The Lake District is a region of England known to few outside national borders. And yet, it is of extreme beauty: more than twenty lakes set between mountains – fells, as they are called in these parts – and small villages on the water’s edge.
A week might seem like a very long time for a less extensive area of the Valle d’Aosta, but when my vacation in this north-west English region is over, I left with the impression that I still have a lot to see. Here are some suggestions for things not to be missed in the Lake District.
Trekking among the lakes
The Lake District is the favorite destination for those who love trekking. From Elterwater, a small village in the Great Langdale valley, four routes lead to the highest peaks of the surrounding mountains. On the website of the Lake District National Park there are routes of varying difficulty, divided by distance to be covered and by degree of athletic preparation. The simplest routes require a really basic level of training: for example, I took a loop tour starting from Elterwater to the Skelwith waterfall, for a total distance of about five miles.
Visit Grasmere and Windermere: The villages of poets
On the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest in England, overlooks the village of Windermere, a small town with a few shops, a golf club and a couple of inns with an attached pub. You can get there with one of the boats that go around the lake, walking the mile that separates Windermere from Bowness-on-Windermere where, among other things, there is The World Of Beatrix Potter.
Continuing north you reach Lake Grasmere and the town of the same name, which is nothing but a collection of little-traveled streets, a bookshop, a tea room, two or three art galleries and a few B & Bs. Here you can breathe the air of the past, like in a place suspended between reality and fantasy. Perhaps it was precisely this charm that struck the poet William Wordsworth, who called Grasmere “the most splendid place man has ever found”. Like Wordsworth, other poets known as Lake Poets decided to move to this region in the 19th century.
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Sleep in the Lake District National Park
The region includes in its territory the Lake District National Park, one of the most densely populated parks in the country. This is because, unlike other parks, there are many small villages built around the farms for which sheep were once the main source of livelihood. Over the years, small built-up areas have sprung up around these farms, where there is no lack of accommodation facilities, from rented rooms to small hotels. To sleep in the natural park you can choose different options based on your needs, and on the site of the Lake District National Park there is a section with a list of facilities.
We chose the Langdale, a hotel nestled between mountains and lakes not far from Elterwater. The rooms have been converted from restored stone cottages in the heart of the woods, in a remote and quiet location.
The food and beers of the Lake District
In a place immersed in nature, there is no shortage of raw materials with which to prepare dishes to fill up with energy after a long day on foot: river and lake fish, mushrooms, game, lamb, vegetables. The inns offer simple and genuine dishes in mountain refuge environments: a fireplace in the main hall, seats at the bar counter or at common tables, maybe even outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, if it’s not raining.
Our fixed appointments were in two places. At Wainwright’s Inn, an old two-story white building with a few tables on the terrace. The interiors do not follow the latest fashions, but the dishes served warm the bones and the heart: smoked Cumberland sausage, roast lamb, steak & ale pie.
A few minutes away is the second stop of our days, the Britannia Inn. The context is even more suggestive in this case, with the maple in the middle of the front lawn and the sign depicting an old sailing ship in a stormy sea. It brings back to the time of the smugglers, the smugglers who once crossed these inaccessible lands to reach the northern coast.
Both inns are ideal for trying beers produced in the region: there are at least five micro-breweries nearby.
It is necessary to go beyond the borders of the Lake District and move about sixty miles to the north, towards Carlisle, to walk along what remains of one of the largest fortification systems ever built. Wanted by Emperor Hadrian in the 20th century AD, Hadrian’s Wall ran eighty miles from one coast of England to the other, marking the border between the British territory occupied by the Roman Empire to the south and Caledonia to the north. The central portion of the Vallo is still well preserved, and it is possible not only to walk along the path of the old border line, but also to visit museums and the remains of the Roman forts.