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The Lake District – one of the most depressing landscapes in Europe?

“One of the most depressing landscapes in Europe” has been the description used to describe my home this week, in an article written in The Guardian newspaper by George Monbiot. As someone who is proud of where I live, I therefore feel the need to speak out! Whilst whether the Lake District deserves World Heritage status remains to be seen, I think anyone who is familiar with the area will know that such a statement is utter nonsense. Lake District Monbiot’s arguments seem to focus on the landscape being over-grazed by sheep, making it bare and resulting in “a wildlife desert”. If he ever visited, I can only assume he did so with his eyes half-closed.  Wildlife is plentiful in the Lakes if – as is usually necessary when it comes to spotting things in the wild – you are vigilant and keep your eyes peeled. The Lake District is also a sanctuary for the red squirrel where it is estimated they are around 140,000 in number. Furthermore, the landscape isn’t as bare as he seems to suggest – we have plenty of woodlands here, too: Grizedale and Whinlatter Forests, for example, not to mention many smaller woods. Dodd Wood near Bassenthwaite is an excellent viewing point for ospreys which have been successfully re-introduced to the area. Monbiot also needs to recognise that it’s a working community here – some of us work in tourism, others farm sheep and so on.  In fact, sheep have been farmed here since Roman times. Whatever their environmental impact, I’m sure there must be bigger fish to fry. The Lake District is a landscape that, rather than be depressing, has inspired many of the country’s greatest artists and writers – the likes of William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and John Ruskin. It’s an area that attracts nearly 15 million visitors a year so it’s rather strange, don’t you think, that so many people choose to visit this place, given that it’s “one of the most depressing landscapes in Europe”?! Have a look at the pictures and let me know whether you feel sorry for me living in such an awful place… Lake District Lake District Lake District Lake District Lake District Lake District Lake District And last but by means no least… here’s one especially for you, Monbiot… Lake District

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Excellent post Paul.

    Even with eyes half closed the beauty of Cumbria shines through!

    The timing of the article is priceless too… with the advent of autumn the UK’s most scenic county is about to be transformed into a stupendous riot of colour ;)

    On the plus side the back-lash of tweets and blogs I have seen about the article in The Guardian have made for some great positive reason…. if anyone is still in any doubt – take a trip up to the beautiful English Lake District & Cumbria and make your mind up for yourself ;)

  2. Let’s just say it’s proof that you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the ‘papers.

    I should have added this in the post but if you do come and visit – as Elspeth so rightly suggests – then do please look up our holiday apartment at https://www.kendalcottages.com which offers great access to both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.

  3. It is one of the most beautiful parts of England! My late husbands family live approx 30 mins away. I have visited it several times and would recommend everyone to pay a visit to Windermere, Grassmere etc.

  4. Quite agree with everything you say.

    Having visited The Lake District many times, the wildlife viewing in the area is excellent.

    I struggle to understand George Monbiot’s argument. If it is about farming subsidies then say so – don’t just come up with a catchy headline, guaranteed to get noticed and then write the article to suit.

    His claim that two of the aims of the WH application – supporting sheep farmers and defending the ecosystem – are in conflict is not true and therefore does not need to be recognised!

    The Lake District is a working environment like all of our countryside, and the people who live in it need to earn a living. It is not just a playground for people in the city to come to at the weekends although they are very welcome!

  5. I have wanted to visit the Lake District for many years and seeing your beautiful photos has really confirmed to me that the landscape is stunning at all times of year.

    Great post and now I want to visit more than ever.

  6. ..and Alex, your comment “The Lake District is a working environment like all of our countryside, and the people who live in it need to earn a living. It is not just a playground for people in the city to come to at the weekends although they are very welcome!” is ‘spot on’. Thank you for that. :)

  7. Compared to many other places in Europe yes the lake district is depressing. Its too dark and cold and doesnt feel like a warm place to visit …visually warm I mean. Beauty in continental europe is far better than beauty in UK,.,.lake annecy in france is a beautiful region, so is Lake Como in italy….and UK doesnt have anything remotely similar to the french or italian riviera. Maybe for british people the lake district is beautiful because they dont know any better and have nothing to compare it with…but as someone who has travelled extensively all over the world I dont find the lake district beautiful….I do think its depressing and cold and looks out of some horror movie landscape. Worst of all the inhabitants of that region is what makes all the difference…a lot of drunk chavs and ignorance….and so much crime there….sorry but Britain is a mess and a Broken country now…As a foreigner I feel scared even travelling to UK…in fact I feel that UK is much more dangerous than even eastern europe…ive been all over and felt very scared in the Uk…people are dangerous and unpredictable way too much street crime and alcoholism its unnatural and out of control.

