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From the Depths of Honister Slate Mine to the Shores of Windermere


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Honister slate mine, near Keswick, is to be found in Cumbria, in the English Lakes. As well as operating as a working mine, it is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Cumbria, with lots to see and do.

The Romans mined the area for slate in small quantities, but mass mining did not begin until the late 18th century. Some of the mining skills of those days can still be seen today in tourist demonstrations.

One of the most popular visitor activities currently taking place at the Honister slate mine is the traverse of the Via Ferrata - Italian for iron road. It is the only one of its kind in the UK and allows the average person to climb all the way to the top of the Honister Slate Mine. The system was originally built in Victorian times as a transportation system: due to the steepness of the rock face, all normal transport methods were unsuitable. The newly renovated ascent consists of ladders, bridges and well-fixed cables to which you're firmly attached with modern safety harnesses as you climb.

At the Honister slate mine, anyone over 10 years old can take part in this exhilarating activity which allows them to climb 650 meters up to the top of Fleetwith Pike. All the groups are accompanied by a knowledgeable via ferrata guide who ensures everything is safe and secure. The expedition is a great adventure for everyone in the family, with an exciting zig-zag route which disappears up the cliff face, burrows through shafts and tunnels, teeters along narrow bridges, and requires you to climb steep ladders on sheer rock faces.

You really have to experience this to realise how much of an undertaking it must have been for the constructors of the via ferrata in Victorian times without today's modern machinery. Broaching the summit is an extraordinary experience as you take in the view of the outstanding scenery and marvel at the surrounding fells and mountains of the English Lake District.

Prices for this unique activity at the Honister Slate mine are around £25 for adults and £20 for children under 16, though family tickets can also be purchased for £85. And once you've braved the via ferrata, there are plenty of other exciting activities to experience such as an underground tour, slate mining demonstrations and beautiful walking routes. There's also a café and, better still, there's even a charming and tasteful gift shop where you can get slate name plaques, decorative memorabilia, and many other worthwhile souvenirs.

A more sedate activity, but equally popular, is a trip on the Windermere “Steamers". Windermere is the largest natural lake in England; it is one area within the Lakes National Park, located in the county of Cumbria. The cruisers which travel along Windermere have existed in one form or another since the 19th century, when the influx of tourists and increased popularity of the Lake District as a holiday destination created a demand for lake trips.

Certainly the Lake and its surroundings are just as beautiful now as they were then! No doubt that's the reason why Lake Windermere and its cruisers are still one of the most enduring and appealing attractions in the Lake District.

The original boats were powered by steam, so the modern cruisers are still often referred to as steamers, even though today they all have diesel engines. A boat trip along Lake Windermere provides lots of chances to explore the area around the lake, from the little port of Lakeside near Newby Bridge in the South, to the bustling activity of busy Bowness, and charming Ambleside at the head of the Lake. And there is a wide variety of boats to choose from, including the vintage “Steamers" which can carry up to 350 passengers. (Although, if taking a cruise isn't your thing, you can rent your own boat and go on a journey of your own making from all of the main landing stages. )

There are many reasons why people take a cruise on Lake Windermere: to see the awe-inspiring landscapes and views, perhaps, or to enjoy the simple pleasure of a slower, more relaxed form of transport, or maybe even to use the steamers as a way of commuting from one part of the lake to another.

The steamers offer visitors great flexibility. You can buy a day ticket to travel along the lake as you wish, which allows you to disembark at any point and go for a leisurely stroll through the amazing countryside the Lake District has to offer. When you've walked enough, or had your fill of the glorious Lake District scenery, you can simply hop back on the boat.

Travelling the length of the lake takes around three hours, while the popular journey from Lakeside to Bowness takes around one and a half hours. Both trips provide plenty of time and opportunity to enjoy some amazing sights and beautiful places along the way.

There is complete information on all the Lake District has to offer in our Lake District Guide where you will be able to access comprehensive details of Lakes attractions, excellent walks, and a wide selection of restaurants and Lake District accommodation.


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