There are many great things to do in the Lake District, from adventurous outdoor activities to devouring local produce in rustic villages. Here’s our pick of the best places to visit in the Lake District.

Years ago, if you asked about things to do in the Lake District, the short sharp answer would be walk.

For decades the craggy mountains and sheep strewn fields of The Lakes have been carefully preserved with one demographic in mind, hikers as old as the trails beneath their feet.

But something is afoot in this most scenic of places. Activities which have been enjoyed in the Alps for years, are slowly being given permission to expand and develop. As a result, there are more adventures in the Lake District than ever before.

Plunge into icy waterfalls before warming up in a cosy Lakeland village. Hike the high fells, then take high tea in a stately home. Charge the adrenalin on a Via Ferrata, then unwind on a vintage steamer across a scenic lake.

In fact, there are so many interesting places to visit in the Lake District we are constantly surprised.

With a combination of our favourite walks and our favourite pubs; the best local produce and adventurous outings, enjoy the diverse array of offerings in the area with our guide to the best things to do in the Lake District.


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1 – HIKE IN THE HIGH FELLS

There is no better way to see the Lake District than on foot. There are hundreds of paths to explore from gentle strolls around glistening lakes to challenging hikes in the high fells. Some paths cut across rolling meadows and are easy to follow, others disappear along narrow ledges and into rocky crevasses.

But fortunately, there is a walk to suit all tastes. If you are after an easy stroll, try the loop around Buttermere. For a slightly harder walk ascend to the summit of Loughrigg for stunning views. Finally, if you like to put in some work, take the hike to the top of Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route.

We haven’t quite hiked every trail yet, but we have walked lots of them.  Find all our favourites, covering all difficulty levels, in our guide to the 15 Best Walks in the Lake District.

2 – EXPLORE A LAKELAND VILLAGE

The villages of the Lake District are built in the regions green-black slate. With a more austere look than the honey-coloured villages of the Cotswolds, they fit more snugly into the rugged scenery, making them some of the best places to visit in the Lake District.

Cartmel, on the southern edge of the fells, has become a foodie destination. Chef Simon Rogan has set up shop here, and the village’s eight hundred-year-old priory peers over tiny laneways packed with artisanal goodies. For a splurge head to L’Enclume, his two-star Michelin masterpiece. For the more budget option (slightly) try Rogan & Co. Cartmel’s most important contribution, however, has been the creation of the sticky toffee pudding – pick up a take-home sample at the cute local store.   

Hawkshead is another charming village. Head up to the churchyard to enjoy views of the surrounding countryside, then explore the main square. Pick up cool foodstuffs at the Honeypot, try one of the 20 flavours from The Little Ice Cream Shop, or sip the pick of local ales at the KITTchEN.

For a quaint village wedged in the hills, head to Grasmere. Towering crags rise all around the town, creating a charming cosy village nestled in beautiful mountain scenery.

3 – DRIVE OVER THE HIGH PASSES

There are a number of roads that rise over the high passes of the Lake District. Kirkstone Pass at 454 metres is the highest and leads to a desolate windswept summit. Honister, Whinlatter and Wrynose connect remote valleys and offer wonderful views.

But none are more dramatic, or remote, than Hardknott Pass. Open only to smaller vehicles, this thin strip of worn asphalt has 30% gradients which twist through a series of sharp hairpin turns. Driving it is one of the Lake District’s more adventurous activities.

Although few people stop at the top of the pass, it’s a wild barren place well worth exploring. Hardknott Roman Fort was founded in the 2nd century to protect the strategic road. Additionally, a 15-minute hike up to the top of Border End rewards with magnificent views over the most imposing mountains in the Lake District.

If you make it up Hardknott Pass, don’t relax too much on the way down. We saw one man sitting dejectedly on the side of the road, staring at his car balanced on a large boulder with all four wheels completely off the ground. Take those corners carefully and avoid icy conditions.

RELATED / BEST VIEWS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

4 – WATCH DAWN OR DUSK AT CASTLERIGG STONE CIRCLE

There are stone circles across the length and breadth of Britain. However Castlerigg Stone Circle is not only one of the oldest in Britain dating back to around 2,000 BCE, but it is also one of the most beautifully set.

Constructed in a grassy meadow protected by dry stone walls, the circle is surrounded by the mountains of Skiddaw and Blencathra, two of the grandest peaks in the Lake District.

