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Is Cumbria paradise? Lake District scenes 'star' in new Britain’s best views book

When bathed in sun, Borrowdale can seem a secret paradise.” Ullswater, by contrast, is “the aristocrat of the Lakes, aloof, photogenic and at ease with popularity”.

The landscape at Castlerigg is “closest to the gods”. Hartside Pass is “the wildest crossing of England’s limestone spine. This is raw country.”

And as for Wasdale, “normal mortals seem out of place here”.

These are all the impressions that 70-year-old author, journalist and National Trust chairman Sir Simon Jenkins has gathered from exploring the Cumbrian countryside. And they are all recorded in his latest book, published this week.

England’s 100 Best Views is his very personal take on the English landscape and the scenes that have had the deepest impact on him.

It is made up of 10 chapters, each focusing on a different region of the country. His chapter on north-western England records 12 such sights – and 11 of them are in Cumbria.

They are Borrowdale, Buttermere, Castlerigg, Derwent Water, Gummer’s How, Langdale, Ullswater, Wasdale Head, Wrynose and Hardknott, Hartside Pass and High Cup Nick, above Dufton.

Only one north-western view outside Cumbria is deemed worthy of mention, the Liverpool seafront.

Simon admits he was not as familiar with Cumbria as he should have been until he started work on the book.

“I’m a newcomer but I’m a tremendous fan of the Lake District,” he says. “I had been there many times before but I started looking at it in some detail and I came to realise that it’s one of the greatest places in Europe.

“It’s that wonderful blend of water, uplands, lowlands. If it was in the south it would be overrun.”

The 100 sights he has selected weren’t just chosen for their attractiveness – but for the way they make us feel. To him, that’s the difference between a picture and a view.

“My intention is to examine not so much the landscape as our emotions responding to it, the impact it makes on the eye and the imagination. I am not just presenting a picture of Buttermere’s pines for example. I am experiencing and trying to articulate the beauty of these.”

The Romantics felt that different lakes had very different personalities – some were calming, others angry – and it’s something Simon came to notice.

“It’s the variety, the diversity of the place, that I find exhilarating. It’s an overwhelming experience.”

He finds it difficult to single out his favourite scenes, but does say: “I’m torn between Castlerigg and Borrowdale. When you see Borrowdale in shafts of sunlight, it’s sensational.

“And the view from Castlerigg over to Catbells is very moving. It’s impossible to stand in this place and think its Stone Age builders were blind to its beauty.

“They must have sensed the genius of the place – though how they read it or expressed it in those stones is a mystery.”

Mr Jenkins is a columnist for The Guardian, a former editor of The Times and author of many books, and has chaired the National Trust for five years now.

England’s 100 Best Views is published tomorrow by Profile Books and costs £25.

Do you have a favourite Cumbria scene? Tell us below. And if you'd like to share a photo of it, email it to ian.brogden@cngroup.co.uk and we'll add it here.

Have your say

i fell in love with Pooley bridge and ullswater when i started work and was sent there to do a job,it was heaven,i knicked named it Gods Kingdom,my dad loved the lakes.

Posted by william taylor on 7 October 2013 at 17:16

My favorite view of the Lake District is looking west from Ashness Bridge looking over Derwentwater and Bassenthwait Lake (the only Lake in the Lake District)in the distance, however I hope to see more views of the Lake District when my daughter and I walk the coast to coast walk next June.
John Garraway Canada, formerly of Whitehaven.

Posted by John B Garraway on 6 October 2013 at 22:43

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