Cumbria and the Lake District have long been beloved by travellers seeking both adventure and tranquility.
With its stunning lakes, soaring mountains, and historic sites, the region has something to offer for everyone—nature lovers, culture enthusiasts, and adrenaline junkies included.
Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway in Cumbria or looking for the best hiking trails in the Lake District, this comprehensive travel guide should have you covered.
So grab your hiking boots, pack your camera, and let’s discover some of the best things to do in Cumbria and the Lake District.
The Lake District National Park
The Lake District National Park is the crown jewel of England’s natural heritage, covering an expansive 2,362 square kilometres of rolling hills, glittering lakes, and quaint villages.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is a sanctuary of outdoor activities and cultural richness. From serene boat rides on Lake Windermere to challenging hikes up Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England, the opportunities for adventure are boundless.
Literature enthusiasts can visit Dove Cottage, once home to poet William Wordsworth, while families will love the World of Beatrix Potter attraction.
Local produce like Grasmere gingerbread and Cumberland sausage provide a gastronomic complement to the visual feast.
Accessible, diverse, and deeply inspiring, the Lake District National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to connect with the great outdoors.
Lake Windermere, South Lakeland
Lake Windermere, England’s largest natural lake, extends for more than 11 miles and is framed by scenic hills and quaint villages.
Serving as a focal point for an array of aquatic adventures, the lake offers everything from tranquil boat tours to exhilarating water skiing experiences.
The towns of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere offer excellent amenities, including quaint shops, delightful cafés, and local museums like the World of Beatrix Potter.
Ambleside, located at the lake’s northern tip, offers an array of walking trails and access to scenic viewpoints like Orrest Head.
For nature enthusiasts, the lake is a haven for local birdlife and serves as a tranquil setting for fishing.
Easily accessible by train and car, Lake Windermere epitomises the idyllic charm and natural beauty that make the Lake District one of the UK’s top holiday destinations.
Scafell Pike, Borrowdale
Scafell Pike, situated in the Borrowdale valley, proudly stands as England’s highest peak, reaching a height of 978 metres.
This beautiful Lake District attaction draws thousands of hikers and climbers each year, drawn to its rugged terrain and unparalleled vistas.
From its summit, one can enjoy sweeping views that stretch as far as Scotland and Wales on clear days.
Though the ascent is challenging, with steep paths and rocky outcrops, the journey is worth every step.
Experienced climbers can opt for more adventurous routes, while novices may stick to the well-marked paths.
The mountain is also of historical significance; it was gifted to the National Trust as a war memorial after World War I.
Easily accessible from nearby towns like Keswick, Scafell Pike is a must-visit for any avid explorer visiting the region.
And needless to say, it affords some of the best viewpoints in the Lake District.
Coniston Water, Coniston
Nestled within the Lake District, Coniston Water is the fifth largest lake in England, extending over five miles in length.
The lake is an epicentre for both relaxation and adventure, renowned for its water sports such as sailing, kayaking, and paddle-boarding.
Coniston village serves as the gateway to this natural marvel, with its quaint shops and inviting pubs.
The lake is enveloped by stunning landscapes, including the famous Old Man of Coniston, a beloved fell offering panoramic vistas.
Historically, the lake was the stage for water speed record attempts, most notably by Donald Campbell.
With its combination of tranquil beauty and opportunities for excitement, Coniston Water has something for every visitor, making it a must-see destination and of the leading Lake District attractions.
Ullswater, Eden District
Ullswater is the second-largest lake in England’s Lake District, with a serpentine form that stretches for approximately nine miles.
Situated in the Eden District, this scenic wonder is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, encapsulating rolling hills, lush forests, and dramatic fells like Helvellyn.
The lake provides ample opportunities for water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and sailing.
Steamers frequently traverse its waters, offering passengers a relaxing and picturesque voyage.
Ullswater is a hiker’s paradise, with multiple trails including the famous Ullswater Way, a 20-mile circular route.
Small villages like Pooley Bridge and Glenridding add a quaint charm to the area. Overall, Ullswater offers a balanced mix of adventure and tranquility, making it a must-visit spot in the Lake District.
Tarn Hows, Coniston
Tarn Hows is one of the Lake District’s best-kept secrets, offering an idyllic blend of tranquility and scenic beauty.
