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12 awesome things to do in the Lake District

written by Cliona Elliott September 30, 2021
A person hiking on the fells in the Lake District

From peeking inside William Wordsworth’s former home to drinking local craft brews with gorgeous views, there’s so much to see and do in the Lake District. 

You might be mistaken to think that lakes, walks and great views are the only things on offer in the Lake District. By all means, if you want to spend your days walking or cycling the fells and filling up your camera with photos that’ll make your mates really jealous, there’s more than enough of that to go around. But the villages and towns dotted throughout the Lake District are brimming with cosy pubs, eateries, quirky museums and theatres, and there are plenty of ways to break up your time in the great outdoors. Here are some of our favourite things to do in this gorgeous national park.

1. Hike some of England’s finest countryside

We can’t not mention walking in the Lake District. The trails here offer some of the most impressive views in the UK. Think rugged mountains (or “fells” as they say in northern England), rolling green hills, mossy forests and shimmering lakes. There are trails for all levels and abilities (including 48 paved accessible trails) whether you fancy a casual stroll to a pretty picnic spot or you want to challenge yourself by climbing the tallest peaks.

Scafell Pike, standing at 978 metres (3,209 feet) tall, is England’s highest mountain and you can imagine the views from the summit are quite something. Always make sure you have the right gear and stay up to date with the weather forecast when hiking the fells – it can get very windy and wild up there!

2. Have a brew at Keswick Brewery

Two glasses of craft beer from Keswick Brewery

You deserve a pint (or two) after a day of walking. Keswick Brewery produces a range of award-winning ales, bitters and cask hop series beers in the heart of the Lake District. They also brew limited edition seasonal beers so make sure you ask the friendly bar staff what’s on offer. If you’re a beer lover, you could also do the brewery tour – every Tuesday-Saturday at 11.30 am and 1.30 pm – for a sneak peek (and taste) of what goes on behind the scenes. Psst, you might even find out how – and why – they use sheep wool in their brewing process. It sounds odd, but it’ll all make sense.

3. Shop like a local at Keswick Market

A local producer selling goods at a stall at Keswick Market

Who doesn’t love a local market? If you’re around on Thursday or Saturday morning, a trip to Keswick Market is a must. It has been going for over 700 years and is known as the best market in the Lake District. You’ll find everything from locally grown fruit n’ veg, fresh fish and artisan bread, to handmade clothes, shoes and artwork. You can also pick up delicious takeaway food for brekkie or lunch, or yummy treats to pop into your picnic basket. There’s a real buzz in the town on market day and it’s worth having a gander even if you don’t buy anything.

4. Watch a show at Theatre by the Lake

People walking into Theatre by the Lake in Keswick

Located on the shores of the tranquil Derenwater, picturesque backdrops for a theatre don’t get much better than this. Theatre by the Lake started as a mobile theatre called Blue Boxes after the Second World War, and it quickly became a hub for creatives in Cumbria and northern England. It has hosted hundreds of plays and exhibitions, as well as countless literature, film and music festivals. After watching a show, grab a bite in Lakeside Restaurant or head out to the terrace for a glass of vino.

5. Have a tipple at the Drunken Duck Inn

With wooden-beamed ceilings, cushy sofas and a roaring log fire, The Drunken Duck Inn is the perfect place to grab a bite and relax. The gastropub menu features hearty favourites such as Scottish haddock soup, leek and artichoke pie, baked cod with green peppercorn sauce, and venison bourguignon suet pudding. They also do sharing boards, small plates and pub snacks if you fancy something lighter. Wash it down with a stout, bitter or ale brewed at Barngates Brewery next door.

6. Follow in the footsteps of Beatrix Potter 

Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's house in Sawrey, Ambleside

Hill Top is the former home of beloved children’s author, Beatrix Potter. Potter adored the Lake District ever since she first visited as a child on a family holiday. She bought this charming 17th-century farmhouse using the royalties she earned from The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Even after marrying and moving in with her husband, Hill Top was Potter’s special place that she retreated to and filled with her most treasured possessions. 