  8. Your comments just go to show how ill-informed you can be, Mike! If you are talking about violent crime, then the murder rate in the UK has fallen by half in the last 10 years. Furthermore, the worst areas for crime in the UK tend to be in urban areas such as London and Glasgow, and not rural communities such as the Lake District. “A lot of drunk chavs and ignorance”??? I don’t know where you think you visited, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. The ignorance is your own. If you don’t believe me, this is a quote from ukcrimestats.com:

    “Cumbria is a diverse county with both rural and urban areas, it is one of the safest places to live, work and visit with relatively low levels of crime compared to other areas in England and Wales. It is important to recognise that neighbourhood crime levels are compared to the Cumbrian average, not a national one. Generally, where the population is at its highest in urban communities the crime levels will be higher compared to the rest of Cumbria, however this is relatively low in comparison nationally.”

    As for being cold… well, yes… we have seasons. It is cold in winter, but can be quite pleasant in the Summer, particularly the Summer just gone where temperatures were in the 90s. Sure, it’s not the Med… but then you don’t visit the Lake District for the climate… you visit for the spectacular scenery – I know, that same scenery that you think looks like it’s straight out of a horror movie!!!??

  9. I fell in love with the Lake District when I was 5 years old. It has inspired me ever since and although I regularly travel the globe with my work, it is one of the very few places that I get really excited about coming back to. I never, ever thought I would get to live in this amazing area but I am proud to say that it is now my home. The beauty of the Lakes is unsurpassed, inspiring, thought provoking, romantic, and often just plain jaw dropping. I love it, more than a lot of people could ever understand. It’s part of my soul.

  10. Well as a visitor to UK and having been ther more than a 20 times in the past, I know very well about the crime situation all over that country. I still cant get the image out of my mind when I was in London once and took the tube within central London, it was a random checking day where the police were checking all young people carrying weapons on the tube and I swear I was really shaking with anxiety when I saw the pile of confiscated knives, hammers, and god knows what other dangerous sharp metal weapons that the police had confiscated that too in a central london station I think it was Bond street…after that day I never took the tube in London again. I like London for certain things and believe me I find many British people also very warm and nice but a lot of them are turning into very bad human beings and your govt is disguting now. As for crime in rural British areas you may not be affected by it but the crime in such areas is of a racist nature…I personally know some very wealthy Indian millionaires who took a trip to the lake district once and went into a pub to have a drink just to experience real british culture and to their shock a man came up to their table put a big knife and stuck it in the middle of the table and told them to get out of there or he would stick the knife in their bodies. Obviously they never went into a British pub again.UK is a very intolerant country – all european countries are intolerant to an extent but wont admit it however the northern / anglo saxon / protestant countries are much worse and dangerous than the southern / catholic / latin countries. Violent racism is more in the former types of countries whereas in mostly latin cultures racism is casual and silly and in most cases not affecting tourists at least…they have their footbal racists but thats an exception …from personal experience i can very well say UK is the most racist an voilent country in western europe…the only good point is they also have better laws to protect against racism but even then hate related crimes in uk are very high and in recent years its gotten worse …there are good and bad immigrants and uk has been getting a lot of bad immigrants too which contribute to the overall image of immigrants plus anti social behaviour and poverty levels in uk are high…causing a lot of ignorance especially im rural areas where the youth have little or no future left to make a decent life. I feel sorry for the good British people because I know how they feel trapped in their own country now and desperately want to escape.

