The Lure of Lakeland


This post was intended to be my piece of extra information to accompany my story for FFfAW (here). As it became rather long (although it’s more pictures than information -some photos my own, others from Wikipedia) I’ve made it into a separate post. It’s about an area of England I’ve loved since I was a child – the Lake District. The information includes a little about the area today, and a little about it in the days when it was part of the old Celtic kingdom of Rheged, where my story takes place. 

The Lake District – also known as The English Lakes or just Lakeland – is one of England’s most popular holiday destinations. It is one of the 13 National Parks of England and Wales (No. 2 on the first map below) which today is situated entirely in the county of Cumbria:


National Parks of England and Wales. Author: Keith Edkins. Creative Commons.


Map of The Lake District National Park. Source: Office of National Statistics and Geography OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Commons

People are drawn to this area by the natural beauty of its mountains (fells), forests and many lakes. The highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, lies within the Park’s boundaries . . .

cafell massif showing Scafell Pike. Author: Doug Sim Commons

Scafell massif showing Scafell Pike. Author: Doug Sim. Commons

. . . as does the longest and largest lake, Windermere . . .

Windermere, lake district, from hill. Author: Abbasi 1111. Commons

Windermere, Lake District, from hill. Author: Abbasi 1111. Commons

. . . and the deepest lake, Waswater (also shown on my first photo):


Unfortunately for the many holidaymakers, it does rain a lot up there! Seathwaite, in the Borrowdale area, holds the record for being the wettest inhabited place in England (130 inches of rain per year). But the many old towns tend to have lots going on, as we noted when we were in Keswick a couple of months ago:


Evidence of glaciation during the last Ice Age, can be seen all over the Lake District. I won’t go into the many features other than those of the lakes. As the great glaciers moved out from the centre of the upland region, it gouged out the existing V-shaped valleys into the familiar U-shaped valleys with the ‘ribbon’ lakes we see today – as clearly shown on this O.S. map of Lake Windermere and the picture of Thirlmere below it:

Windermere2cropped3. Public Domain.

Public Domain.

A Herdwick sheep grazing above Thirlmere. Author: Sara Blaxkova. Commons

A Herdwick sheep grazing above Thirlmere. Author: Sara Blazkova. Commons

In the Lake District, the lakes radiate out from the central upland like the spokes of a wheel – which you can see in the second map on my post.

The area around Lake Windermere is one of the most popular tourist areas of the Lake District. Steam vessels of the late 19th century carried tourists the length of the lake . . .


Windermere Steam Ferry, Lake District, circa 1895. Author: The Library of Congress@Flickr Commons. Public Domain

. . . and nowadays modern ferries run continuously, many tourists heading for the town of Bowness (where we got off) halfway along the lake, or to Ambleside in the north.

MV Swan on Lake Windermere, 2006. Creative Commons

MV Swan on Lake Windermere, 2006. Creative Commons

There’s plenty to see along the route: there are 18 islands, various old buildings and private villas, and lots of yachts and other craft moored along private jetties. And motor boats and water skiers provide plenty of entertainment.

Other tourists visit The Lake District simply to see the land so loved by poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, and the children’s author, Beatrix Potter. Wordsworth’s house in Grasmere, Dove Cottage, is a honeypot for tourists:

Dove Cottage at Grasmere, home of poet, William Wordsworth, now a museum. Author: Christine Hasman. Commons

Dove Cottage at Grasmere, home of poet, William Wordsworth, now a museum. Author: Christine Hasman. Commons

So many other books have been set in this wonderful place – Swallows and Amazons for one – and many contemporary ones.

Cumbria, along with parts of what is now Southern Scotland and further south, the English county of Lancashire, were thought to have once been what was the the Celtic Kingdom of Rheged, although its exact location and extent are still uncertain.

Yr Hen Ogledd 550 650 Koch by myself. Creative Commons

Yr Hen Ogledd 550 650 Koch by myself. Creative Commons

I won’t go into detail about this kingdom, except to say that it survived well into the 7th, possibly 8th century, when it was annexed by the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. Rheged had been a powerful kingdom in its time.  King Urien in particular (c 530-590) is well known, having been written about by his bard, Taliesin. Both Urien and his son, Owain, became heroes in the stories about King Arthur and his fight against the invading Anglo Saxons. The Brynaich and Deifr on the map above became the A.S. kingdoms of  Bernicia and Deira – which both became a part of Northumbria.


