Cumbria is bordered by the English counties of Northumberland to the northeast, County Durham to the east, North Yorkshire to the southeast and Lancashire to the south. To the north the county is bordered by the Scottish regions of Dumfries and Galloway and Borders and to the west by the Irish Sea, with the Solway Firth to the north and Morecambe Bay to the south.
The Lake District National Park
Cumbria is perhaps better known as the home of the Lake District. The county of Cumbria contains of the Lake District National Park. The Lake District National Park, established in 1951, is the largest national park in Britain. It covers 885 square miles which is unique in its richness and with a core of rugged fells, gleaming lakes and peaceful valleys providing the ideal countryside for sailing, walking, climbing and cycling.
The 16 lakes* all have their own unique charm and character, from Ullswater with its sailing boats, to Windermere with its powerboats and water-sports enthusiasts. Walks range from gentle rables around the lakes or through ancient woodlands to long substantial hikes to the summit of Scafell Pike.
The Lakes only began to attract large numbers of visitors after the publication of “A Guide to the Lakes in 1835”. The guide was written by the poet William Wordsworth. He suggested that the Lake District should become 'a sort of national property'. However, he strongly objected to the building of the railways and roads which have since allowed ever-increasing numbers of people to visit the lakes and the area. Wordsworth was not the first to recognise the beauty of the area as the world famous landscape painter, John Constable (1776-1837) claimed that the Lake District had "the finest scenery that ever was” and who could argue with him. The Lake District is now visited by approximately 16 - 18m people each year.
* Technically speaking the Lake District only has one lake –Bassenthwaite Lake. All of the other ‘lakes’ are actually meres (e.g. Buttermere, Thirlmere, Windermere), Waters ( e.g. Coniston Water, Derwent Water, Wastwater) or Tarns (e.g. Stickle Tarn, Stickle Tarn, Blea Tarn). But call them what you will they are a collection of stunning waters and lakes.
England’s highest mountain
Scafell, at 3,210 ft. is England's highest mountain peak. Snowdonia and the Lake District are the highest mountain areas outside Scotland, and are both remnants of the Caledonian mountains.
A first-time hike up any of these major summits, such as Scafell, Helvellyn or Skiddaw, is a really rewarding adventure. That said these ascents can be accomplished comfortably in one day by anyone who is reasonably fit and has the right equipment. Always make sure people know where you are going and that you check with the information centres just in case something goes wrong.
Perhaps the most rewarding walks are those that link ridge-top and lake-side paths and reveal several of the incomparable aspects of this national park. You can plot a marvellous walk from the head of the Buttermere valley, walking along the ridge that divides Buttermere from Ennerdale and then down to lower ground along the shore of Buttermere lake itself.
Snowdonia and the Lake District are the highest mountain areas outside Scotland, and are both remnants of the Caledonian mountains.
To the West of Cumbria are the quietest lakes and valleys, a long coastline of beaches and high cliffs and the historic ports of Whitehaven and Maryport with developments for visitors. East of the Lake District is the Eden Valley, a lush area of rich farmland, meandering rivers and quiet, winding lanes linking pretty villages.
To the North of Cumbria is the world famous Hadrian's Wall and the border with Scotland where a dramatic and often violent history is etched into Carlisle and the borderlands around the town.
South Cumbria conveys gives the impression of great beauty. Most of the land is limestone, seen at its most striking south of Kendal, where cliffs flash white from Farleton Knott.
The main holiday centres of the North-West are Southport, Blackpool and Morecambe on the coast, and Keswick and Windermere in the Lake District. Blackpool is by far the largest, drawing huge numbers of day-trippers - especially for the autumn illuminations. Morecambe, with the M6 motorway coming almost into the town. The Trough of Bowland, the fellsides above Tebay Gorge and the Cumbrian countryside north of Appleby-in-Westmorland are large and unspoilt tracts of remote and lovely land which can all be reached easily from the M6.
Evidence of Cumbria's rich heritage can be found in its historic houses, castles, museums and the splendid gardens of the county. It's literary legacy ranges from Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth , Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Ruskin to the popular children's writer's namely Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransom of Swallows and Amazons Fame.
Alfred Wainwright the famed creator of the wonderful hand drawn ‘Wainwright guides to the Lakeland fells’ as well as numerous other books about Cumbria.
Human settlement began in the Lake District at least 5000 years ago, when Pike o'Stickle and other mountains became a rich source of stone for axes and stone circles such as those at Castlerigg and Long Meg. Later Cumbrian inhabitants dug parts of the Lake District to mine it for copper, iron ore, graphite and green slate.
Traditionally Cumbria is thought of as a Celtic region but the Angles made their mark here long before the Viking invasions and the rule of the area by the Scots in the 9th century. Cumbria has had them all settle Celts, Romans, Angles and Vikings in succession. Each of these peoples permanently etching their mark in this rich and beautiful region.
Beatrix Potter loved the lake district. Best known for her children's stories and loveable characters such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. Beatrix Potter who lived from 1866 to 1943 became a champion of conservation in the Lake District after moving there in 1906. She was an expert on the Herdwick sheep and to conserve her much loved countryside she donated land to the National Trust to enable future generations to enjoy it.
In the Lake District, much of the central fells are common land open to the public for access on foot. Lake District is a land of high fells, mountain tarns, great lakes and woodlands that is without compare in the English countryside.
Historically, sheep farming was the major industry in the region. The breed most closely associated with the Cumbria is the hardy Herdwick which is said to have been introduced to the area by the Vikings. Herdwicks are born black and become white as they mature. Sheep farming lead to a strong textiles industry during the Industrial revolution of the 1800’s
Stott Park Bobbin Mill, now owned by English Heritage, is still in working order is well worth a look. Carlisle became the industrial centre of the county during the 19th and early 20th century with numerous textile mills, engineering plants and food producers making home in and close to the town.
Walking in the Lake District
There are 2 long-distance footpaths that go through the Lake District. The 70 mile Cumbrian Way, which runs from Carlisle through Keswick and Coniston eventually ending up at Ulverston.
The western section of the Coast-to-Coast Walk passes through the Lake District. There are hundreds of shorter walks along shores of one or more of the 16 lakes, nature trails or following more challenging uphill routes. Walkers should stick to paths to avoid erosion of the land, and check weather conditions at one of the many National Park information centres.