(This is the second post in our Beyond London Series, a collection of destination guides that encourage backpackers to get out of the capital and explore the rest of the UK. Check out the rest of the guides here)
When you mention the UK to most travellers, they will immediately think of the capital and largest city, London. In fact, it almost seems that people around the world think that London is all there is to the United Kingdom. Although London is an amazing world class city with lots of fascinating history and things to do, if it is the only stop on your trip to the UK you are missing out on a lot.
Take a few trips beyond London to explore a different part of the country! It’s very easy to do, since the UK is a relatively small island and has a simple to use and convenient train system which can take you anywhere you need to go within a few hours.
To explore one of the most scenic regions in England head North West to the county of Cumbria. Nestled close to the border of Scotland, it is where the picturesque rolling green hills of the English countryside start to grow a bit more wild and rugged. The landscapes here were cut out by glaciers during the ice age and worn ragged by Atlantic winds and rain. As a result, you will be surrounded by deep valleys, dramatic mountains and glittering lakes.
People have been spending their holidays in Cumbria for generations, drawn by the quaint and relaxing lakeside villages and the challenging hiking trails in the mountains. Most visitors spend their time in the Lake District, the largest National Park in the UK, but there are plenty of other destinations to enjoy throughout Cumbria.
There is only one population centre in Cumbria which is large enough to be called a city and that is Carlisle, which is a historical fortress and cathedral city. There are also many lovely and welcoming towns and villages such as Kendal, Windermere, Brampton, Ambleside and Bowness-on-Windermere.
The Great Outdoors
The Lake District attracts visitors from all over the world to enjoy its 16 lakes framed by a dramatically beautiful backdrop of mountains and lush woodlands. Hills in the Lake District are known as “Fells’ and they are the only true mountain range in England. Although they are not very tall compared to other mountains in the world, they offer many fun and challenging hiking routes. There is a long tradition of hiking here which means that the walking trails are well maintained and sign-posted.
If you plan on hiking in the Lake District, head to a local shop and pick up a map of the footpath network. Catbells is one of the most climbed hills in the Lake District and it is recommended because it is large enough to offer a challenge but small enough for most hikers to tackle within a day. After a day of walking in the hills be sure to stop into a traditional English pub and replace your lost calories with a pint of ale and a hearty warm meal. Some of the pubs in the remote areas of Cumbria will have a surprisingly lively nightlife scene as they are popular with mountain hikers.
Cumbria has a huge wealth of historic sites, including some of the oldest stone circles in all of the United Kingdom. You can also find Roman remains, ancient abbeys and priories, centuries-old churches and even more recent industrial historic sites such as mines and water mills.
For example, you could visit the Dalton in Furness Castle which was constructed in the 14th century by the monks of the Furness Abbey. Or perhaps take a look at the Roman bathhouse at Ravenglass, which is one of the largest surviving Roman structures in England.
Cumbria is also home to Hadrian’s Wall, which was built in the second century A.D. by the Romans to keep the Pictish tribes of Scotland out of their colony in England. This amazing ancient structure is 87 miles long and stretches from the Irish Sea to the North Sea.
For a comprehensive list of all the fascinating historic structures in Cumbria, click here.
Check Out Cumbria!
If you are looking for an naturally beautiful and relaxing region to enjoy hiking, swimming, boating, horseback riding, camping and more, head out of London and up to Cumbria on your trip to the UK!
If you want a bit of visual inspiration, check out our collection of photos from our trip to Cumbria.