Finally, below is another of the the Lake District’s attractions – the Neolithic stone circle at Castlerigg – about which I have a post to do sometime soon.


About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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50 Responses to The Lure of Lakeland

  1. Pingback: Leaving Rheged – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers | Millie Thom

  2. Ann Koplow says:

    Beautiful, Millie!

  3. inesephoto says:

    Thank you for this wonderful journey! Learned a lot, as always.

  4. draliman says:

    Beautiful place. I’ve only been a couple of times (we staying there sometimes while on our way to/from Scotland when I was a kid). Hopefully I will visit again one day!

    • milliethom says:

      It is awe-inspiring, Ali.I’ve heard it described as being like the Scottish Highlands, on a smaller scale – all the lakes/lochs and fells/ mountains. Try to have at least a few days there, if you can. (March – June are the driest months.)

  5. Wonderful! What a beautiful place but it’s hard for me to imagine 130 inches of rain a year! I live in the SW of the US and we don’t have much rain (compared to that). The photos are beautiful. I did notice what looked like some Indian dancers. (What the Native Americans (Navajos, Utes, Apaches, etc. in my area) here look like when they do their Pow Wow dances). Very interesting and informative post!

  6. giffmacshane says:

    Lovely post and pics, Millie. I feel like I had a mini-vacation today.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Giff. The Lake District is very lovely, but it gets so busy in the summer. If we go then, we try to head out to the less popular lakes, like Waswater to the far west. Most tourists stay around the main lakes like Windermere, Derwentwater and Coniston Water – as well as Wordswoth’s cottage. There are no touristy towns up on the fells around Waswater.

  7. Joy Pixley says:

    I can see why so many people want to vacation there, even given the chance for rain – it’s beautiful! Thank you for including all the modern and old maps, too. It’s great to be able to locate where you’re talking about (plus I just love maps)!

    • milliethom says:

      So do I. Joy. ‘ve spent most of my life studying them. I’m a geologist by degree and a secondary teacher (11-18) of geography and history. Maps are so important to me. I agree, it’s important to show people where you’re actually talking about.

  8. exiledprospero says:

    Maybe Seathwaite, with 130 inches of rainfall annually, is the ideal place to start your mulberry plantation.

    Beautiful scenery throughout the region. And now, having experienced it vicariously, there’s no need for me to visit. But somehow I think there’s probably still an ineffable aura to the place, the type of thing that can’t be completely explained by photographs.

    • milliethom says:

      There’s definitely something about the Lake District that gets to the very soul.I’m sure you must feel the same about areas of your own ‘island’ -wherever it is! In the Lakes, the land, the climate and the history are all part of what makes it so special. It has a wild beauty – the glaciated mountains and lakes and the greenery – which is difficult to describe to do it justice. Mulberry bushes may well grow beautifully up there. 😃

      • exiledprospero says:

        I believe you. The place sounds wonderful.

        When I think of Lake Windermere, I think of Lady Windermere’s Fan. I think this type of transposition happens to Oscar Wilde readers all the time.

        I am hoping that Hurricane Joaquin can’t find ‘my island’ either (given its secret location), but I may be disappointed. They have issued a hurricane watch for the region. We should have a better idea of the storm’s path by tomorrow. I’m worried about all my trees now! I can bring my mulberry seedlings inside, but what about my cinnamon trees?

      • milliethom says:

        Now, Lady Windermere’s Fan I do know – so that needn’t go on my TBR list. As for Hurricane Joaquin, I had thought it was heading in the direction of Bermuda, but I’ll have to check on that. Bermuda isn’t very ‘secret’ so I don’t think you live there. (Or do you? I know you won’t answer that – but I felt like asking anyway.) There are lots of islands out there, so I suppose you could live anywhere!.
        It must be quite a worry living with the fear of hurricanes at this time of year. Their effects can be devastating. Regarding your trees, I do hope they survive – but I’m sure they’d be the least of your worries should Joaquin hit your island. (Cinnamon trees sound so exotic.)

