Home Destination Guides 8 Fun Things to do in the Lake District When it Rains

8 Fun Things to do in the Lake District When it Rains

by Helen
a man and a woman standing with their backs to the camera in the rain. The man is holding an umbrella and they are both huddled underneath it. They are both wearing coats and hats.

There are so many things to do in the Lake District when it rains. With original art deco cinemas, afternoon tea with a twist, indoor climbing walls and local brewery tours, you’ll want to check out these activities no matter what the weather!

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It’s fair to say that most people who visit the Lake District do so because they want to spend time in the great outdoors. Having said that, with the ever-changing weather, it’s always useful to know about some things to do in the Lake District when it rains.

The two aren’t interchangeable – you can of course still spend time outdoors when it’s raining and vice versa. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to have the option of staying cosy, and some of the indoor activities are just too good to miss! Check out these fun ideas for things to do in the Lake District when it rains.

CINEMAS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

Going to the cinema may seem like an obvious thing to do in the Lake District when it rains, but don’t be too quick to judge! The cinemas I’ve listed here aren’t just any cinemas. If you want a truly unique cinema experience, you’ll want to pay one of these incredible screens a visit.

Bowness

Whether it’s raining or not, the Royalty Cinema in Bowness is so special it deserves a visit! Built in 1928 and housing a Whurlitzer organ, it was originally only set up for silent movies with a live organ accompaniment. It’s since been modernised and now contains 3 screens, all with the ability to play sound – but that doesn’t mean the cinema has lost its original charm.

The original auditorium still exists with its 1930s ambiance, and you can still catch an authentic 1920s silent movie complete with live organ accompaniment. Of course, if you’d like to watch a more modern film, that’s possible too, and if you’re after some food before your film, the cinema have a meal deal offer in conjunction with a local restaurant just up the hill.

Ulverston

Sticking with the art deco theme, there is another fantastic little cinema oozing with character and 1930s charm over in Ulverston. The Roxy Cinema hosts film club nights and shows a mix of new releases, classic cinema and arthouse films. In keeping with tradition, the cinema has an interval midway through films giving viewers have the chance to buy ice cream and a drink. Just be sure to wrap up warm if it’s a cold day – it can get a bit nippy in there!

Ambleside

If you’re in Ambleside, you really are spoilt for choice as you have not one but five related independent cinema screens to choose from.

  • Fellinis is a modern vegetarian restaurant with a Mediterranean twist and you’ll find the cinema located above the restaurant. If you’re after arthouse and niche productions, with link ups to world class ballet and opera performances, Fellinis is where it’s at.
  • Zeferellis is fabulous mix up of a 2 cinema screens showing the latest movies and arthouse films, a jazz club and a mouth wateringly delicious vegetarian Italian restaurant. It’s also worth stopping by Zeferelli’s café during the day for coffee, cake or lunch.
  • Zeff’s By The Park houses a further 2 cinema screens within the old local junior school building.

Both Zeferellis and Fellinis offer a fantastic dinner and movie deal which combines a reserved cinema seat with a 2 course meal. Definitely one not to miss!

Keswick

Over in Keswick is the Keswick Alhambra Cinema – the only cinema in the UK to have been in continuous operation since it opened in 1914! Open 7 days a week and showing new releases as well as arthouse films and screenings of opera, national theatre and ballet performances, this really is a gem of a cinema full of original features and art deco charm. As well as tea and coffee, you can get yourself a glass of wine or a locally brewed beer to enjoy during the performance. Definitely worth a visit, the Keswick Alhambra is a fabulous old style picturehouse with bags of character.

Kendal

The Brewery Arts Centre, based in a beautiful historic building in Kendal, is known is known nationally as a hub for world class theatre, music, arts and events. Hailed as the cultural centre of the Lake District, it not only has two cinema screens, but it also has a brewery on site (clue’s in the name!), art galleries, a restaurant, café, bar and theatre. Phew! Oh, and it runs a varied programme of courses and workshops throughout the year too. Of course, this isn’t just one to be saved for a rainy day. I highly recommend checking the listings and booking in advance for anything you think you’d like to attend.

Penrith

There’s another, smaller 2 screen Alhambra cinema in the heart of Penrith. Cozy and warm, this cinema is reasonably priced and retains some of its original art deco features. Also an independent picturehouse, the Alhambra Penrith shows a mixture of current releases, arthouse films, New York MET opera and National Theatre Live screenings.

