The popularity of the Lake District has meant great change in recent years to its many towns and villages. There was a time when summer ended and the tourists disappeared. Nowadays tourism is an all year round business and those businesses catering for the demands must stay open longer. Towns like Ambleside at the northern end of Windermere with its splendid mix of shops and facilities cater well for the visitor. Sophisticated fashion shops, stylish restaurants and cafes, pubs and bars, happily exist alongside the more traditional Lakeland shops, providing a welcome shopping haven for the most demanding of customers. Similar stores and outdoor clothing shops are also much evidence in Keswick which lies between Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake and is the town where you’ll find Theatre by the Lake, one of the most beautifully sited theatres in Britain. Like Theatre by the Lake, the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal is an excellent arts facility, putting on a year round programme of drama, music, dance, talk, comedy and film. Also in Kendal – the Gateway to the Lakes – is Abbot Hall Art Gallery, one of the finest small art galleries in the country. Hawkshead, Grasmere and Cockermouth are very popular destinations partly because they all have one person in common and that’s William Wordsworth. He was born in Cockermouth, went to school in Hawkshead and lived for many years around Grasmere. The churchyard in Grasmere is also where he is buried. The busiest place in Lakeland is probably Bowness-on-Windermere, one of three arrival/departure points for the steamers of Windermere Lake Cruises. It has all the sophistication of Ambleside, the same array of cafes, bars and restaurants as well as plenty of open spaces for young legs to race around and older legs to be stretched. About a mile away is Windermere village and nearby the impressive Lakeland store near the railway station which has become a favourite of shoppers all over the country. Barrow-in-Furness is the biggest place in Cumbria after Carlisle and although it’s not inside the Lake District National Park it is worth a visit. Some of our biggest ships and submarines have been built there and the town itself has recently undergone a stylish regeneration and has attracted equally stylish shops. You can see the Lakeland fells as you head north out of the town. The market town of Ulverston, birthplace of Stan Laurel, is not far away and about 20 miles north of there is the village of Coniston, associated with both John Ruskin and water speed ace Donald Campbell. The beautiful locations, history, architecture and the association with historic figures, together with the cafés, pubs and restaurants and interesting small shops all give Lakeland towns and villages a distinct character and make them very popular with visitors to the area.