Daffodils by Ullswater copyright Val Corbett

History of tourism

Tourism in the Lake District began in the late eighteenth century.  Before then it was considered a wild and desolate place. In 1724 Daniel Defoe described the area as "the wildest, most barren and frightful of any that I have passed over in England".

Eighteenth century visitors

In 1778 Father Thomas West published 'A Guide to the Lakes' in which he recommended the best spots for visitors to stand and admire the landscape. Before long, the writings of poets such as Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge were promoting the beauty and splendour of the landscape to a nation eager to escape the growing cities.

In 1820 William Wordsworth published his own guide book 'A Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England' which sold rapidly and encouraged many more visitors. Political problems in Europe also meant that wealthy tourists, who might otherwise have done a grand tour of the great cities of Europe, were looking for opportunities to travel closer to home.

Daytrippers ahoy!

The "working classes" soon joined the ranks of holiday makers, as improved working conditions led to a shorter working week, increased wages and paid holidays. The railway reached Windermere in 1847 followed by further lines to Keswick and Lakeside at the south end of Windermere. These allowed many more people from a wide range of social classes to visit on day trips from cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Improvements in the roads, widespread car ownership and rising standards of living led to ever increasing numbers of visitors from the 1960s.