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Sprawling hills of emerald green grass, thick woodland scattered with wild flora and fauna, grand snow-capped mountains and, of course, lakes. The Lake District National Park is interspersed with such a diverse landscape that you’ll be spoilt for choice where to start, and with so many attractions and things to do, you may need a little help.
Perfect for the adrenaline seekers, the active amblers, and the whimsical wanderers alike, the list of outdoor activities in the Lake District is endless, so we’ve compiled a list of top things to do in this magnificent region.
Get plans in place for an amazing May half-term adventure with the family. We have lots of family-friendly cottages just waiting to provide the perfect base for your outdoor fun. Enjoy researching and planning your next adventure...
Walking in the Lake District
It may be a little obvious but walking really is the best way to take in the beauty and grandeur of this incredible area. Enjoy a gentle stroll along a lakeside path as the sun mirrors off the turquoise waters, meander through dense woodland dotted with wildlife, or go extreme and scale one of the many hills and mountains in the region.
There are plenty of options for guided walks for those wanting to know more detail about the area as you go, as well as plenty of waymarked pathways if you want to go it alone.
Our top walking activities
- Grizedale Sculpture trail: Over 4,000 hectares of woodland with an ever-changing combination of sculptures scattered across a network of footpaths and cycle tracks.
- A night time stroll in Keswick: Gaze at a blanket of stars speckling a deep black sky in one of the most peaceful and picturesque spots in the UK.
- Latterbarrow: A short climb to a charming summit with great views starting in Hawkshead. Read our guide for more short walks to great views.
Walking will not only allow you to truly appreciate your surroundings, but it will help build up an appetite for all of the fresh food and home-cooked meals available in pubs and restaurants across the Park. For more information, read our guide on walking in the Lake District.
For more challenging walks, read our guide on mountains to climb in the Lake District.
Cycling in the Lake District
If you’re happier with the wind on your face while gliding on two wheels, there are hundreds of cycle paths in the area. Use pedal power to reach the various peaks of the Park before sitting back and letting gravity take up the slack as you drift downhill embracing the scenery.
From leafy roadways to arduous mountain tracks, organised races to leisurely rides, there are endless opportunities to get in the saddle and head out exploring – and if there’s no room for your plus one with wheels in the car, don’t stress, as there are plenty of places to hire a bike around the Lake District.
Top tip: Cyclists and bikes can travel in style to the top of the Eskdale Trail on a converted train carriage from the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway. The cycle journey back down takes in some beautiful Lake District countryside views and wildlife to spot along the way includes red squirrels, roe deer and buzzards. The trail runs from the foot of Scafell Pike through to Ravenglass where the Esk, Mite and Irt rivers all meet. With plenty of cafes on route you can stop and refuel along the way.
Hire a bike:
Try out the pedals on these routes:
Kendal to Windermere – The quiet country lanes and stunning scenic rewards en-route make this one of the more laid-back and enjoyable trails. Don’t forget to pick up some proper Kendal Mint Cake to take along with you!
Broughton Wheelers Lakes Loop – The 40-mile trail was voted the best in Britain back in 2013 – not to be missed for the cycling enthusiasts!
Climbing in the Lake District
There’s only ever two ways to go when on the side of a mountain, and that’s up or down. Luckily, there are plenty of exciting ways to do both in the Lakes. Guided rock climbing is available at locations close to many popular towns and villages across the National Park, including Keswick, Kendal and Windermere, whilst abseiling is equally popular when you want to get back onto solid ground.
In the Lake District, there’s always an opportunity to discover something below ground too; for those with an inquisitive mind for exploration, uncover more secrets right under your feet with caving or potholing – but be warned, it’s not advised for those with claustrophobia!
The best places to reach new heights
Scafell Pike – Whether you head off on a guided hike or you scale it solo, climbing to the peak of the Lake District’s tallest mountain is a must.
Going underground – Cathedral Quarry boasts the Lakeland Slate Quarry Experience, which is suitable for families or can be combined with an abseil for those more adventurous.
Explore a mountains summit - one of the most unique climbs in Cumbria takes place inside the summit of Honister Pass. The 'Climb the Mine' experience allows visitors to climb the inside of the mountain and into the roof of the Honister Slate Mine. This is famous for producing Westmoreland Green Slate. This won't be suitable for everyone but the classic version of the climb follows the footpath of the original Victorian miners and can be tackled by most ages and abilities!
Fancy practising inside first?
Scrambling and gorge walking
Described by River Deep Mountain High as ‘outdoor playtime in wetsuits’, gorge walking is an exciting, active experience that comes highly recommended on a trip to the region. Otherwise known as ghyll scrambling, the activity involves walking the path of the river, traversing waterfalls, and sliding off rocks, and can be a real white-knuckle experience at times!
This is the perfect activity for a proper Lake District adventure day. For those seeking a real challenge, try the ghyll scrambles offered by Crags Adventures, with huge jumps and drops down Esk Ghyll and Devil's Ghyll - these are not for the faint-hearted!
Best location for scrambling: South West Lakes – With the biggest variations of locations for gorge walking, this area is the perfect place to have one of the most memorable days of your holiday.