It’s a man-made lake, popular for leisurely walks and picnics thanks the relatively flat terrain.
Surrounded by wooded areas and gentle hills, Tarn Hows provides an excellent opportunity for wildlife spotting, including the beloved Belted Galloway cattle.
With a circular path that’s just under two miles, it’s an ideal destination for a short, invigorating walk, capturing the essence of the Lake District’s natural beauty in a compact space.
Derwentwater, situated close to the market town of Keswick, is one of the Lake District’s most picturesque locations.
With its sparkling waters stretching over three miles in length and just over a mile in width, it offers a multitude of outdoor opportunities.
Bordered by wooded areas, striking fells, and small islands, the lake is ideal for both laid-back boating and adrenaline-packed water sports.
The nearby Keswick Launch offers regular boat services, allowing you to hop on and off at various points around the lake.
The surrounding landscapes, including the iconic Catbells hill, offer excellent hiking and panoramic views.
Seasonal changes bring a unique charm, making Derwent Water a year-round attraction.
Nestled in a secluded valley near Cockermouth, Buttermere offers a tranquil escape in the Lake District.
Unlike its busier counterparts, this charming lake provides a peaceful retreat for those seeking solitude and natural beauty.
Surrounded by rugged fells like Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, it presents an ideal setting for hiking, photography, and reflection.
A 4.5-mile circular walk around the lake is particularly popular, offering splendid views and opportunities to spot local wildlife.
While the lake is less suited for boating activities, it’s a hit among swimmers and paddlers.
The nearby villages, including the hamlet of Buttermere, add rustic charm and options for dining and accommodation.
Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass
Situated in Ravenglass, Muncaster Castle is a spectacular estate with a rich tapestry of history dating back to the 13th century.
The castle combines heritage, gardens, and even a unique owl centre.
Imposing and grand, the castle showcases fine architecture and exquisite interiors, filled with antique furniture and valuable art collections.
The gardens that envelop the castle are a horticultural delight, featuring a mix of native and exotic plants.
Muncaster’s Owl Centre houses a remarkable collection of these enigmatic birds, offering live demonstrations.
A visit here provides an experience that straddles the realms of history, nature, and culture.
Lowther Castle and Gardens, Penrith
Situated near Penrith, Lowther Castle and Gardens effortlessly combine historical allure with horticultural charm.
Though the castle remains a picturesque ruin, its regal remnants offer insight into a bygone era of opulence.
Adjacent to the castle, the gardens serve as a sanctuary for plant enthusiasts, boasting a diverse collection of flora meticulously curated into distinct themes.
Beyond its historical and natural assets, Lowther caters to families with interactive exhibits and dedicated play areas.
The estate also functions as a dynamic event space, hosting a wide range of seasonal workshops, festivals, and educational activities, making it a versatile attraction for visitors of all ages.
Dove Cottage, Grasmere
Dove Cottage is a living tribute to one of England’s most celebrated poets, William Wordsworth.
This Georgian residence, painstakingly restored to its 18th-century glory offers fascinating insights into the early life of the literary icon.
Visitors can explore furnished rooms filled with period artefacts, and wander through the charming walled garden that influenced much of Wordsworth’s poetry.
Additionally, interactive exhibitions, costumed guides and a schedule of seasonal events bring the poet’s world to vivid life.
The house offers an enriching experience for literature enthusiasts and history buffs alike.
Rydal Mount, Ambleside
Located in Ambleside, Rydal Mount stands as a testament to the later years of William Wordsworth, one of England’s most revered poets.
This historic home, where Wordsworth resided from 1813 until his death in 1850, offers a blend of domestic charm and literary heritage.
Visitors can explore the well-preserved rooms, filled with personal belongings and manuscripts, as well as roam the poet’s personally designed gardens.
Various exhibitions and a dedicated museum space shed further light on Wordsworth’s life and work, making Rydal Mount a must-visit for literary enthusiasts and anybody looking for things to do in the Lake District.
Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, Keswick
If you find yourself in Keswick and have a keen interest in understanding the rich history and diverse artistic contributions of the Lake District, then the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery is your go-to spot.
Originating in the late 1800s, this esteemed museum brings a smorgasbord of exhibits to the table including history artefacts, geological samples and art.
There are interactive experiences to touch and explore, making it a hit among both the young and the young at heart.
To cap off your visit, the on-site café offers the perfect backdrop for a little downtime, serving refreshments in a laid-back setting.
Derwent Pencil Museum
Situated in Keswick, the Pencil Museum is an intriguing North West England visitor attraction, celebrating the humble pencil’s long history.
Far from a one-note affair, the museum traces the evolution of pencil-making, an industry deeply entwined with Keswick’s own past.
Among the must-see highlights are the world’s longest coloured pencil, standing at an impressive 7.91 metres, and a pencil dating back to the Second World War, complete with a hidden compartment for maps and a compass.
Visitors will also appreciate the live demonstrations on pencil crafting. The museum caters to all ages, offering drawing workshops and interactive displays.
If you’re planning a visit to Keswick, the Pencil Museum offers an off-the-beaten-track experience that’s educational and enjoyable.
The World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness-on-Windermere
In Bowness-on-Windermere, The World of Beatrix Potter awaits, immersing visitors in the beloved tales of this renowned children’s author.
The attraction brings Beatrix Potter’s charming stories to life through enchanting displays, life-sized character models, and meticulously recreated scenes from her books.
Walk through Peter Rabbit’s garden, visit Jemima Puddle-Duck’s woodland glade, and explore Mr. McGregor’s greenhouse.
It’s a delightful experience for families and fans of all ages, where the magic of Potter’s imagination is palpable.
This North West England attraction also houses a gift shop stocked with Beatrix Potter-themed memorabilia and a cosy tearoom for a spot of refreshment.
South Lakes Safari Zoo, Dalton-in-Furness
South Lakes Safari Zoo in Dalton-in-Furness offers an exciting, close-up experience with a diverse range of animals, both native and exotic.
Situated on a sprawling estate, this zoo has an ethos focused on conservation and education.
Visitors can roam freely among kangaroos, lemurs and penguins or take guided tours for a more curated experience.
The zoo provides the opportunity to learn about animal behaviour and habitat conservation.
There are educational presentations and animal feedings, making it an engaging experience for all age groups.
Various cafes and play areas scattered throughout the zoo make it a full-day destination for families.
Lake District Wildlife Park, Bassenthwaite
Set against the idyllic backdrop of the Cumbrian countryside near Bassenthwaite, the Lake District Wildlife Park is a destination unlike any other.
Covering over 24 acres, the park offers an intimate experience with over 100 species of exotic and native wildlife.
Marvel at the spectacle of free-flying birds of prey, be entertained by cheeky lemurs, or get up close and personal with red deer during one of the many interactive experiences available.
From Keeper Talks to Bird of Prey displays, the park serves as an educational haven where learning about the natural world is both fun and interactive.
A perfect destination for families, nature enthusiasts, and anyone keen to escape the hustle and bustle for a while.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, Ravenglass
Located in the picturesque coastal village of Ravenglass, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway is more than just a mode of transport—it’s a journey back in time.
Offering a unique perspective of the Lake District’s stunning landscapes, this narrow-gauge steam railway traverses seven miles of striking valleys, idyllic woodlands, and quaint villages.
Climb aboard vintage coaches, many of which date back to the early 20th century and listen to the comforting clatter of wheels on tracks as you wend your way from Ravenglass to the foot of England’s highest mountains in Eskdale.
Seasonal events, like Santa Express and Halloween Ghost Trains, add a festive flair to the experience.
If you’re a railway enthusiast or just looking for an unforgettable adventure, this is a not-to-be-missed Lake District attraction.
Wray Castle, Ambleside
Wray Castle in Ambleside offers visitors a different take on the Lake District experience. Despite the name, this neo-Gothic structure was built as a retirement estate in the 19th century.
Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating place for history enthusiasts, architecture buffs, and families alike. The castle boasts intricately designed interiors, turrets, and towers.
For children, the castle provides an adventure with rooms designed for imaginative play.
Outside, the expansive grounds include walking paths that offer fantastic views of Lake Windermere.
The castle also has an intriguing connection with Beatrix Potter, who spent a summer here.
With its unique architecture, rich history, and beautiful surroundings, Wray Castle is a must-visit when you’re in the Lake District.
Honister Slate Mine, Borrowdale
Honister Slate Mine offers a unique and thrilling experience deep in the heart of the Lake District.
