Perspective: Visitor

Basak Tanulku: Lancaster University alumna, who was exposed to the beauty and mystery of the Lake District during her studies. She is now a regular visitor and interested in the protection of its natural and cultural landscape.

“What makes the Lake District a World Class Attraction?”

Losing Horizon, Finding the Self
Here I will write about my experiences with the wild and secret Lake District, something different from those of most of the visitors based on its beauty, romantic and picturesque views, variety of festivals and weekends away in b&b's.


Pictured: Basak Tanulku at Grasmere Gingerbread

My journey to the Lakes started in 2004 when I became a student at Lancaster University located in Lancaster, a relatively prosperous town characterised by an international university culture. It was situated between the capital of the North, Manchester distinguished by repetitive streets, red-brick terraced houses, all looking the same in dirty and foggy weather and the Lake District, characterised by sheep, farms, fells, all-changing weather, and dark lakes. My diverse experience of the region advanced with daily visits to the Lake District first, with friends, then with relatives visiting me, and the members of various university clubs. While people accompanying me had changed over the years, the Lake District remained the same and a mystery to unravel. My real adventure started when my daily visits transformed into overnight or more extended stays and took place in different seasons, summer or winter, or high or low season. The Lake District became a part of me throughout the years I spent in Lancaster, where I discovered the area by walking, hiking, and attending various events. On my visits, I lost my horizon and sense of time and space. I felt free, and I became free. These feelings of solitude and freedom continued in my visits after I returned to Istanbul, one of the largest and densest cities of the world of around 20 million people.

I haven’t done popular outdoor activities when someone is expected to do on a visit to the Lakes. However,  I still experienced the dangers posed by this landscape, when my mobile phone or Wi-Fi did not work in isolated parts, or when I could not find any vehicle to return to my b&b, or when roads were closed during the winter months. This diverse experience makes me asking myself if the Lake District is wild and whether this depends on its actual dangers or my affections, or both.

The Lake District looks like the last place on Earth to be considered as wild. It has been regarded as a "sheep-wrecked landscape" without wildlife and wildness.  Moreover, its remaining wildlife does not correspond to the "wild" in our dictionary. Where are wolves who howl during cold and long nights of the winter or the bear, or boars who scare us when we meet them? While we cannot meet any of the large wild mammals, Lake District has abundant wildlife: however, since they are so cute such as red squirrels or fell ponies, we do not consider them as wild. Fell ponies deserve particular attention: their ancestors worked with the Romans in the construction of Hadrian's Wall and witnessed the Dark Ages and the legend of King Arthur. They now wait for being recognised for their role in the making of this great landscape.

Also, everything seems in its right location: Neolithic stone circles, farmsteads, cottage homes, Victorian terraced houses, few but well preserved Mediaeval Peel Towers, charming cafes, restaurants bringing cuisines across various cultures, and festivals which fill all months of the year with some art, outdoor sports or food! All these amenities also operate on predictability and proper management. However, as a long-time visitor to the area, I can tell the opposite: the Lake District is surprising as its weather because everything depends on its all-changing and unpredictable weather! The traffic also depends on the weather and season: during the high season, I find difficult to travel within the region while during the low season, the roads can be closed due to flooding or accidents, or the services are interrupted or reduced frequency. There are many encounters with the unusual: you can see a flock of local sheep on a small road or ponies if you visit the Eastern Fells. Climbing a fell can be as dangerous as any great mountain range of the world and can lead to accidents ending in injuries or casualties.


Pictured: Castlerigg Stone Circle

Also, the Lake District is not a simple physical landscape: there are many historical figures such as St Herbert who was supposed to live in an island on Derwentwater or legends and local lore associated with King Arthur, his knights and battles. As everywhere in the UK, the Lake District has secret geography, or “otherworld” which can be only discovered while you spend time there.  It is inhabited by elves, fairies and other supernatural beings hidden from people whom sometimes you thread without noticing them, in places like Elva Hill or Elfa Well.  There are many haunted sites such as pubs, forests and ruins across the region, which provide a chilling factor. They can open new opportunities to discover other than popular features of the region, such as outdoor activities, literary and artistic events, or its beauty, which can be considered as an art form reflected in nature.

But the best thing about the Lake District is its ability to connect me to my inner wild, which is about a search for an escape from the routines of every day and finding the freedom that I have sought. Throughout history, the Lake District became a refuge or a destination for the outsiders, or outlaws escaping from the law, army, church or simply, the duties of everyday life. From “Professor of Adventure”, Millican Dalton who lived in a cave in Borrowdale in isolation to contemporary solo travellers and adventure seekers, the Lake District has become the place to find the true self and freedom. People can also create a history of personal success by surviving in the wild, even if this wild does not contain wolves, bison or bears. The Lake District also became a wild scene for the youth during the 1990s when rave parties took place in the caves in Coniston, which also attracted the attention of the locals, landowners and the police.

The Lake District promises spontaneity and wildness because people search for freedom here. It is not a touristic destination, but a site of discovery, both of its long and enigmatic history and self. So, never underestimate a weekend in the Lake District, there are many surprises posed by this landscape, which is beautiful, calm, wild, and dangerous at the same time.