Lake District Holiday Planning Guide
A paradise for all lovers of the great outdoors, UNESCO World Heritage-listed Lake District is widely regarded as one of the most stunning areas of natural beauty in the UK. This mountainous region famously served as inspiration for some of the finest works of poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Containing the country’s largest national park, the Lake District is England’s top vacation destination for hikers and rock climbers. Visitors from around the world linger here for days and even weeks, which speaks to the region's diversity and beauty. Lake District sightseeing includes sweeping landscapes of rugged hilltops, glistening lakes, dense forests, and hazy mountaintops. The region abounds in numerous tucked-away pubs, inns, and hotels, offering not only shelter from the weather, but also first-class dining and drinking options.
Places to Visit in the Lake DistrictWindermere
: Enveloped by the Lake District National Park, this small town and popular summer holiday destination sits on the shores of England’s largest natural lake.Keswick
: For a plethora of outdoor activities in the Skiddaw Mountains and Derwentwater, including the famous Keswick Mountain Festival in May, add a visit to the naturally exquisite Keswick to your Lake District itinerary. Ambleside
: A favorite base for hiking, mountain climbing, biking, and other year-round sports, Ambleside is a scenic town at the mouth of Windermere. Penrith
: Located right outside the national park is Cumbria’s former capital Penrith, a market town and the hub of Eden Valley offering plenty of shopping excursions for tourists and locals alike.Bowness-on-Windermere
: If you seek an old-fashioned Lake District holiday complete with ice cream shops, restaurants, Victorian villas, and lots of places to buy souvenirs, head to Bowness-on-Windermere on the Eastern shore of the district’s largest lake. Coniston
: One of the least developed areas in the Lake District, Duddon Valley makes an idyllic destination for mountaineers, bikers, hikers, and tourists seeking peaceful surroundings in the English countryside.Grasmere
: Enjoy a plethora of pubs, restaurants, and walking areas in Grasmere. The village is perhaps best known for its signature dessert, Grasmere gingerbread, which continues to draw visitors to its shops. Kendal
: This tourist center serves as a gateway to Windermere Lake, with plenty of outdoor attractions as well as a Roman fort, local grey limestone buildings, and intimate museums. Hawkshead
: If you're seeking refreshment and camaraderie on your Lake District vacation, head to Hawkshead--not only is it one of the area's most beautiful villages, it's also known for its high density of pubs.Backbarrow
: Home of the Lakeland Motor Museum and located along the River Leven, Backbarrow remains a charming tourist destination.
Things to Do in the Lake District
Popular Lake District Tourist AttractionsLake Windermere
: Topping many Lake District itineraries, Lake Windermere is the country’s largest natural lake and a favorite holiday spot among nature lovers and travelers in the United Kingdom.Derwentwater
: Also called the “Queen of Lakes,” Derwentwater is a stunning wooded body of water that offers summer sports, wildlife watching, and spectacular views, as well as four islands worth exploring. The World of Beatrix Potter
: Meet the popular characters of this beloved author, including childhood favorite Peter Rabbit, as you explore The World of Beatrix Potter, a family-friendly attraction in the Lakeland countryside dedicated to the writer’s life and work. Puzzling Place Ltd
: One of Keswick’s most intriguing attractions, The Puzzling Place makes a fun stop for visitors of all ages, with entertaining activities and interactive exhibitions like an anti-gravity room and brain-twisting illusions. Orrest Head
: You don’t need to be a hiking expert to enjoy a stroll down the trails at Orrest Head, where you can take in scenic views of Windermere and the park’s southern lakes.Honister Slate Mine
: Add some history to your Lake District vacation with a visit to Honister Slate Mine, where you can take a guided tour and even climb up the mountainside using the mine’s sturdy cables. Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's House
: The inspiring setting for the famous Peter Rabbit illustrations, author Beatrix Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse features original furniture and a cottage garden.Cumberland Pencil Museum "Temporally Closed"
: Children love the Cumberland Pencil Museum, a family-friendly gallery in Keswick featuring the largest color pencil in the world, as well as vibrant exhibitions and demonstrations. Catbells Lakeland Walk
: Discover Lake District National Park on foot along the Catbells Lakeland Walk, a hillside trail offering extraordinary views of the Lakeland Fell and Derwentwater lakeshores. Brockhole on Windermere
: Of the many things to do in the Lake District, a trip to Brockhole Visitor Centre is worthwhile for its abundance of recreational activities, children's play areas, and lush natural scenery.