  11. I don’t know why anyone would consider the Lake District “depressing”. It looks both beautiful and peaceful to me. :-)

  12. I too have travelled and am grown up enough to appreciate the lakes for what it is – stunning. I have never seen chavs. But then I am not a miserable anxious dramatic person if I was I would too see parts of the world this way they say you are what you see. My experience seen as though I go every weekend counts for more than just a few holidays – People are so friendly, the scenery is stunning and picturesque, the atmosphere is peaceful and calm but very fun and I hate having to come away. I’ve experienced far more crime abroad than in England and the police never take it seriously whereas here at least they’re normal! The lakes is also clean and isn’t constantly polluted with disgusting cigaret smoke so common in major parts of Europe.

  13. I have been to many of the so called ‘more beautiful’ spots in Europe..Swiss Alps, Southern France, Dolomites etc, but for me nothing beats The English Lakes, Welsh Snowdonia and Scottish Highlands. These have landscapes mixed with stunning beauty and jaw dropping barren drama..the diversity is wonderful for one single island..I’ve even forgot to mention Cornish beaches and cliffs! And living in the Netherlands now, I can assure you that the UK is a much, much more tolerant land! Also..after the long walks in British national parks, there’s always a perfect pub at the end!

  14. The lake district is one of the most beautiful, natural places in the U.K, steeped in history and with so much to offer, yes I appreciate beauty is subjective and it may not be to everyone’s taste, however to describe it as depressing is a travesty, in fact quite the opposite, try inspiring, stunning and a place that makes me feel carefree and completely stress free, it is my sanctuary x

  15. I’m on a family holiday in Coniston at the moment and loathe the place. As someone who adores nature, the British countryside and hiking I can honestly say that the lake district is the most miserable place I’ve ever been.

  16. We went on a week’s tour of the Lake District end of June 2018. I have lived in London since 2003 and had family come over from India who wanted to see England so I chose the Lake District. We loved it – both the scenic beauty and the cleanliness of the place. We were fascinated by the slate roofs and the harmonious slate fencing for miles on end.

    We loved it so much that we have decided to move to the Lake District, slightly away from the posh and touristy places like Lakeside and Windermere but well within the reach of the motorway.

    Now having come to this forum and reading Mike’s comments and doing some more research around crime, racism, deprivation, etc. I am having second thoughts. Leaving London for good after so long and having lived in Manhattan for 10 years (so no rural experience), this move needs to work for us 100% as there won’t be any turning back for us. The comment about Indian millionaires having trouble in the pub, I hope they were causing mischief to have a big knife on their table and being asked to live. Having lived in London and worked in a very dangerous part of it for many years, I can handle big knives and baseball bats as a one off. But what I can’t handle for the sake of my family is burnt cars, slashed tyres, burning crosses in my garden, etc.

    Perhaps, I need to separate what my heart feels about the Lake District to the practicalities of life. I am desperate to get out of London for some peace and quiet but most of my English friends tell me the Lakes don’t like incomers and that if I wanted some peace and quiet, why not Hertfordshire and why go all the way to the Lakes where I don’t know anyone at all?

    Can someone tell me if the Lakes are better than the deep south of America, not withstanding its natural beauty. We would be the only Indian family in the area we are planning to move to but we mind our own business and we do drink and eat all kinds of things so we do hope not to disturb anything including people when we move there. Live and let live is what we believe in but there is nothing we can do to change the colour of our skin no matter how much it rains in the Lakes.

    1. Hi Raghav, thanks for dropping by with your comments.

      May I ask where you are considering moving to? Perhaps I can help as I’ve lived in the area for quite a while. As for crime, I don’t know what you’ve heard, but it’s incredibly low here – much lower than most other parts of the country. Have a look at this map:

      As you probably already know, the Lake District lies in the county of ‘Cumbria’ that is shown on the map. Mike’s assertion that there is so much crime here is simply not true – we have a very low crime rate compared to other parts of the UK. On that basis alone, I would take his comments with a pinch of salt. I have no idea what pub he is describing, or indeed whether there is any truth to that story, but the pubs I know in the Lake District are generally inviting country pubs where that kind of thing just wouldn’t happen (regardless of race, I believe, although I’m not Indian).

      You’ve visited yourself. Did you experience any problems whatsoever? I’d be very surprised if you did. And hopefully the people you did encounter were as friendly as the landscape is beautiful.

