Cumbria is home to England’s largest lake, steepest road and tallest mountain and the World’s Biggest Liar.
Most peaks – there are only five English peaks over 900m and all are in Cumbria:
- Scafell Pike 977m (3210 feet)
- Scafell 964m (3162 feet)
- Helvellyn 953m (3116 feet)
- Skiddaw 934m (3054 feet)
- Bowfell 905m (2960 feet)
Steepest road – with an overall gradient of 1 in 3 (33%) and up to 1 in 2.5 in places, Hardknott Pass is the steepest road in England. Other major passes in Cumbria include Kirkstone Pass (1 in 4 or 25%), Honister Pass (1 in 4 or 25%), Wrynose Pass (1 in 4 or 25%) and Whinlatter Pass (1 in 8 or 12%).
Deepest lake – Wastwater is England’s deepest lake, with a depth up to 258 feet. It is three miles long by half a mile wide.
Longest lake – Windermere, at 10½ miles from Waterhead in the north to Lakeside in the south is England’s longest lake. Its maximum depth is 219 feet.
Only lake – the only true lake in the Lake District is Bassenthwaite Lake. All the rest are meres (eg Grasmere) or waters (Derwentwater, Coniston Water etc).
Only Ospreys – Cumbria is home, after 150 years, to the first wild osprey chicks in England. The chicks can be seen at Thornthwaite Forest near Keswick.
Ugliest face – the art of Gurning – face pulling – is practised every year at the Egremont Crab Fair – held in September.
Smallest churches – St Olaf’s church at the head of the Wasdale valley is claimed to be the smallest church in England. Carlisle Cathedral, built in 1122, is the second smallest cathedral in Europe.
Most scenic – The 72 miles of the Settle-Carlisle line is the country’s most scenic railway. From Carlisle the line runs through the delightful Eden Valley, climbs over the Pennines and into the Yorkshire Dales.
Ulverston – The town is not only home to the world’s only Laurel and Hardy Museum but was the birthplace of pole vaulting and the Quaker movement.
Highest market town – The delightful town of Alston, in the Pennines to the east of Penrith is the highest market town in England.
Most impressive – Hadrian’s Wall – a World Heritage Site – runs from the west of Carlisle across to Newcastle in the east and is the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain.
Unique sheep – Herdwick Sheep, bred by Beatrix Potter, are unique to Cumbria. A particularly hardy breed, their distinctive dark wool enables them to survive on the exposed fell tops.
Finest owl collection – The World Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle has one of the finest collections of owls in the world. Conservation work is done for many endangered species at Muncaster.
Largest stone circle – Long Meg and her Daughters in the Eden Valley is the second largest stone circle in Europe. Legend tells that Long Meg was a witch turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath but anybody who can count the stones twice and get the same number will release her from the spell.
Tallest pencil – The world’s tallest pencil – over 26 feet long – can be found in Keswick at the Cumberland Pencil Museum which tells the history of pencil making.
Best road – The picturesque A591 between Windermere and Keswick has been named Britain’s Best Road following research from YouGov on behalf of satellite navigation firm, Garmin.
Places to visit and explore
Many visitors drive past the Lake District Visitor Centre, Brockhole without realising what a great value day out it is for families. And with an early start to the season in 2009 (14 February), there’s even more reason to come along. Brockhole is home to 10 acres of Thomas Mawson gardens which run idyllically down to Lake Windermere. It’s all free and is buggy and wheelchair friendly. The gardens also house a massive adventure play-park and zipslide. What’s more you can head down to the jetty and catch a Windermere Lake Cruise up to nearby Waterhead. Entry is free but there is a charge for leaving the car. Customers with limited mobility can borrow an electric scooter/ wheelchair free of charge.
Coniston Launch, Coniston
Adults who loved the Swallows and Amazons stories will enjoying sharing the experience with their families on the Swallows and Amazons Cruise aboard Coniston Launch. The journey, which is almost two hours long, takes in the many places around Coniston Water that inspired Arthur Ransome while populating the imaginary lake of his well loved tales.
Ducky’s Park Farm, Flookburgh
Duckys Park Farm Moor Lane, Flookburgh, Grange-Over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 7LS
Honister Slate Mine
Set in the Heart of Lakeland, Honister Slate Mines have for centuries produced the beautiful green stone, which it is famous throughout the world. Unlike slate taken from quarries, Westmorland Green Slate is wholly extracted from beneath the hills – from eleven miles of mine tunnels – and is entirely environmentally friendly. Its beauty graces both the roofs of humble cottages and magnificent buildings, such as the Ritz Hotel and St James Palace.
Watch slate being split using processes that have changed little over the past 300 years. Fully guided tours into the mine are available several times a day (10.30, 12.30, 14.00 & 15.30), detailing the history and spectacular features of the mine. The tour shows the current workings of the mine, and how a mixture of modern and traditional methods, is still extracting the slate which was formed some 400 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex strode the land.
Pre-booking is essential during busy periods.
Honister Pass, Borrowdale, Keswick, CA12 5XN
Lakes Aquarium, Newby Bridge
An impressive aquarium on the shores of Windermere with features allowing families to visit the lakes of the world along with those a little closer to home, making it a captivating centrepiece to the Lake District. Set off from a Lake District Mountain Top and follow the water flow to find jumping trout and river bank creatures. Leap over the paddy fields to Asia- homeland of mischievous otters. Forage your way through the themed areas of Africa, the Americas and the amazing tropical jungle. There’s a virtual dive bell, daily talks and a shop too.
Lakes Aquarium, Lakeside, Newby Bridge, Cumbria, LA12 8AS
Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass
An award-winning attraction which has something to appeal to all ages. For the kids there is The World Owl Centre, interactive displays, a maze, two playgrounds, a family picnic area (including one for toddlers) and sometimes even performances by the castle’s very own jester. For adults there is the chance to learn more about the historic home of the Pennington family, its magnificent gardens, and the ghostly goings on which lead some to claim the castle is one of the most haunted in the land. You can also stock up on Cumbrian food and products in the shop and plant centre then relax and refresh in the café.
Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass, Cumbria CA18 1RQ
Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, Ravenglass
Heritage engines haul trains of cosy covered and open-top carriages from the Lake District National Park’s only coastal village of Ravenglass, through two of Lakeland’s loveliest valleys to the foot of England’s highest mountain. You can just relax and take in the scenery together, pop into the little café at Dalegarth for a tasty lunch or hop on and off to experience the wealth of pretty walks and cycle trails along the route.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, Ravenglass, Cumbria, CA18 1SW
South Lakes Wild Animal Park
Get close to wildlife, feed Giraffes, Kangaroos and Lemurs, get up and close to over 100 endangered species including Lions, Rhinos, Giraffes, Tigers, Hippos, Spectacled Bears, Lemurs, Cheetahs, Monkeys, Vultures, Owls, Bats and lots more.
Crossgates, Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria LA15 8JR
South Tynedale Railway
A narrow gauge railway built on the former Haltwhistle – Alston standard gauge branch line. The trains are hauled by preserved steam and diesel locomotives from the UK and abroad.
The Railway Station, Alston, CA9 3JB
Steamers have been sailing on the lakes for almost one hundred and fifity years so leave the hustle and bustle behind andtake a cruise aboard one of our beautifully maintained heritage boats. Whatever the weather, memories to treasure.
The Pier House, Glenridding, CA11 0US
Upfront gallery and puppet theatre, near Penrith
The Beacon, Whitehaven
Situated on Whitehaven’s harbour front, The Beacon has undergone £2.2 million pounds worth of improvements to best show off its museum collection. Kids can try out the moving deck, which simulates what it’s like being onboard, a ship, and for the more cerebral, you can trace the maritime heritage of the port. Not only was Whitehaven once one of the world’s big players in seafaring, it has links with the first US president, George Washington. The town was also at the heart of the rum smuggling skullduggery. There’s a Met Office Weather Gallery offering breathtaking views of the Irish Sea and an exhibition gallery over five different floors. It’s £5 for a day ticket to see it all and kids under 16 with adults go free.
Windermere Steamboats & Museum
Located on a former sand wharf site where, for many years, barges unloaded gravel dredged from the bed of the lake. When this operation ceased in 1975, the Windermere Nautical Trust acquired the use of the site and the Museum was built in 1976-77 with the help of The Maritime Trust and the English Tourist Board. A Steamboat Wetdock has been built over the original sand wharf quay and accommodates up to 15 boats in working order. The `Windermere´ building includes displays of Windermere speed craft, Beatrix Potter´s rowing boat and a special area set aside for the `Swallows & Amazons´ Exhibition. There is also a lecture theatre, which is available for private hire.
Rayrigg Road, Windermere, LA23 1BN
World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness-on-Windermere
All 23 of Beatrix Potter’s well-loved tales are brought to life at this interactive attraction. Families can see Peter Rabbit’s garden, explore Jemima Puddle-duck’s woodland glade and call at Mr McGregor’s greenhouse. Or take a walk through a virtual Lakeland complete with sounds, sights and even smells and visit all the places that inspired Beatrix Potter’s stories and characters. Then enjoy lunch or afternoon tea in the Tailor of Gloucester Tea Room or outdoors on the garden terrace, before browsing the gifts in the Emporium.
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