The Ultimate Lake District Travel Guide
UNESCO may have only named it as a World Heritage Site in 2017, but the Lake District has always been one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.
Boasting mirrored lakes that stretch for miles, a rich literary history, wild swimming and the home of Beatrix Potter, this awe-inspiring corner of Cumbria has inspired walkers, travellers and artists for centuries.
Here, we’ve put together the ultimate guide of the best Lake District attractions, from where to visit, things to do and where to rest your tired legs after a long day of wearing in your walking boots.
Places to visit in the Lake District
Looking for some locations to pad out your tour of the North? We’ve done the hard work for you and pulled together our pick of the very best places to visit in the Lake District, from enchanting waterfalls to the UK’s longest lakes.
1. Windermere A natural beauty with celebrity status, Lake Windermere is England’s longest and most celebrated lake both in real life and in literature. Located in a small town of the same name, Windermere stretches over a vast 10.5 miles in length and is a coveted summer holiday escape for adventurers, climbers, photographers, poets and landscape lovers alike.
But Windermere is so much more than just its breathtaking terrain – there are a whole host of amazing activities on offer! Grab your walking boots and scale nearby Orrest Head, hop aboard a lake cruise to see Windermere on the water or walk in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter with a visit to her home at Hill Top on the lake’s west shore.
2. Penrith Found in Cumbria’s Eden Valley, Penrith is a pretty market town, home to the raw upland beauty of the northeastern edge of the Lake District, as well as noble estates and castles that hark back as far as Medieval times. If you’ve a penchant for historical charm, why not stroll around the romantic ruins of Brougham Castle, explore the Grade I listed remains of Penrith Castle or marvel at the majesty of Lowther Castle & Gardens? If you’re more of an outdoorsy type, there are plenty of activities for you to enjoy. Cycle along Cumbria’s Sea to Sea Cycle Route, take a trek to visit the Neolithic stone circle, Long Meg and Her Daughters, or hike 286 metres up to the peak of Beacon Hill for the best views over the Eden Valley.
3. Ullswater Just south of Penrith, the beautiful lake of Ullswater is surrounded by incredible mountainous scenery to its south and romantic, rolling hills to its north. The second largest lake in England, Ullswater is lined with pretty villages, including Glenridding, the perfect base from which to start out on walking trails to the nearby summits of Howtown, Helvellyn and Pooley Bridge.
On the western side of the lake, you’ll find the enchanting Aira Force waterfall, a natural wonder with a beck that plunges down into Ullswater Valley – a sight so impressive that it inspired the works of William Wordsworth himself. If you’re looking for a picture-perfect spot, this is it.
4. Keswick If you want to escape the bustling crowds of Windermere and Ullswater, venture north to the calmer lakes and valleys of Keswick. Ramble along the fells, get stuck into some serious Ghyll Scrambling and embrace your inner adrenaline junkie with the array of thrilling water sports on offer! In 1276, King Edward I granted the town its market charter and to this day, Keswick’s charming market opens up its stalls to the public on Thursdays and Saturdays. Pick up artisan sweets and treats, knitted hats, handcrafted trinkets and a loaf of freshly baked bread to eat later on in your adventure!
5. Wastwater Voted Britain’s favourite view in 2007, Wastwater is truly a sight to behold. Surrounded by towering mountains, screes and lush greenery, Wastwater is the deepest of the Lake District’s lakes and perhaps the most magnificent.
Situated in Wasdale Head, a quaint hamlet in Wasdale Valley that’s well known for being the starting point of many a Cumbrian walk, it’s not hard to see how the landscape of Wastwater has fired up the imagination of countless poets, painters and explorers across history.
Things to do in the Lake District
With so many Lake District attractions to choose from, it’s hard to know whether you’re picking the best ones to pack into your visit! From sailing on Lake Windermere to conquering Scaffel Pike and sightseeing on a Segway, the Lake District has something to inspire every explorer who’s looking to tick Cumbria off their wanderlust list.
Sailing on Lake Windermere for Two
Feel the wind in your hair as you cruise in luxury across stunning Lake Windermere. You’ll be welcomed aboard the 23-foot Jeanneau Yacht by your friendly skipper, before setting sail and soaking up views of the Lake District in all its glory. Whether you fancy having a go at controlling the yacht yourself or simply wish to sit back and enjoy the ride, this trip is sure to float your boat.
Self Guided Cycle Tour for Two
Grab your helmet and consult your maps – it’s time to explore the Lake District on two wheels! This self-guided cycle tour for two is perfect for those with a passion for alfresco activities. Simply collect your bikes, equipment and route information from the designated collection station and get ready to put the pedal to the metal with this unique outdoor adventure.
Glenridding Cruise and Bubbles for Two with Ullswater Steamers
Cast off the bowlines and glide across the glittering waters of the Lake District National Park on this award-winning cruise experience with Ullswater Steamers. Departing from Glenridding Pier, you can choose to admire the stunning vistas from the sun terrace or enjoy views of the rolling mountains from below deck. And to top it off, why not pop open a complimentary bottle of prosecco to toast your brilliant trip-planning skills?
Scafell Pike Guided Expedition
Fancy embarking on a ramble to remember? Look no further than this guided expedition over England’s highest peak. Scafell Pike stands at an incredible 978 metres, posing an exhilarating challenge for thrill-seekers who love to push the limits of their physical and mental strength. Under the guidance of professional mountain leaders, take in the breathtaking scenery and experience a hike unlike any other in the UK.