      • exiledprospero says:

        Well, Millie, with an unusual name such as Prospero (and having a magical dog called Ariel–both references to The Tempest), I reckon I do live in Bermuda, which was in days of old called the Isle of Devils. But there are 300 islands here, so it’s still fairly secret!

        And you won’t find any cinnamon trees on the islands either, as they are not known to grow here. I simply will them to grow (with certain incantations learned from books)–and so far, they are humoring me (like the tempestuous winds now pummeling the island).

        I’m glad you’ve read some Oscar Wilde. He is so witty.

      • milliethom says:

        I reckon ‘Isle of Devils’ is an excellent name. Now I’m intrigued as to who these devils were. I knew there were a lot of islands in Bermuda, but 300 is a heck of a lot! I’d say, you’ll easily keep your little island secret. Let’s hope thos tempestuous winds don’t get any more tempestuous! Thank you for satisfying my ‘nosiness’ about your lovely island. 🙂

      • exiledprospero says:

        The hurricane has moved to greener pastures and my internet is now back. Other than having their feathers ruffled, my trees survived. And you needn’t worry about the houses–they are built like medieval castles and not likely to blow away.

        I knew the mystique surrounding the Isle of Devils would rouse the historian in you.

      • milliethom says:

        It sounds like an area I’d love to investigate, Prospero – not to mention lapping up some of your wonderful sunshine.I imagine that most newer properties would be built to withstand hurricanes much better – although older, poorer quality ones won’t survive too well. It’s the same in most areas subject to natutal hazards. Anyway, I’m glad you’re still in one piece, and your trees have survived – and that you’ve got your internet back. (We don’t need hurricanes in our village for the internet to fly away for days on end.) Enjoy a peacefiul Isle of Devils for a while. 🙂

  9. My first impression after reading this post and look at all these gorgeous photos was “wow”. That beautiful landscape amazed me and I can totally see why you’ve loved it since you were a child. 😉 Who doesn’t love this place seriously?!? The detailed information you posted here made it even more interesting! ❤

    • milliethom says:

      The Lake District is an easy area to love. It’s rugged and fresh and very green – and lots of wonderful wildlife, too. It’s steeped in history, too, right back to Neolithic times. But it does rain a lot – which is why it’s so green! 🙂

      • Wow what a fantastic area it is regardless the rain! Oh well it would be so green without the rain like you said 😉 I’m sure it is place worth visiting every now and then 🙂

  10. hyrethek says:

    Lovely photos;Millie, thanks for all the history as well,it’s not an area we’ve visited, just driven through whhhhilst trying to fit in various relatives!! Must some day remedy that.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks, Lyn! After Australia you’d probably find it cool and wet, athough I’ve had some gloriously sunny days up there, too. It’s well worth a vist for the scenery alone – not to mention the history dating back to the Neolithic. 🙂

  11. It reminds me of Lady Windermere’s fan. And somewhat reminescent of some Norwegian areas! Lovely photos, Millie

  12. Very, very interesting again. Wish I could visit wetlands one day.(I think I am only daydreaming -won’t happen very easily) Thanks for the lovely post.

  13. Beautiful as well as historically interesting!

  14. Bekki Hill says:

    As always you’re so informative. Didn’t realise we had 13 National parks! Better go look at you map again.

  15. Another area to visit one bright day in the (near?) future when we hopefully visit some English countryside… the greenness is just so beautiful and fresh looking.

  16. cynthiamvoss says:

    I love the history you provide along with your photos. Very interesting!

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Cynthia! I tend to get carried away with history sometimes. 😀

      • cynthiamvoss says:

        It’s fascinating how much history there is in your part of the world, it’s no wonder you get carried away 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        Yes, I suppose we’re lucky in that way here (if you like history, that is.:) ) Every town and village has at least a few builidings dating back hundreds of years. The church in our village is 11th century. Then there are all sorts of ancient sites and battlegrounds everywhere, too. It’s easy to just overlook many of them because they are so common. Thanks, Cynthia. 🙂

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