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Winter staycations in the UK's Lake District

Tom Cramp

Contributor

The Lake District is widely considered the UK’s most scenic national park. Its towering fells, pristine lakes and fresh, clean air attract droves of visitors year upon year. It’s no wonder that families across the country have been heading here for a 2020 staycation. Arguably as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer, the park boasts cosy accommodation nestled between snow-capped peaks that could provide the perfect domestic getaway for the start of 2021. While international travel remains difficult for most, a long weekend in the Lakes could be just what you need to get 2021 off to a positive start. Here is a breakdown of some of the key valleys and what they have to offer, along with some Covid-19 travel advice.

Eskdale

Human activity in Eskdale has been traced back to around 8,000BC when Mesolithic hunters settled by the sea. The valley lies in the shadow of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, and although it doesn’t have its own lake, several tarns positioned above the valley sides make for stunning scenery during hikes. Some points of interest include the incredibly steep Hardknot pass and its Roman fort remains, the 60-ft Stanley Ghyll waterfall, and the endless dry-stone walls that divide the landscape – a classic example of modern-day Lakeland culture

Eskdale valley and the town of Ravenglass is in the West Lakes area, meaning that you’ll still have a 1/1.5-hour drive once you get off the M6.

Grasmere, Rydal and Ambleside

A long U-shaped valley in the heart of the Lake District contains three of the most popular places in the whole park. The area features craggy fells, thick woodland and expansive pasture to create a truly diverse landscape, but each place has its own unique reason to visit. Next to Grasmere is Dove Cottage, the former residence of revered English poet William Wordsworth, and will be open for tours once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. Rydal water lies in between Grasmere and Ambleside, and while it is one of the smaller lakes in the region, many picturesque walks branch off in every direction. The town of Ambleside is now a tourist hotspot with hotels, high-quality restaurants and classic English pubs. If you are looking for a dose of luxury during your stay in the lakes, Ambleside would be a good place to start!

This area is located in the centre of the Lake District - it’s about an hour of driving from the M6.

Coniston

One of the most popular locations in the Lake District, Coniston valley is surrounded by high fells and sprawling woodland that contain several excellent walking routes. The pristine Lake Coniston is a big draw for holidaymakers due to the range of activities that take place on the water such as boating, kayaking and swimming. Its pebbled shores also make for ideal stone-skimming points. Looming over the lake is The Old Man of Coniston, famous for the challenging yet manageable ascent that makes it popular with walkers of all abilities. The old mining village at its foot has a number of hotels, bed & breakfasts and Airbnbs that can accommodate all.

Coniston is in the South Lakes area, meaning if you are driving up from the South it’s a relatively short 45-minute journey from the M6. There is also a train station. 

Windemere

Ambleside is located at the head of Windemere, England’s longest and largest lake at 14.73km². Easily accessible from the town at its northern tip, the valley is popular with tourists but is also well-known for being a thriving community of industry and agriculture. The lake is undoubtedly this valley’s most prominent feature, hosting a range of activities from lake cruises to fishing trips.

The village of Windemere lying on the eastern shores of the lake has a number of upscale hotels. It’s also quite easy to get to from the M6; just a 20-30-minute drive from junction 36. There is also a train station.

Wasdale

One valley over from Eskdale lies Wasdale, perhaps the region’s most striking valley. Wastwater, England’s deepest lake, is surrounded on one side by the regal fells of Great Gable, Kirk Fell and Yewbarrow, while on the other side, exposed scree slopes plunge into the lake’s black water. It all makes for quite a view.

Such is the drama of Wasdale’s landscape that countless walks and hikes branch off from the valley floor giving visitors endless customisation to their day trips. Few places in the country can rival the scenery from the hilly ramparts of the valley, but its western location makes it a little trickier to get to than the others. Expect a 1.5/2-hour drive from the M6.

Honourable mentions

Borrowdale is the largest valley in the Lakes and home to Keswick, a bustling tourism hub that serves as a base for walks around Bassenthwaite Lake and the River Derwent. In the north-eastern Lakes is Buttermere, a classic U-shaped valley featuring three serene lakes and endless herds of grazing sheep. Ullswater sits beneath Helvellyn, England’s third-highest peak, while Thirlmere, Langdale, Ennerdale and Haweswater are also great places to visit.

Covid-19 travel advice

For regular updates on the region’s status during the pandemic, visit the link below.

https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/coronavirus

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