You’ll never be short of reasons to visit the Lake District providing you enjoy fresh air, the opportunity for activity and adventure, and a fascination with once upon a time. Without crafting our own novel we can only skim the surface of reasons to visit and things to do in the Lake District here, but we’ve done our darn best to make your mouth water.
The county of Cumbria is commonly referred to as the Lake District and we all know why. The topography lends itself to peaks and valleys creating a stunning landscape of mountains and lakes. Similar to parts of Snowdonia and the Highlands, but really unique in the British Isles. The Lake District was awarded National Park status in the 1950s.
And it’s here we start with numbers 1 to 10 of our 27…
Typically seen as the gold star of the Lake District, its sprawling lake is home to a vast array of wildlife enjoying the water and the habitat provided by the island’s lakes. On the lake shore, thriving villages like Bowness on Windermere are bustling with tourists, and Windermere cottages are brimful with guests most of the year.
The World of Beatrix Potter
This attraction is a must-visit while you’re here. Exploring beyond the lake, walking trails will lead you through the fells and up to places like Orrest Head and Holdhird Gardens proffering stunning views from whence you came amidst the native trees and shrubbery.
This is somewhat tranquil if you’ve done Windermere. There’s a hush about the place despite its proximity to the town of Keswick. On the water, boating fans will be blissfully satisfied. While landlubbers can enjoy equally jaw-dropping moments wandering the fells and ancient woodlands that surround this 5km lake.
This takes second place in the largest lake in the Lake District competition. This glacial mountain lake is a spectacle in its own right. A steamboat ride along it is possibly the best way to capture its essence without interruption or distraction. Sailing fans enjoy savouring its every inch while ramblers consume a wholly different perspective from the surrounding hills.
This clump is famous for being England’s highest mountain. Today it is the lowest of the mountains in the Three Peaks challenge (Ben Nevis and Snowdonia ousting it on the podium of British peaks). Yet it is for its donation to the National Trust that we should most doff our hats. Lord Leconfield offered it to the organisation in 1919 in honour of the men of Cumbria who lost their lives in the First World War.
This watery expanse could almost be mistaken for a glacial lake of New Zealand’s South Island. Its stillness is overpowering and the views from the nature trails that circle it are some of the best in Britain.
Its reputation for speed goes before it. Its 5-mile mostly straight expanse has been used for multiple world water speed record attempts. Ordinarily, however, it’s a rather tranquil spot frequented by canoers and kayakers.
This is a multi-feature forest between Coniston Water and Hawkshead. Discover the villages of Grizedale and Satterthwaite amidst its sprawl of tarns and hills. Most gloriously it is home to a ropes course for a whole other perspective – providing you’re happy with heights. And for those who aren’t, take the sculpture trail with your feet firmly on the forest floor.
Make use of your National Trust membership
You could be forgiven for thinking that much of Cumbria has been donated to the care of the National Trust and 11-14 of our 27 reasons to visit the Lake District certainly focus on it.
The National Trust in the Lake District looks after lakes, castles, mountains and more. Perhaps most commonly associated with the Lake District is children’s author Beatrix Potter. So the obvious place to start is Hill Top – her 17th-century cottage in Near Sawrey close to Hawkshead.
Quite the contrast is the neo-gothic drama of Wray Castle with its lakeside estate and child-friendly play areas inside the castle itself.
At one with nature the National Trust also looks after the spectacular Aira Force waterfall near Ullswater. If it’s lakes you’re after, then you’ll be delighted to know that the NT also has charge of Buttermere, one of the area’s deepest lakes surrounded by striking mountain ridges.
Read between Wordsworth’s lines
Spread your literary wings to poetry. You can visit two of William Wordsworth’s former homes while you’re here. Wordsworth lived with his sister at Dove Cottage near Grasmere. It is now a museum with a garden and tea room, offering guided tours.
Wordsworth moved to Rydal Mount in Rydal near Ambleside in 1813 and lived there until his death in 1850. It has some of Wordsworth’s works on display and you’ll appreciate the inspiration provided by its River Rothay views.
Explore beyond the headlines
For places 17 to 24 we’re off out and about…
This rugged climb jaggedly pierces the skyline north of Ambleside. Daring you scramble its 950m peak between Thirlmere and Ullswater lakes, it’s popular for climbing, hiking and scrambling.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
A site that is thought to have originated some 5000 years ago. Near Keswick, it might not attract the traffic stopping crowds of Stonehenge, but it probably offers a better view for those who visit. This is the perfect combination of intriguing ancient history and simply glorious vistas.
Honister Slate Mine
Also near Keswick, Honsiter Slate Mine has been mining Westmorland green slate since 1728. Take an underground tour of England’s last working slate mine. There are plentiful climbing routes to choose from if you dare! Slice of history and adventure awaits.
This trip to Ulverston has to top the list of family attractions in the Lake District. It definitely isn’t going to occupy a whole day, but features like its underwater otter tunnel make it interesting and unique. And it is home to a fascinating spread of both freshwater and marine life.
Lake District railways
There are two options for railway enthusiasts or those who fancy a step back in time. Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway is a 3-mile heritage railway route perfect to combine with a trip to the Aquarium leaving there for Haverthwaite where it stops for an hour for you to enjoy the children’s play area or a wander before taking you back again.
Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway offers a 7-mile route through the Esk Valley between Ravenglass and Dalegarth Station on a small scale train. There’s a museum and food options too at this very family friendly day out.
Fun Lake District museums
Lakeland Motor Museum is like a sweet shop for motor enthusiasts. To refresh yourselves while working your way around some 30,000 exhibits there’s a pretty cool 1950s theme cafe.
Derwent Pencil Museum concludes our family attraction ideas in the Lake District in the kookiest of fashions. Doing exactly what it says on the tin, this dinky exhibition centre, cafe and shop reflects on the history of pencil manufacturing. Scribes alight here.
Lake District castles
We couldn’t wrap up this piece without a reference to the many castles in the Lake District open to visitors and that aren’t National Trust owned.
13th-century Muncaster Castle has 77 acres to explore once you’ve exhausted its bird of prey centre and maze. Lowther Castle & Gardens will occupy a few hours fascinating over the conserved state of its ruins once home to the Earls of Lonsdale. Sizergh Castle was created as a fortress in medieval times and today its gardens are a gardener’s delight.
Time to visit the Lake District? Make yourselves at home in one of our Cumbrian cottages.
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