Further afield…

Just on the outskirts of the Lake District is The Rheged Centre. Based in a former quarry in Penrith, The Rheged Centre a huge glass roofed Lakeland heritage centre packed with cafes, restaurants, shops, a soft play area for the kids, an exhibition space and a huge 3D cinema screening theatre, ballet and music performances from around the world.

reel of old fashioned cimema tickets
things to do in the Lake District when it rains: visit an art deco cinema
Image by Igor Ovsyannykov

AFTERNOON TEA

Rainy day or not, taking afternoon tea in the Lake District is something you just have to do! I know the idea of cucumber sandwiches and miniature cake isn’t for everyone, but hear me out here.

Yes, there are plenty of places where you can get a traditional afternoon tea in the Lake District (and what a treat!), and then there is afternoon tea at The Wild Boar. Just outside of Windermere, The Wild Boar is a cozy restaurant, bar and hotel serving afternoon tea with a twist. And that is what I want to tell you about here.

What if the delicate sandwiches and macaroons were traded in for mini pork pies, a bite sized portion of fish and chips, finger lickin’ pigs in blankets and crunchy pork scratchings?

I thought that would get your attention.

Wild Boar afternoon tea served on tiered tree trunks. On display are chips, mini burgers, chocolate brownie.
afternoon tea with a twist

And then, what if, instead of a cup of loose leaf tea or a glass of bubbly, you could have a beer bat consisting of trial sized versions of 3 different local ales?

Now we’re talking.

Top it all off with a warm scone, jam and cream (some traditions are sacred) and you’ve got yourself an Alternative Afternoon Tea at The Wild Boar.

It’s afternoon tea for those of us who don’t like afternoon tea (and a new experience for those that do!), all enjoyed whilst basking by an open fire and soaking up the warm cozy atmosphere of a traditional pub setting.

Yes please.

knife, fork and Wild Boar branded napkin set out on a side plate.
The Wild Boar

SHOPPING

Whether you’re after some unique art for the home, high street fashion or delicious baked goods, you’ll find it in the Lake District. Many of the towns are old historic market towns and alongside the many small independent shops selling local crafts, jewellery and tasty treats, many of them still hold markets throughout the month. I’ve listed the market days of the main towns below.

DayMarket
MondayBarrow-in-FurnessKirkby Stephen
TuesdayPenrithSettle
WednesdayAmblesideBarrow-in-FurnessKendalMillomSedburghWindermere
ThursdayKeswick Moot HallKirby LonsdaleUlverston
FridayBarrow-in-FurnessCockermouth
SaturdayBarrow-in-FurnessKendalKeswick Moot HallUlverston
SundayNo markets on Sunday

As each town and village has its own unique vibe, it can be difficult to decide which ones to visit. But no need to worry – we’ve got you covered. This guide to towns and villages in the Lake District will help you choose.

GALLERIES & MUSEUMS

The Lake District is packed full of museums and galleries. Here is a sample of just 15, although there are many more! All museums charge an entrance fee unless otherwise stated. Please check the official websites for more information.

Gallery / Museum NameTown / VillageAbout
Windermere JettyWindermereA great range of boats on display as well as interactive workshops, heritage boat trips and a live conservation workshop.
Ruskin MuseumConistonA museum dedicated to celebrating the local cultural and literary heritage of Coniston. More happened here than you might think!
Dove Cottage and the Wordworth MuseumGrasmereVisit the home of William Wordsworth and discover his remarkable life story through a fascinating collection of original works.
Abbot Hall Art GalleryKendallAn amazing collection of 17th to 21st century fine art housed in a Grade 1 listed building.
Laurel and Hardy MuseumUlverstonBased in Ulverston, the birthplace of Stan Laurel, this museum has everything you ever wanted to know and more about the famous duo.
J.B Banks and Son LtdCockermouthHidden at the back of a traditional iron mongers shop, this quirky little museum is packed with old tools and a workshop dating back to Georgian times.
Lakeland Motor MuseumLeven Valley at BackbarrowBrowse a range of cars, motorbikes and bicycles from bygone eras.
Hawkshead Grammar SchoolHawksheadTake a guided tour around the grammar school attended by William Wordworth.
The Dock MuseumBarrow-in-FurnessHoused in a modern building on a coastal setting, this free museum focuses on the social and industrial history of the Furness area.
Keswick MuseumKeswickDiscover the story of Keswick through interactive exhibitions, events and activities. 
Beatrix Potter GalleryHawksheadRun by the National Trust, this gallery features original illustrations by Beatrix Potter.
Hill Top – Beatrix Potter’s HouseNear SawreyVisit the 17th century farmhouse and gardens where Beatrix Potter lived, wrote and based many of her well-loved stories.
Pencil MuseumKeswickHome of the world’s first pencil! From secret WW2 pencils to giant pencils, miniature pencils and The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pencil, who knew there was so much to learn about our trusty writing tool?
Lakeland Miniature Village & Oriental GardenGrange-over-SandsLovingly handcrafted from local Coniston slate by a retired local builder, here you’ll find miniature versions of classic Lake District houses – all set out within the creators garden!
Wray Castle Ambleside A gothic castle on the shores of Lake Windermere, there’s plenty to entertain both adults and children on those rainy days.
castle in the lake district
visit a castle on a rainy day in the Lake District