Treetop Challenge for Two Adults at Go Ape
The sky’s the limit with this gravity-defying experience for two. You’ll be kitted out with a harness and briefed for safety before taking on an exhilarating range of obstacles, from zip wires to Tarzan swings and tricky tunnels. Plus, if you want to take in the best views the Lake District has to offer, we can’t think of a better vantage point than at the top of a stunning tree canopy surrounded by Cumbrian forest – can you?
Forest Segway Experience for One at Go Ape
It’s time to go off the beaten track! After a full safety briefing with Go Ape’s professional instructors, you’ll have the chance to practice your Segway skills before setting off on the two-wheeled adventure of a lifetime. A truly unique and eco-friendly way to explore the great outdoors, this hour-long experience is definitely one to remember.
Things to do in the Lake District with kids
Is the prospect of getting the kids to put down their screens and embrace the great outdoors keeping you up at night? Fear not. The Lake District has so much to offer a young family after a staycation jam-packed with fun frolics and adrenaline-pumping activities. From meeting meerkats to treetop adventures, the Lake District is sure to put a smile on your kids’ faces and have them tired out and ready for bed by 8pm – dreamy.
Junior Treetop Adventure for Two at Go Ape
Watch your little ones embrace their wild side as they explore Go Ape’s treetop wonderland. This exhilarating experience has been curated just for kids, so you can rest assured they’ll run, jump and zip wire their socks off as they work in teams to overcome sky-high obstacles and scale the challenging canopies. If there’s a guaranteed way to get them off their phones and connecting with nature, this is it.
Meet the Animals for Two at Lakeland Wildlife Oasis
Do you have the next Dr. Dolittle on your hands? Make their trip to the Lake District unforgettable with a visit to Lakeland Wildlife Oasis. The perfect experience for any animal lover, you’ll have the chance to get up close and personal with meerkats, lemurs and emperor tamarins. Learn all you need to know about these cute and cheeky creatures from the experienced keepers before feeding them and watching them play. Plus, entry to the zoo is included too – result!
Where to stay in the Lake District
After a long day of sailing lakes and scouring summits, you’re going to need a comfy bed to rest and recuperate. From boutique escapes with tantalising tasting menus to luxurious glamping in the wild, you can book the perfect Lake District hideaway to suit your taste. Here’s our pick of the best of the best.
One Night Boutique Escape with Dinner for Two at Rothay Garden Hotel and Spa
Ambleside - Cumbria 1 night
If you’re after a decadent taste of the North, this overnight stay at the stunning Rothay Garden Hotel and Spa is sure to whet your appetite. Roam the lush green gardens or pamper yourself at the spa before sitting down to a delicious four-course dinner in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant. In the morning, tuck into a full English breakfast and embrace the abundance of local Lake District activities, from walking to cycling and fishing.
One Night Break with Seven Course Tasting Menu for Two at Merewood Country House
Windermere - Cumbria 1 night
If a flavoursome four-course meal doesn’t quite cut the mustard, how about a succulent seven-course tasting menu? Say hello to the idyllic Merewood Country House Hotel in Windermere – a lovingly restored hotel that dates back to 1812 and has historical charm bursting from every firelit corner. Eat your heart out, Downton Abbey! With dinner and breakfast included, this hotel is a dreamy stay for foodies, explorers and history lovers alike.
The Quiet Site Holiday Park Two Night Stay in a Glamping Cabin for Two
Penrith - Cumbria 2 nights
For something a little different, why not treat yourself to two tranquil nights in your very own Quiet Site glamping cabin? Nestled amongst beautiful fells and lakes, this is the perfect spot to hang up your hat, switch off from the world and soak up the stunning vistas of the Cumbrian countryside. From the comfort of your cosy cabin, you’ll be able to watch the stars roll by from the roof window, plan a full day of exploring the local area or simply snuggle up in bed for the most luxurious of lazy weekends.
Five Night Escape to the Lake District
Windermere - Cumbria 5 nights
Want some more staycation inspo before you make your decision? Say no more. Choose to relax for five sumptuous nights at one of our handpicked 4-star or 5-star hotels in the Lake District. Whether you’re after a cosy countryside hideaway in the mountains or a contemporary boutique hotel stay near the water, we’re sure to have the perfect pitstop for you to rest your weary head after a long day of exploring this stunning area of natural beauty.
When is the best time to visit the Lake District?
The Lake District's charm knows no bounds and is truly an all-year-round destination.
In spring, you might need an extra layer to combat the brisk temperatures, but it’s well worth it to witness the boundless bluebells and daffodils blossom as the frosts of winter melt away.
In the summer season, prep yourself for endless amounts of sun-soaked activities. From hiking trails to rowing boats, summer is the perfect time to immerse yourself in nature and embrace your inner explorer. You could even take a dip in one of the lakes!
Autumn is also a great time of year to conquer some of the larger mountains when temperatures don't climb quite as high. You can practice your photography skills by capturing the stunning autumnal panoramas by day and cosy up in one of the Lake District's charming rural pubs by night.
And finally, winter in the Lake District – the most magical season of all. Perfect for those looking for idyllic snow-topped surroundings, the higher peaks can receive as much as 60 days of snowfall a year, meaning you’ll be in for snowflakes, icicles and glaciers galore. Now is the time to explore the quaint towns of the Lake District and immerse yourself in their poetic history as things start to get Christmassy.