Adventure company to scramble with: Path to Adventure offers a wide range of activities to suit all levels and natures. From adrenaline-rush abseiling to gentle guided canoe sessions. Location: Grizebeck | LA17 7XN
Water sports in the Lakes
A broad spectrum given the fact you’re surrounded by bodies of water, but there really are a whole plethora of options; whether you want to try your hand at something different, polish up your existing skills, or simply master the art of not sinking, there’s something for everyone. Try some classic canoeing or kayaking over calm waters, or perhaps you’d rather test your balancing skills with a bit of paddle boarding? On the more open lakes, such as Lake Windermere, where winds create a more unpredictable swell, windsurfing and sailing are both available at various spots throughout the Lake District.
What to do on the water?
- Hire a boat, motorboat or dinghy
- Wild swim
- Water ski
Companies that help you make the most of the water:
Coniston Boating Centre: This is a non-profit attraction run by the Lake District National Park Authority. Here you can hire everything from motorboats to paddleboards and have great days out on the water. Location: Lake Road, Coniston, LA21 8AN | 015394 41366
Wild River: This is an independent provider of paddlesport coaching, guiding and British Canoeing awards. Whether it is an advanced paddling assessment or a leisurely family canoe trip that you are looking for, Wild River aims to deliver the best outdoor experience to suit your needs and abilities. Location: Calthwaite, Penrith, CA11 9RG | 07949682158
Boat trips in the Lakes
Cruisers, steam yachts, gondolas and buffet boats are just some of the Lake District boat trips on offer during your stay in the National Park. Sit back and let someone else take the helm; enjoy the glorious scenery as you glide across tranquil waters like Derwentwater, Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater, with some trips there for practicality getting you from point A to B, and others lasting longer with spoken tours as you happily drift along. When it comes to things to do in the Lake District, this is one of the more peaceful options!
Best boat trips to bob along on:
Ullswater Steamers – Operating for over 150 years, these spectacular boats make superb venues for celebrations, or simply to appreciate the stunning body of water that has inspired artists and writers for decades.
The buffet cruise – Enjoy a summer’s evening on Lake Windermere as you unwind with a freshly prepared buffet, cold glass of wine and a live band in the background to provide the perfect ambience to your equally perfect surroundings.
Extreme sports for adrenaline junkies
With so much space, there’s plenty of opportunity to push yourself to your limits and do something you never would have even dreamed of anywhere else. The eclectic combination of extreme sports and experience days range from off-roading and quad biking to zip wires and human bowling, and while many of the activities are certainly not for the faint-hearted, they’ll definitely leave you with long-lasting memories of your Lake District holiday.
Gyroplanes – Whether you want to take control or just take in the views, the flying centre, based near Penrith, allows you to fly across the mountainous Cumbrian landscape and see it from a truly unique and thrilling perspective.
Human bowling – Get together with some friends and head to the Lakes; while one player is securely strapped inside a ball, the others roll it down a hill to knock down as many pins as possible. Simple but hilarious fun!
Via Ferrata – Literally translating to ‘Iron Way’, this extreme activity with Keswick Adventure Centre has you scaling sheer cliffs and climbing a giant cargo net whilst attached to a harness. It’s the ultimate adventure, and one you’re sure never to forget.
Infinity Bridge - Challenge yourself with this high-up crossing which isn’t for the faint-hearted. Located at Honister Slate Mine, this bridge stands 2,000 feet above the valley floor, strung across a stunning gorge high up the mountain – the highest of its kind in Britain.
Activity centres in the Lake District
Here are some companies set up to help you make the most of your Lake District adventures. They offer the best in outdoor activity.
Rookin House, Troutbeck (near Penrith) – offers everything from archery, quad bike ridings and assault courses to clay pigeon shooting, go-karts and 4x4 driving.
Newlands Adventure Centre, Keswick – offers an indoor climbing wall as well as a variety of outdoor pursuits, including mountain biking, high ropes, rock climbing and ghyll scrambling.
Go Ape! – The Lake District is home to two Go Ape! sites: Grizedale and Whinlatter. Grizedale offers a thrilling high ropes experience, topped with a network of seven zip lines to whizz down. Meanwhile, at Whinlatter, you can pair your treetop adventure with a Segway ride through the forest.
Treetop nets at Brockhole – Guaranteed to be a hit with the youngsters, this giant network of trampolines, netting and slides suspended between the trees offers a unique play experience for kids of all ages.
Adventure activities map
Find all of the great places and activities mentioned above on this handy map below to find the best adventure to embark on during your holiday.
A trip to this breathtaking National Park is unforgettable no matter what time of year you visit or how many excursions you choose to fit in, but rest assured that whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here, with more activities in the Lake District than you could ever imagine.
We have some beautiful cottages across the region, all perfectly placed for you to explore the best that the Lake District has to offer. Whether you are looking for a romantic retreat, family holiday base or a dog-friendly pad, our hideaways are sure to help make your holiday extra special!
For even more inspiration on where to go in the Lake District, check out our family fun guide, packed with ideas for attractions and days out for all the family.