Today, Cumbria is best known for the spectacular landscapes of the Lake District in the north and centre of the county. Designated a National Park, the district is the county’s top tourist attraction, and can become crowded with walkers during the summer.

Cumbria is flatter to the west, where its partly industrialised coastline meets the Irish Sea. Barrow-in-Furness, the main town on the coast, was once a major shipbuilding centre, but is now largely a retirement town; the nuclear plant at Sellafield is also on this stretch of coastline.

Rainfall is high in Cumbria, which contains the wettest places in England, but the climate is generally mild.

To the north of the county is the Scottish border; as Cumbria had to withstand repeated attacks from Scotland in the past, there are also a number of fortified houses. Traditional houses are built of stone with slate roofs.

The most sought-after areas are in the Lake District itself, and any house fronting one of the lakes commands an instant premium. Prices are still favourable in comparison with Yorkshire and Lancashire, but especially strong in the Lake District. Away from the Lake District, country-house prices are up to 50 per cent lower.

Major towns

Carlisle, Penrith, Kendal, Cockermouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Brampton, Alston, Keswick, Bowness, Appleby-in-Westmorland.

Transport links

Train: Euston to Carlisle 3hr 36min; Euston to Barrow-in-Furness (via Lancaster) 4hr 18min.

Car: Carlisle is 307 miles from London, via the M1 and M6; Barrow-in-Furness is 286 miles, via the M1, M6 and A590.

Public schools

Austin Friars School, Carlisle (01228 28042). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.austinfriars.cumbria.sch.uk

Casterton School, Kirkby Lonsdale (01524 279200). Girls only, age range 4-18, day and boarding. www.castertonschool.co.uk

Our Lady’s Chetwynde School, Barrow-in-Furness (01229 824210). Co-educational, age range 3-18, day. www.chetwynde.co.uk

St Anne’s, Windermere (01539 446164). Co-educational, age range 2-18, day and boarding. www.windemerest-annes.cumbria.sch.uk

St Bees School (01946 822263). Co-educational, age range 11-18, day and boarding. www.st-bees-school.co.uk

St Monica’s Preparatory School, Carlisle (01228 537458). Co-educational, age range 4-11, day. www.milleniumschools.co.uk

Sedbergh School (01539 620535). Co-educational, age range 13-18, boarding (also separate junior school, age range 4- 13). www.sedberghschool.org

Leisure

Golf courses: Appleby (01768 351432); Silloth-on-Solway, Carlisle (01697 331304); Seascale (01946 728800); Ulverston (01229 582824).

Hunts: the Cumberland, the Blencathra, the Coniston, the Eskdale and Ennerdale.

Yacht clubs: Royal Windermere Yacht Club, Coniston Sailing Club.

Fishing: rivers Derwent, Esk and Eden; the Lakes.