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Quick Guide to the East Lakes
The East Lakes area of Cumbria is a land of ancient history, rugged fells, gentle valleys and dramatic lakes. It is a holiday destination less busy than the North and South Lakes but of equal enjoyment and a good base from which to explore also the Eden Valley and the North Lakes.
Despite the quieter, more relaxed and less ‘touristy’ atmosphere there are numerous excellent places to stay, mainly self catering cottages and lodges, guesthouses, b&b’s and hotels, some good real ale pubs and restaurants and some outdoor activity companies catering to pretty much all budgets.
Ullswater is the Lake District’s second largest lake at 7.5 miles long, the closest main town being Penrith. The tourist villages on the shores of the lake are Pooley Bridge to the north, and Glenridding to the south. The village of Patterdale is close to the southern end of the lakes and is another popular starting point for walkers. Historic steamers run the length of the lake, also stopping halfway at Howtown which is a good place to explore by foot the east side of the lake.
Many walkers come to Glenridding as it is a starting point for the classic walk to Helvellyn, England’s 3rd highest mountain, along Striding Edge. This is a walk that is achievable for relatively experienced walkers (perhaps with advice) but not for the fainted hearted and not to be undertaken in strong winds, low cloud or potentially blizzard conditions in winter. If in doubt contact a walking guide.
Halfway along Ullswater is a large National Trust car park, with walks to the impressive Aira Force, probably the most famous of the many Lake District waterfalls. Nearby is Glencoyne Bay which gave William Wordsworth the inspiration to write his most famous poem, ‘Daffodils‘.
Penrith is an historic town, having once been the ancient capital of the county. It is comparatively easy to get to as junction 40 of the M6 leads directly to the town, it has a stop on the West Coast Railway from London to Scotland, and it is on the east-west A66 trunk road. Penrith is worth exploring with its wide range of interesting shops, museum and castle.
Near to Penrith is the very popular Rheged Visitor Centre with a huge 3D cinema screen and children’s play area as well as shops including specialty Cumbrian food shops. A few miles south is Lowther Castle and Gardens, which until recently was just a beautiful ruin. Now much work is being done to restore the gardens and to make the castle ruins safe for visitors. Next to Lowther Castle is the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre, also worth a visit, where you can see the birds flown daily and which has a pretty little tearoom. Also just a mile or so from Penrith is Brougham Castle, managed by English Heritage and a fine example one of the many homes of Lady Anne Clifford.
The stately homes at Hutton-In-The-Forest, Dalemain and Askham Hall are all based on pele towers that have been extended over the centuries since their origins as defensive buildings against invaders from Scotland.
The other lake in this area is Haweswater, a reservoir built in the valley of Mardale to supply Manchester with water. Much controversy surrounded this as it caused the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green to be destroyed and flooded. Occasionally when the water level is low you can still see parts of Mardale village.