Things to do in the Lake District

The stunningly beautiful Lake District was made for walking… and that’s just what you’ll do, gladly – alongside trips to pubs, museums, and pretty cottages

Rediscover the charms of Beatrix Potter

Discussing the attractions of the Lake District without mentioning Beatrix Potter is like talking about Stratford-upon-Avon and leaving out the Bard. The author spent her life here – her stunning home providing the backdrop, and the feathered and furry cast, for her much-loved children’s books. Potter created most of her stories at Hill Top, a sweet little farmhouse near Sawrey that she left to The National Trust (along with swathes of the surrounding countryside) in her will. Her illustrations incorporated many of the cottage’s real features, which you can still see today – so you might recognise Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s kitchen, Samuel Whiskers’ carpet and even Ribby the pussy-cat’s Coronation teapot, if you really know your Potter! Be warned, the house is popular – come off-season if you can (but note that it is closed November-February).

Revel in the wonders of Wordsworth

Dove Cottage, now with a little museum next door, was where William Wordsworth lived with his family from 1799. In fact, the “host of golden daffodils” that inspired one of the English language’s most famous poems grow in a wood by one of the nearby lakes. At the William Wordsworth Museum, you can see an entry from his sister Dorothy’s journals recounting the glorious walk that inspired the poem. It’s a magical read, recounting visits and expeditions, and chronicling daily life for the Wordsworth family. The cottage itself – a sweet little, whitewashed building with climbing roses – is filled with interesting mementoes from the poet’s life, from his ice-skates to his reading glasses. If that doesn’t sate your appetite for Wordsworth, you can complete your education at Rydal Mount, where he lived from 1813 to his death in 1850. You can take a peek at the attic where he worked as Poet Laureate, and see portraits and first editions published at that time. Inspiring stuff.

Take the Coniston Water steamer

During the warmer months (March to October), you can travel across Coniston Water as the Victorians did, on a steam-powered gondola yacht. This is a lovely way to take in the jaw-dropping landscapes of the National Park – with large windows onto the spectacular scenery of the surrounding fells, all soundtracked by some fascinating commentary on local sites and history from the on-board crew.

Visit Brantwood, home of John Ruskin

The Lake District was home not only to the UK’s best-loved children’s author and illustrator, and one of world’s most admired poets, but also to John Ruskin. An eminent Victorian art critic and hugely influential social commentator, Ruskin lived in Brantwood, a beautiful mansion house overlooking Coniston Water, from 1871 until his death in 1900, amassing a fabulous art collection. He hoped the house and artworks would be available to public viewers after his death, though only the house remains today. But what a house it is! Much of Ruskin’s original furniture, special wallpaper and some of his own drawings are presented to visitors, while the gardens have been restored to his tastes, set over 250 acres and running right up to a magnificent lakeside.

Lake District

Go climbing (and mining) in Honister

Mining is central to the history of Cumbria and the Lake District. Honister has an original, now disused slate mine that has become one of the Lakes’ most fascinating attractions. Here, you can tour the sometimes precarious routes taken by miners from the late 17th century in their day-to-day travails. And if you like to cast your sights up rather than down, this is brilliant climbing territory – Honister is home to the UK’s first Via Ferrata (protected climbing route) and a dream for devotees of the piton and the carabiner – offering dramatic viewpoints of this stunning landscape.

Row on Potter’s favourite lake

Derwentwater is an unforgettable sight and relatively unchanged since it was favoured by the Laureate of the Lakes, Beatrix Potter. Enjoy it under your own power – you can row yourself across the water in a handsome wooden boat by turning up at Nichol End Marine at any time of the year, weather-permitting. When you’ve had your fill of messing about in boats, stop for a well-earned lunch in Keswick, a sweet little town at the edge of the lake.

Take in England’s largest lake

Nothing can prepare you for the majesty of the quite simply enormous Windermere, the largest natural lake in England and unrivalled for its beauty. Be sure to take a boat trip, which will wind around the 18 islands of the lake – pack a picnic and prepare for your jaw to drop.

Have award-winning ale by a pub fire

The Lake District specialises in cosy pubs with roaring real fires – possibly because it’s invariably a bit drizzly outside! Kirkstile Inn is an old Tudor pub and restaurant, nestled in the stunning fells in the heart of the northwest of the National Park. Its food is locally sourced, from tempting cheese boards to freshly caught lake trout, and its real ales are award-winning and home-brewed. Cheers!

Chug along on the ‘Ratty’

Take the seven stops from Ravenglass to Dalegarth on the quaint little steam line, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, affectionately known to locals as ‘Ratty’. Locomotive enthusiasts and young Thomas the Tank Engine fans will revel in the nostalgic, tooting engine – and anyone with eyes will appreciate the spectacular surrounding scenery of the Scaffel mountain range.

Take in a shore-side performance

Classic productions such as Dial M for Murder and Sheridan’s timeless The Rivals make the handsome Theatre by the Lake in Keswick a reliable spot for an evening’s entertainment. Don’t neglect to book a table, too, at the in-house restaurant for your pre-show supper – the food is simple while the views over Derwentwater are extraordinary.

For more things to do when visiting the Lake District, see the Lake District Tourist Guide.

This beautiful destination is perfect for a weekend getaway, so take a look at our affordable hotels in the Lake District.