41 great reasons to visit the Lake District / Cumbria

Adventure. Climbing, walking, cycling, kayaking, ghyll scrambling, open water swimming, sailing, horse riding and mountain biking. No wonder Cumbria is often called the ‘adventure capital of the UK’. 

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Cumbria has three AONBs: one is Arnside and Silverdale (in the south around Morecambe Bay), then there’s the North Pennines around Alston and finally the Solway Coast, to the west of Carlisle.  

Artists and makers. Painters, potters, printmakers, photographers, furniture makers, weavers, wood workers, jewellers, glass artists, sculptors and more. All maintaining a long tradition of creativity in this part of England. 

brantwood

Arts and Crafts. Head for Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, near Bowness-on-Windermere or John Ruskin’s old home of Brantwood at Coniston Water (pic above). Look out for the stained glass work by William Morris and artist Edward Burne-Jones in a number of churches. 

Border Reivers. They weren’t the most loveable of characters but the turmoil they created in the Anglo/Scottish borderlands during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries is an extraordinary piece of history. Tullie House in Carlisle tells their story.

buttermere

Buttermere. Favourite of walking guide writer Alfred Wainwright (pic above). Overlooked by Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, with Crummock Water and Loweswater up the road. Not far from the Georgian town of Cockermouth.

Carlisle. Capital of Cumbria and the ‘great border city’. Carlisle Castle, Carlisle Cathedral (pic below) - 900 years old in 2022 - and Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, with its big Roman section, are the three main attractions. 

carlisle cathedral

Coast. 2021 was Cumbria’s Year of the Coast and with more than 100 miles of coastline there is plenty to celebrate. It comes with history as well: Ravenglass a Roman port; Whitehaven, third busiest harbour in Britain in the 18th century; Barrow once a great centre for iron and steel making and later shipbuilding.

Coniston Water. Third biggest lake in the Lake District which you can explore with either Coniston Launch (pic below) or the Steam Yacht Gondola. Coniston village is located at its northern end. 

coniston launch

Country shows. Cumbria’s great unsung attraction. The Cumberland Show and the Westmorland Show are the two biggest. And there are plenty more between May and October. 

Cultural landscape. That’s what earned the Lake District its World Heritage status. A landscape shaped by nature, farming, mining, quarrying, tourism and other human activities. This in turn influenced the Romantic poets, other writers, artists and conservationists like Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust.

keswick launch

Derwentwater. Queen of the Lakes and royally served by the traditional vessels of the Keswick Launch Company (pic above). There are seven stops around the lake. 

Fells. Scafell Pike (the highest mountain in England), Helvellyn, Blencathra (pic below), Catbells and the Old Man of Coniston. Five of the 214 fells that Alfred Wainwright wrote about in his classic, seven volume A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.

blencathra

Festivals. From music, mountains, wool and walking to pottery, print, lanterns and literature. Every taste, every genre is catered for. Ulverston’s the ‘festival town’ but Keswick’s not far behind.

Food and drink producers. Some 30 small breweries, plus producers of gin, whisky and vodka, and makers of everything from cakes, chutney and cheese to jams, puddings and sausage. A great foodie story. 

grizedale

Forests. Whinlatter near Keswick ‘England’s only mountain forest’ and Grizedale Forest near Hawkshead, famous for its outdoor sculptures (pic above). Both places are great for cycling and walking. 

Fresh air. How many times do you hear visitors remark on the quality of the air in the Lake District and other parts of Cumbria?

grasmere

Grasmere. Village and lake share the same name and the same lovely setting (pic above). Forever associated with poet William Wordsworth. 

Hadrian’s Wall. Celebrating its 1,900 anniversary in 2022. Built by the Romans, the 73 miles of wall linked Bowness-on-Solway, west of Carlisle, to Wallsend near Newcastle. One of the best parts of this World Heritage site is a stretch near the Cumbrian fort of Birdoswald (pic below).

hadrians wall

Hardknott and Wrynose passes. Amongst the highest road passes in England, they link Eskdale with Little Langdale. Scary for some, sublime for others. You get to see a Roman fort at Hardknott along the way. 

Herdwick sheep. The native breed of the Lake District and an icon of the fells (pic below). Rough Fell and Swaledale sheep feel just as much at home here too. 

herdwick sheep

Independent shops. Disappearing from high streets everywhere but still plentiful here: butchers (almost in every town), bakers, bookshops, outdoor, clothes and fashion, specialist food, hardware stores (surprisingly numerous) and such like. 

