Snow-peaked mountains, frosty-leaved woodlands, silently still lakes and glistening rolling landscapes are all signs that winter is coming to the Lake District. And if winter is coming, that means Christmas is close.
Christmas and New Year in the Lake District is truly magical. Many towns and villages in the Lake District used to close down over winter, but the boost in tourism, short breaks, and staycations means local establishments now stay open all year round. Throughout the Lake District National Park they now deck their halls and welcome visitors from all over to celebrate in joyful Christmas spirit. The Lake District hosts an array of festive events throughout November and December like Christmas markets and light processions, and there are plenty of traditional pubs that welcome their chilly visitors in for some hot grub and a warming drink. Read about our favourite festive events in the Lake District.
With so many interesting places to explore in the Lakes, we thought we would pull together our top 5 locations for a festive break and feature some cosy cottages nearby. These places all have something different to offer, whether that be a fascinating historical story, a famous connection or quite simply, a nice spot to relax this winter. These can all be enjoyed during a Lake District Christmas break.
If you are looking to stay in the lake district this Christmas be sure to check out our range of Christmas cottages that are still available to book. Just make sure Santa knows where to find you!
Named after Lake Grasmere, this idyllic Cumbrian village is home to many treasures. Being small, it is easily walked around and can be explored in a day. This makes it a delightful spot for ambling and taking in some history. Here you will find the cottage that was once inhabited by William Wordsworth, the English romantic poet; its little rooms are filled with historical artefacts including his passport and spectacles. You will also come across England’s most famous gingerbread shop. In business since 1854, to this day it still keeps its recipe top secret. Purchase some delicious treats from its Christmas range – the perfect festive gift! With little shops lit up selling Christmas crafts, gifts and winter fashion, you are bound to have a jolly time exploring Grasmere.
Places to eat: Traveller’s Rest makes a fine place for a pint-and-pie supper in a 16th-century coaching inn, whilst Tweedies offers fine dining, live music and craft ales throughout the season – a great atmosphere during Christmas and New Year.
- St Oswalds Church – a 13th-century medieval chapel
- Grasmere Lake – open for canoeing and boating
- Sam Read Bookseller – Lakeland-themed books
- Barney’s Newsbox – home to over 20,000 jigsaws!
Nestled alongside the idyllic, island-studded lake of Derwentwater, Keswick is the most northerly major town in the Lake District. Surrounded by mountains, it is a pretty market town with heaps of character, well-positioned to explore the nearby valleys of Borrowdale and Buttermere too. The heart of Keswick is the old Market Place which today offers a wide range of attractions from shops and restaurants to museums and boating trips. Excitingly, Beatrix Potter used to holiday here; the outstanding landscape played a part in inspiring her popular children’s books. For the keen walkers, Catbells is the most popular mini-mountain here, and after a wintery walk up there you will be keen to warm your toes with a mulled wine in one of Keswick’s many cosy pubs!
Places to eat: Fellpack is an on-trend café serving ‘fell pots’ – a Lakeland-style Buddha bowl with imaginative all-in-one meals like sweet potato and curry, smoked macaroni and peas, or braised chilli beef! Jasper’s Coffee House is nuts about dogs with dishes being named after pups of legend – The Muttley, The Old Yeller, and Huckleberry Hound. This is a great stop for a quick bite amongst festive shopping.
- Keswick Museum – an educational experience
- George Fisher outdoor shop – a popular haunt for discerning hikers
- Castlerigg Stone circle – 48 stones between 3,000 and 4,000 years old
- Lakes Distillery – the first craft distillery in the Lake District
Quite often the first spot on people's list when visiting the Lakes, this popular tourist town sits between Waterhead and Lakeside on the shores of Lake Windermere. With lots of guides, instructors and activity companies being based here, there are fountains of local knowledge at the fingertips of those who are into outdoor winter adventure and exploring. Victorian influence can be seen in the architecture of many of the large lakeside hotels, all built as residential homes in the 19th century by wealthy businessmen from Lancashire. These are all lit up and beautifully decorated for the season and welcome you in to try their festive menus. With an array of Christmas events throughout December, you are bound to join in the merriment and enjoy drinks, live music, yummy treats, Father Christmas and brass bands.
Places to eat: The Angel Inn sits atop a grassy knoll near the Bowness shoreline and offers delicious pub grub which is just the ticket after a chilly day out. For something very traditionally Cambrian, try Watermill where you can find fine old-fashioned pub grub, a wide choice of ales and a warm crackling fire.
- Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway – idyllic rides on old steam trains
- The World of Beatrix Potter – character displays, storytelling and gift shop
- Windermere Lake Cruises – take a scenic boat trip
- Grizedale – visitor centre in the heart of the forest.
With its central location, nearby amenities and picture-perfect views, Ambleside is the perfect base for a winter holiday in the Lakes. On the run-up to Christmas, the town has had its annual Christmas lights and firework display event, so as you walk around the winding streets you will be surrounded by a warm festive glow. Book shops, gift shops, equipment shops and cafes all make up this bustling town and this would be the perfect spot to do your last-minute Christmas shopping. Nestled in the valley between two fells, there are lots of opportunities for forest and hill walks which will take you to many viewpoints from where to admire the wintery landscape. Afterwards, one of the merry pubs will invite you in for a warm meal – a turkey roast will most likely be on the menu!
Places to eat: The Old Stamp House is where Wordsworth worked as a distributor of stamps and it’s now a charming establishment serving locally sourced, and beautifully presented produce like Arctic char, Herdwick hogget and roe deer. For something a bit simpler try Apple Pie, a friendly café offering hot pies, baked spuds and yummy cakes: perfect wintery grub.
- Bridge House – a National Trust property
- Jenkins Crag – a dramatic viewpoint
- Stock Ghyll Force – a 70-foot tall waterfall
- Armitt Museum – a collection of books, manuscripts and archaeological remains
This is an ancient township made up of idyllic higgledy-piggledy houses, archways, courtyards and squares. With no cars being allowed to venture through the cobbled lanes, this makes for the perfect peaceful day out. Pleasant inns, teashops and gift shops are scattered around the entwined streets and hours can be spent browsing, eating, drinking and enjoying the merry atmosphere. Like the other towns featured here, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter play a big part in Hawkshead history, as it was where Wordsworth attended the village grammar school and Potter visited in the summer. The surrounding countryside promises lots of scenic walks, from gentle strolls to the steeper climb, and mountain bikers will enjoy a chilly day out exploring Grizedale and Claife. And in true Cumbrian style, the cosy pubs are here to welcome you to warm the cockles at the end of the day.
Places to eat: The Drunken Duck is renowned for its luxurious food and home-brewed ales and offers the traditional Cumbrian pub experience. Queens Head Inn welcomes all explorers into its low beamed dining room for good food, wine and a large dose of merriment.
- The Beatrix Potter Gallery – a selection of original drawings and illustrations
- Colthouse – one of the oldest Quaker meeting houses
- Grizedale – visitor centre in the heart of the forest.
- 17th-century Church of St Michael & All Angels
- A cottage to stay in: Morning Room at Sawrey Knotts (sleeps 5, 1 dog welcome)
If you are planning a break away between now and New Year, check out our guide on Christmas events in the Lake District for ideas on how to spend your time. Be sure to check out our cottages still available for Christmas and find yourself a cosy base for exploring these beautiful English towns and villages and enjoy a Lake District Christmas.
Why not extend your visit and experience a Lake District New Year's Eve?