There are so many incredible things to do in the Lake District.
You’ll find everything from exhilarating adventure sports and breathtaking hikes to quirky independent shops, fascinating museums and almost 40 local breweries.
This guide covers everything you need to know to plan a truly amazing trip.
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I’ve been coming to the Lake District for day trips and short breaks for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I spent far too long wandering around Beatrix Potter’s house, desperate for a glimpse of Peter Rabbit. Since then, I’ve had birthdays here, brought in the new year here……even my hen party was in the Lake District!
This area of outstanding natural beauty, nestled in the heart of Cumbria, boasts the highest mountain range (Scafell Pike) and both the largest lake (Windermere) and the deepest lake (Wastwater) in the whole of England. And to top it all off, the Lake District was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2017. It’s not difficult to see why people throughout the years (including Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth no less!) have fallen in love with the Lake District.
I adore this part of the world with its stunning scenery, independent shops and adrenaline-fueled adventure activities, and I can’t wait for you to experience it too. I’ve had such fun putting together this comprehensive guide of all the things to do in the Lake District. I hope it helps you plan a truly amazing trip!
- 1 Venture Up North’s Top 5 Things to do in the Lake District
- 2 20 Incredible Things to Do in the Lake District
- 2.1 1. Take a hike
- 2.2 2. Go road or mountain biking
- 2.3 3. Go wild swimming
- 2.4 4. Try a new water sport
- 2.5 5. Enjoy a boat trip
- 2.6 6. Visit beautiful beaches
- 2.7 7. Explore an Edwardian Seaside Resort
- 2.8 8. Learn survival skills on a bushcraft or foraging course
- 2.9 9. Try an adventure sport
- 2.10 10. Gaze at the stars
- 2.11 11. Take a trip on a heritage railway
- 2.12 12. Visit picturesque towns and villages
- 2.13 13. Soak up some culture
- 2.14 14. Get spooked in the haunted Lake District
- 2.15 15. Eat, drink and be merry!
- 2.16 16. Unleash your creative side
- 2.17 17. Go to a festival
- 2.18 18. Take a day trip outside of the Lake District
- 2.19 19. Spend Christmas in the Lake District
- 2.20 20. Stay indoors
- 3 THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT WITH KIDS
- 4 LAKE DISTRICT ITINERARY
- 5 LAKE DISTRICT TOURS
- 6 NEED MORE LAKE DISTRICT INSPIRATION?
- 7 BOOKING RESOURCES
Venture Up North’s Top 5 Things to do in the Lake District
To be honest, it’s very difficult to pick just five, but these Lake District favourites should not be missed!
- Conquer England’s highest mountain
- Go wild swimming
- Swap the roads for water and travel by boat
- Explore old market towns
- See where Peter Rabbit was born
20 Incredible Things to Do in the Lake District
1. Take a hike
One of the main reasons people visit the Lake District is to take a walk in the beautiful and often rugged countryside.
The Lake District is home to some 214 fells (hills and mountains) including Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain. There’s a huge selection of walks and climbs to choose from in the Lake District, with some proving a lot more challenging than others!
If you’re looking for something a bit less taxing than scaling one of England’s tallest mountains, then look no further than the Miles Without Stiles routes – 48 accessible walking routes suitable for people with limited mobility including wheelchairs and prams.
2. Go road or mountain biking
There are so many options for both road and mountain biking in the Lake District that cyclists really are spoilt for choice. The Lake District is a popular destination for cyclists and there are many routes spanning different levels of difficulty which are well signposted and easy to find.
3. Go wild swimming
It is possible to go wild swimming in the lakes in the Lake District provided swimmers follow the SwimSafe code. The best lakes for swimming are the quieter lakes with less water traffic such as Grasmere, Buttermere or Wastwater.
4. Try a new water sport
With all that water, it’s hardly surprising that the Lake District really is one of the top UK destinations for water sports. From sailing and canoeing to rafting and windsurfing, you really can do it all here!
There are a number of different watersports centres operating from different areas in the Lake District and along the Cumbrian coastline. The hardest part is deciding which watersport to try!
5. Enjoy a boat trip
A boat cruise is a great way to explore the lakes and take in the incredible sights. Many of the passenger boats offer multiple stops allowing you to hop on and off and explore the picture-perfect surrounding villages. It’s possible to combine a boat trip with a walk or a bike ride if you wanted to make an action-packed day of it!
Lakes Windermere, Coniston, Derwentwater and Ullswater all have passenger boats with multiple stops. If you’re after something a little bit different, check out the environmentally friendly Ullswater Steamers which have been operating on the lake for the last 160 years, or perhaps experience some Victorian-style luxury onboard the Coniston Water Steam Boat Gondola.
6. Visit beautiful beaches
If all that adventure gets a little tiring, at least you know you can kick back and relax on one of the beautiful beaches surrounding the Lake District coastline.
And if you’re just craving more action than a bucket and spade can offer, you could try your hand at hang-gliding or take a sunset ride on horseback along the golden sands.
7. Explore an Edwardian Seaside Resort
Just 7 miles from Windermere is the Edwardian coastal resort of Grange over Sands. With its promenade, nature reserves, ornamental gardens, coastal walks and pretty shopping arcades, it’s a fantastic place to visit for a change of pace after all that hiking and climbing.
8. Learn survival skills on a bushcraft or foraging course
Fancy yourself as the next Bear Grylls? It’s time to put your skills to the test!
Where better to learn the fundamentals of survival than in the great outdoors of the Lake District? Disconnect from technology and spend some time immersing yourself in nature, learning some truly useful bushcraft or foraging skills – essential for any adventure in the wilderness.
9. Try an adventure sport
Pretty much all of the sports you can take part in in the Lake District could be classed as adventurous, but if you’re looking for something even more extreme, why not try white water tubing, a parachute jump, caving, rock climbing or quad biking?
For those wanting to get their heart pumping a little faster, check out the top 5 adventure activities in the Lake District.
10. Gaze at the stars
The Lake District has some of the darkest skies in the country, making it the perfect place for going stargazing.
Best places for stargazing in the Lake District include:
- Grizedale Forest
- Borrowdale Valley
- Langdale Valley
If you fancy being guided through your gaze, you can book an event with gostargazing.co.uk at Grizedale Forest.
11. Take a trip on a heritage railway
Take a ride on a steam train and enjoy the fantastic scenery at either Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway or Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway.
The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is a small narrow gauge railway originally used to transport iron ore from Eskdale. You can choose from an open-air carriage or a covered one depending on the weather, and there are some easy-going walks to enjoy in the valley of Eskdale too.
High Adventure Day Tour from Keswick
The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, on the other hand, is an old commuter train, originally a branch line of the Furness Railway. You can enjoy a ‘Park, Rail and Sail’ option which includes your car parking, your train experience, and a return cruise around Lake Windermere. It’s a good opportunity to spend some time exploring the town of Bowness too!
12. Visit picturesque towns and villages
The Lake District is full of picture-perfect towns and villages with their independent shops, tea rooms and pubs just waiting to tempt you inside. Deciding on which ones to visit will be the only problem as they all have something different to offer. But don’t worry – take a look at my guide to towns and villages in the Lake District to help make that decision a little bit easier!
13. Soak up some culture
There are a surprising number of museums and galleries scattered all over the Lake District. Many focus on local history and offer a greater understanding of how the area has developed over time, whilst others tell a story of the Lake District’s famous inhabitants and how the roving landscape influenced their work.
And if crumbling ruins and imposing castles are more your thing, then you’re in luck! There’re plenty of castles, churches, abbeys and ruins to explore in the Lake District, some dating as far back as the 11th century.
Maybe you’re a lover of fine art or literature and fancy visiting the house of Beatrix Potter – inspiration for the well-loved character Peter Rabbit – or Rydal Mount which is still lived in by descendants of the poet, William Wordsworth? There are plenty of other historic houses in the Lake District to nose around too, most with beautiful gardens – perfect for a sunny day! Some favourites include:
- Levens Hall & Gardens – near Kendal
- Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere
- Holker Hall near Grange-over-Sands
- Brantwood in Coniston
- Mirehouse in Keswick
14. Get spooked in the haunted Lake District
There have certainly been some spooky goings-on in the Lake District over the years. If you’re brave enough to learn more about the ghosts that haunt the area, you can join a ghost walk in Windermere, Cockermouth or Keswick.
15. Eat, drink and be merry!
Rain or shine, one thing is for sure: you’re definitely going to need to eat and drink when you’re in the Lake District.
