Lake District Area Guide


The Lake District National Park is England’s biggest national park, covering 900 square miles of the Cumbria countryside. And it holds several other records too, including being home to the country’s tallest mountain (Scafell Pike), its largest lake (Windermere) and its deepest lake (Wast Water).

With all this spectacular scenery, it’s no wonder that the Lake District is also the UK’s most-visited national park. Each year it welcomes around 18 million visitors, who come here to enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities including camping, hiking, watersports, mountain biking and climbing as well as just enjoying the fresh air and fantastic views.

Where is the Lake District?

Covering about a third of the land area of Cumbria, in the north west of England, the Lake District National Park runs from the west coast up to the mountainous areas around Penrith. With the M6 running up the eastern side of the park and two mainline stations – at Oxenholme and Penrith – these spectacular landscapes are easy to get to from most parts of the country, and a particularly good option for a weekend break from nearby cities like Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.

The Lake District National Park is bordered to the east by the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with the two meeting somewhere around Tebay. And with the North Pennines National Landscape to the north east and the Forest of Bowland National Landscape to the south, there's never a shortage of gorgeous views to explore in this part of north-west England. 

How big is the lake district?

The Lake District is England's largest National Park and covers a huge area of 912 square miles, or 2362 square kilometers. Over half of the land in this area is privately owned, with the rest owned by various organisations such as The National Trust or Forestry England.

How many lakes are in the Lake District?

Perhaps surprisingly, there is only one lake in the Lake District: Bassenthwaite Lake. That’s because, technically speaking, the other main bodies of water in the park are all classed as ‘waters’ or ‘meres’ rather than lakes. (A mere is shallower than a lake would be for the same surface area.)

For visitor purposes, there are 16 main ‘lakes’ in the Lake District National Park, along with several ‘tarns’ (small glacial lakes). The largest bodies of water in the national park are as follows:

  1. Windermere (5.71 square miles)

  2. Ullswater (3.45 square miles)

  3. Derwentwater (2.12. square miles)

  4. Bassenthwaite Lake (2.05 square miles)

  5. Coniston Water (1.54 square miles)

  6. Haweswater (1.50 square miles)

  7. Thirlmere (1.27 square miles)

  8. Ennerdale Water (1.16 square miles)

  9. Wast Water (1.12 square miles)

  10. Crummock Water (0.97 square miles)

  11. Esthwaite Water (0.39 square miles)

  12. Buttermere (0.35 square miles)

  13. Grasmere (0.23 square miles)

  14. Loweswater (0.23 square miles)

  15. Rydal Water (0.12 square miles)

  16. Brothers Water (0.08 square miles) 

Popular places to go in the Lake District

There are attractions and destinations to suit all sorts of visitors to the Lake District, and the perfect spot for you depends on what sort of break you're looking for. Outdoor enthusiasts might like to base themselves near mountains like Scafell Pike or Helvellyn, while families may like to look out for attractions like the Lake District Wildlife Park or stay in Keswick for easy access to indoor activities.

As well as adventure holidays, the Lake District is a wonderful choice for a slower break. Visitors in search of a more leisurely time may like to take boat cruises from Ambleside, aim for quieter villages like Troutbeck or Rydal, or find a peaceful rural glamping site surrounded by stunning scenery.

The Lake District is packed with beautiful places and attractions to keep visitors coming back time after time. But where to start if it’s your first time? Try out our handy list of the best places to visit in the Lake District:

  1. Windermere

    The biggest lake in the Lake District, Windermere is a must-see whether you stick to the shoreline for walks and bike rides or take to the water for a cruise or some time paddling around in a canoe.

  2. Derwentwater

    With gorgeous scenery all around, lovely walking trails and the buzzy town of Keswick at its northernmost point, Derwentwater is a popular place, and makes a great base for a first visit to the Lake District.
  3. Aira Force waterfall

    The 20-metre waterfall at Aira Force is a spectacular sight, at the end of a mile-long walk from the banks of Ullswater and flanked by two Victorian bridges where you can experience the powerful cascade close up.

  4. Castlerigg Stone Circle 

    The Neolithic stones at Castlerigg are said to date back to 3000 BC, and the backdrop of Helvellyn and the surrounding hills makes this a dramatic location to visit. Make a day of it by following the 4.5-mile trail through glorious scenery from Keswick.

  5.  The World of Beatrix Potter

    Step into the magical world of local girl Beatrix Potter to see her classic stories brought to life and learn a little bit about the author herself, who lived at nearby Hill Top – now owned by the National Trust and also open to visitors. 

Explore the Area: