The Lake District

We’ve compiled the best of the best in The Lake District - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Allan Bank

    Rope swings on the grounds, picnics in atmospheric old rooms, free tea and coffee, and huge blackboards you can write on: Allan Bank is unlike most other historic houses cared for by the National Trust. On a hill above the lake near Grasmere village, this grand house was once home to poet William Wordsworth as well as to Canon Rawnsley, the founder of the National Trust. Seriously damaged by fire in 2011, it has been partially restored but also left deliberately undecorated. It offers a much less formal experience than other stops on the Wordsworth trail. There are frequent activities for both children and adults: arts and crafts but also music and astronomy. Red squirrels can be seen on the 30-minute woodland walk through the beautiful grounds.

    Off A591, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9QB, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £6.50, Closed weekdays
  • 2. Beatrix Potter Gallery

    In the 17th-century solicitor's offices formerly used by Potter's husband, the Beatrix Potter Gallery displays a selection of the artist-writer's original illustrations, watercolors, and drawings. There's also information about her interest in conservation and her early support of the National Trust. The house looks almost as it would have in her day, though with touch screens in wooden frames and a children's play area upstairs. Admission is by timed ticket when the place gets busy.

    Main St., Hawkshead, Cumbria, LA22 0NS, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £8.50, Closed Nov.–mid-Feb., Fri., and Sat.
  • 3. Blackwell

    From 1898 to 1900, architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (1865–1945) designed Blackwell, a quintessential Arts and Crafts house with carved paneling, delicate plasterwork, and a startling sense of light and space. Originally a retreat for a Manchester brewery owner, the house is a refined mix of modern style and the local vernacular. Lime-washed walls and sloping slate roofs make it fit elegantly into the landscape above Windermere, and the artful integration of decorative features into stained glass, stonework, friezes, and wrought iron gives the house a sleekly contemporary feel. Accessibility is wonderful here: nothing is roped off, and you can even play the piano. There's some Baillie Scott furniture, too, and an exhibition space upstairs. Peruse the shop, and try the honey-roast ham in the excellent tearoom. The grounds are also worth a visit; they often host contemporary sculpture installations.

    Off the B5360, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 3JT, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £9
  • 4. Borrowdale Fells

    These steep fells rise up dramatically behind Seatoller. Get out and walk whenever inspiration strikes. Trails are well signposted, or you can pick up maps and any gear in Keswick.

    Seatoller, Cumbria, England
  • 5. Brantwood

    On the eastern shore of Coniston Water, Brantwood was the cherished home of John Ruskin (1819–1900), the noted Victorian artist, writer, critic, and social reformer, after 1872. The rambling 18th-century house (with Victorian alterations) is on a 250-acre estate that stretches high above the lake. Here, alongside mementos such as his mahogany desk, are Ruskin's own paintings, drawings, and books. On display is art that this great connoisseur collected, and in cerebral corners such as the Ideas Room visitors are encouraged to think about meaning and change. Ruskin's Rocks explores his fascinations with stones and music with a brilliant bit of modern technology. A video on Ruskin's life shows the lasting influence of his thoughts, and the Severn Studio has rotating art exhibitions. Ruskin himself laid out the extensive grounds. Take time to explore the gardens and woodland walks, which include some multilayered features: Ziggy Zaggy, for example, originally a garden built by Ruskin to reflect Dante's Purgatorial Mount, is now an allegory of the seven deadly sins. Brantwood hosts a series of classical concerts on some Saturdays, as well as talks, guided walks, and study days.

    Off B5285, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8AD, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £9.50; gardens only £7, Closed Mon. and Tues. in Nov.–mid-Mar.
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  • 6. Castlegate House Gallery

    One of the region's best galleries, Castlegate displays and sells outstanding contemporary works, many by Cumbrian artists. There's a wonderful permanent collection, and changing exhibitions focus on paintings, sculpture, glass, ceramics, and jewelry.

    Castlegate, Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 9HA, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.–Wed., Free
  • 7. Castlerigg Stone Circle

    A Neolithic monument about 100 feet in diameter, this stone circle was built around 3,000 years ago on a hill overlooking St. John's Vale. The brooding northern peaks of Skiddaw and Blencathra loom to the north, and there are views of Helvellyn to the south. The 38 stones aren't large, but the site makes them particularly impressive. Wordsworth described them as "a dismal cirque of Druid stones upon a forlorn moor." The site, always open to visitors, is 4 miles east of Keswick. There's usually space for cars to park beside the road that leads along the northern edge of the site: head up Eleventrees off Penrith Road at the eastern edge of Keswick.

