Claife Heights viewing station overlooking Windermere copyright Charlie Hedley

Viewing Stations

From the eighteenth century onwards the Lake District landscape attracted increasing numbers of visitors, as the development of the Picturesque movement grew.

Thomas West published the first Lake District guidebook in 1778. He described the scenery from ‘stations’ or viewpoints. There are seven recorded around Lake Windermere, including Queen Adelaide’s Hill. The Picturesque movement suggested that people should only view the landscape from certain points, at their most pictorial. These viewpoints became the fashionable places for tourists and artists to visit.

Claife Station at Claife Heights, Windermere

Claife Station is on the western shore of Lake Windermere and is owned by the National Trust. The grade II listed building, built in the late eighteenth century, is now in ruins. However its windows used to contain different coloured glass to offer distinct views of the lake and landscape.

At viewing stations, visitors would turn their backs to the landscape, hold up a mirror known as a Claude Glass and look at the framed and transformed view. The mirror would make the scene easier to draw and record.

A ‘Claude Glass’ was named after the paintings of Claude Lorraine, where he used a golden tint, similar to that viewed in the mirror. These viewing stations are now sites of historic significance, enabling us to understand how people have viewed the landscape over the last 200 years.