Once a working mine, it is now a multi-activity adventure centre that draws visitors looking for an adrenaline rush amidst the stunning natural landscape.
Take the “Mine Tour” to venture underground and learn about the 450-million-year history of the slate, or get your heart racing on the “Via Ferrata,” a guided climb that promises awe-inspiring views.
For the truly adventurous, the “Infinity Bridge,” suspended 2,000 feet above the valley floor, provides a daredevil’s delight.
The centre also houses a shop where you can purchase slate products crafted from the very rock you walk on. A visit to Honister is not just a day out; it’s an adventure of a lifetime.
Go Ape Grizedale, Grizedale Forest
Located in the expansive Grizedale Forest, Go Ape Grizedale provides a high-flying adventure for those looking to get their adrenaline pumping.
Renowned for being home to one of the UK’s longest zip lines, this adventure park offers a range of activities that go well beyond tree-top exploring.
From Tarzan swings to intricate rope courses, there’s something here for thrill-seekers of all ages.
Family-friendly courses ensure that even the younger members aren’t left out of the fun.
Go Ape Grizedale also offers forest Segway experiences for those who prefer to keep their adventures closer to the ground.
A day at Go Ape is more than just an outdoor activity; it’s an opportunity to embrace the natural beauty of the Lake District from a completely new vantage point.
If you’re looking for Lake District family activities, then Go Ape is well-worth considering.
Brockhole on Windermere, Windermere
Brockhole on Windermere is the official Visitor Centre of the Lake District National Park and an adventure-filled destination suitable for all ages.
Spread over 30 acres of lush gardens, the Centre presents a rich tapestry of experiences—from water sports and outdoor activities to educational exhibits.
Immerse yourself in the charm of Lake District by hopping onto a boat cruise, or get your pulse racing with treetop adventures and archery.
The Centre’s expansive gardens and enlightening exhibitions offer a valuable insight into the region’s ecology and cultural heritage.
Regardless of if you’re an adventure-seeker, a nature lover, or a family with young explorers, Brockhole provides a rewarding and comprehensive Lake District experience.
Whinlatter Forest Park, Keswick
Whinlatter Forest Park, located near Keswick, is England’s only true mountain forest, offering a unique blend of high-altitude thrills and lush woodland serenity.
This expansive forest park boasts an impressive range of outdoor activities, including mountain biking trails, walking paths, and a Go Ape treetop adventure course.
Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy spotting native birds and red squirrels, while the visitor centre provides interactive exhibits that delve into the forest’s biodiversity.
With something for everyone—adventurers, families, and nature lovers alike – Whinlatter Forest Park is a must-visit for a genuine Lake District experience.
Lakeland Motor Museum, Newby Bridge
The Lakeland Motor Museum offers an eclectic collection that celebrates the history of road transport in Britain.
Housing over 30,000 exhibits, the museum provides a fascinating journey through the evolution of motor vehicles, from vintage classics to modern marvels.
The museum also boasts memorabilia related to motoring, including the Donald Campbell’s Bluebird, which broke world speed records on water and land.
This museum provides an intriguing blend of education and entertainment.
Accessible to all ages, it’s an ideal destination for family outings, offering interactive displays to keep young visitors engaged.
Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere
Situated near the serene waters of Lake Windermere, Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House in Bowness-on-Windermere is one of the most fascinating Lake District cultural sites, showcasing the best of the Arts & Crafts movement.
Designed by architect M.H. Baillie Scott, the house stands as a living testament to the artistic and functional ethos that defined the era.
Visitors can explore rooms adorned with intricate woodwork, sumptuous interiors, and period furnishings, all painstakingly preserved to offer an authentic glimpse into early 20th-century living.
Offering more than just history, Blackwell also hosts rotating exhibitions, blending its architectural heritage with the dynamic world of contemporary art.
It’s a must-see for anyone interested in design, history, or the tranquil beauty of the Lake District.
Aira Force Waterfall, Ullswater
Near Ullswater, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Lake District, Aira Force Waterfall is a stunning natural attraction, surrounded by lush woodland.
The waterfall plunges 65 feet down a rocky ravine, offering a dramatic spectacle that captivates nature lovers, photographers, and hikers alike.
A well-maintained network of paths provides various vantage points for those wishing to capture the waterfall’s majesty, and the adjacent tearoom offers a place to relax and take in the scenery.
