The area, which was designated a national park on 9 May 1951 (less than a month after the first UK national park designation — the Peak District), is the most visited national park in the United Kingdom with 15.8 million annual visitors and more than 23 million annual day visits, the largest of the thirteen national parks in England and Wales, and the second largest in the UK after the Cairngorms. Its aim is to protect the landscape by restricting unwelcome change by industry or commerce. Most of the land in the park is in private ownership, with about 55% registered as agricultural land. Landowners include:
Individual farmers and other private landowners, with more than half of the agricultural land farmed by the owners.
In common with all other national parks in England, there is no restriction on entry to, or movement within the park along public routes, but access to cultivated land is usually restricted to public footpaths, bridleways and byways. Much of the uncultivated land has statutory open access rights, which cover around 50% of the park.
The lakes and mountains combine to form impressive scenery. Farmland and settlement have altered the natural scenery, and the ecology has been modified by human influence for millennia and includes important wildlife habitats.