An introduction to the Lake District
The Lake District is a spectacular choice of holiday destination if you are enthralled by nature in all its glory. Visitors are drawn to this fantastic region by its scenery and opportunities to push themselves to the physical limits in terms of extreme sports and endurance tests like mountain climbing, cycling, boating and hiking. The Lake District is home to England's largest and deepest natural lakes and highest peaks, making it unique. The vistas are staggering, its habitats ranging from forests, wild coast, rocky hill ranges, fells and mountains. Peppered with historical towns, traces of old industry and gorgeous countryside pubs, there's much to embrace and discover in the Lake District.
What better place to holiday than the inspiration behind many of Beatrix Potter’s animal tales? Having bought her first house in the Lake District with the proceeds of her most famous character, Peter Rabbit, Potter went on to live in many houses in the area, even leaving some to the National Trust when she died. Her influence lives on in many parts of this area, as does the influence of the romantic Lakeland poets who came to the Lakes in the 19th century. Read on to get inspired by the Lakelands.
- An Introduction to the Lake District
- Our favourite Lake District towns and villages
- Our favourite Lake District walks
- Our favourite places for bike rides and water sports
- Best for family fun
- Best fun for the grown-ups
- Go climb a mountain
- Best places to eat
- Our favourite local delicacies
- Discover the coast in the Lake District
- Go Wildlife spotting in the Lake District
- Lovely places to stay in the Lake District
Not only connected to some of England’s most famous literary artists, the spectacular lakes and rugged mountains of Cumbria are amongst the most beautiful in the country. With over 200 square kilometres of stunning landscape, the Lake District National Park is famous for its glacial ribbon lakes, rugged fell mountains and coniferous and deciduous forests, which has made it a top travel destination for tourists for decades.
As the most visited national park in the UK, the Lake District gets an average of 15.8 million annual visitors, the Lake District makes a wonderful holiday destination whether with a loved one (human or canine) or with all the family. Great for walking and active holidays, there is also a sense of tranquillity just sitting watching the lakes and mountains – this is nature therapy at its very best. The glistening waters of the lakes, shadowed by rust and moss coloured mountains play host to pretty market towns and villages dotted with traditional Lakeland cottages. The Lakes can only be described as a real delight for weary city eyes.
Our favourite Lake District places
If you’re looking for the best places to visit in the Lake District, we have some great ideas on where to go, including the best villages, towns and lakes.
Described as the prettiest village in Lakeland and set in the heart of the Vale of Esthwaite, Hawkshead is the perfect base for exploring the South Lakes. With gorgeous little towns, lakes and mountains all within easy reach, you can also hop on the ferry to the bustling centres of Windermere and Bowness. From Hawkshead there are also many lovely walks straight out of the village, winding through the captivating landscape that inspired, amongst others, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter to put pen to paper.
Stay at: Arresting View | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 2 dogs
Near and Far Sawrey
Perfectly placed just off the banks of the Lake District's Esthwaite Water and shadowed by the woods and deep freshwater tarns of Claife Heights, Sawrey’s two hamlets are a delight of picturesque cottages, tea rooms and country inns.
In Near Sawrey you will find the famous Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse, bought with the proceeds of the first of her wonderful tales – the mischievous Peter Rabbit. Slightly further away in Far Sawrey is the beautiful St. Peters Church, just as lovely in the spring when surrounded by frolicking lambs as in wintertime with its steeple covered in fallen snow. Keep following the road out of Near and Far Sawrey and you will find yourself on the banks of the glorious Lake Windermere.
Stay at: Pepper Yeat | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog
Grizedale Forest Park offers the perfect day out in the Lake District, with an extensive range of paths, picnic areas, forest roads and tracks, as well as a great adventure playground for children. The sculpture trails are great fun and encourage children to explore the woodland and even give them a chance to play on one of nature’s own instruments, the forest xylophone. The Go Ape! attraction in the forest also offers hours of treetop fun for all the family. Afterwards, head to The Eagles Head in Satterthwaite, the only village in the forest, for a well-deserved bite to eat – you will need to replenish your reserves after that climb!
Stay at: Honeysuckle | Sleeps: 7 guests plus 3 dogs
The bustling and welcoming Lake District town of Ambleside at the north of Lake Windermere may be small but it has a big heart! With lots of little specialist shops, pubs and restaurants, this largely Victorian town is the perfect place to stop off for a wander, pre or post walk. William Wordsworth had his own office here, not as a poet but as ‘Collector of Stamps’ for Westmorland (everyone has to have a day job!) and no doubt this handsome town stirred his imagination.
Stay at: Brae Cottage | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 2 dogs
This beautiful Lakelands market town, nestled in the shadow of the mountains, is a haven of sweet Monopoly-style houses on the shores of Lake Derwentwater. Reminiscent of a magical land with cloud-capped mountains and far-reaching hills, the town sits quietly, refusing to taint the surrounding countryside with its presence. The Museum and Art Gallery, which holds the original manuscripts of the Lake poets, and The Theatre by the Lake are both worth a visit while here.