Planning a Lake District Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in the Lake District with Kids
The Lake District's gorgeous natural attractions and charming English towns make it a perfect choice for family holidays. To fill your Lake District itinerary with outdoor activities, including mountain biking, hiking, climbing, long walks, and water sports, consider visiting Keswick
, and Coniston
. If you prefer to spend a majority of your time exploring villages and small towns in the area--where you'll still enjoy plenty of scenic views--there are a number of lovely tourist destinations along the water, particularly the country’s largest natural lake, Lake Windermere
. If your family is looking for a little more cultural activity and shopping, consider hubs like Penrith
, and Grasmere
. In these charming English getaways, you can spend your days hunting for unique souvenirs, eating local cuisine, viewing Victorian architecture, and touring indoor attractions, including interactive museums and venues for live entertainment. Little ones will enjoy sampling the town’s famous gingerbread at Grasmere
Things to Do in the Lake District with Kids
There is no shortage of family-friendly Lake District attractions, from The World of Beatrix Potter
--where tiny tots can see storybook characters come to life--to a wide variety of outdoor activities that teenagers and older children can enjoy. Kids of all ages will appreciate Mirehouse & Gardens
. This 17th-century manor is actually home to a number of playgrounds, mazes, picnic areas, and gardens, as well as zip lines, climbing ropes, and bridges. For beautiful outdoor adventures that won’t use up all of your energy, take a walk around Orrest Head
, a cruise of Derwentwater
, or stroll along Catbells Lakeland Walk
. Keswick Canoe and Bushcraft
offers boating sessions and Mountain Biking in the Lake District
gives confident mountain bikers (teens and adults) a chance to explore some of the country’s best trails. The Lake District boasts a number of animal experiences as well, including the Muncaster Castle
's hawk and owl center, where kids can view endangered species, meet diverse birds, and watch the wild heron feed. For a cozy day indoors, take your little ones to LucyCooks Cookery School - CLOSED, an interactive cooking lesson in Staveley
where children learn to make a three-course meal while having tons of fun in the kitchen.
Tips for a Family Vacation in the Lake District
Consider starting your family's Lake District vacation at Brockhole on Windermere
, where you'll find all of the information you need to make this holiday one to remember. Lake District National Park
prefers that you travel via public transportation to protect its natural environment from fuel and other toxins, though there are parking areas throughout the park if you choose to bring your own vehicle. To help maintain this natural gem, book excursions beforehand on the park’s official website and your online booking commission goes directly to keeping the landscape beautiful for future generations of visitors (as well as the resident wildlife). In small towns and villages throughout the region, you'll find a wide variety of places to stay, including cottage and small home rentals that make great accommodations for larger groups and families. If you’re traveling on a budget, keep an eye out for free events, walking tours, and entertainment.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in the Lake District
Cuisine of the Lake District
Due to its abundance of fresh, organic, locally grown ingredients, the Lake District has become a hub for foodies. During your trip to the Lake District, consider trying local delicacies, including tender Herdwick lamb and Cumberland sausage, a pork sausage made with spices, herbs, and peppers. You can find Cumberland sausage in restaurants or sample some at the Brockhole on Windermere
's cafe. For a taste of local produce, try damson, a fruit from the plum family that is harvested here in September and used in jam, wine, beer, cheese, and more. If you're in Kendal
, be sure to get a slice of Kendal mint cake, a peppermint confectionary treat loved by climbers and hikers throughout the Lake District for over a century. Perhaps the region’s most famous food is Grasmere
gingerbread, a cross between a cake and a biscuit that was created by Sarah Nelson in 1854. This popular baked good makes a great gift for family and friends back home as well.
Shopping in the Lake District
Though there's lots to do on a Lake District holiday besides shop, you can certainly find enough to fill your browsing and buying needs. Carlisle
, and Ambleside
boast main shopping streets with plenty of stores and galleries where you can hunt for souvenirs and gifts. Meanwhile, smaller market towns like Ulverston
offer both local produce and artisan goods in an authentically North English setting. If you want to bring home a regional delicacy for your friends to try, take a trip to Grasmere
and pick up some of their famous gingerbread, a 19th-century recipe that travels well and won’t disappoint (The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop (Sarah Nelson's)
specializes in the treat).
Know Before You Go on a Trip to the Lake District
History of the Lake District
England’s Lake District has long served as an inspiring setting for poets, writers, and other artists (among them William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, and Alfred Wainwright), drawn to the region's dramatic landscapes, rich with lakes, forests, and mountains, including Derwentwater
and Loughrigg Fell
. Though known and visited for its natural beauty, the Lake District is also home to agricultural endeavors and craftsmanship, dating back to its first settlement in the Stone Age. This area was heavily influenced by its geographical proximity to northern peoples and its occupation by the Norse around 900 CE. During this time, the Norse cleared woodlands, produced charcoal and copper, introduced livestock, including Herdwick sheep, and began a long legacy of Cumbric language and dialects. You may notice on your tour of the Lake District that English speakers here still use vocabulary from the Norse.