      The comment that “the Lakes don’t like incomers” is an interesting one, but a little strong, I feel. I would not be classed as ‘local’ because I have only lived here for 30 years – to be a true local, you probably have to go back a few generations. Many people who live here were not necessarily born and raised here – many have moved up after many years of holidaying in the area and loved it so much that they made the very move that you yourself are considering.

      It is true that we don’t have a great deal of diversity and multi-culturalism here, but this has been gradually changing, particularly with Eastern Europeans moving to the area to work in the tourism sector. I don’t think it follows that people in the Lake District are racist – did you encounter any racism when you visited?

      It is also true that there is some dislike, particularly from lower income local families who struggle to get on the housing ladder, and particularly towards second home owners, of people buying up property and making it difficult for them to afford to live here. I would say this gives causes for a little disgruntlement sometimes rather than anything much greater than that. Most people here are pretty laid back – it is not the fast-pace, cut-throat atmosphere that you get in London. People even smile and say ‘hello’ to each other here – do that on the Tube in London and that probably wouldn’t be considered normal!

      I hope this helps and allays some of your concerns. Feel free to message me back if you have any questions or, if you’re visiting the area again some time, I’d be happy to meet if I am available and you’d like me to address any concerns or questions you wish to fire my way.

      Best regards


  17. Paul,

    Thank you very much for your detailed and informative response.

    In response to your questions, no, we did not experience any awkwardness or unpleasantness or racism (I don’t subscribe to this term as most of it is due to ignorance. True racism for people of colour is in the Balkans and America). So we didn’t get pushed, shoved, shouted at, made faces at, etc. that we get in London daily. I suppose the familiarity of having so many cultures in London at every corner insulates us from being singled out or being targeted due to the sheer numbers of people of different colours. i.e. if we were to be targeted due to our race in London, we would never realise it and would put it down to something else as most of it in London is of the institutional kind – school admissions, policing, highly paid jobs, etc.

    Since we booked last minute in June, we only found accomodation in Barrow which we could afford (£400 for 2 nights for 2 separate apartments). It is only after returning to London and reading up on Barrow that I read horrible reviews about the town. Funnily we didnt get that feel. We spent 2 nights there and shopped at the co-op and walked on the streets and had no trouble. Apparently, Barrow is the least happiest place in Britain as per David Cameron’s survey a few years ago with high levels of deprivation, unemployment, poverty, teenage pregnancies, etc. I suppose we had our tourist glasses on so were only looking at the vales, hills and clouds.

    I am looking at the outskirts of the Lakes as I feel I would get more property for my money. So 15-20 miles out or a 45-60 minute drive from Lakeside/Bowness. I am currently doing some research on whether the locals would be amenable to an immigrant family and looking at race hate crimes, etc. We are a family of 3 with my daughter going into secondary school in 2020. We havent got money to buy a 2nd home so this move would be a big and final move as we are looking to send our daughter to university in Scotland in 8 years’ time.

    Please feel free to tell us what areas to avoid and which areas would suit an immigrant family (if any).

    I am also looking at local occupancy clauses – sections 106 and 157 mainly. It seems that it would be safe to assume that anything under £150k in Barrow or under £200k in Kendal would ideally not be available for someone like me from London. i.e if a Chinese buyer were looking at a million pound property in Windermere (which they are), they would be okay given that it would be out of reach of most locals?

    So I would really appreciate an honest local opinion from someone even if it means we never move there.

    Thank you for your offer to help. Not sure if I should be using this forum to have a 1:1 chat as I am new on here.

    1. No problem, Raghav.

      I’m pleased to hear your trip was without incident (and would have been surprised if it wasn’t).

      Although Barrow and the Furness Peninsula in general have seen quite a lot of investment over the years, it remains one of the more deprived parts of Cumbria (as I’m sure you probably know, Barrow is not in the Lake District, but lies within the county of Cumbria) – possibly the most deprived of all.

