There's arguably no more idyllic, photogenic slice of Britain than the Lake District.
Poets, writers and artists have raved about it for centuries and when you're zipping along its narrow, snaking roads, past a hotchpotch of soaring peaks, emerald-green farmlands and forests, and shimmering bodies of water - or tackling its steep, twisting mountain passes - you'll appreciate why it holds such a special place in the nation's heart.
Set aside at least four days to discover the Cumbria region; it’s just a 90-minute drive from Manchester and about half the size of Bali. Awesome road-tripping territory, Lakeland - its other moniker - abounds with pit stopping possibilities. Uncover its romantic, naturally-beautiful nooks and crannies, and quaint villages and market towns like Ambleside, and Keswick. Or wander into Grasmere where you can enjoy afternoon tea at the old cottage abode of William Wordsworth, whose 19th century poems perhaps best evoke Lakeland's enduring magic.
Photo © Cumbria Tourism, Dave Willis
Don't forget to pack your hiking shoes. Some of your most treasured memories will come when you park up and tread the legendary waymarked trails. The top of Scafell Pike - England's highest peak (978m) - is a five or six hour round trip from the Wasdale Head Inn, where you can sup a well-earned, post-walk pint of ale or cider. Easier on the legs and lungs is the trek up to Catbells (451m) with fabulous, bird's eye panoramas. You can retrace the footsteps of Beatrix Potter - and see the inspiration for the fictional world of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck - on leisurely nature strolls near Hill Top, her former farmhouse retreat, now one of Lakeland's most-visited attractions.
Windermere, the longest of the region's glacier-carved lakes, offers a choice of pleasure cruises and watersports, including rowing, windsurfing and yacht-sailing. Another way of absorbing the scenery is aboard a vintage steam train. The restored Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway connects with ferries at the southern end of Lake Windermere, while the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway chugs into the mountains from the ancient Roman port of Ravenglass, Lakeland's only coastal village. The train is affectionately known locally as La 'al Ratty (meaning "little railway" in an old Cumbrian dialect).
When it comes to accommodation, you're spoiled for choice. Besides humble, homely B&Bs and guesthouses, there are new options like The Forest Side, a renovated fairytale slate and stone mansion in Grasmere, and Keswick's Scandi-tinged Inn on the Square. With their stunning lakeland settings and cedar-clad spa lodges, Gilpin Hotel and Gilpin Lake House offer a luxurious option.
Thanks to a bounty of regional produce, you'll also eat exceedingly well in these parts. Traditionally renowned for its simple sweet treats (think: sticky toffee pudding, Kendal mint cake and Grasmere gingerbread), Lakeland has morphed into a foodie destination, with gastropubs and Michelin star eateries luring gourmets with artfully-presented meals and tasting menus flavoured with the likes of locally-sourced lamb, pork and salmon. Two fine-dining venues worth seeking out are Holbeck Ghyll, a hotel-spa-restaurant near Windermere and rustic-chic L'Enclume in Cartmel. You might recognise both from The Trip, the BBC mockumentary that followed Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on their culinary-driven journey across northern England.
Did you know?
The Lake District is flush with microbreweries, but they craft artisan spirits here, too. Tours, with tastings of award-winning whisky, gin and vodka, are available at the Lakes Distillery, which has mushroomed on a former Victorian cattle farm.