In the 18th century, the region was impacted greatly by the Agricultural Revolution and the Enclosure Acts, specifically with new dry stone walls that became a prominent feature of the Lake District fells. Later, in the 19th century, the railway and newfound tourist industry dominated the region, with trains bringing visitors to Windermere
and surrounding towns. Since this time, the Lake District has become a popular holiday destination, with tens of millions of tourists traveling here each year to visit everything from outdoor sites like Lake Windermere
to indoor attractions like Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's House
and Lakeland Motor Museum
The area was named Lake District National Park
in 1951 and has emerged as the most visited national park in the United Kingdom. It is also the largest national park in England and Wales, and the second-largest in the U.K. Luckily, its title has prevented the establishment of industries, which, in turn, has protected the Lake District’s nature, wildlife, and traditions. Today, visitors on a Lake District vacation can experience the true beauty of this land just as tourists and artists have in centuries past.
Landscape of the Lake District
Perhaps the most naturally beautiful region of England, the Lake District’s scenic mountains and lakes are 500 million years in the making. As a result of volcanic eruptions, limestone formation, sandstone creation, and other transformations over the past millennia, the Lake District boasts smooth, U-shaped valleys, like Coniston
, and rugged cliffs. Topping many Lake District itineraries is a visit to the country’s tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, and its largest lake, Lake Windermere
. If you picture the region as a wheel with Dunmail Raise at the center, all of the Lake District’s beloved valleys and lakes extend outwards from this hub. Go for a stroll at Catbells Lakeland Walk
or Orrest Head
, view landscapes from high above ground level at Treetop Trek
, or take to the water with Glenridding Sailing Centre
. The variety of terrain lends itself to exploration on foot, as well as by bike, car, or boat.
Holidays & Festivals in the Lake District
Each year, Lake District National Park runs over 500 events, so there are always things to do in this natural haven for tourists. Many summer events reflect the Lake District's agricultural side, like Grasmere Sports, Cockermouth
's farmer gathering and marketplace, Gilsland
's equestrian show and pony-riding classes, and the Lowther horse and carriage fair. If you prefer other cultural events, in August Kendal
hosts the Lake District Summer Music Festival, the largest music event in the United Kingdom, while the Buddhist Himalaya Festival happens in the same month in Penrith
. The Muncaster Experience at Muncaster Castle
offers fun for the whole family, as do the attraction’s Festival of Fools, Summer of Fun, and Halloween Week events. If your Lake District trip is in late autumn you can celebrate the season at Kendal Mountain Festival in November, while winter visitors are treated to Carlisle
’s Christmas Market.
Lake District Travel Tips
Climate of the Lake District
England’s Lake District is the area of the country that experiences the most rainfall each year. The winter is marked by snow, especially if you are traveling through the mountains, and the region can have windy weather year-round due to its coastal location. March through June are the region’s driest months, and October to January are the wettest, though the temperature doesn’t vary much in this temperate zone. Here, rainfall and other elements can be unpredictable and often change drastically month to month, so be sure to check weather reports before your Lake District trip and pack plenty of layers in case of sudden shifts.
Transportation in the Lake District
When taking your Lake District vacation, the national park prefers that you use public transport for environmental purposes. Though bringing your own car is also an option, it is unnecessary. Reaching the Lake District is easy via London and Glasgow thanks to the West Coast mainline train, which connects the two main cities with Oxenholme, Penrith, and Carlisle. There is also a direct train from Manchester to Windermere, local trains at Kendal, Staveley, and Windermere, and a route along the Cumbrian coastline. Additionally, bus routes exist to connect the region’s smaller towns and villages, like Ambleside, Windermere, Coniston, and Keswick. Of course, boating, biking, and even mini bus tours are great ways to explore multiple destinations in one day during your trip to the Lake District.
Language of the Lake District
Like the rest of the country, English is the language spoken most predominantly in the Lake District, making it easy to navigate for many travelers. However, the Cumbrian dialect has its own words and phrases that vary from other regions. This Northern English accent can be a bit harder to understand and the Cumbrian dialect shares certain vocabulary with Scottish. Though Celtic Cumbric used to be spoken in Cumbria
, this language is extinct and has been replaced with the modern, regional dialect of English you hear today.