The Lake District

The history of Lakeland travel as exemplified in Baedeckers 1990 guide to the English Lake District

English Lake District - a guide to the Lakes for visitors and tourists

Lake District Tourism in 1890

from Baedeker's Guide, 1890

The picturesque mountain region known as The English Lake District is comprised within the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland together with a small adjoining portion of Lancashire, and its boundaries may be roughly described as the Irish Sea and Morecambe Bay on the west and south; the railway from Lancaster to Carlisle on the east; and a line drawn from Penrith to Workington on the north Within these limits lies a wealth of charmingly diversified scenery; and though none of the mountains exceeds 3200ft. in height and the largest of the lakes is only 10½ miles long, their picturesque nature and even wildness are far greater than their size would lead one to expect. There are in all about 16 lakes or meres, (the largest being Windermere, Ullswater, Coniston and Derwentwater), besides innumerable mountain-tarns. The highest summits are Scafell Pike (3210ft.), Scafell (3160ft.), and Skiddaw (3055ft.)

The usual approaches to the Lake District are from Oxenholme to Windermere, from Carnforth to Lake Side (Windermere) or Coniston, and from Penrith to Keswick or Ullswater. Seascale is a convenient starting-point for the Wastwater district. The most common and perhaps the best plan is to begin with Windermere, as in this case we see the tamer scenery first.

Those who can devote ONE DAY only to the Lakes will see most by taking the coach from Bowness (Windermere) to Ambleside, Grasmere, Thirlmere, and Keswick; or they may make the circular tour from Coniston or Ambleside.

A SECOND DAY may be devoted to the Buttermere round and a THIRD DAY to Ullswater, in which case the Lake District is quitted via Penrith.

A week's walk may be planned thus: 1st Day. From Windermere to Ambleside, Grasmere, and Dungeon Gill (16 miles; steamer to Ambleside). 2nd Day. From Dungeon Gill by Rossett Gill to Wasdale Head, 3-4 hrs., or including an ascent of Scafell Pike, 4½ - 6 hrs. 3rd Day. From Wasdale Head to Angler's Inn, Ennerdale by the Pillar or by the Black Sail Pass, (6-7 hrs.; from Ennerdale to Buttermere via Floutern Tarn and Scale Force, 2½ - 3 hrs. 4th Day. From Buttermere to Keswick via Honister Hause and Borrowdale, 14 miles. 5th Day. From Keswick via Helvellyn to Patterdale, 5-6 hrs. 6th Day. Sail on Ullswater, visit Aira Force, and go on to Penrith; or, from Patterdale to Windermere by the Kirkstone Pass and Troutbeck, 13 miles (digression to Hawes Water, 6 M).

The following list of local names may be useful. Beck, brook; Combe, hollow; Dodd, a spur of a mountain; Force (Icelandic, 'Fors'; Norwegian 'Foss'), a waterfall; Gill, a gorge; Hause, the top of a pass, French 'col'; Holme, an island; How, a mound-like hill; Nab (A.south Nebbe, nose), a projecting rock; Pike, a peak; Raise, the top of a ridge; Scar, a wall of rock; Scree, steep slope of loose stones; Thwaite, a clearing.

The Hotels in the Lake District are generally good and not exorbitant; while even the smallest inns, almost without exception, are laudably clean. Guides and Ponies may be procured at all the principal resorts.

Readers need scarcely be reminded of the Lake School of Poetry. Wordsworth in particular has made the district his own ('Wordsworth-shire', as Lowell calls it), and few points of interest have been left unsung in his 'Excursion' or minor poems. Among interesting prose works relating to the Lakes may be mentioned Harriet Martineau’s 'Guide to the Lake District' (4th ed. 1871), Prof. Knight's 'English Lake District as Interpreted In the Poems of Wordsworth' and 'Through the Wordsworth Country' (1887), James Payn's 'Leaves from Lakeland', Wordsworth's 'Guide to the Lake District' (5th ed., 1835; now out of print), Gibson's 'Folk-speech of Cumberland', and Miss Alice Rea's 'Beckside Boggle and other Lake Country Legends'. The botanist is referred to Mr. J. G. Baker's 'Flora of the Lake District’ (1886).

