Union Jack English Lake District History and Tourist Attractions Cumbria, England
English Lake District History and Tourist Attractions Cumbria, England
Union Jack English Lake District History and Tourist Attractions Cumbria, England

 

LAKE WINDERMERE
THE ENGLISH LAKE DISTRICT A BRIEF HISTORY
AND ITS TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

 

PART II
THE LAKE

 

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LAKE WINDERMERE

 

Lake Windermere, the largest and most beautiful lake in England, is considered the focal point of the Lake District . It is located in the south eastern area of the Lake District in the county of Cumbria and is approximately ten and a half miles in length (17kms) and one mile wide. It's total area is approximately six sq. miles (16 sq kms.).

Apparently Lake Windermere was the result of the combination of two glaciers, which accounts for the lake being practically divided into two parts by a group of islands opposite the town of Bowness-on-Windermere. The northern part of the lake stretches as far as the Winster Valley, the southern part flows down the Langdales forming Esthwaite. The "divide" or middle section, opposite Bowness-on-Windermere, is quite shallow. It is approximately only ten feet deep in parts, in contrast to the northern part, which reaches a depth of 200 feet and the southern part 140 feet. The northern part of Lake Windermere is estimated to be around 80 feet below sea level.

The lake has a number of small wooded islands belonging to the National Trust and easily accessible by boat and are popular picnic areas.

The main island has the curious name of "Belle Isle". This is the biggest, the island that particularly attracts the gaze of tourists because of the unusual building, a round house, erected on it in 1781.

Belle Isle derives its name from Isabella, wife of John Christian Curwen, owner of the island, who completed the building. The name of the island, therefore dates back only to the mid 19th century. Before that it was known as "Long Holm".

The house erected there had been begun by a certain Mr English and was designed by the neoclassic architect, John Plaw. It was John Plaw that also designed St Mary's church in Paddington Green. Belle Isle no longer belongs to the Curwen family but is owned by the National Trust.

The island was inhabited long before the completion of the present house. Archaeological evidence unearthed during excavation for the building of the present house reveals the existence of Roman occupation. Also in 1246 William de Lyndsay had a manor house built there, which, however, was abandoned in the 14th century.

Not even this peaceful and idyllic island was immune from the effects of the Civil War. The Philipson family, who later inherited the island, were staunch Royalists and the island was under sieged for almost three months.

The island was owned by various families until acquired by Mr Englishman who began building the round house seen today. The building was inspired by the Villa Vicenza in Rome. It was begun in 1774 but work was interrupted because of mounting criticism. It was feared that it would spoil the scenic beauty of the area. In the Prelude William Wordsworth called it a "pepper-pot". The island was later sold to Isabella Curwen.

Access to the islands is by ferry half a mile from the church of St Martin's in the town of Windermere. The ferry is pulled across by means of a rope and carries up to 18 cars. The journey takes approximately ¼ hour but the tourist should come prepared to face considerable queues. At one time there was another ferry that left from Millerground landing for Belle Grange. This ferry is no longer in operation. Of interest is the ferryman's cottage, which is early 17th century.

Rowing boats and motor boats are available for hire at Bowness-on-Windermere and Waterhead. It is also possible to hire yachts and indulge in sports such as water skiing.

In Roman times the lake was used for transporting quarried stone. It was mainly mid 19th century that it became increasingly important as a tourist attraction. There used to be a Roman village near Ambleside but on the site there are now hotels, a car park and the steamer pier.

Those who would like to experience the breath taking scenery of the lake with its sheen of water dotted by small and not so small vessels against the backdrop of the Langdale Peaks and Coniston fells should make their way to Orrest Head. Gummer's How is also a favourite spot for admiring the Lake.

There is a car ferry leaving Bowness-on-Windermere and connects it to the road leading to Hawkeshead, often used by Wordsworth.

 

 

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