In early July, the English Lake District was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status under the cultural landscape category, positioning the beloved national park alongside such destinations as the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Kilimanjaro and the Grand Canyon as a site of outstanding universal value.
The Lake District is now more accessible than ever to Virgin Atlantic customers, with the introduction of our increased flying programme to and from Manchester earlier this year. Located in northwest England, this mountainous region is under two hour’s drive from Manchester Airport, and features some of the finest scenery, best dining, and most adventurous outdoor activities in the UK. So what are you waiting for? We take a look at some of the best places to gaze in awe…
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Stand among the remaining stones of Castlerigg Stone Circle for panoramic views of some of the Lake District’s highest peaks, including Blencathra, Skiddaw and Helvellyn. Believed to date from around 3,000 BC, this ancient Neolithic monument sits on a low-level plateau beneath a natural ring of mountains, making it one of the most strikingly situated earthworks in the UK. Easily accessed from the adjacent lane (where you’ll find a handful of parking spaces), the circle is a few minutes’ drive or a 30-minute walk from the market town of Keswick, two miles west.
Gowbarrow Fell and Yew Crag
Offering sweeping views of Ullswater and the surrounding mountains, Gowbarrow Fell is reached via a magical walk through woodland and waterfalls. Starting from the National Trust car park on the lake-hugging A592 road, the trail rises through an almost rainforest-like scene. Moss-covered rocks, bright green ferns and tall evergreen trees characterise the initial section, which leads to the pretty Aira Force and High Force waterfalls before ascending into open fell and heather-clad farmland. Once at the summit there are far-reaching views towards the Kirkstone Pass in the south, Bannerdale in the north west and the Pennines in the north east. On the descent, the route passes near the 1905-inscribed Memorial Seat above Yew Crag; a well-known spot for outstanding Ullswater views.
Not for the faint of heart, the Hardknott Pass is considered one of the most dramatic and difficult roads in the UK. The narrow single-track mountain pass – which features numerous hairpin bends, steep drop-offs and 33% gradients – runs from Eskdale in the western Lake District to the isloated Duddon Valley, where it joins the Wrynose Pass towards Ambleside. If you’re brave enough to drive it, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding views of Harter Fell, the Scafell range, and even as far as the Irish Sea if the weather is clear – though you’ll need to keep your eyes on the road. Sheep, cyclists and sudden rainstorms are predictable hazards, and all are likely to make an appearance at some point.
At just over 450 metres, Cat Bells is one of the Lake District’s lower lying fells, but is easily one of the most popular climbs. Considered a good introduction for fell-walking novices, the standard route begins and ends at Hawes End jetty on the western shore of Derwentwater, from where it’s a relatively straightforward march to the top. Be prepared for some minor technical challenges – mainly rocky steps and steep-sided ridges – before reaching the summit. Once here, the 360-degree views of Bassenthwaite Lake, Skiddaw, Derwentwater and the Borrowdale Valley will make all your efforts worthwhile.
With a lakeshore path around its perimeter, Buttermere is home to some of the Lake District’s finest and most accessible views. Two of the best known landmarks include ‘the Sentinels’ – a row of pine trees along the southern shore – and the famous lone tree at the northern end of the lake, minutes from the public car park beside the Fish Inn.
The mostly level walk around the lake takes about two to three hours, including one short section along the road and a few undulating stretches where some gentle scrambling is required. For a full day out, combine the walk with a circular drive from Keswick. This scenic route via two mountain passes – Honister and Whinlatter – is one of the best short road trips in the Lakes.