The Lake District Defence Society, established In its present form in 1883, has for its praiseworthy object 'to offer a powerful and consolidated opposition to the introduction of unnecessary railways into the Lake District, and to all other speculative schemes which may appear likely to impair its beauty or destroy its present character'. Secretaries: west H. Hills, Esq., The Knoll, Ambleside; Rev. H. D. Rawnsley, Crosthwaite Vicarage, Keswick; miles. J. Baddeley, Esq., The Hollies, Windermere.

Windermere Section

The village of Windermere (Rigg’s Windermere Hotel, with view, R. & A. 4s., D. 4s.; Queen's, Elleray, unpretending; Rail. Refreshment. Rooms; station) lies about 300 ft. above the lake (450 ft. above the sea), from which it is distant ¾ miles. by the direct footpath and 1½ miles by road. It is delightfully situated among trees at the foot of Orrest Head, affording fine views of the lake. Visitors may take up their quarters with almost equal advantage either here or at Bowness, on the shore of the lake, 1½ miles to the south (bus from the station 6d.). There is now an almost continuous line of villas between the two places.

Those who reach the Lake at the Lake Side Station may go on at once by Steamer to (5 miles.) the Ferry or (6 miles.) Bowness. Bowness Hotels: Old England, close to the lake; Royal Hotel; Crown, on a height to the east Ferry Hotel. HYDROPATHIC ESTABLISHMENT, well situated on Biscay How. - Lodgings.

Coaches run daily in summer from Bowness and Windermere to (12½ miles.) Ullswater (fare 6s., return 8s. 6d.); from Bowness across the ferry to Coniston (4s., return 6s.); and from Windermere station to Ambleside (5 miles; 1s. 6d.), Grasmere (9 miles; 2s. 6d.), and Keswick (21 miles; 6s. 6d.). - Omnibuses from the Bowness hotels and from Low Wood Hotel meet the trains at Windermere.

Steamers ply on Windermere at frequent intervals during the day, calling at several stations. Entire tour of the lake (2½ hrs.) 3s., 2s. 6d.; to Lake Side (¾ hr.) 1s. 6d., 1s.; to Waterhead (for Ambleside; 1 hr.) 1s., 9d.

Boats on the lake 1s. per hour, 5s. per day; with boatman 1s. 6d. and 10s. They may be obtained either near the Bowness pier or at the Miller Ground Landing, the nearest point to the village of Windermere.

Bowness (135 ft. above the sea), with about 2000 inhabitants, the principal port of Windermere, is beautifully situated in a small bay on the east side of the lake. The centre of the picturesque and irregularly-built little town is the old Church of St. Martin, the parish-church of Windermere, which has lately been restored and contains a good stained-glass window said to have been brought from Furness Abbey. Bowness affords admirable headquarters for exploring the south part of the Lake District, and in the height of the season is visited by thousands of tourists.

Visitors to Windermere and Bowness should first ascend Orrest Head or Biscay How (or both), to obtain a general view of the lake.

Orrest Head (784 ft.), the higher of the two, commands the more extensive view, and is ascended from Windermere in about 20 minutes. On issuing from the station we pass through the second of two gates on the right (a wooden one), adjoining the approach to the Windermere Hotel, and then ascend through the varied woods of Elleray by a path indicated by sign-posts. The View comprises the entire south half of the Lake District, the chief feature being, of course, the beautiful winding Windermere itself, with its clusters of islets and encircling mountains. The most prominent summits are the Langdale Pikes, rising to the northwest, near the head of Windermere. To the right of these is a wooded knoll called Loughrigg Fell, with Helm Crag rising behind, while still farther to the right are Fairfield, Wansfell Pike (with the village of Troutbeck), the conspicuous Red Screes, the ridge of High Street, and the fine cone of Ill Bell. To the east is a long series of featureless hills extending to Ingleborough in Yorkshire, on the southeast to the left (west) of the Langdale Pikes rise the fine peak of Bow Fell, Scafell Pike (in the distance), Pike o' Blisco and the three Crinkle Crags (in front), the rounded Weatherlam, and the Coniston Old Man, closing the mountain-screen in this direction. To the south the view extends to Morecambe Bay. In descending we may keep more to the right and pass the cottage of Elleray, the former residence of Christopher North, shaded by the splendid sycamore of which he declared it were easier to suppose two Shakespeares than such another tree. Below it we reach the Ambleside road, where we may either turn to the left for Windermere, or to the right and then to the left (at the cross-roads) for Bowness.

