The M6 motorway from the Midlands to Carlisle passes up the eastern side of the county of Cumbria, providing easy access from all parts of the UK. You'll definitely want your own wheels for exploring - for car hire, go to www.hertz.co.uk. Smith cardholders get a 10 per cent discount; simply quote '635230' when you reserve your car.
Both Manchester (www.manchesterairport.co.uk) and Liverpool (www.liverpooljohnlennonairport.com) airports are less than 90 minutes' drive away from the southern reaches of Cumbria, the Lake District. Glasgow (www.glasgowairport.com) and Edinburgh (www.edinburghairport.com) airports are a couple of hours from Carlisle, in the north of Cumbria.
The West Coast Main Line from London to Glasgow stops at Oxenholme (where you can change for Kendal and Windermere), Penrith and Carlisle in the Lakes. There are regular direct trains between Manchester Airport and Windermere (via Oxenholme).
Country code for the UK: 44.
Wordsworth's poems (try a Selected Poems volume) are infused with his love of the Lake District. Arthur Ransome's children's classic Swallows and Amazons is set on Coniston Water. Cumbrian author Sarah Hall's acclaimed historical novel Haweswater includes vivid descriptions of the local landscape.
Do go / Don't Go
June, July and August are the best months for British weather, but be warned that the better-known lakes will be busy with tourists. Visit during spring and autumn for lakeside seclusion.
The only option is a good local minicab company, although these are limited in the Lake District; in Kirkby Lonsdale, try 24‑7 Taxis (+44 (0)1524 273395). Your best bet is to ask your hotel to arrange drop‑offs and pick-ups for you.
As in the rest of the UK, a 12.5-15 per cent tip is expected in restaurants; sometimes it's included in the bill, sometimes not.
Walking shoes and a waterproof jacket, in case you fancy a hike; wine cooler and picnic basket for gathering foraged foodstuffs to consume en route.
Book-lovers, head to Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in Grasmere (+44 (0)1539 435544), and Beatrix Potter's Hill Top, near Sawrey in Ambleside (+44 (0)1539 436269). Blackwell House in Bowness-on-Windermere (+44 (0)1539 446191) is a beautiful Arts and Crafts building with exhibitions and a lovely tearoom. John Ruskin's home, Brantwood, on Coniston (+44 (0)1539 441396) is also worth investigating for current exhibitions and events. Abbot Hall in Kendal is a beautiful gallery with skilfully curated exhibitions; for more bustling arts events, go to the nearby Brewery Arts Centre (+44 (0)1539 725133).
The Pinter-scripted scenes in The French Lieutenant's Woman were filmed in Ruskin's house at Brantwood, and the rural adventure in Withnail and I was filmed around the Cumbrian towns of Penrith and Shap. 'We've gone on holiday by mistake…'
There are treasures to be had beyond the Beatrix Potter tea towels and Kendal mint cake - keep an eye out for little antiques shops. Booths (www.booths‑supermarkets.co.uk) is a small chain of delis specialising in delicious Cumbrian produce; there are outlets in Kirkby Lonsdale (+44 (0)15242 73443), Windermere (+44 (0)15394 46114) and Kendal (+44 (0)1539 742370).
Climb up Bowfell, a mountain in the Lakeland fells with commanding views of the Pennines to the east and the Isle of Man to the west. More experienced and armed with mint cake? Conquer England's highest peak, the rugged 978‑metre Scafell Pike, at Wasdale.
Go to Keswick and visit the Castlerigg Stone Circle, an inscrutable arrangement of 48 craggy stones, some of them almost three metres high, with beautiful views over to Skiddaw, Blencathra and Lonscale Fell. For leafy adventure, follow a trail through Grizedale Forest with views over Coniston Water, Windermere and Grizedale Valley (+44 (0)1229 860010).
April St George's Day parade in Kirkby Lonsdale. June North West Food Lovers Festival at Westmorland County Showfield (+44 (0)1695 732734; www.foodloversfestival.co.uk) is the biggest foodie fest in the region. August Grasmere Sports & Show, including Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling, frantic hound trails and tug-of-war contests (+44 (0)1539 432127; grasmeresportsandshow.co.uk). September World Gurning Championships (we kid you not) at the Egremont Crab Fair & Sports in Egremont (+44 (0)1946 820693; www.egremontcrabfair.org.uk).