      You are right to say that you get more for your money on the outskirts of the Lakes than if you are within the National Park. Properties in Kendal are probably close to half their equivalent value in Windermere which is only 15 minutes up the road (that’s a bit of an exaggeration but sometimes not a million miles from the truth). 60 minutes from Bowness/Lakeside pretty much covers the whole of the Lake District and anywhere in the south of the county so, if you’re looking for the outskirts of the Lake District, you’re primarily looking at the south of the county, including the Furness and Cartmel Peninsulas. On that basis, I’d suggest places such as Ulverston, Grange-over-Sands, Milnthorpe, Kendal, etc. and there are many villages near these towns also (Cartmel is pretty but has quite a following nowadays, so expensive property-wise, but there are other villages such as Cark, Allithwaite, Flookburgh, etc. which are more affordable).

      I’m afraid I can’t help you with information on race hate crime in the area. I would imagine it is very low simply because there is very little in the way of ethnic diversity in the area. Although not diverse, I would suggest somewhere like Kendal (where I live) – there are two secondary schools in the town (Queen Katherine and Kirkbie Kendal). I haven’t looked at the housing market much lately but I’m pretty sure you’d find plenty of properties at under £200K that don’t have local occupancy clauses on them. (yes, I’ve just done a quick search and there are plenty – have a look at https://www.pooletownsend.co.uk which is just one of the estate agents in the area).

      You are welcome to use the comment system here for further questions, but I’ll also send you an email in case you prefer to ask me anything in private.

      Best regards,


  18. From a distance the lake distict is shut and close. Blacks out the sun and is more than depressing from a distance. Its sparse and empty and compares nothing to the sea. The south coast makes this place and its horrible gloomy beaches look a complete shame to the british isles. Maybe some of the lakes and the sheep may be the only good thing here ?????

    1. I certainly wouldn’t recommend moving to Cumbria or the lakes, A few days trip is all you need ! The first day is all ohhh wow it’s beautiful ( mainly because you sit on the M6 for 5 hrs to get there depending on your direction ) the second it’s aye okay a bit grim but a change of scenery the third day is about the time you feel ready to leave, Wales is far more beautiful and welcoming also Scotland. I’ve lived in st bees for two years working at the local nuclear plant sellafields me and my partner despite our best efforts just haven’t been able to build any meaningful relationships with the locals there is definitely a click mentality here, I’m called a foreigner and I’m from bloody Aldershot lol ( home of the British army and very working class ). Get talking to the locals on a trial and yes they readily admit they aren’t keen on outsiders. That’s one thing the cumbrians are famed for is brutal honesty so you can’t complain when they are rude they are just being themselves. Alas if you have a thick skin and want to be left alone it has its attractions. Personally I can’t wait to plunge back south to the plump green rolling hills of southern England I will feel only joy to see the Gaunt high rocks of the North in my rear view. Like marmite love it or hate it I guess, for me it’s the people that define an area not some high rocks or craggy hills. It’s definitely not as mountainous as the locals like to think the highest hill is still under 1000 m lol there is a hill to the south of London which is 300 m so what three times that !? Hardly a bloody mountain.

    2. Sorry, to hear your experience of living in Cumbria is a seemingly negative one, Ashley. It’s certainly not been my experience of living here the past 34 years. Of course, St. Bees isn’t actually in the Lake District and I must confess I don’t know it so well. Whether the locals are less friendly out on the west coast, I can’t really comment. Maybe if you’re keen to diss the place where you (and they) live so readily, this doesn’t sit well with them, I don’t know.

      I have certainly yet to meet any visitor to the Lake District who thinks it’s beautiful on day 1, and then “a bit grim” by day 2… how odd???!

      As for mountains, sure the Lake District doesn’t have the highest in the UK, so if that is your criteria for choosing a place, then probably best to head to Scotland (though even then you may be disappointed if you’ve been to, say, Nepal, if the height of the mountains is that important to you!). It’s all relative at the end of the day and shouldn’t be a determining factor in choosing a destination in my book.

      For what it’s worth, though, the highest peak I know of in South East England that’s anywhere ‘near’ London is Walbury Hill in the North Wessex Downs, about a two hour drive west of the city. It’s less than 300 metres high (just). My guess is that you were maybe referring to Leith Hill, also not quite 300m.

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