When it comes to outdoors adventure in England, eyes usually turn to The Lake District . Situated in Cumbria, The Lake District is obviously a place known for its lakes, but it is perhaps more important to realize that it is also the highest, most mountainous region in England. All of England's land area that is above 3,000 feet is to be found there, including the highest peak in England, Scafell Pike (3,209 feet). At the heart of the district is the Lake District National Park, the largest in Britain.
Americans and Canadians in particular should keep in mind what exactly is meant by "national park" in a European country. It is not a preserved enclosure like North American parks are. Instead, it is best to think of them as being like the network of U.S. National Forests. People do live and work in The Lake District and even its national park. Indeed, all the land in the park is privately owned. The national park status merely places restrictions on what can and cannot be done in terms of developing the park, with a strong eye towards its natural preservation.
While the altitude of The Lake District 's heights might seem rather modest, the region is actually quite rugged. The lowlands are dotted with pine and oak forests and boggy moorland. The heights are steep and rocky. This combination of elements makes The Lake District one of the most popular destinations for trekkers in the UK. It is also one of the best places for aspiring rock climbers to learn their craft, and for veterans climbers to keep their skills sharp.
The Lake District is also home to some of Britain's best spelunking sites. The combination of old, abandoned mines and naturally-formed glacial caverns makes the area one of the best caving regions in the country. In addition to their merits for climbers, the heights of the Lake District also offer opportunities for para-gliders, and the striking scenery is a blessing for balloonists. The rugged terrain poses as many challenges for off-roaders as it does for hikers and climbers.
A peculiar route for hikers and cyclists is the Tea Trail. This designated route takes one through several small towns and villages, exploring tea houses and craft barn cafes at each stop. It combines breathtaking scenery with rural charm, and an opportunity to take in a nice pot of tea with some scones two or three times a day.
Finally, it would be hard to discuss outdoor activities in a place called " The Lake District " without looking at water sports. Many of the region's lakes have opportunities for renting a sailing dinghy, or learning how to handle one. There is also kayaking, canoeing, and wind-surfing on the area's waters. Also, anyone who feels up to braving the chilly waters (or putting on a wetsuit) can go for a swim. Finally, any area so renowned for its lakes and rivers will also be a magnet for anglers, and fishermen who like trout will find The Lake District especially inviting.
Of course, any of those adventure sports are liable to work up a powerful appetite, and The Lake District comes well-equipped to satisfy that. To unwind after a hard slog, there are the products of 24 microbreweries and 2 cider makers, all from The Lake District region. Most of the local pubs will be serving these equally local brews, so there won't be much trouble in finding them. The area is home to its own special variety of Cumbrian (or Cumberland) sausage. There are plenty of quaint inns and picturesque pubs for eating out, as well as fine restaurants set in 16th century country manors.
There is also plenty of history to be found in the Cumbrian fastness of the Lake District. Carlisle Castle dates from the late 11th Century, built by the son of William the Conqueror. There is also Birdoswald, a 16th Century farmhouse that sits atop a Roman fort. The sight lies very near Hadrian's Wall, and thus is something of a must-see for fans of ancient history.
There are accommodation options in the Lake District to span every taste. With so much natural beauty and outdoor adventure, there are several campgrounds and caravan parks to choose from. There are also plenty of country inns, farmhouse accommodation, and bed and breakfasts, as well as some truly interesting and quirky hostels. Finally, those who demand a certain level of luxury will find some well-appointed and highly rated hotels.
For the outdoors enthusiast, The Lake District is one of the best destinations in the U.K., and the best within England. Past those craving the great outdoors, however, the district does have a little something in its upcountry charms for everyone.