Biscay How rises immediately behind Bowness, and the way to the top (½ hr.) is obvious. The view is similar to that from Orrest Head, but less extensive. Other good points of view are Miller Brow, 1½ miles to the north of Bowness, on the road to Ambleside, just on this side of he above-mentioned cross-roads, and Brant Fell (500 ft.), 1 mile to the southeast The road to the latter ascends by the church and to the left of the Crown Hotel.

Windermere, or Winandermere (the 'winding lake', or, perhaps, ‘Windar's lake'), is the largest lake in England, being 10½ miles in length and ⅓-1 miles broad. It lies 134 ft. above the sea-level, and its greatest depth is 240 ft. Its banks are beautifully wooded and enlivened with numerous villas. The north end of Windermere is enclosed by an amphitheatre of lofty mountains. At the south end of the lake, 6 miles from Bowness (reached by crossing the Ferry, ¾ miles below Bowness, and following the shady road on the west bank), lies Lake Side (Lake Side Hotel; Railway Refreshment Rooms), the terminus of the railway from Carnforth.


Leaving Lake Side, the steamboat steers to the north, up the middle of the lake, which is here not wider than a river of moderate size. The banks are well wooded. To the right is Gummers How (1054 ft.). We pass a few islets, and then the promontories called Rawlinson Nab (left) and Storr's Point (right), the latter with a small observatory. It was here that Scott, Wordsworth, Southey, Canning, and Wilson met in 1825 and witnessed a regatta held in honour of the first-named. Beyond Ramp Holme the steamer makes its first halt at the Ferry Hotel, charmingly situated on a small promontory jutting out from the west bank (ferry, see below). It then steers across the lake towards Bowness, skirting the well-wooded Belle Isle, the largest island in the lake (½ mile long; landing forbidden).

On leaving Bowness the steamer threads its way among several islets to the north of Belle Isle and enters upon the most picturesque part of the voyage. The fine amphitheatre of mountains at the head of the lake becomes more and more distinct. Due north is Fairfield; to the right of it, Red Screes, High Street, Froswick, and Ill Bell; to the left, the conspicuous Langdale Pikes. To the west rise Weatherlam and the Coniston Old Man. To the right opens the little glen of the Troutbeck, which flows into the lake through the woods of Calgarth. On the shore to the left, a little farther on, is Wray Castle, a modern castellated mansion, rising above the trees. The steamer then stops on the east side of the lake at the Low Wood Hotel, a large establishment close to the shore. High up on the same side is Dove Nest, once the temporary home of Mrs. Hemans. At the head of the lake open out the valleys of the Brathay (to the left) and the Rothay, which unite their waters just before entering the lake. To the left is Pull Wyke Bay. We then reach the pier of Waterhead (Hotel; Restaurant, with lodgings, at the pier), the station at the north end of the lake. Omnibuses for Ambleside and Grasmere meet the steamers.


The road leads to the south from Bowness to the (1 mile) Nab Ferry, which walkers may reach by a shorter footpath (¾ mile) to the right. The lake here is only ¼ mile wide, and the ferry-boat plies at short intervals during the day (fare 2d). On the other side is the Ferry Hotel (see above).

From the Ferry Hotel the road ascends, skirting the Claife Heights, to (1¼ miles) Far Sawrey (Inn) and (½ mile) Near Sawrey, and then descends to the right to (½ mile) Esthwaite Water (217 ft.), a small lake, 1¾ mile long and ⅓ mile broad, well stocked with fish. Our road skirts the east side of the lake, passes a small pool called the 'Priest Pot' to the north of it, and then turns to the left.

1¼ miles to Hawkshead (Red Lion Inn), a quaint and very irregular little town, with the grammar-school at which Wordsworth was educated. His name is cut on one of the oaken benches. The school was founded in 1585 by Archbishop Sandys, a native of Hawkshead. The little height on which the church stands commands a good view.