Stay: Hillside | Sleeps: 2 guests plus 1 dog
The Lakes and other beauty spots
Tarn Hows is one of the most visited and beautiful spots in all of the Lake District. A small mountain lake surrounded by an abundance of spruce, larch and pine conifers, it is the perfect place for a day out by the water. Its paths, accessible to all, are dotted with grassy picnic spots where you can throw a blanket down and enjoy a well-deserved rest. The land in which Tarn Hows lies was donated to the National Trust in 1930 by Beatrix Potter and since then the location has been carefully maintained by the trust.
Shadowed by one of the most dramatic and spectacular mountains in the area, The Old Man of Coniston, this village is an excellent base for walkers and climbers as well as those who have come to investigate the Tilberthwaite Slate Quarries. For a real Lake District experience, head to the Monk Coniston Estate, bequeathed to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter on her death.
Stretching all the way from Coniston to Skelwith Bridge, it also takes in the famous beauty spot of Tarn Hows, mentioned above, and the Trust publishes some great walking and biking trails of the area. You will need another full day to enjoy Coniston Water. This magnificent lake is home to three small islands, all owned by the National Trust, and it is a haven for water sport fanatics.
One of England’s largest and most popular lakes, and surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and villages, the romantic Lake Windermere is known for its spectacular scenery as well as being a fabulous watersport hotspot. With over 10 miles of beautiful shore to explore, you can walk or cycle for miles and miles without seeing a soul.
No need to worry if you are more a spectator than walker as Windermere Lake Cruises offers a range of scenic cruises that allow you to see the whole of the lake in comfort from their inner and outer viewing decks. The lake is also an excellent centre for boating activities where you can hire a motor or rowing boat to explore the eighteen islands dotted around.
One of the largest water bodies in the Lake District, Lake Bassenthwaite doesn’t have any settlements on its shores but it does have a plethora of sailing boats dotted all about the water. It is known as the only ‘true’ lake in the Lake District, as all of the others are actually meres or waters. Home at the northern end to the Lake District’s first-ever wetland nature reserve, you might be lucky enough to sight grasshopper warblers, curlews, geese and meadow pipits from designated viewing points.
Our favourite Lake District walks and other activities
Whatever type of walking you enjoy, you will find a place to do it in the Lake District. Fell walking and climbing has become very popular over the last years with lots of television programmes and books dedicated to the subject, and what better place to experience this than the Lakes? The best way to get to know the area is to look for guided walks. Alfred Wainwright, the famous fell walker and author, has written some lovely guides with stunning hand-drawn illustrations of the walks – these are well worth a read if you want to enhance your trip with some beautiful literature. There are also guided walks run by the National Park Authority, and they also produce informative leaflets for walks in each area.
A great place to have as a base for walks is at the pretty village of Hawkshead in the Southern Lakes. Set off from here to explore the stunning mountain ranges, and return later in the day for a scrumptious cream tea at one of the village’s tearooms. Recommended climbs are the Fairfield Range above Ambleside and the Coniston and Langdale Fells.
Lake District Walking Guide
Low level and short walks
For lower-level walks, there are so many that we don’t know where to begin! Claife Heights and Tarn Hows both offer exceptional views and Grizedale Forest offers the added attraction of hidden sculptures which delights both children and adults alike. We all know that little ones can’t walk for hours, so this is a brilliant place to stop and encourage them to explore. The famous Lake Windermere offers lots of opportunities on a sunny day to stop and paddle while you are walking, and the other lakes are also wonderful for short or longer walks.
Bring your dog along
Dogs are welcome in most areas of the Lake District, but be aware of wildlife and livestock, keeping them on leads where necessary. Remember not all dogs can cope with rugged mountain walking or may not be water aware – always check routes and times before you go. Dogs are welcome not only outdoors but also at our pet-friendly cottages – check out the full collection here.
Best for cycling and water sports
Whether you are a mountain biker or road cyclist, you will be spoilt for choice at the Lakes. There are cycleways, bridleways and lots of beautiful country lanes for every level – all you have to do is pedal! Some lovely areas to park up, get out the bikes and just ride for miles are Grizedale Forest and Claife. They offer marked mountain bike routes and there are graded routes for all levels. You can hire bikes from various places across the Lakes and you can also take part in the free guided Skyrides in the area.
Cycle in the Lake District
Best for activities on the water
There’s nothing better than messing about on the water, and of all the places to do it, the Lake District is one of the best. With more than sixteen lakes and tarns and a stretch of coastline, there are masses of things to do; windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, rowing, as well as alternative watersports or just splashing about having fun! Rowing boats can be hired from Windermere and Coniston and the Low Wood Watersports Centre near Ambleside offers waterskiing, wakesurfing and sailing as well as kayaking, canoeing and boat hire if the first three sound too strenuous.
