Tucked in the northwest of England, Cumbria is home to the largest national park in England and there’s little room for doubt why. Sweeping views of glistening lakes, imposing mountains rising through the mist, and vibrant green valleys as far as the eye can see.
Wander through Cumbria for a few days and you’ll soon discover that Cumbria is more than pleasing to the eye. It’s a place steeped in history, which has inspired countless artists, photographers, and writers.
New Stone Age Industry
We often think that industrial practice is a modern-day phenomenon, but humans were utilising specialist skills to manufacture and trade goods as long as 5,000 years ago.
The so-called “Langdale axe industry” was first discovered in Great Langdale in 1930. Amazingly, the Neolithic tribes of Great Langdale were so skilled in making stone axes that they’ve been discovered all around England.
Stone circles and henges can be seen all across the Lake District, a testament to prehistoric societies. One of the best-preserved examples is Long Meg and Her Daughters, a stone circle with a diameter of approximately 350 feet (107m).
Cumbria was conquered later than other parts of England when the Romans sought to crush a revolt in the region around AD69. The resulting Roman influence can be seen throughout Cumbria.
Roman forts such as Hardknott Roman Fort and Ambleside Roman Fort are dotted throughout the Lake District. Many of these sites are managed by the National Trust and English Heritage, so you’ll be able to visit them.
Of course, the most famous Roman site is Hadrian’s Wall, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built to secure the northwestern border of the Roman Empire, Hadrian’s Wall is a 73-mile man-made wall stretching from the west to the east coast of England. Many people challenge themselves to walk the length of the wall, and it’s widely thought that William Hutton was the first modern person to complete the challenge in 1801.
The Industrial Revolution
By the 18th century, Cumbria was gripped in the throes of the industrial revolution and the urban population skyrocketed. Industry developed all across the region, spanning textiles, pencils, and shipbuilding.
Graphite was discovered in Cumbria around the mid-1500s after a violent storm uprooted several trees. The lumps of stone looked like coal, but would not burn. However, they did leave a mark and shepherds started to use it to mark their sheep. It’s just as well really since Cumbria is home to six times more sheep than people, so they probably had a lot of sheep to mark!
Shipbuilding was an important part of Cumbria’s economy, so much so that Carlisle was once home to a ship canal. These canals were wider and deeper than an average waterway so that ships could be taken out to sea after they’d been built. Carlisle’s canal was 11.5 miles (18.4km) long, 54 feet (16.5m) wide and 8 feet 6 inches (5.6m) deep. Sadly, it was only in use for 30 years as it was soon replaced by the next engineering advancement – the railway!
It’s no secret that Cumbria’s breathtaking scenery has been inspiring people throughout the ages. Several well-known writers drew inspiration from Cumbria’s lakes and mountains.
William Wordsworth famously penned a poem in memory of his last meeting with his brother, who later died in a shipwreck. Part of the poem is etched into The Brother’s Parting Stone or the Wordsworth Stone, near Grisedale.
Another renowned writer whose love of the Lake District flows throughout her writing is Beatrix Potter. The creator of many famous children’s characters including Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck, she was a major landowner in the region and granted much of her property to the National Trust when she passed.
The Birthplace of the Cumberland Sausage
The distinctive circular coil of the Cumberland Sausage originated from Cumberland, now part of Cumbria. It’s been a speciality in this region of England for over 500 years, although its origin remains largely unknown. Some people believe it was developed by German miners in the region, who became involved in mining graphite. In 2011, the “traditional Cumberland sausage” was granted Protected Geographical Indication status, preserving this tasty treat for generations to come.
Come and Find Your Inspiration
Little glimpses of history can be found wherever you choose to visit in Cumbria. Home to not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Hadrian’s Wall and the Lake District, get a breath of fresh air, take in the stunning scenery and find your inspiration.
Written by Holly Dodd
Fancy coming to explore Ambleside?