If you follow me over on Instagram (@emmakatehall), you’ll know that I recently spent a long weekend exploring the beautiful Lake District in the North of England. Whilst I knew it was renowned for its beauty, I wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly I’d become completely enamoured with the place. I’m already itching to get back and there are certainly a few things that I’ll be doing differently next time around. If you’re a Lake District newbie, here’s my practical advice and top tips for making the most out of your time there!
1. It Rains A LOT
The Lake District is a notoriously rainy, so you’ll be lucky if you survive your trip unscathed by a downpour! In fact, the area experiences an average of 200 wet days per year due to winds crossing the Atlantic Ocean picking up a large amount of moisture.
This being said, my most recent trip involved two days of glorious, uninterrupted sunshine, so don’t be put off too much by the high chance of rain! As the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, and if you pack appropriately, the rain shouldn’t hinder your experience too much. In fact, I find that it often supplements the dramatic surroundings rather perfectly!
2. You Can’t Rely on Your Phone
It’s important to note before visiting that getting phone signal when in the national park may be impossible at times. Whilst they’re a great tool, don’t become too dependent on your smartphone for maps or directions, as you may find yourself stuck! Be as prepared to go phone-less by equipping yourself with a map, compass, and printed copy of any trail instructions! If you’re not an experienced walker, try sticking to well-trodden routes to build up your confidence before going more off-piste!
3. It’s Big
Something that surprises many upon first visiting the Lake District, or seeing it on a map, is quite how expansive it is. Try to get a good understanding of how you’d like to spend your time there and position yourself accordingly. With so much beautiful scenery to explore, it would be a shame to spend hours in the car getting from one place to another!
4. Avoid the Hardknott Pass
Speaking of cars, be wary of any route that takes you along the Hardknott Pass. This single track road runs directly through the national park and, at a gradient of 33%, is the steepest road in England. Whilst it affords fantastic views, it’s a terrifying drive, which is probably best avoided by all but the most experienced of drivers. If your map app attempts to direct you along this route, I’d highly recommend investigating alternative options! There are some great walking routes along the Hardknott Pass, however, if you don’t want to miss out on the area completely!
5. Invest in Some Decent Shoes
If you’re really looking to get the most out of your trip, it’s a good idea to invest in a decent pair of walking boots, or at least some high quality trainers. The terrain varies greatly and it would be a shame to miss out on the incredible views due to foot pain! Just don’t forget to break them in before your trip!
6. Get Lost in Nature
It might seem obvious but my very top tip is to get outside! Whilst it’s easy to spend your time on boat rides or visiting museums, the cheapest and most enjoyable thing to do in the Lake District is to explore the great outdoors. Dive into crystal clear lakes, listen to waterfalls as they cascade onto the rocks below and hike up into clouds. Nature promises to reward those who put in that little extra effort!
7. Download what3words
What3words is a geocode system used to communicate your location. Geographic coordinates are encoded into three dictionary words that can be used to inform emergency services where you are. This has already been rescue tourists who found themselves stranded in a blizzard on Ben Nevis. Again, this can only get you so far if you have no phone signal, but could potentially save your life if you do!
8. Plan Your Trip in Advance
With so much to do and so many great walking routes, research can easily eat into your day of exploring. Try to plan exactly what you want to do before arriving, including where you want to hike and how you to get there. That way you can get outside and actually make the most out of your time in The Lakes. It can quickly become overwhelming when faced with thousands of google search results on ‘the best walks of the lake district’, especially when you can feel your day slipping away. A bit of preparation removes the stress and allows you to fully enjoy your time away!
9. Get to Know the Lingo
Sometimes reading signs in the Lake District can make you feel as though you’ve stepped foot into another country. There are a number of words that you might not be familiar with before visiting – I know I certainly wasn’t! Pike, fell, mere, tarn and dale are all words you might want to get to grips with before you set out on a walk!
10. Take a Deep Breath
My final and most important tip is to take a deep breath. The micro-stresses of modern life quickly take over our brains, from office politics to the weekly food shop, leaving our days feeling messy and chaotic, as we scramble from one thing to the next. I’ve found few places have been such a delicious antidote to this hectic habit of living as The Lakes, which provide the perfect reminder of the peace that still exists in the world if we only choose to look for it. So make a note to breathe in the fresh air, notice the stillness around you, and appreciate what a beautiful world we live in.