More water activities
Fun for all the family
If you are taking little ones with you, or even bigger ones, there are lots of other things to do besides water sports. Even if you don’t want to actually go out on the water, Brockhole, the National Park Visitor Centre, located between Ambleside and Windermere has a great playground and lots of events over the school holidays. It is also excellent for walks around the gardens and the shore of the lake. With something for everyone, you’ll be spoilt for choice with family days out in the Lake District.
Beatrix Potter is synonymous with the Lakes, having spent much of her life here, with many of her stories inspired by scenic Lake District spots. The World of Beatrix Potter is a must for older children or for those of us who have grown up with the Tales of Peter Rabbit and friends as bedtime reading. There you are treated to scenes from the stories and there is a lovely video about Potter’s life at the Lakes. There are a whole host of attractions celebrating Beatrix Potter in the Lake District, which are sure to thrill children and adults alike.
Active days out
If you are after an action-packed holiday, why not give Activities in Lakeland a call; they will organise fun-packed family days without you having to do a thing – you can try your hand at archery and rockclimbing or even give falconry a go. Go Ape is a great treetop assault course for older children situated in Grizedale Forest and has sculpture trails, bike hire and a playground for little ones. Lakeland Climbing is also great for outdoor climbing tuition for adults and children over eight. For even more thrilling activities, our ultimate Lake District activities guide has you covered.
Fun for the grown-ups
Not all trips to the Lakes involve children – sometimes you just want to get away on your own or with your loved one. As well as all the romantic walking and snuggling up back at one of our cottages, there are lots of other pampering treats to enjoy in this beautiful area. Pop in for afternoon tea at Lakeside Hotel, Lindeth Howe or Linthwaite House Hotel, enjoy a spot of luxury at the Michelin starred Samling, or stroll around the lovely gardens at Rothay Manor.
For fine dining, try the Holbeck Ghyll which has a wonderful terrace on which to eat under the summer stars or L’Enclume, an innovative experience which tests your taste buds by using unusual flavour combinations – both have been awarded coveted Michelin stars. For a spot of pampering, book a Lake District spa day at Langdale or have a much-needed massage to while away the stresses of life at the Daffodil Hotel in Grasmere.
Go climb a mountain
The Lake District National Park is the best place in the UK to climb a mountain. With fells, crags and peaks galore to conquer, the choices are endless. We have compiled a helpful guide to mountain climbing throughout this fascinating and beautiful holiday location. Up your game and smash some personal bests with some of these climbs, just perfect for adrenaline junkies and lovers of the great outdoors.
Best places to eat
For some of England's best gastropubs, head to the Lake District. Pub landlords seem to have mastered the art of casual dining in this fantastic area of the North West. So, if your idea of the perfect day out in the countryside centres around a satisfying and hearty hot meal with a pint then look no further. We have compiled a great guide full of pubs and places to eat up all across the Lake District National Park.
The Lake District is one of the UK’s foodie hotspots – not only is it home to a number of award-winning restaurants, as previously mentioned, but it’s also home to some rather tasty local delicacies. Try hearty Cumberland sausages, sticky toffee pudding, Kendal mint cake or freshly baked Grasmere gingerbread, each made according to the traditional recipe, in their location of origin.
The Lake District coast
Don’t think however that the Lake District is just lakes and mountains! It also hosts 26 miles of coastline and estuaries; reaching from Seascale to Millom, this area is quite different to the rest of the park. You will experience dramatic views into the high fells, mountain ranges, moor-covered hills and out to the Irish Sea. This area is rich with dunes and estuaries and its nature reserves are full of interesting sea life and birds. For our canine friends, head to Drigg beach, a perfect stretch of golden sands to walk your dog – just remember to keep him on a lead when near livestock.
Wildlife in the Lake District
Wildlife known to inhabit the Lakes include the red squirrel, the red deer, the Fell pony, countless other insects and birds such as the magnificent osprey, who feeds from the waters of the lakes. Since Potter’s famous bright-eyed and bushy-tailed critter, Squirrel Nutkin, came into our consciousness, the red squirrel has had a great affiliation with the Lake District; sadly due to the success of the non-native grey squirrel, they are under real threat and programmes have been set up in the area to reintroduce this endangered species.
Wordsworth’s most famous work, inspired by an April walk in 1802 amongst the daffodils, will be on your mind as you experience the Lake District for yourself.
Stay in the Lake District
We have some truly stunning properties in the Lake District, from those perfect for paws to romantic boltholes to family-friendly cottages. You're bound to find the ideal place to stay on your retreat to the Lakes.
Has our guide inspired you to visit the Lake District for an outdoor adventure this spring? Lakeland Hideaways has a collection of holiday homes that make the perfect base for exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have cottages large and small throughout the Lake District National Park, so no matter what you have come to this wonderful part of the world for, we have the perfect place for you.