    Off A66, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
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  • 8. Dove Cottage and Wordsworth Museum

    William Wordsworth lived in Dove Cottage from 1799 to 1808, a prolific and happy time for the poet. During this time he wrote some of his most famous works, including "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" and The Prelude. Built in the early 17th century as an inn, this tiny, dim, and, in some places, dank house is beautifully preserved, with an oak-paneled hall and floors of Westmorland slate. It first opened to the public in 1891 and remains as it was when Wordsworth lived here with his sister, Dorothy, and wife, Mary. Bedrooms and living areas contain much of Wordsworth's furniture and many personal belongings. Coleridge was a frequent visitor, as was Thomas De Quincey, best known for his 1822 autobiographical masterpiece Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. De Quincey moved in after the Wordsworths left. You visit the house on a timed guided tour, and the ticket includes admission to the spacious, modern Wordsworth Museum, which documents the poet's life and the literary contributions of Wordsworth and the Lake Poets.

    A591, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9SH, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £13
  • 9. Hill Top

    Children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter (1866–1943), most famous for her Peter Rabbit stories, called this place home. The house looks much the same as when Potter bequeathed it to the National Trust, and fans will recognize details such as the porch and garden gate, old kitchen range, Victorian dollhouse, and four-poster bed, which were depicted in the book illustrations. Admission to this often-crowded spot is by timed ticket; book in advance and avoid summer weekends and school vacations. Hill Top lies 2 miles south of Hawkshead by car or foot, though you can also approach via the car ferry from Bowness-on-Windermere.

    Off B5285, Near Sawrey, Cumbria, LA22 0LF, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £14, Closed weekdays Nov.–Mar.
  • 10. Keswick Launch Company

    For the best lake views, take a wooden-launch cruise around Derwentwater. Between late March and November, circular cruises set off every half hour in alternate directions from a dock; there's a more limited (roughly hourly) winter timetable. You can also rent a rowboat here in summer. Buy a hop-on, hop-off Around the Lake ticket (£12.50) and take advantage of the seven landing stages around the lake that provide access to hiking trails, such as the two-hour climb up and down Cat Bells, a celebrated lookout point on the western shore of Derwentwater. You can buy slightly discounted tickets at the Moot Hall information office in the center of town.

    Lake Rd., Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4AB, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From £2.50, Closed mid-Dec.–mid-Feb.
  • 11. Lakes Aquarium

    On the quayside at the southern end of Windermere, this excellent aquarium has wildlife and waterside exhibits. One highlight is an underwater tunnel walk along a re-created lake bed, complete with diving ducks and Asian short-clawed otters. Piranhas, rays, and tropical frogs also have their fans, and there are some unexpected treats such as marmosets. A friendly, knowledgeable staff is eager to talk about the animals. Animal handling takes place daily at 1 pm in the rainforest areas. Tickets are cheapest if booked in advance online.

    Lakeside, Newby Bridge, Cumbria, LA12 8AS, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £8.50
  • 12. Lakes Distillery

    England's largest whiskey distillery, converted from a Victorian model farm, serves as a great visitor attraction. Hour-long tours get you up close to the process and include a history of illicit distilling in the area and a thrilling aerial film that follows the River Derwent from source to sea. Visits include a tasting of either gin or whiskey; the home-produced whiskey has a slightly smoky flavor with hints of spice, and the gin is distilled with wild juniper picked in the fells of the Lake District. The popular bistro, in the old milking parlor, offers high-quality dishes such as a distiller's lunch—a take on the traditional ploughman’s—and slow-cooked pork with caramelized apples and mash. Desserts are especially good, and seating spills out into the courtyard in good weather.

    Setmurthy, Bassenthwaite Lake, Cumbria, CA13 9SJ, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £18
  • 13. Ullswater Steamers

    These antique vessels, including a 19th-century steamer that is said to be the oldest working passenger ship in the world, run the length of Ullswater between Glenridding in the south and Pooley Bridge in the north, via Howtown on the eastern shore. It's a pleasant tour, especially if you combine it with a lakeside walk. One-way trips start at £6.50, or you can sail the entire day for £16.80 with the Cruise All Piers Pass.

    off A592, Glenridding, Cumbria, CA11 0US, England
  • 14. Windermere Jetty Museum

    Right beside the lake, the museum houses the world's finest collection of Victorian and Edwardian steam- and motor-powered yachts and launches. Displays about Windermere's nautical history include the famous names of motorboat racing on the lake. The Dolly, built around 1850, is one of the two oldest mechanically powered boats in the world. Among the many other vessels on view are Beatrix Potter's rowing boat and a dinghy that belonged to Arthur Ransome. For £9, you can take a boat ride on Windermere in an antique vessel—if the weather is good.

    Rayrigg Rd., Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1BN, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £9
  • 15. Wordsworth House

    Cockermouth was the birthplace of William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, whose childhood home was this 18th-century town house, carefully kept as it would have been in their day. There is no sense of dusty preservation here, though, and nothing is roped off; the house achieves a rare sense of natural authenticity, with clutter and period cooking in the kitchen and herbs and vegetables growing outside in the beautiful traditional Georgian garden. A café makes good use of the homegrown produce. Enthusiastic staffers are both knowledgable and approachable, and the busy calendar of activities adds to the sense of a house still very much alive.

    Main St., Cockermouth, Cumbria, CA13 9RX, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: £8.80, Closed. Nov.–Mar., Thurs., and Fri.
  • 16. Aira Force

    A spectacular 65-foot waterfall pounds under a stone bridge and through a wooded ravine to feed into Ullswater. From the parking lot it's a 10-minute walk to the falls, with more serious walks on Gowbarrow Fell and to the village of Dockray beyond. A new 1¼-mile footpath allows visitors to leave their cars at Glencoyne Bay, to the south, and walk through a deer park. Bring sturdy shoes, especially in wet or icy weather, when the paths can be treacherous. Just above Aira Force in the woods of Gowbarrow Park is the spot where, in 1802, William Wordsworth's sister, Dorothy, observed daffodils that, as she wrote, "tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them." Two years later, Wordsworth transformed his sister's words into the famous poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." Two centuries later, national park wardens patrol Gowbarrow Park in season to prevent tourists from picking the few remaining daffodils.

    A592, Ullswater, Cumbria, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Parking £5 for 2 hrs
  • 17. Bridge House

    This tiny 17th-century stone building, once an apple store, perches on an arched stone bridge spanning Stone Beck. It may have been built here to avoid land tax. This much-photographed building is cared for by the National Trust.

    Rydal Rd., Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9AN, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 18. Brockhole

    A lakeside 19th-century mansion with 30 acres of terraced gardens sloping down to the water, Brockhole serves as the park's official visitor center and has some exhilarating activities. Among them are "treetop trek"—a rope bridge and zipline route high up through oak trees—and the U.K.'s only "treetop nets," allowing everyone over the age of three to climb and bounce around safely among the twigs and leaves more than 25 feet up, supported by elastic ropes. There's also a 30-foot climbing wall. The gardens, designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Thomas Mawson, are at their best in spring, when daffodils punctuate the lawns and azaleas burst into bloom. There's an adventure playground, pony rides, minigolf, and rowboats for rent. The bookstore carries hiking guides and maps, and you can picnic here or eat at the café-restaurant.

    Ambleside Rd., Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1LJ, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free; treetop trek from £27; treetop nets from £23
  • 19. Cartmel Priory

    Founded in 1190, the huge Cartmel Priory survived the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century because it was also the village church. Four monks and 10 villagers were hanged, however. The 25 wooden misericords are from 1440 and include a carved depiction of the Green Man, with a face made of leaves. Guided tours usually take place every Wednesday from April to October at 11 am and 2 pm (£5).

    Priest La., Cartmel, Cumbria, LA11 6PU, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free; tours £5
  • 20. Coniston Pier

    The National Trust's restored Victorian steam yacht and the slightly more utilitarian Coniston Launch both leave from the town's spruced-up waterside satellite, a 15-minute stroll from the center. There's a parking lot, a smart café, and various boat- and bike-hire options, too. Originally launched in 1859 and restored in the 1970s, the Steam Yacht runs between Coniston Pier, Brantwood, and Park-a-Moor at the south end of Coniston Water daily from late March through October (half-lake cruise £17.50; 10% discount for National Trust members). The Coniston Launch (£14.75) runs similar routes and is marginally cheaper, though also a little less romantic. Both will get you across the lake to Brantwood, and a stop at Monk Coniston jetty, at the lake's northern tip, connects to the footpaths through the Monk Coniston Estate and the beauty spot of Tarn Hows.

    Coniston Pier, Coniston, Cumbria, England

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Nov.–Mar.

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