Cumbria is a rugged, rural county located in northwest England. The eastern edge of Cumbria is located within a three-hour drive from the city of York. The natural beauty of Cumbria, which centrally encompasses the dramatic Lake District, draws visitors from all over the United Kingdom and the rest of the world who wish to experience the landscape made popular in the works of authors such as William Wordsworth.
There is evidence of human settlement in Cumbria long before England’s Roman Age, most likely to mine the mountains for stone used in making axes and stone circles. The area was integrated into the Scottish-ruled kingdom of Northumbria by the end of the seventh century, making it exempt from William the Conqueror’s great survey of all the land of England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. However, within 25 years, an invasion of Cumbria by William Rufus began a long period of wars fought between England and Scotland to maintain control of this area. Stability finally settled in Cumbria after Scotland’s Jacobite Risings in the 18th century, with Cumbria officially named as part of Northern England.
Though nearby towns and cities experienced an explosion of growth during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, Cumbria’s popularity didn’t peak until the Romantic movement of the early 19th century. Idealized by poets and authors such as William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, the beauty of the area’s rugged hills and lakes began to draw visitors and settlers alike. The Lake District National Park was established in 1951, and the county of Cumbria was officially created in 1974.
The most popular region of Cumbria is arguably the Lake District, the largest of all national parks in England and Wales and home to some of England’s most dramatic landscapes, including the country’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, and deepest lake, Wastwater Lake. Not only has the beauty of these hills, forests, mountains, and lakes been popularized by the writings of William Wordsworth in the 19th century, but children’s author Beatrix Potter’s private land donation after her death helped to create the national park.
The Lake District is also home to the longest lake in England, Lake Windermere, one of the most popular tourist spots in Cumbria. The full length of this elongated waterway is serviced by Windermere Lake Cruises, carrying passengers from railways in Lakeside in the south to Ambleside in the north, with several stops along the way. Three of these ferries are original from when the ferry service began in the early 19th century.
Towns & Villages
Towns & Villages
While the largest town in Cumbria is technically Carlisle, the town of Windermere is considered one of the most popular. There are several museums in Windermere, though visitors usually head straight for Bowness-on-Windermere, the smaller town that is situated along the shores of the lake. Together, these towns offer stunning lakeside shopping, restaurants, and lodging. Especially popular is The World of Beatrix Potter, an interactive shop celebrating one of the Lake District’s most influential authors. Many Cumbria visitors also head to the town of Keswick, popular for many annual festivals and conventions, including those highlighting film, jazz, Christianity, mountains, and beer. Keswick is also home to an annual half-marathon.
Historic castles are scattered throughout Cumbria. The most popular with visitors is Carlisle Castle in Carlisle. This 900-year old stronghold was the scene of many historic battles. Today, this structure, located near the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall, is carefully maintained by English Heritage and open to the public. Other protected Cumbria castles include Sizergh Castle in Helsington and Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass.