Fodor's Expert Review Abbot Hall
The region's finest art gallery, Abbot Hall occupies a Palladian-style Georgian mansion built in 1759. In the permanent collection are works by Victorian artist and critic John Ruskin, who lived near Coniston, and by 18th-century portrait painter George Romney, who worked in Kendal. The Great Picture, a grand 17th-century triptych of the life of Lady Ann Clifford, is attributed to Flemish painter Jan Van Belcamp. The gallery also owns some excellent contemporary art, including work by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Winifred Nicholson, and L.S. Lowry, and the always interesting temporary exhibitions showcase the best of British art. There's also an excellent café. Abbot Hall is on the River Kent, next to the parish church. The Museum of Lakeland Life (www.lakelandmuseum.org.uk) has exhibits on 1930s photography, blacksmithing, and wheelwrighting as well as a wonderful re-creation of a period pharmacy; it's in the former stable block of the hall.