The Guide to the Lakes

Book Review

They say that history repeats itself. When William Wordsworth published his Guide through the District of the Lakes in the North of England it was a publishing phenomenon.

Political problems in Europe meant that adventurers, who might otherwise have done a grand tour of the great cities of Europe, were looking for opportunities to travel closer to home.

Wordsworth’s wasn’t the first; in 1778 Thomas West published A Guide to the Lakes in which he recommended the best spots for visitors to stand and admire the landscape. But it was when 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, that tourism really took off.

Fast forward nearly 200 years, and here’s the Lake District benefitting from the “staycation” trend as Brexit uncertainty and exchange rates are keeping more tourists at home. And rather surprisingly, the guide book is still a popular format in the digital age, even though the best of them will inevitably be quickly out of date.

The Rough Guide to the Lake District is the best of Wordsworth’s successors, comprehensive, logically presented, well-illustrated, and as accurate as possible. The fells, the popular walks, the favourite viewpoints are unchanged by time, and as for traditions – well, the editors of the latest edition weren’t to know that the record for the Bob Graham round was about to be spectacularly beaten.

We’re very pleased to see that Elterwater Hostel is favourably featured, appearing in their top five in the whole of the Lakes and noted in that list for “country calm”. Later we get singled out: “It’s not at all fancy, but it’s beautifully sited in great hiking and biking country.” We won’t argue with that.

But we will take them to task over other details. Staying in Langdale, for groceries and supplies of any kind, they say, you’ll have to head back down to Elterwater or Ambleside. None in Elterwater, sorry, but how can they possibly have missed the Langdale Co-op at Chapel Stile, where you can buy everything from gin and tonic to toys and games via all your groceries, fruit and veg, and locally baked bread and cakes.

And while it’s understandable that print deadlines might have led to the omission of Grasmere’s best café, Mathilde’s (open for more than 12 months), the editors ought to have checked that certain restaurants in Ambleside had closed, been replaced, and new ones now up and running. And in the section on notable characters, could they not have found someone more noteworthy in Ambleside than the man who moved his Homes of Football business out of the town some ten years ago?

But as long as visitors – especially those from overseas – check details which might have changed (and check train timetables, but let’s not go THERE) they will find just about everything they need to know within these pages. Anything else – give us a call, 01539437245. Our local knowledge is second to none!


The Rough Guide to the Lakes (£13.99) from Fred’s Bookshop in Ambleside and Sam Read in Grasmere