At dawn or dusk on a sunny day, the long shadows of the stones create an air of mystery and a wonderful photo spot in the Lake District. On a cold windy day, the eerie bleak scene makes you understand why it was home to rituals in previous eras.

READ NEXT / HIKING HADRIAN’S WALL IN ONE DAY

5 – STUDY THE LITERARY HERITAGE

After experiencing the many great things to do in the Lake District, we often come away inspired by sweeping landscapes and rugged mountain charm. And we are not alone. Mighty literary figures have been drawn to the beauty of the region for generations.

Beatrix Potter created characters such as Tom Kitten, Samuel Whiskers and Jemima Puddleduck from her home at Hill Top just outside Hawkshead. John Ruskin, a writer, artist and social reformer, spent the last 28 years of his life at Brantwood on the edge of Coniston Water.

William Wordsworth wrote ‘Daffodils’ after spying ‘a host of golden Daffodils’ not far from his home at Dove Cottage in Grasmere. He would later move to Rydal Mount and along with Robert Southeby and Samuel Coleridge Taylor went on to become known as the ‘Lake Poets’

You can visit their houses which are now museums to their life and work.

READ NEXT / WHERE TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

6 – TAKE A STEAMER ON LAKE

Of all the Lake District activities to enjoy in this excellent national park, taking a cruise boat is the most popular. Over 1 million people board every year to watch the magical scenery of the Lake District float by.

Most people head to Windermere, the largest lake in the fells. But in our opinion, Ullswater is a better option. It’s more remote with fewer crowds and the scenery is more dramatic with higher mountains tightly surrounding the tear-shaped shoreline.

There’s a choice of routes connecting Glenridding, Howtown and Pooley Bridge. For a great day out, we recommend getting the steamer from Glenridding to Howtown (45 minutes) and then doing the 2 to 3-hour walk back on the lovely undulating path by the side of the lake.

7 – KAYAK, CANOE OR PADDLE BOARD THE LAKES

While millions take to the cruisers and steamers every year, there is a much more independent way to explore the lakes. Hire a kayak, canoe or paddleboard and take to the waters under your own steam.

Windermere can be packed with motorised boats, so again we’d recommend Ullswater or Derwentwater. Both are beautiful lakes surrounded by gorgeous scenery. There are beaches to rest at, cool spots for a swim and a few islands to explore. It’s easy to get away from it all and find your own piece of lakeside paradise. 

For Ullswater hire canoes and kayaks from St. Patrick’s Boat Landing in Glenridding or arrange Paddleboard rentals or lessons from Ullswater Paddle Boarding. For Derwentwater head to Platty+ situated at the southern (and less busy) end of the lake.

READ NEXT / BEST SWIMMING SPOTS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

8 – WILD SWIM IN A LAKE, TARN OR RIVER

As the name Lake District suggests, the area packed with bodies of water. From large lakes to tiny tarns (small glacial lakes in the mountains) there are hundreds of places to go for a wild swim. The water can be chilly, but after a long day exploring the mountains, there are few better ways to relax and recharge than a gentle swim in a truly stunning location.

You can find all our favourite spots in our Lake District wild swimming guide but if we had to pick our favourite, then it would be Black Moss Pot.

Around 45 minutes’ walk from the village of Stonethwaite, Black Moss Pott is a small dramatic gorge pool in Langstrath Beck. Leap from the edge into the deep pool or lounge on the rocky ledges.

The more adventurous can sign up for the Windermere one-way swim; an annual event requiring 11 miles of gruelling effort up the entire length of the lake.

9 – SAVOUR THE LOCAL PRODUCE

In what is essentially still a rural area of northern England, the Lake District is home to some quality local produce.

In the village of Buttermere, Sykes Farm makes ice cream right on the farm, so no transport miles are required to produce their delicious product.

Invented in 1854 in Grasmere, Sarah Nelson’s award-winning gingerbread recipe is still baked to her original sweet and spicy recipe. It’s sold from her renovated cottage now called Grasmere Gingerbread.

Deep in picturesque Langdale Valley, the National Trust has converted Stickle Barn into an environmentally friendly pub & cafe serving local ales and food with a minimal carbon footprint.

Finally, you can wash it all down with an ale from the Hawkshead Brewery. They grew so fast they had to move the brewery and beer hall to Staveley where you can join a tour and sample a pint. Slowly get sozzled on a wide range of ales. Our favourite was the Mosaic Pale Ale.

MORE READING / MALHAM COVE WALK, YORKSHIRE DALES

10 – SCRAMBLE IN A GHYLL

The deep ravines (otherwise known as ghylls) cut by the babbling brooks of the Lake District are often overlooked. But they are an exhilarating destination in their own right. The water that has shaped the gorges over the years, sets the stage for two of the most fun things to do in the Lake District.

Ghyll scrambling is the energetic art of climbing up the ghyll; canyoning is the immensely satisfying activity of sliding and jumping down it.  

It’s an adventurous Lake District activity that needs to be done on an organised tour. They’ll kit you out in all the right gear and, most importantly, provide heavy-duty wetsuits to lessen the shock of that fresh Lake District water.

Once sufficiently submerged and acclimatised, you’ll traverse boulders, leap into narrow pools, slide down waterfalls and climb canyon walls attached to ropes. It’s a great day out in the Lake District.

There are several spots perfect for canyoning or ghyll scrambling including Church Beck in Coniston, Stickle Ghyll in Langdale or the River Esk in Eskdale. A number of companies have sprung up over recent years offering tours. We recommend Crag Adventures.

READ NEXT / EXPLORE THE REMOTE LANGDALE PIKES

11 – VISIT A STATELY HOME

The landed gentry have been calling the Lake District home for years, building some of the finest stately houses in the country. Strolling immaculate grounds is a great circuit breaker from more energetic activities, and a wonderful thing to do in the Lake District.

While the topiary gardens a Leven’s Hall are worth a nosy, the grand gardens at Holker Hall steal the show. A mix of formal gardens, flower-strewn meadows and tree-lined paths make it a lovely place in the Lake District to explore.

There are some oddities in the grounds too; a lone Sequoia, a small stand of Monkey Puzzle Trees and the Holker Great Lime, designated one of the Three Council’s 50 Great British Trees.

The magnificent magnolias and rhododendrons are out in April, but we have it on good authority (from the gardener) that July is the best time to visit.

FURTHER AFIELD / BEST THINGS TO DO IN NORTHUMBERLAND

12 – GET THE ADRENALINE PUMPING ON A VIA FERRATA

At the top of the Honister Pass, amongst the debris of the last remaining slate mine in Britain, one of the most thrilling Lake District activities takes place: Honister’s Via Ferrata Extreme.

Over three hours, scale the edge of Fleetwith Pike using vertical ladders, overhang descents, a nerve-testing bridge and a cargo net climb. It ends with a scramble up the peak with remarkable views over Buttermere and a strong sense of satisfaction.

Clipped on to iron rails throughout the ascent, no climbing experience is necessary. So, as long as you have a reasonable level of fitness, a good head for heights and a strong sense of adventure, Honister’s Via Ferrata Extreme is a great Lake District activity for a safe rush of adrenaline.

Although it is mentally and physically challenging, the guides at Honister Slate Mine do a great job of putting you at ease. Still, if it all sounds a bit too much, there’s a lot more on offer here. Choose from the easier Via Ferrata Classic, to a half-day Canyoning or crossing the Infinity Bridge.

For an adventurous activity without the guides, read our list of the best Lake District scrambles.

13 – PHOTOGRAPH THE BEST LAKELAND VIEWS

It is the remarkable scenery that makes the Lake District so unique. Craggy dark mountains rise above shimmering lakes. Sheep strewn fields are split by moss-covered walls. Rocky tracks cut a swathe through forests as they head over stiles and babbling brooks.

Not all the best Lakeland views require a tough walk to a towering summit. Many can be seen from the side of the road or after a very short stroll.

We have put together our 12 favourite viewing spots that showcase the superb scenery of the area, without requiring too much effort to see. To maximise the photography opportunities, we’ve also covered what we think are the ideal spots for sunrise and sunset. Read more in our guide to the best Lake District views.  

14 – CYCLE THE MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS 

Mountain bikes used to be frowned on in the Lake District. Cutting deep tracks on grassy hills, the stewards of the land would tut and shake their heads whenever two-wheeled vehicles messed up their pristine environment. But over the last few years, purpose-built trails have been integrated into the walking paths and roads to create a network of excellent rides, without the associated frowns.

You can start with something relatively easy like this classic loop around picturesque lakes and stunning views. If you’re seeking a more adventurous Lake District activity, tackle this climb up Helvellyn with over 4,000 foot of ascent over 25 miles.

