Beatrix Potter called the Lake District, including Ullswater, home
Beatrix Potter called the Lake District, including Ullswater, home

5 ways to explore the Lake District

From whisky to walking, there is plenty to do in Beatrix Potter country, 150 years on from her birth 

Mark Rowe
Friday 22 July 2016 14:03
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Beatrix Potter may be best known for her children’s books and drawings but there was much more to her than Samuel Whiskers and Tom Kitten. This year marks the 150th anniversary of her birth and has resulted in increasing recognition of her work as a farmer in the Lake District. Potter knew her wheat from her chaff and was a passionate advocate of traditional ways of farming, rearing Herdwick sheep which came over with the Vikings and supporting the planting of hedgerows that give the Lakes their picture-postcard appearance. Visiting Potter’s Lake District is just one way of exploring the UK’s most popular national park.

Top of the hill

Beatrix Potter lived at Hill Top (nationaltrust.org.uk/hill-top) in Near Sawry, an attractive village bulging with Grade II-listed houses above Lake Windermere. Some of Potter’s drawings are on display for inspection but your eye may be just as drawn to the unlikely collection of farming cups she won for sheep dog trials. Potter bequeathed the house and its attractive garden, along with 4,000 acres and 14 farms, to the National Trust. Admission: adults £10; children £5; family £25.

Hill Top, where Beatrix Potter lived (Mike Charles/Shutterstock)

Visit a distillery

The Lakes Distillery (lakesdistillery.co.uk) opened in 2014 and is the first distillery in the national park, sourcing its water from the River Derwent. You’ll have to wait a while for the first malt to emerge but the distillery is already running tours in the converted farm buildings and cattle sheds at the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake. The guides are entertaining and will show you the distillery’s four-metre-high copper whisky stills. Tours £12.50.

Take a hike

The new Ullswater Way (ullswater.com/the-ullswater-way) connects old and new footpaths in a 20-mile loop around the lake, keeping hikers away from the busy roads on the western shores. If you don’t want to walk the whole route, hike from Pooley Bridge up to Maiden Castle through woods and fields for spectacular views down the Ullswater valley.

Relax with a steamer

One of the most dramatic images from last winter’s flooding in the Lake District was of an Ullswater steamer (ullswater-steamers.co.uk) marooned high on dry land. It had been pulled there for safety but operations are now running again. Tours across the lake’s waters are idyllic and take an hour to travel from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge via Howtown. A separate service runs to the waterfalls at Aira Force. The Ullswater Way ticket offers unlimited travel for five days and costs £40 for adults; £20 for children.

Tour the lakes on an Ullswater steamer (Mike Charles/Shutterstock)

Hit the road

It can be frustrating to be faced with little alternative other than to drive around the lakes (Beatrix Potter was influential in blocking plans for more railway branch lines within the area). You can ease your conscience by hiring a car through the co-wheels car club (co-wheels.org.uk/lake_district) which provides low emission, hybrid and electric cars on a pay-as-you-go basis. It operates six cars, all fitted with cycle racks, from Oxenholme, Windermere, Penrith, Staveley and Carlisle train stations. They also offer 10 zero-emission Twizy cars (co-wheels.org.uk/twizyflock) at eight locations in the lakes. From £45 per day.

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