It’s not that we mean to be bossy. Well, not much. But if you haven’t been on a holiday to the Lake District yet, we’re going to don our stern faces and demand why.
Millions of tasteful people visit the Lake District each year – it’s the most visited national park in the country and the biggest in England and Wales – and it has England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike to scale, collapse on top of and look across to the mountains of Wales and N Ireland. It’ll be at that precise moment you’ll realise you’ve forgotten your camera.
The Lake District also has England’s deepest lake in Wastwater, which caused a slight spat between the Lake Poets as Coleridge rhapsodised it was ‘a marvellous sight’ while Wordsworth at first huffily proclaimed it to be ‘stern’ and ‘desolate’: clearly he’d climbed nearby Scafell Pike and realised at the top he’d left his notebook behind.
Windermere, England’s biggest natural lake, has to be visited not only for its boat trips and waterskiing, but also its rumoured lake monster Bownessie: prizes for anyone sending in pics.
We have suggestions and tips for a Lake District holiday below, but first up, here are a few of our top Lake District campsites and caravan parks from tent and tourer pitches to camping pods:
Wander like Wordsworth around this park overlooking the banks of Lake Ullswater with quick access to the lake, the Ullswater Steamers of Lady Dorothy et al and the crashing of Aira Force waterfall. Hillcroft has family camping pods sleeping up to four; there’s a licensed shop on site and a big play area for the kids.
Also at Wasdale, Church Stile Farm is two minutes' walk from the hamlet of Nether Wasdale and a mile from Wastwater. It has shepherd's huts sleeping two for hire, and holiday homes for four or six people.
A Haven site packed with things to do for all ages, to the south of the Lake District National Park and half an hour from Windermere. The park has electric pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes, with dogs welcome on site.
Pick a pod or pitch at this quiet countryside site with private walking routes, easy access to Hadrian’s Wall and the Scottish Borders as well as the Lake District - and a privately owned stretch of single bank salmon and trout fishing a short stroll away from your pitch.
Booked? Got your flippers, your walking boots and your camera? Alongside the fell walking, climbing and collapsing on top of mountains, here’s our pick of some top things to do in the Lake District:
Learn about all things Lakes with the interactive exhibits at this swish centre, with lush gardens, watersports, crazy golf, Treetop Treks, adventure playground and café with lakeside views.
Take a motorboat cruise around Derwentwater, one of the Lake District’s most popular spots, or take to the water around Derwentwater Marina or one of the lake’s several jetties for kayaking, windsurfing and sailing.
Cumbria and the Lake District are a haven for foodie fans of all budgets, with Cumbrian produce including coiled Cumberland sausages, fruity Cumberland Rum Nicky, the cheeses and sticky toffee pudding of Cartmel – and more microbreweries than any other county in Britain. You’ll need plenty of fortification for all that fell walking and climbing.
Take a subterranean tour of England’s last working slate mine, the Honister Slate Mine at Borrowdale, or climb up Fleetwith Pike on the original miners’ path using the UK’s first Via Ferrata (Iron Way).
The Great North Swim is the UK’s biggest outdoor swimming event, starting with a one-mile swim in 2008 in Windermere and still held there each year. Swimmers of all levels can pick routes from half a mile to five kilometres, with boats alongside all the way to keep an eye on the less experienced. Wisely, the Great North Swim is a wetsuit only event. Brr.
The Lake District’s biggest areas are Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, and Bowness-on-Windermere, with shopping, restaurants and regular events a-plenty here and in market towns such as Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Sedbergh, home of books and book festivals.
Keswick has the popular Pencil Museum and the Theatre by the Lake, while Ambleside should be visited to take part in The Struggle, the aptly-named climb out of town to the Kirkstone Inn, one of the highest and most virtuous pints you’ll ever have in the UK.
The Lake District has the biggest population of red squirrels in England, native to the area’s woodland and not yet overrun by the pesky invader the grey squirrel. Keswick’s Whinlatter Forest is a Red Squirrel Sanctuary and you should be able to spot some of them scampering about there; the forest is also home to deer, ospreys and red kites, and there are wildlife activities and events throughout the year. For seeing animals up close, the South Lakes Wild Animal Park has a host of critters that we suspect are not native to the Lake District, such as lemurs, giraffes, rhinos and wallabies.
Look for Lake District campsites and parks by tourist board rating, area such as Penrith or Kendal, groups welcome such as family-friendly, rules such as dogs allowed, by theme including parks in a walkers’ paradise, peaceful or with spectacular scenery, or by amenities on site like disabled facilities. There are also filters to find a park by leisure on site or nearby, and all our Lake District listings have details on local attractions including must-sees, cycle paths, walking routes and pubs. We’ll see you, gasping, on the top of Scafell Pike.