Lake District Bike Hire charge around £30 per day, decreasing slightly the longer you hire their bikes. They’ll also deliver to you anywhere in the lakes. To remove all the effort and just enjoy the superb scenery, hire an e-bike and meander along winding lanes conserving all your energy for your stop at the next cosy country pub.  

Mountain bike enthusiasts should head to Grizedale Forest. A series of MTB trails have been cut through the forest floor ranging from simple excursions for beginners to black graded slopes for the expert racers. You can hire bikes from Bike Treks perfectly located in the forest.

READ NEXT / BEST LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

15 – DOWN A PINT IN A TRADITIONAL HIKER’S PUB

After a long day hiking in the Lakes, there are few better ways to end than sipping a local ale in a traditional hikers pub. Sit in a beer garden as the sun shines swapping stories of tired limbs and aching bodies, or huddle around an old fire commiserating about another drenching.

There are tons of pubs dotted about the villages and valleys of the Lake District, but we have a few favourites.

The Langstrath Country Inn in Stonethwaite, deep in Borrowdale, is on the Coast to Coast walk and its beer garden under a lovely tree has refreshed many a tired soul.

The Kirkstile Inn is on the edge of remote Loweswater. Visitors here are either exploring a less-visited part of the Lakes or are lost. Whichever camp you’re in it’s a fantastic location. They make their own range of beer too.

Finally, we have drunk many times at the Hikers Bar in the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, most of the time completely exhausted after a long day in the hills. It’s a place of muddy boots, tired bodies, loose tongues and new friends.

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

We’ve spent a lot of time in the Lake District, each visit surprising us with something new. Here are some other things to do in the Lake District, that didn’t quite make our list, but are nonetheless worth checking out.

SEE THE LAST WORKING SLATE MINE IN ENGLAND

Honister Slate Mine is not just home to the Via Ferrata but is still a working slate mine. You can take a tour of the mine and head down into the tunnels to experience the life of a miner in the lakes.

TAKE A JOURNEY ON A STEAM RAILWAY

There are a couple of great steam railways in the Lake District which you can ride on. There is a short piece of track between Haverthwaite and the southern end of Windermere, and a miniature gauge track that runs from Ravenglass up the Eskdale Valley. If you are not a walker, it is a great way to see some remarkable and remote Lakeland scenery.

VISIT LAKELAND MOTOR MUSEUM

30,000 exhibits covering 100 years of motoring, the Lakeland Motor Museum on the southern edge of the Lake District. There’s everything from vintage to veteran and weird to wonderful including cars, motorcycles, scooters and a special exhibition to the racing careers of Malcolm and Donald Campbell.

GO APE & TREETOP TREK

For a family-friendly Lake District activity, there are Go Ape centres in the forests of Grizedale and Whinlatter and a Treetop Trek across the canopy in Brockhole on the edge of Windermere.

MAP / THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

Our map of our favourite things to do in the Lake District, includes everything we love about this beautiful area. To help you navigate while you are on the road, green is for activities including walks and cycle paths, brown is villages and gardens, blue is for lake-based adventures and yellow is – most importantly – all the great pubs.

Save it to your maps in Google Maps before your trip so you can refer to it wherever you are to make sure you have not missed anything.

WHERE TO STAY

The Lake District is a large area with lots of different regions to stay based on what you are looking for. Some are great if you want the facilities and option of a large (but sometimes busy) towns, others are great for getting away from it all in remote areas.

We have put together a guide on all the different regions of the Lake District to help you decide where to stay.

WHERE TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

MORE READING FOR THE LAKE DISTRICT

We’ve been to the Lake District many times, and never run out of fantastic things to do. From adventurous scrambles to relaxing wild swimming, here are more of our guides from the lakes.

LAKE DISTRICT WALKS
15 BEST LAKE DISTRICT WALKS FROM EASY STROLLS TO CHALLENGING WAINWRIGHTS
CONQUER KNIFE-EDGE RIDGES ON THIS EXHILARATING WALK UP BLENCATHRA
WALK SCAFELL PIKE VIA THE CORRIDOR ROUTE FOR A TOP LAKE DISTRICT HIKE
OTHER IDEAS
MOST BEAUTIFUL LAKE DISTRICT VIEWS AND PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS
EXPLORE THE REMOTE AND RUGGED LAKE DISTRICT AT THE LANGDALE PIKES
OUR PICK OF THE BEST GRADE 1 LAKE DISTRICT SCRAMBLES
BEST REMOTE SPOTS FOR A PEACEFUL WILD SWIM IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

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