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The UK’s newest World Heritage Site is also its biggest

So, as you may have heard… the area I am proud to call home – the English Lake District – is now officially a World Heritage Site, putting it alongside the iconic Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon as a site of global, cultural and historical significance. Not only is it the only UK National Park that is entirely a World Heritage Site, but it’s also the UK’s largest World Heritage Site at an immense 229,200 hectares and Cumbria is now home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the north of the country, Hadrian’s Wall forms the frontiers of the Roman Empire site so there has never been a better time to explore Cumbria and immerse yourself in two of the most unique and inspiring regions you’re likely to find anywhere on the planet. Why is the Lake District such a special place? The diversity of our landscape; natural landforms overlaid with thousands of years of human activity have made the Lakes the iconic scene it is today, the iconic scene which UNESCO have rewarded with World Heritage Status. Lakes, tarns and rivers of course! It’s in the name. The lakes and tarns in our county give the Lake District a quality of scenery found nowhere else in the UK. Ancient woodlands Our landscape has plenty of natural and semi-natural woodlands, adding colour texture and variety to the mountains, fells and lakeshores. The presence of the wood pasture, pollards and old coppice woodland form part of the rich industrial, agricultural and cultural legacy of the Lake District National Park. Wealth of wildlife The Lake District is unique in England for its abundant and varied habitats for wildlife fresh water, mires, limestone pavement, upland heaths, screes, lakeshores, wetlands, estuaries, coastal heaths and dunes. Opportunities to explore the outdoors The region has the highest concentration of outdoor activity centres in the UK. It is the birthplace of British mountaineering and there is a tradition of unrestricted access to the fells. Recreational walking can be traced from William Wordsworth’s ‘Guide to the Lakes’ to the guides of more recent writers such as Alfred Wainwright. Celebrated cultural traditions Philosophers and environmentalists have campaigned for landscape protection, with the Lake District playing a strong role in the formation of the National Trust. Artists and writers such as Turner, Heaton Cooper, Kurt Schwitters, Wordsworth, Coleridge and De Quincey have gained inspiration from the area, as well as children’s authors Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter. The area also has its own dialects and distinctive sports such as hound trailing, fell running, and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. Complex geology With the largest and deepest lakes and highest peak in England, the Lake District’s rocks provide a dramatic record of nearly 500 million years, with evidence of colliding continents, deep oceans, tropic seas and kilometre-thick ice sheets. Rich archaeology and distinctive settlement character There have been people in the Lake District since the end of the last Ice Age and the landscape now reflects a long history of human settlement. Stone circles and Roman forts/roads of huge international importance can be found throughout the area. Fast facts The Lake District World Heritage Site is: One of just over 1000 World Heritage sites (1052); The UK’s largest World Heritage site: 229,200 ha (1951 boundary); The UK’s 31st UNESCO World Heritage site; The only UK National Park that will be entirely a World Heritage site; The UK’s 5th cultural landscape World Heritage Site, joining Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and St Kilda; Cumbria’s second World Heritage Site together with Hadrian’s Wall; One of eight World Heritage Sites looked after by the National Trust; One of 15 National Parks in the UK; the others are: Brecon Beacons, the Cairngorms, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Loch Lomond and Trossachs, Northumberland, North York Moors, Peak District, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, the Yorkshire Dales, the Broads, the New Forest and the South Downs.

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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16 Comments

  1. I’m so happy to see the Lake District has been made a World Heritage Site. Coming from Scotland and being absolutely in love with our Highlands I didn’t have high expectations of the Lake District the first time I went so I was blown away with the rugged beauty of the area. I have fond memories of hiking there, especially on Scafell Pike .

    1. Glad you enjoyed your time here. Scafell Pike, although it grabs the headlines for being the highest peak, isn’t one of my favourite in the area. I think there are many other more desirable fells to explore, but really they’re all beautiful so you can’t go too far wrong. :-)

  2. I am due to visit the lakes next month and have found this site hugely useful. I fou d especially useful the guide on sights to see in the lakes. Now listed as a world heritage site, hopefully this will bring more visitors and increase the local economy.

  3. There is something very special about the Lake District which seems to attract us there time and time again. Perhaps it is a mixture of the fantastic scenery, amazing hikes and laid-back feeling you get wherever you visit. If we were to move back to the UK this is definitely a place we would consider.

    1. That’s good to hear, Tam… all too often it gets overlooked by the likes of London, I sometimes feel. But when people have visited the UK and done London a few times and want to explore a little further afield, the Lake District should most definitely be on their list!

  4. I had never really thought of the lake district as a destination. Having kids of various ages it can be difficult to find something that keeps them all amused. Having read this i think a visit is long overdue and i aim to go there during this school holiday.

    1. The Lake District is FANTASTIC for kids. It gets them to appreciate the outdoors, experience things that they might otherwise not get to do (paricularly if they live in a city) such as watersports, etc. It’s a great holiday for families wanting to spend good quality time together.

  5. What brilliant news and well deserved. I need to go back and visit the Lake District as it’s so beautiful. I love the prictures, particularly the main image and the facts!

  6. Oh wow, you are so lucky to live in the Lake District! That’s one of my favourite places I have ever visited. I’m so pleased it’s a World Heritage Site, I hope it thrives forever. I didn’t realise there were so many heritage sites in the world! Perhaps that would make a good travel guide, to visit them all :)

    1. Yes, quite amazing that there’s over a thousand! I’ve not actually sat down and worked out how many on the list I’ve visited, but I would fear it’s only a small fraction of what’s out there. It just goes to show how many amazing places there are to explore on this little planet of ours!

  7. I’m glad the Lake District has had this recognition, it definitely deserves it. Amazing place, highly recommend a long weekend there. I’ve been in the spring last year and got lucky with dry weather, which I found to be perfect for woodland walks and getting lots of photos along the way as it wasn’t too hot or too cold. Interesting facts, I hadn’t known the UK has 31 World Heritage sites. Impressive!

    1. Yes, easy to do with a long weekend from almost anywhere in the UK. People are always surprised when I tell them it’s less than 3 hours on the train from London. Catch the right train and Euston to Oxenholme the Lake District can be done in as little as 2 hours 35 minutes!

  8. Will be heading there this Summer for a staycation sure! I think it’s a much better bet than heading for Cornwall or Devon.

    1. That’s a very good point. Not only do you have a higher concentration of people in the south (making Cornwall and Devon – in theory – a shorter travel time and perhaps likely to get inundated this year), but the access in and out of the counties is more restrictive, with much of the traffic entering via the M5.

      Compare this with Cumbria, where people can arrive from the north, south (OK, that can get a little congested) or east, and it means people can arrive without the same extent of a bottleneck.

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