Top 10 things to do in the Lake District

Days out

Posted by Clare on 12th December 2016

Lake District holidays

One thing you'll never experience in the Lake District is boredom. You’ll find yourself faced with an abundance of choice, with walks, heritage attractions and charming towns spread all across the scenic landscape.

To help you make the most of your time there, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten things to do in the Lake District. Narrowing down the options was a task in itself and while there’s plenty more to see, we hope this will give you a taste of what’s waiting for you on your Lake District holiday.

Explore Lake Windermere

Lake District Holidays

The largest lake in the Lake District and one of the most visited sights, Windermere stretches ten miles across the verdant countryside. Bowness-on-Windermere is the main centre for visitors, offering everything from water sports and outdoor activities to historic houses and family attractions such as the World of Beatrix Potter.

Across the water, the western shoreline is owned by the National Trust and offers a quieter haven if you’re looking for woodland walks or a tranquil lakeside cycle. One of the most popular activities is to hop aboard a Windermere Lake Cruise, where you can see the sights without having to move a muscle - dogs are allowed on board and they even get their own ticket!

Stay at: Satter Knotts, Near and Far Sawrey (sleeps 8 + 3 dogs)

Visit Beatrix Potter’s house

Beatrix Potter's house

The well-loved author created some of her most popular children’s stories in her farmhouse home at Hill Top. Now under the care of the National Trust, the charming house is open to visitors who can wander the rooms and gardens. Mrs Tiggywinkle’s kitchen and Mr MacGregor’s cottage garden are just some of the places you’ll remember from the author’s whimsical illustrations, though when you enter the kitchen, it will be sure to take you to back to some of the famous tales.

View the Beatrix Potter collection with over 1433 objects in the house and over 2200 works on paper - you'll be there a while! Also meet Hill Top's senior gardener who is in charge of a very special vegetable patch...

Stay at: Springwell Cottage, Hawkshead 2 miles (sleeps 4 + 2 dogs)

Take on the twin ridges of Helvellyn

Lake district holidays

Striding Edge and Swirral Edge together form the 3,117ft Helvellyn which was formed by glacial activity during the last ice age. A hike across both ridges to the summit begins in Glenridding and offers a challenge for enthusiastic walkers, climbing a total of 985 metres over just under ten miles. The ascent is documented by Alfred Wainwright who describes the summit as “a tremendous natural barrier from north to south." It is not a walk for the faint of heart, but is sure to provide great satisfaction to those who conquer it.

If you don't like heights, it's best to avoid this one as though you can traverse the ridge on a lower path, it is still tricky. Take on the lower levels and head to a welcoming Lake District pub instead! The Travellers Rest is recommended and just the place to warm cold hands and feet after a walk.

Stay at: North Cottage, Ambleside (sleeps 2)

Visit Wordsworth’s houses

Wordsworth's house

As if a trip to the home of one famous author weren’t enough, at Grasmere, Wordsworth’s first home is also open to the public to visit. Dove Cottage houses many of Wordsworth’s possessions, whose fascinating history you can discover through an informative guided tour. Also pay a visit to Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth - looked after by the National Trust, the house offers an interesting look around the life and times of the author, and there is a lovely garden as well as a shop for souvenirs and local treats.

Take the whole family along as the house puts on special events for children, including decorating hats, counting sheep in Cumbrian and writing with quills. As 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth's birth, there will also be exhibitions and talks galore to celebrate the poet's interesting life.

Stay at: Carr Crag Cottage, Skelwith Bridge (sleeps 6 + 2 dogs)

Take a drive around the Lakes

Lake District holidays

While walking is a wonderful way to explore, the vast landscapes of the Lake District also offer some of the best driving terrain in the country. Hop in the car and head for Borrowdale to take in lush meadows, cob cottages and criss-crossing drystone walls before continuing on to Buttermere where the scenery takes on a more rugged appearance.