THEATRES

Keswick

Theatre By The Lake is on the edge of Keswick close to the stunning Derwentwater. Described by the Independent as “the most beautifully located and friendly theatre in Britain” it presents up to nine productions a year in its 400 seat main house or 100 seat studio. The theatre holds festivals throughout the year and the annual Christmas shows prove to be true family favourites. High class theatre in a stunning location – what more could you ask for?!

Bowness-on-Windermere

The Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness-on-Windermere hosts a wide range of performances from famous comedy acts right through to classical music, folk music and film screenings. Set up inside an old Edwardian laundry building, The Old Laundry Theatre sees itself as a “thriving cultural hub” for residents and visitors throughout the Lake District.

Millom

Situated just on the edge of the Lake District, close to the beach in the small market town of Millom, is The Beggar’s Theatre. A real intimate space with a true sense of community, the theatre hosts small scale performances right through to routing TV stand up acts.

Beetham (30 mins from Windermere)

Travel just shy of 30 minutes from Windermere and you’ll find yourself at The Heron Theatre in Beetham on the southern edges of the Lake District. The Heron Theatre is housed in a former 18th century two room grammar school and host performances from both professional artists and their associate amateur group, as well as monthly films and musical events.

ART & CRAFT

If you find that all that fresh air and stunning scenery gets your creative juices flowing, then you’re in luck. I love a craft workshop and there’s a good few to choose from in the Lake District.

Wasdale

If you fancy trying your hand at some pot throwing, book yourself onto a workshop at Gosforth Pottery near Wasdale. You can stay and paint your masterpiece afterwards, or if you just want to get straight onto the painting part, there are plenty of ready-made ceramics for you to choose from and decorate however you please. Gosforth Pottery also run weekend and week long pottery courses if you wanted to take your new skill to the next level.

Grange-over-Sands / Cockermouth

How about learning how to create an oil painting on canvas – no experience necessary! The step by step workshops are held near Cockermouth and in Grange-over-Sands. You’ll be amazed at what you can create! Check out oilpaintinginaday.wordpress.com

Kendal

If you know you want to get crafty but you’re not sure what you fancy turning your hand to, have a nosey at Cowshed Creative in Kendal. They offer a varied programme throughout the year with everything from jewellery making, oil painting and needlefelt to dry stone walling.

hands sculpting a pot on a potters wheel
try your hand at pot throwing!
Image by valenaammon

INDOOR CLIMBING

If it’s too wet to go rock climbing outside then never fear! The Lake District has you covered – literally. You’ll find indoor climbing walls in Kendal, Keswick, Ullswater and Ambleside.

VISIT A LOCAL BREWERY

If you like a handcrafted beer, then you’ll love what the Lake District has to offer. There are around 36 independent local breweries in the Lake District and that number is growing all the time!

No need to worry if you fancy a tipple of a different type either. The Lakes Distillery offers tours of their gin, vodka and whisky making facilities – most with a tasting thrown in for good measure!

glasses of different coloured beers in a line
visit a brewery
Image by KING G

THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT WHEN IN RAINS: ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN

There are just SO MANY things for kids to do in the Lake District (yes, even when it rains!) that this topic has a post all of its own. Here’s a quick summary, but you’ll find more detail and plenty more ideas in the dedicated article.

  • Art & Craft activities (see above – children can have a go at throwing and/or painting a pot)
  • Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway
  • Lakes Aquarium at Lakeside (you can combine this with a trip on the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway)
  • Hill Top – Beatrix Potter’s House
  • The World of Beatrix Potter
  • Wray Castle
  • Indoor climbing wall (see above)
  • Upfront Puppet Theatre, Penrith
  • The Puzzling Place, Keswick

WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT WHEN IT RAINS?

I hope this post has given you lots of different ideas for things you can do in the Lake District when it rains. Rain or shine, you really won’t be stuck for things to do in the Lake District, whatever the weather tries to throw at you!

What are your plans in the Lake District? Let me know in the comments!

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