You can visit the charming Hill Top cottage to experience what inspired the tales of Peter Rabbit, Miss Moppet and Jemima Puddle-Duck. Peek inside the rooms where Potter spent her days, see her most cherished furniture and items and wander the beautiful gardens filled with flowers, herbs and veggies. You can also use the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter Trail app to explore her favourite places throughout the Lake District.

7. Tuck into Grasmere Gingerbread 

You know the ginger-flavoured treat – often shaped like a person with an icing face and candy buttons? Turns out it had humble beginnings. This much-loved treat was supposedly born at The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop in 1854 at the hands of Victorian cook, Sarah Nelson. The shop is run by third-generation owners in Sarah’s original cottage. Don’t worry if you get lost, as the sweet gingery aroma in the air will guide the way. If there’s anywhere to treat yourself to some gingerbread with your afternoon cuppa, it’s here in Grasmere.

8. Peek inside the world of William Wordsworth 

Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth's house in Grasmere

Dive into the world of world-famous poet, William Wordsworth. Dove Cottage is where much of the literary magic happened and you can peek inside the rooms where Wordsworth wrote some of his greatest works. Using snippets from Wordsworth’s poems, letters and journals, Dove Cottage has been revived into an immersive experience with sounds, smells and sights that Wordsworth experienced here all those years ago. The surrounding grounds and gardens are totally idyllic and it’s not hard to see how this place was such a huge source of inspiration.

9. Cycle around the Lake District 

Cyclists in the Lake District National Park, UK

From zipping through the charming villages of Ambleside and Bowness-on-Windermere to riding along the tranquil waters of Buttermere and Derwentwater, cyclists are spoilt for choice in the Lake District. If you’re looking for more challenging routes, you can climb up the serpentine slopes of the Honister Pass and the Newland Pass. The uphill climb is worth it when you whoosh downhill and feel the wind tingling on your cheeks. Keep a keen eye out for nesting osprey and – if you’re really lucky – the reclusive golden eagle. 

CYCLE THROUGH THE ICONIC LANDSCAPES OF THE LAKE DISTRICT

10. Take a steamboat across Lake Windermere 

A wooden boat on Lake Windermere in the Lake District

We don’t like favourites, but we’ll make an exception for Windermere. It’s one of the Lake District’s prettiest lakes featuring quaint lakeside villages, pebbly shores and towering fells as the backdrop. Venture across the water on a steamer (an old steamboat) or hire a row boat to explore at your own pace. You could even explore the lake on a standup paddleboard. If the weather isn’t on your side, there are plenty of cafes, pubs and shops nearby where you can rug up and admire the lake from indoors.

11. Go wild swimming 

Most people see the Lake District from the walking trails, so why not get a different perspective from the middle of a mountain lake. Plus, wild swimming is one of the quickest ways to recharge the batteries and put a spring in your step. From the vast waters of Windermere and Buttermere to small tarns (glacial ponds) and emerald pools at the foot of waterfalls, the park is full of places to take a dip. Cold? You could say the water is a bit ‘fresh’ up here, especially in winter, but once you’re in, you’re in. If the cool water doesn’t take your breath away, the views certainly will.

12. Visit the ancient Castlerigg Stone Circle

A man swimming in a lake in the Lake District

England has over 300 ancient stone circles, but Castlerigg is one of the oldest and most magical. This Neolithic site was built around 3000 BC, making it older than Stonehenge. The 38 stones are thought to have been a social gathering place, trading post or astronomical observatory for the people of the time. When you stand near these ancient stones, you’re standing among 5,000 years of history. The imposing views of Skiddaw and Blencathra Hill are equally impressive. We recommend going at sunrise or sunset to see the sun peeping between the fells.

Discover these amazing places and sights for yourself on a Lake District tour.

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