The exposed Honister Pass which climbs to over 1,160 feet leads to the Honister Slate Mine at its summit. It is still in operation, but you can take a guided tour of the old Kimberly Mine which stretches 11 miles underground. The Pass forms part of a beautiful circular scenic drive from Keswick which includes Newlands Pass, Buttermere and Crummock Water, a much-less visited area compared to other parts of the Lake District. 

Stay at: Thornthwaite Rowan, Keswick (sleeps 4 + 2 dogs)

Keswick and Derwentwater ramble


If you’re looking for a less strenuous walk in the Lake District, then the busy market town of Keswick is a good place to start. On the banks of Derwentwater, thought to have been Beatrix Potter’s favourite lake, Keswick offers several short walking routes or you can simply enjoy boating on the lake.

One of the principal bodies of water in the Lake District, Derwentwater is only a 10-minute walk from the centre of town, so it is easy to have a spot of lunch and then take a gentle afternoon stroll around the lake. You can, of course, do the full 8-mile walk, but families with little ones or less able members will delight in any walk around this beautiful area.

Stay at: Garth Cottage, Keswick (sleeps 4)

Enjoy the views at Tarn Hows

Lake district holidays

One of the most scenic places in the Lake District, Tarn Hows is easily accessible by everyone, with a well-surfaced circular track suitable for buggies and wheelchairs meaning that no-one has to miss out on the incredible views across the mountains and lake. Unsurprisingly it’s a popular destination for artists and photographers, so don’t forget your camera!

Cared for by the National Trust, this lakeside gem offers a wonderful circular walk which is relatively easy - the views are wonderful whatever the season, but Autumn is particularly lovely. Less able visitors can borrow a Tramper mobility scooter to get around and those who want to do a little more can try the Trail Run, a circular run with spectacular views of two iconic tarns, as well as taking in hidden waterfalls and beautiful woodland.

Stay at: Hole House, Wray (sleeps 6 + 2 dogs)

Breathe the fresh air of the Newlands Valley

Newlands Valley

If you’re looking for a tranquil spot which isn’t too often frequented by tourists then the Newlands Valley should certainly be on your itinerary. Mile upon unspoilt mile of fells and open countryside encompass a handful of tiny villages and beautiful vistas. The 10-mile loop of the Newland’s Round takes in the summits and is one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery.

This valley is well known for its links with the famous children's author, Beatrix Potter - it was actually used as a backdrop in 'The Tale of Mrs Tiggywinkle' so if you love Peter Rabbit and friends, be sure to visit to see if you recognise it! Not only this valley, Catbells, Skelgill and Little Town were also used in her sketches.

Stay at: The Woodsman Cabin, Nr Ulverston (sleeps 6)

Walking in Great Langdale

Lake District holidays

For keen walkers, a visit to Great Langdale is a must. Some of the most well-known routes in the Lake District are found in this area, not least the Langdale Pikes walk along the pointy hills of the valley’s northern side. The valley encompasses over 12,000 acres of the Lake District, much in the care of the National Trust who also have ten farms here. 

Great Langdale stretches all the way from Ambleside, through Clappersgate, Skelwith Bridge and Elterwater as well as the glaciated valley of Mickleden. The surrounding wonderfully-named fells such as Crinkle Crags and Harrison Stickle make a wonderful backdrop for winter walks, though one of the favourites has to be springtime, when sheep grazing on the common in front of white-washed cottages paint a perfect Lakeland scene.

Stay at: Badger's Walk, Skelwith Bridge (sleeps 2 + 1 dog)

Time your visit with an event

There is always something going on in the Lake District and Cumbria, from the Great North Swim across Lake Windermere in June to the Keswick Mountain Festival with its varied programme of sporting events, celebrity talks and activities. There are also numerous agricultural and foodie events throughout the year, including Taste Cumbria, the Lowther Show and Dalemain Marmalade Festival to name but a few.

Enjoy the wonderful outdoor spaces of the Lake District from one of our Cumbria holiday cottages where you’ll be able to relax in warmth and comfort each evening.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.