If you’re also interested in a leisurely stroll or a more strenuous hike, Aira Force is well-worth a visit.
Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, Grasmere
The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is a must-visit attraction that’s been in business for almost two hundred years.
Housed in a 17th-century school building, the shop is renowned for its secret recipe gingerbread — a unique blend of cake, biscuit, and spice.
This delightful establishment, run by the third generation of the Wilson family, is a must-visit for foodies and history enthusiasts alike.
With its nostalgic charm and irresistible aromas, this quaint shop is a taste of Lake District tradition you won’t want to miss.
Cartmel Village, Grange-over-Sands
Cartmel Village is a quintessential English village. With its cobbled streets, medieval architecture, and a picturesque stream running through the village centre, Cartmel serves as a pastoral idyll where time seems to stand still.
But don’t let its sleepy exterior fool you; Cartmel is also a gastronomic haven, famously known for being the home of the original sticky toffee pudding and boasting Michelin-starred restaurants.
You’ll also found a collection of top pubs and watering holes.
The village is further enriched by its historical landmarks, including the beautiful Cartmel Priory, which dates back to the 12th century.
For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Cartmel Racecourse offers an exciting day out, while local shops provide a range of unique crafts and artisanal produce.
Whether you’re a history buff, a food lover, or simply seeking relaxation, Cartmel Village provides a rich tapestry of experiences for visitors of all ages.
Arnside Knott, Arnside
Arnside Knott is a modest but captivating hill located in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in Cumbria.
At 159 metres, it’s certainly not the tallest peak in the region. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for in terms of the views.
From the summit, visitors are treated to sweeping vistas of the Kent Estuary, the Lake District fells and even the distant Yorkshire Dales.
The hill is also crisscrossed by a network of trails, making it accessible for walkers of all skill levels. Arnside Knott is a hub for wildlife, owing to its varied landscapes that range from limestone grasslands to areas of deciduous forest.
One of Arnside Knott’s crowning glories is its butterfly population, which includes the rare and endangered High Brown Fritillary.
The Bridge House, Ambleside
Nestled in the heart of Ambleside in the Lake District, the Bridge House is an iconic 17th-century relic that epitomises quaint English charm.
This two-storey, stone-built structure stands precariously atop a bridge over Stock Ghyll, a tributary of the River Rothay.
Once serving as an apple store for Ambleside Hall and later as a family residence, it is now a popular National Trust property, with visitors flock to see the unusual architecture.
Hoad Monument, Ulverston
Monument is a distinctive structure that resembles a lighthouse. Officially known as the Sir John Barrow Monument, it was erected in 1850 to pay tribute to Sir John Barrow, a noted statesman and writer who hailed from Ulverston.
The monument offers an unparalleled vantage point, affording panoramic views of the Morecambe Bay, the southern Lake District, and on clear days, even the Isle of Man.
Managed by the Sir John Barrow Trust, the monument is open to visitors during certain periods, allowing them to climb its spiral staircase to the top for an even more breath-taking view.
A visit to the Hoad Monument is a must for history buffs and anybody looking for things to do in Cumbria and the Lake District.
Pendragon Castle, Kirkby Stephen
Situated in the Eden Valley near the village of Ousby in Cumbria, Pendragon Castle is a historical ruin steeped in myth and legend.
Often linked with King Arthur and his father Uther Pendragon, the castle, despite its romantic associations, was likely built in the 12th century.
Constructed primarily of stone, its remains today include a tower and some adjoining walls.
Over the years, it has seen multiple ownerships and roles, from a defensive fortress to a residential building.
It underwent restoration attempts in the 17th century but was later abandoned and fell into ruin.
The site is freely accessible to the public and offers a blend of historical fascination and stunning natural views of the surrounding countryside.
The Moot Hall, Keswick
Originally erected in the 16th century, Moot Hall stands as a landmark with enduring historical resonance.
Though it has experienced various modifications over time, the building maintains its signature features like the clock tower and adjacent cobblestone square.
Transitioning from its past roles as a marketplace, courthouse, and civic gathering spot, the hall now accommodates the Keswick Tourist Information Centre.
With its timber-framed structure, Moot Hall is a must-visit visit for those keen on understanding the historical fabric of this Lake District region.