Well, you are in for a treat!
With nearly 40 local breweries, most offering tours and tastings, you’re certainly not going to go thirsty. And with no less than SEVEN restaurants in the region that have been awarded a Michelin star, there’s no danger of you going hungry either.
Oh and whilst we’re at it, you can’t leave without trying the traditional local favourites like Cumberland Sausage, Kendal Mint Cake, Grasmere Gingerbread and Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding.
All that talk of food and drink whet your appetite? Find out more about eating and drinking in the Lake District.
16. Unleash your creative side
Perhaps all that fresh country air and stunning scenery has awakened your creative side. Well, how about you take your creative talents al fresco and learn how to paint incredible Lake District landscapes?
Artpaintingholidays.co.uk offer courses of varying length throughout the year and cater for everyone – from those who can’t tell one end of the paintbrush from the other right through to the more experienced artist.
17. Go to a festival
From agricultural shows, beer festivals, music festivals and Christmas markets, there’s definitely a festival or celebration to cover all interests. It’s always worth checking the calendar to make sure you don’t miss out on something that you might enjoy during your stay.
18. Take a day trip outside of the Lake District
If you want to explore the surrounding areas of the Lake District whilst you’re here, there are plenty of places worthy of a visit.
For more countryside adventures, check out tours to The Yorkshire Dales National Park.
If you’d rather use the trains to get around, you can check prices on The Train Line.
19. Spend Christmas in the Lake District
There are Christmas markets scattered around the Lake District selling unique gifts and stocking fillers made locally. Particular favourites have to be the Ulverston Dickensian Christmas Festival, Ambleside Christmas Light Switch On and the Hawkshead Christmas Fair.
20. Stay indoors
The Lake District is probably most famous for its outdoor pursuits, but that doesn’t mean that there are no indoor activities worthy of your time.
From art deco cinemas and craft workshops to indoor climbing walls and brewery tours, you’ll find yourself wanting to do some of these activities no matter what the weather is like!
THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT WITH KIDS
The Lake District is a fantastic place for children. From adventure playgrounds, watersport lessons, craft activities and historic houses with entire rooms dedicated to play, you won’t need to worry about keeping the kids entertained in the Lake District.
LAKE DISTRICT ITINERARY
There are so many things to do in the Lake District it can be difficult to know how you’re ever going to create an itinerary that packs it all in!
Here is a sample itinerary to get you started. There’s a little bit of everything included, from outdoor adventures, creative activities and (my favourite!) incredible food and drink.
LAKE DISTRICT TOURS
If you’d rather take the stress out of planning your trip, you can choose to take a tour around the Lake District. Tours can be a great way to cut down on travel and parking costs and you have the benefit of an experienced and knowledgable guide.
For the ultimate stress-free experience, try a tour that includes travel to and from the Lake District. Check out these options which offer tours of the lakes with return travel from London, Liverpool, Chester or Manchester. The tour will pick you up in your city of choice and drop you back there when it’s finished. Tours vary in length from day trips to 3-4 days with all accommodation included. Just choose what suits you and your plans best!
NEED MORE LAKE DISTRICT INSPIRATION?
I imagine by now, you’re busy planning your route and booking yourself into a hotel, but if you do need a final burst of inspiration, maybe reading a book about the Lake District or watching a movie filmed in this beautiful part of the world will do the trick?
Oh, and watch this video too. It’s spectacular. I mean, how could you not want to just pack your bags right now?
What are your favourite things to do in the Lake District? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!
- WHERE TO STAY: Compare prices on booking.com, hotels.com and expedia.com to find the cheapest hotel deals. For cottages and other accommodation, we use holidaycottages.co.uk. Don’t forget to check the reviews on TripAdvisor before booking!
- WHAT TO BOOK: we use Viator and GetYourGuide. Between them they have a HUGE selection of fun activities!
- HOW TO TRAVEL: we use thetrainline.com for all rail travel. For car rentals, check out travelsupermarket.com and for stress free parking use JustPark to book your space before you arrive!
- WHAT TO READ: Lonely Planet Pocket Lake District. I take my Kindle with me everywhere I go – no more bulky books taking up space in my luggage! Try Kindle Unlimited – you’ll never be stuck for anything to read again!