The road leading straight on (to the north) from Hawkshead leads to Ambleside. Our road turns to the left and ascends to (1½ miles) High Cross (600 ft.), the culminating point of the route, where it joins the road from Ambleside to Coniston. We now descend, facing the Old Man and Weatherlam, with the Yewdale Crags in front of them, and enjoying fine glimpses of Coniston Lake to the left, to (2 miles) the head of the lake, whence the road leads past the Waterhead Hotel to (1 mile) the village of Coniston.

Coniston (Waterhead Hotel, ½ mile from the village, near the pier; Crown Inn, in the village; Lodgings), the terminus of a railway, from Carnforth and Furness Abbey, is finely situated at the foot of the Old Man, ¾ mile from the lake, and is a pleasant centre for excursionists and anglers. Coniston Lake (147 ft.), a 'miniature Windermere', is 5½ miles long, about ½ mile broad, and 260 ft. deep at the deepest part. The most picturesque part of it is the north end, with the mountains rising above it, but the beautifully-wooded banks lower down have a charm of their own. The best view down the lake is obtained from Tarn Hows (see below). A small steamer plies up and down the lake (¾ hr. each way; fare 1s., return 1s. 6d.). At the lower end is Lake Bank Hotel, which is 8½ miles. from Ulverston and 6½ miles. from Greenodd, a station on the Lake Side line. As we descend the lake the distant tops of Helvellyn, Fairfield, and Red Screes come into sight on the north and northeast Among the houses on the east bank are Tent House (opposite the Waterhead Hotel), where Tennyson once lived, and Brantwood, 1 miles. lower down, the home of Ruskin.

The most attractive point for a short walk from Coniston is (2 miles.) Tarn Hows, which pedestrians may easily include by a slight détour on their way from Bowness or Ambleside. We follow the Bowness (or Ambleside) road to a point about ¾ miles. beyond the Waterhead Hotel, where we diverge to the left, nearly opposite the gate of Waterhead House, and ascend through the wooded dell to (¾ miles.) Tarn Hows Farm (to the left). The high ground to the right, farther on, commands a beautiful View. In returning we may descend by a steep path into Yewdale, which we reach near the celebrated yew , or take the opposite direction and descend to the Bowness road near High Cross (see above).

ASCENT OF THE CONISTON OLD MAN, 1½ hr. (ponies obtainable at the hotels).

There are various ways of making this ascent, but if the summit is not concealed by mist the climber will not need much guidance. The slopes of the fell are covered with copper-mines and slate-quarries, and the interest of a visit to the former (apply to the manager) scarcely compensates for the disfigurement of the scenery. The regular pony-track ascends along a stream descending from the copper-mines, passes the mines, and then climbs to the left towards a conspicuous slate-quarry, near the Low Water Tarn. Hence we ascend to the south passing another quarry, and soon reach the top. The Summit of the Old Man (2683 ft.), the name of which is a corruption of Allt Maen (i.e. 'steep rock') commands a View of great charms. To the west is an expanse of rugged fells, culminating in the distant Skiddaw, to the right of which are ranged Helvellyn, High Street, and Ill Bell. To the east we look over Coniston Water, Esthwaite Water, and parts of Windermere, with the Yorkshire hills in the background. To the south are Morecambe Bay and Black Combe; and the summit of Snowdon is visible in clear weather beyond the expanse of sea. The view to the west also includes the sea and the Isle of Man. The tarn high up among the fells is Devoke Water. To the northwest tower Scafell and Scafell Pike. The immediate foreground is filled with the other members of the range of which the Old Man is the loftiest summit (Weatherlam, the Carrs, Dow Crag, etc.). Three small tarns, Lever Water and Low Water to the north, and Blind Tarn to the southwest, are visible; and by going a few yards to the west, we see a fourth, Goats Water (1646 ft.), at our feet. The descent may be varied in many ways. We may walk along the ridge connecting the summit with Dow Crag (2555ft.) and descend by the Walna Scar Pass (2035 ft.); or we may descend to Seathwaite Tarn and follow the brook issuing from it down to the valley of the Duddon (see below), returning to Coniston by the WaIna Scar road, or following the Duddon to Broughton and returning thence by train. Good walkers may make their way to the top of (2 hrs.) Weatherlam (2502 ft.; view) and descend thence either into the (1 hr.) Tilberthwaite Glen (see below), or by the northeast side to (1 hr.) Smithy Houses.

Continued here