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The Lake District treats you to some of the best scenery that it's possible to see from a car windscreen

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Honister Pass – Slate Mines
Kirkstone Pass - Highest
Hardknott Pass - Steepest
As one of England's very few mountainous regions, the Lake District is naturally full of steep slopes and dipping valleys. Travelling through this uneven landscape requires lots of going uphill, and lots of coming back down again. For those driving cars, this can mean slow progress - the miles take an age to roll away, as each road twists and winds its way around the hills and the fells.

Photo Jonathan Mayhew
But there's an upside. Along some of the roads, as you zig-zag your way across the National Park, you're treated to some of the best scenery that it's possible to see from a car windscreen. These are some of the very few routes in the UK that need no end destination. For any fan of motoring, these roads are the destination!
A perfect example is Honister Pass, which reaches up to a top height of 356 metres. The drive takes you between towering grassy fells, and across quaint stone bridges. At times it's one of the steepest roads in Cumbria, with a gradient of up to 25%. The summit of the pass is worth stopping at, if not for the views, then for the Honister Slate Mines, which has been in use here for hundreds of years. After taking their underground tour, the open spaces of the Honister Pass will seem even more gigantic!

Honister Pass Slate Mine
Photo PD
The highest road in the Lake District that's open for public use is Kirkstone Pass, connecting Ullswater to Lake Windermere. The route tops out at 454 metres - and this is the point where you can find the famous Kirkstone Pass Inn. The building looks oddly out of place, completely on its own among the hills - but it's been serving the passing travellers for over 500 years now, and it remains as popular as it ever was. Today, it ranks as England's third-highest public house. Elsewhere, The Kirkstone Pass provides great sights of several lakes, surely making it one of the most beautiful routes in the county. In fact, it's so pretty, Wordsworth himself wrote a poem about it!

Kirkstone Pass Inn
Photo MrH1979
Real driving fanatics will want to try their hand at the Wrynose Pass - a thin, single-track road connecting two small villages. The road signs at its beginning warn of the "narrow route" and "severe bends". If it's at all wet or icy, drivers are advised to stay well away. But in the right conditions, the extreme corners, hairpins and slopes make for one of the most enjoyable drives the country has to offer.

Wrynose Pass
Photo PD
Continuing on, the road then joins up with Hardknott Pass, another dramatic and infamous route. This is the steepest road in England with a gradient that reaches 33%! For those who manage to make it to the top, an expansive view awaits as a reward. You'll be able to see many of the Lake District's mountains on the horizon - and on clear days, even the Isle of Man is visible.

Climbing the Hardknott Pass
Photo Christopher Kennett

The view from the Hardknott Pass
Photo Mick Knapton
Driving through one of Cumbria's high passes is a unique experience. The twisting roads, coupled with the unforgettable scenery, make this one of the best ways to explore the Lake District National Park.

Honister Slate Mine

Photo simonsimages
Located at the head of the Honister Pass, Honister is England's last working slate mine and England's first Via Ferrata. Offering a visitor centre along with fully guided underground tours of the mine and the opportunity to purchase slate products.
Visitor Information
Honister Slate Mine is open daily 9am to 5pm. Underground tours at 10.30, 12.30 (14.00) & 15.30. Tours cost around £10 for adults, £5 children. Honister Slate Mine, Honister Pass, Borrowdale, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5XN. Tel: 017687 77230

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