An introduction to the Lake District World Heritage Site


Update 11 July: The Lake District was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in early July 2017. It is now part of a special family of iconic places across the planet, like the Taj Mahal, Machu Picchu, Easter Island, the Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon and many other world famous locations.

We at the Trust are delighted, excited and honoured too, as the Lakes’ World Heritage story and the creation of the Trust are closely entwined.

The Lake District is inscribed as a Culture Landscape. World Heritage sites are assessed according to their global uniqueness and significance, or as UNESCO calls them Outstanding Universal Values or OUVs.

For the Lake District our OUVs are Identity, Inspiration and Conservation.



The Lakes are a unique landscape that has been shaped for centuries by people’s activities – farming on the uplands and in the valley bottoms, quarrying and mining, forestry and water management, and tourism too. The result is a worked and continually changing landscape, or as we like to think an evolving masterpiece.

Yew Tree Farm is a traditional hill farm with a flock of Herdwick sheep. Part of Monk Coniston Estate. Bought by Beatrix Potter and then sold to the National Trust in 1930.
Jon Watson National Trust farm tenant with the flock of Herdwick sheep at Yew Tree Farm, Coniston, Cumbria


In turn the landscape has shaped people too. Through the Picturesque and Romantic Movements, the way we see the land around us, how we connect with it, and how we think and create as a result of this relationship, has evolved and influenced us. As such the Lake District has become and is a nationally valued treasure worth looking after.

Claife Heights Viewing Station overlooking Windermere, Cumbria
Claife Heights Viewing Station overlooking Windermere, Cumbria


That initial public love for the Lake District ignited a drive to protect and conserve the landscape, inspired by the thinking of William Wordsworth and John Ruskin, and sparked the foundation of the National Trust. And we’ve been looking after the Lakes ever since. This conservation thinking likewise shaped the development of National Parks initially in the US and later in the UK. The global conservation movement really started here.

" ...a sort of national property, in which every man has a right and interest who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy..."
- William Wordsworth
National Trust founders Octavia Hill, Hardwicke Rawnsley and Robert Hunter
National Trust founders

What’s unique about the Lake District’s WHS status is the Trust’s role in it. Few organisations can say that they are intrinsic within a World Heritage Site story. World Heritage status is global recognition of the Trust, our conservation heritage, and equally important our work today, and that in the future.

Share your story with us

Next time you’re up in the Lakes, enjoying the views, the walking, the hills and lakes, pause to consider why you do. Chances are your Lakes experience is a reflection of the World Heritage Site story. Tell us about your visit at #wearethelakes

Discover more on the Lakes’ World Heritage stories valley by valley, or by Outstanding Universal Value, and where to experience it for yourself.


The Lake District becomes a World Heritage Site 

The Lake District has become a World Heritage Site joining iconic locations such as the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and Grand Canyon as a place of international acclaim.


Our work in the Lake District

A snapshot of what we are looking after in the Lake District.