Early tourists to the Lake District, who travelled for education and the pleasure of the journey, include Celia Fiennes who in 1698 chose to journey the length of England, including riding through Kendal and over Kirkstone Pass into Patterdale. Her experiences and thoughts were published in the book Great Journey to Newcastle and Cornwall.
An extract from the publication is as follows: “As I walked down at this place I was walled on both sides by those inaccessible high rocky barren hills which hang over one’s head in some places and appear very terrible; and from them springs many little currents of water from the sides and clefts which trickle down to some lower part where it runs swiftly over the stones and shelves in the way, which makes a pleasant rush and murmuring noise and like a snowball is increased by each spring trickling down on either side of those hills, and so descends into the bottoms which are a Moorish ground in which in many places the waters stand, and so form some of those Lakes as it did here”.
During 1724, Daniel Defoe published the first volume of A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain. An extract from the book on his thoughts of Westmorland was that it was: “the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England, or even Wales itself; the west side, which borders on Cumberland, is indeed bounded by a chain of almost unpassable mountains which, in the language of the country, are called fells”.
Nearing the end of the 18th century, the area was becoming more popular with travellers. This was mainly as a result of wars in Continental Europe, restricting the possibility of travel there. In 1778 Father Thomas West produced A Guide to the Lakes, which effectively began the era of modern tourism.
Claife Station on the western shore of Windermere West listed “stations” – vantage points where tourists could enjoy the best views of the landscape, being encouraged to appreciate the formal qualities of the landscape and to apply aesthetic values. At some of these stations, buildings were erected to help the process. The remains of Claife Station, on the western shore of Windermere below Claife Heights, can still be visited today.
William Wordsworth published his Guide to the Lakes in 1810, and in twenty five years had reached its fifth edition, now called A Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England. This book was one of the main influence factors in popularising the region. Wordsworth’s favourite valley was Dunnerdale or the Duddon Valley located in the south-west of the Lake District.
The railways led to further expansion in tourism. The Kendal and Windermere Railway was the first to penetrate the Lake District, reaching Kendal in 1846 and later Windermere in 1847. The line to Coniston began in 1848, although until 1857 this was only linked to the national network with ferries between Fleetwood and Barrow-in-Furness; the line from Penrith through Keswick to Cockermouth in 1865; and the line to Lakeside at the base of Windermere in 1869.
The railways, built with traditional industry in mind, brought with them a substantial increase in the number of visitors, thus contributing to the growth of the tourism. Railway services were supplemented by steamer boats on the main lakes of Ullswater, Windermere, Coniston Water and Derwent Water.
The growth in tourism continued into the age of the motor car, when railways were being closed or run down. The formation of the National Park in 1951 recognised the need to protect the Lake District environment from excessive commercial or industrial exploitation thereby preserving that which visitors come to see, without restriction on the movement of people into and around the district.
The M6 Motorway helped bring traffic to the Lakes, passing up its eastern edge. The narrow roads represent a challenge for traffic flow and from the 1960s, certain areas have become very congested.
Whilst the roads and railways provided easy access to the area, many people were also drawn to the Lakes by the publication of the Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells by Alfred Wainwright. First published in the 1950s, these books contained detailed information on 214 peaks across the region, with carefully hand-drawn maps and panoramas and also many stories and asides which add to the colour of the area.
They are still used today by many visitors to the area as guides for hiking trips, with the ultimate goal of bagging the complete list of Wainwrights. The famous guides are being revised by Chris Jesty to reflect changes especiallly with regards to valley access and paths.
The area has more recently become associated with writer Beatrix Potter. Many tourists visit to see her family home, with particularly large numbers coming from Japan.
Tourism has now become the national park’s major industry, with about 14 million visitors annually, mainly from the UK’s larger settlements, China, Japan, Spain, Germany and the USA. Windermere Lake Steamers are now the UK’s second most popular charging tourist attraction and the local economy is heavily dependent upon tourism.
However, the negative impact of tourism has been seen. Soil erosion, mainly caused by walking, is now a significant problem, with millions of pounds being spent to protect over-used paths. In 2006, two Tourist Information Centres in the National Park were shut down.
Cultural tourism is now becoming an increasingly important part of the wider tourism industry. The Lake District’s links with a plethora of artists and writers and its strong history of providing summer theatre performances in the old Blue Box of Century Theatre are strong attractions for visiting tourists.
The tradition of theatre is maintained by venues such as Theatre by the Lake in Keswick with its Summer Season of six plays in repertoire, Christmas and Easter productions and the many literature, film, mountaineering, jazz and creative arts festivals.
Reference: Wikipedia – under the GNU Free Doc Licence