (it is not unusual to have to pay upwards of £2/hour) at all times (car park machines accepting cards are generally only found in larger towns).

Walking Trail

Bicycles can be seen throughout the park but roads are narrow and it can be difficult for everyone involved with bikes on the road. Distances can also be a bit deceptive so this is only really recommended on well-defined, off-road, paths.

Sunset

For leisure travel there are steam trains and public boats throughout the area. The quintessential thing to do in the area is to go for a cruise on Windermere…

Pictures

During my visit in late Summer 2018 we took some pictures:

 

Further Information

For further information, please see: