Nearly sixteen million people visit The Lake District every year, with the Windermere Lake Cruises attracting now million of these alone. The Lake Cruises is the sixteenth most popular tourist destination in the UK. It was also awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 for “the combined work of nature and human activity [which] has produced a harmonious landscape in which the mountains are mirrored in the lakes“.
These statements indicate just how popular the area is, but it is still possible to find some Lake District hidden gems…
…mountains and fells where you can enjoy a walk away from the crowds, fields and picnic areas in more remote locations, where you can enjoy some peaceful time with the family, and a huge collection of museums and points of interest for a cultural and educational visit.
Whether you’re visiting alone, with your partner, or with the whole family, you can find some tranquil and relaxing places throughout the Lake District that are a bit off the beaten track.
The Duddon Valley, as a whole, is a virtually untouched gem, but it features some of the most attractive scenery and best looking backdrops in the National Park. It is also home to Ulpha Bridge, which is not only an attractive and convenient starting point for a lot of walks in this area. It is also a great spot for sunbathing, with its grassy banks, and the river is deep under the bridge itself. It has become a popular spot with fearless bridge divers.
There is no grand lake in this spot on the South West corner of the Lakes, which means that most tourists stay away, but you certainly shouldn’t let that put you off. The village of Ulpha has a population of just over 100 people, so it is quiet, and you can buy ice creams and fishing nets from the small Post Office.
Cat Bells is likely to prove somewhat busier than a lot of the locations on this list, but that is thanks to the accessibility of this miniature fell. Adults, children, and grandparents can tackle this one, which makes it popular with people of all age groups and a mix of experienced and novice hikers.
Once you reach the summit, you can look out over the crystal-clear waters of Derwent Water, and you can see many of the more mountainous fells of the region. The route is easy to climb and it is easy to find your way to the top and back down again. There is a steeper hill at the foot of the fell, and a mild scramble at the top, but you shouldn’t struggle too much with either of these sections.
As you reach the end of this first tunnel, you will enter the 40ft high Cathedral Cavern chamber. At this point there are two routes, one which leads back to the entrance and another which takes you to a second tunnel, where you will need lighting because it is long and pitch black.
Because the cavern system is quite difficult to find, with only a small road leading to it, the cavern does not tend to attract a lot of visitors so you should enjoy an opportunity to enjoy the cavern in relative peace and quiet.
Gummer’s How is a hill situated in the Southern part of the Lake District. It is on the Eastern shore of Windermere, on the opposite side to Lakeside.
It tends to be quiet, because there is a lot of walking to be done in order to reach the summit if you approach from the Lakeside, although starting from the Gummer’s How picnic area provides you with a much simpler path and easier climb to the top.
As well as providing incredible panoramic views of the Lake District as well as the Pennines and Morecambe, Gummer’s How is also filled with free roaming cattle and wildlife that have been introduced to the area in order to help control the local fauna.
The cattle do tend to bring a lot of mud, which means that the terrain can be deceptively difficult to take on, although you should be able to complete the whole walk in less than an hour. The How is a Wainwright Outlying Fell and also a Birkett, a Marilyn, and a HuMP.
Children’s Chocolate Factory
The Children’s Chocolate Factory in Hawkshead only opened in 2017, and it is getting busier with each passing season, but it remains lesser known than many of the activities and hotspots for families in the area. It is well worth a visit.
Adults can relax while children embark on an interactive tour of the factory. They will make their own chocolate creations while being taught about the processes required to go from milk to great tasting chocolate. What’s more, everything the children make, they get to keep and take home with them, too.
As well as children’s parties, adults can have their own fun. Regular ladies’ nights are held, which include chocolate making and prosseco drinking. The centre is open 7 days a week and offers a great way to entertain the kids for a day.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
There are more than 1,000 stone circles in the British Isles, and while Stonehenge is the one that garners the most attention, there are many other incredible examples. Castlerigg Stone Circle is considered one of the most important in the UK.
It is more than 5,000 years old, which means it is one of the earliest examples of this type of site. Its location in the middle of Blencathra, Skiddaw, and Lonscale Fell also means that it is one of the most picturesque. The circle is made up of approximately 40 megaliths, and the Castlerigg Stone Circle makes an excellent starting of ending position for many beautiful walks.
Grizedale Forest may be a little busier than some of the other locations in this list, but its size and the range of activities means that you will still be able to find something to do so that you aren’t surrounded by throngs of people.
If you primarily want to avoid the crowds, steer clear of the Go Ape! adventure park and the graded mountain bike trails. Instead, head to the local visitor centre and pick up one of the orienteering maps that are available for a very small cost and take up the challenge to find your way through the trail. Alternatively, simply head into the forest and explore.
Derwent Water Islands
Derwent Water is home to four permanent islands and one allegedly floating island that appears at the end of summer and consists of vegetable matter that is pushed to the surface on a cushion of methane gas. If you’re looking for a secluded spot, hire a canoe and power yourself out to one of the permanent islands for the day. You are discouraged from staying overnight, shouldn’t light fires, and all visitors are encouraged to remove their own rubbish as well as any other rubbish that they see, but the lack of easy accessibility means that these islands can be extremely isolated.
St Herbert’s is the largest of the accessible islands. It is named after the man that brought Christianity to the area and St Herbert’s cell is still visible among the undergrowth.
Rampsholme Island is named for the wild garlic that grows on the island, and apart from formerly being a part of the Earl of Derwent Water’s Estate, it is a largely untouched and unnoteworthy island.
Lord’s Island is located on a quieter section of Derwent Water, so is even less likely to have crowds of people. You can see the remaining foundations of the great house that was situated on the island and connected to the mainland by drawbridge.
Derwent Island makes up the four islands, but it is a private island and cannot be accessed, only admired from afar.
Honister Slate Mine
Located at the top of the Honister Pass in Borrowdale, Honister Slate Mine is the last working slate mine in the country. You can watch the slate being split using techniques that have not changed in more than 300 years. You can see how traditional methods effectively combine with modern techniques to yield efficient slate mining results.
Lakeland slate comes in different colours and shades, but Honister slate is a distinctive and highly sought after green coloured slate. The strong and durable material is still used for crafting roof tiles, as well as for making walls and more. You can still buy roofing slate from the mine, as well as smaller slate items that you can take home as a memento.
The Lake District can seem overwhelmingly busy because of the huge number of people that visit every year. However, there are still quieter and more tranquil areas, while visiting during off-peak and out-of-season times can also help ensure smaller crowds. Above is just a small sample of some of the hidden gems in the Lake District.
This post was put together by Rick Marsh.
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