Lake District See And Do
At the west end of Hardknott Pass
Nine miles northeast of Ravenglass
Tel: 44 870 333 1181
To escape the congestion of Ambleside and Langdale, head to this well-preserved fort. Known in Roman times as Mediobogdum, it was built at the same time Emperor Hadrian began his great coast-to-coast wall to the north. The fort commands a vast panorama from the mountains to the sea, and the lichen-mottled foundations are still a good vantage point for viewing the River Esk below. The site is owned by the National Trust and administered by English Heritage.
The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (44-122-971-7171; www.ravenglass-railway.co.uk), the oldest narrow-gauge railway in England, was built in 1875 to carry iron ore seven miles from the mines at Boot to long-gone furnaces on the coast. Since the 1960s, the railway has carried tourists in a little steam train that provides a neat way for those without a car to travel from the main rail network, via Ravenglass station, into the heart of the hills. It is also handy for getting to gentle walks through the woods and fields of lower Eskdale. Trains run daily from April to late October, on weekends and for holiday weeks (Christmas, Valentine's) the rest of the year. The scenic Cumbrian coastal railway, part of the National Rail system, links up with the West Coast Main Line at Lancaster and Carlisle (44-207-278-5240; www.nationalrail.co.uk).
In just a 30-mile stretch, the area boasts a breathtaking range of tarns (lakes), fells (hills), becks (brooks), and forests, not to mention a variety of beautiful walks.
Footpath Holidays runs tours at all grades of difficulty from June to September, both guided and self-guided (16 Norton Bavant, Near Warminster, Wiltshire; 44-198-584-0049; www.footpath-holidays.com). Its seven-day hikes through the Lake District include the waterfall at Skelwith Bridge, Castlerig stone circle, and Easedale Tarn, as well as scenic walks along Loughrigg Terrace and Jenkin Crag.
Contours Walking Holidays also offers six-to-nine-night treks for all levels, including the 70-mile Cumbria Way, which goes right through the heart of the Lakelands from Ulverston to Carlisle (Gramyre, 3 Berrier Road, Greystoke; 44-176-880-451, www.contours.co.uk).
If you're aiming for the high fells, such as the summits of Great Gable or Scafell Pike, check the weather forecast, take waterproof clothing, and wear boots. It may be helpful to have the following map from the Ordnance Survey series on hand: The English Lakes, South Western Area, number OL6 (44-845-456-0420; leisure.ordnancesurvey.co.uk; closed Saturdays and Sundays).