Monday, 29 October 2012

How times have changed

There was a time, in fact, not so very long ago, when the Lake District tourism industry all but closed down at the start of October. Back in 1973, when was young, free and single, I remember catching a boat from Bowness to Lakeside. It was the 6th October, a very pleasant autumn day, and the boat (the "Swan", I seem to remember) was about half full. It was my last chance to make that journey that year, as a couple of days later the boats ceased operation for the winter. They were not the only tourist attraction to do so. By the end of that month, virtually all the region's tourism attractions were in hibernation mode.

That is just 40 years ago. Nowadays things are very different. The Lake District is open for business all year round, with quite a number of attractions even welcoming visitors in January, which retains it's position as the Lake District's quietest month.

There are a number of reasons why The Lake District has become an all year round destination. Back in the early seventies few people took more than a couple of breaks a year. Most people only had one, their main holiday, and when you'd worked your socks off to save up the money the last thing you wanted to do was waste it by going away in the depths of winter. Besides, there was Christmas and the New Year break to think of.

By the time we got to the eighties, more and more people started to take an extra short break, often leaving the kids with granny and grandad while they popped away for a few days to revitalise the romantic side of their lives. And what better place to go to than the Lake District, with it's unique charm, and no crowds. You really could get away from it all and enjoy some quality time together. And the good news is that you still can. The Lake District may be open for business 12 months of the year, but that does not mean that it is crowded. There is still plenty of space to relax and unwind.

Back in the eighties and early nineties the weather also played it's part. There was a succession of winters characterised by cold, clear days and frosty nights. Not that every day was like that, you understand. As with other parts of the country, the winter weather in the Lakes could be damp and drab, with heavy mist obscuring the views, and, occasionally, rain that came down sideways. But such days failed to dampen the spirits of most visitors, and some people positively revelled in them. Yes, that's right, there were people, in fact there still are, who were disappointed if the sun shone and the air was crisp and still. They wanted to experience extremes of weather. The wonder of the Lake District was that there was a good possibility of experiencing both kinds of weather on the average 5 day mid winter break.

Probably one of the most important factors driving the move towards a 12 month season was the price that it was possible to buy accommodation and meals at. Even as late as 1992, one good quality Lake District hotel was offering 5 nights Dinner Bed and Breakfast for just £99 per person. Little wonder that the hotel soon found itself almost as full as it had been in the summer. And the quality of the fare on offer did not disappoint, as many guests booked for the same time the following year, and the next, and the next, in fact, some of them are still doing so 20 years down the line. Nowadays the prices they pay are a little more realistic, but with a little shopping round it is still possible to get a really good deal for a winter break, and the really good news in Winter 2012/2013 there is more to do when they get here than ever before, including enjoying a little romance.

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