Viewing a high country landscape accentuated with a blanket of yellow, the poet William Wordsworth in 1804 described what he saw as “a host of golden daffodils.”
When I arrived in the northwest corner of England which prompted Wordsworth and other writers to wax so eloquently, it didn’t take long to understand why. Begin with the magnificent scenery of lakes and rugged mountains, thick forests and rolling fields outlined by stone walls and hedge rows, where countless sheep graze. Top off the list with the region’s intriguing history and rich cultural heritage and it’s clear why Wanderlust magazine readers last year voted it the leading destination in the United Kingdom.
In a nod to the British fondness for quaint, colorful terms, only one of the 16 major bodies of water in the area, Bassenthwaite (itself a challenging tongue twister), is called a lake. The others are known as waters, tarns and meres.
At 11 miles long, Windermere is the longest lake in the country. Its shore is lined with Victorian mansions, some of which now serve as guest houses and small hotels.
Steam boats connect tourist villages that overlook Ullswater. Landlubbers may prefer the 6.5-mile foot path which connects the towns. Another walking trail circles Grasmere. The poet William Wordsworth, who lived in the town of the same name, described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”
The Bowness waterfront on Lake Windermere is lined with restaurants and shops. Nearby is the Hole In t’Wall, a 16th-century pub so named, the story goes, for an opening made by a blacksmith who worked next door through which he retrieved his pints of ale.
Wordsworth’s home, the charming village of Grasmere, is one of a number of towns that relate chapters in the story of the so-called Lake Poets. They lived in the Lake District around the turn of the 19th century and, inspired by its beauty, described it in their works.
The three main Lake Poets were Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who penned “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”) and Robert Southey, best known as the author of “The Story of the Three Bears,” the precursor to the Goldilocks tale.
Wordsworth lived in Grasmere from 1799 to 1808, and spent the final 37 years of his life in a rambling old house in the village of Rydal. Both Coleridge and Southey lived in Keswick.
Today, a growing number of travelers are following the footsteps of those creative types to create their own memories of the English Lake District. They’re discovering the reasons why that tiny locale has so entranced those who have visited and lived there for centuries.
For information about visiting the Lake District, see golakes.co.uk.