Keswick. Overlooked by Skiddaw and Latrigg, with Bassenthwaite Lake to the north, Derwentwater and Borrowdale to the south and the Newlands Valley to the south west. How’s that for a prime location? Great for outdoor clothing shops too (like Ambleside).

lenclume

Michelin starred restaurants. There are eight in Cumbria, the most of any county in the UK. Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel (pic above) - celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022 - has three stars; Rogan & Co in Cartmel, The Old Stamp House in Ambleside, Allium at Askham Hall near Ullswater, Cottage in the Wood at Whinlatter near Keswick, Forest Side at Grasmere, Hrishi at Gilpin Hotel near Windermere and the Dog and Gun pub at Skelton near Penrith all have one star. 

National parks. Cumbria’s got two: the Lake District - 70 years old last year - and the Yorkshire Dales. And if you head through the Lune Gorge on the M6, south of Tebay, you’ll have one on each side of you.

hill top

Potter. Beatrix Potter. Mycologist, children’s author and Lakeland farmer. Hill Top, her first home in the Lake District, is a must for any Potter enthusiast (pic above). Plus the Armitt Museum and Library, Ambleside for her paintings of fungi, and the Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead for watercolours, drawings and memorabilia. Big exhibition about her this year at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Railways. Standard or narrow gauge, Cumbria’s got some pretty scenic rail journeys. Settle to Carlisle, Ravenglass to Eskdale, Lakeside and Haverthwaite (pic below), the South Tynedale Railway in the North Pennines and the journey along the Cumbrian coastline. That’s five of them.

railway

Ransome. Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, spent his childhood holidays around Coniston Water and his later life elsewhere in the Lake District. He married Leon Trotsky’s secretary, Evgenia Shelepina.

Ruskin. John Ruskin, the great Victorian polymath. He spent the last 29 years of his life at Brantwood, Coniston Water. Not far away in Coniston village is the Ruskin Museum.

sedbergh

Sedbergh. England’s Book Town, close to the Howgill Fells (pic above). A few miles north of the pretty town of Kirkby Lonsdale. 

Stay. Hotels, pubs and inns, B&Bs, self-catering places and campsites. There’s a huge choice of places to stay.  

ullswater

Ullswater. Second largest lake in Cumbria and, for many, the most beautiful of them all (pic above). Judge for yourself from one of a number of historic vessels operated by the Ullswater Navigation and Transit Company...Ullswater ‘Steamers’.

Valleys. Some very well known like Borrowdale near Keswick (pic below), Eden, Eskdale and the Langdales. Others slightly less familiar like Newlands, Rusland, Lyth, Winster and Duddon.

borrowdale

Views. There’s one round nearly every corner. Take your pick from Castle Crag, Scout Scar, Loughrigg Fell, Wastwater, High Cup Ghyll, Binsey, Fleetwith Pike, Arnside Knott, the Langdale Pikes and hundreds of others. 

Villages. You could start with Dent (pic below), Troutbeck, Hawkshead, Caldbeck, Grasmere and Cartmel for six pretty places. Cartmel is also home to a beautiful priory church and a racecourse.

dent

Walking. On the flat or on the fell. Tough on the sole (sometimes) but good for the soul (generally). Cumbria is a walkers’ paradise. And Alfred Wainwright’s seven volume A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells will probably be around for as long as Bowfell or Blencathra. 

Wasdale and Wastwater. One’s the birthplace of British climbing, the other’s the deepest lake in England. Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, is close by.

windermere

Windermere. England’s largest natural stretch of water and biggest of the area’s 16 lakes (pic above). Best seen from Tern, Teal, Swan, Swift or any of the other vessels belonging to Windermere Lake Cruises, Cumbria’s number one tourist attraction. Look out for Windermere Jetty Museum, one of six buildings shortlisted in 2021 for the Royal British Institute of Architects Stirling Prize.

Wordsworth. William Wordsworth. England’s greatest poet was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and spent almost all of his life in the Lake District. He wrote much of his best known poetry at Dove Cottage in Grasmere next to the Wordsworth Museum. He spent three years at Allan Bank at Grasmere and the last 37 years of his life at Rydal Mount (pic below). 

wordsworth

Yorkshire Dales. Cumbria in the Yorkshire Dales? Absolutely. An area around Sedbergh, the Howgill Fells, Mallerstang and Orton, which also incorporates the Westmorland Dales, is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. And a lovely part of the county it is too. 

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