50 good reasons to visit the Lake District/Cumbria

Adventure

Adventure

Climbing, walking, cycling, kayaking, ghyll scrambling, open water swimming, sailing, horse riding, mountain biking, the Via Ferrata at Honister Slate Mine. Ten reasons - to start with - why Cumbria is the ‘adventure capital of the UK’.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Cumbria’s got three of them: Arnside and Silverdale in the south around Morecambe Bay, the North Pennines and the Solway Coast. Add in the two World Heritage Sites and the two national parks and you can see that Cumbria is bathed in beauty.

Artists and makers

Artists and makers

Painters, potters, photographers, printmakers, weavers, furniture makers, wood workers, jewellers, glass artists, bag makers, sculptors and more. All maintaining a long tradition of creativity in the Lake District and Cumbria.

Arts and Crafts

Arts and Crafts

Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House, near Bowness-on-Windermere (sister to Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal) is the big attraction. Plus John Ruskin’s old home of Brantwood at Coniston Water. Stained glass work by William Morris and artist Edward Burne-Jones can be seen in a number of churches.

Beer

Beer

Good news for lovers of real ale. Some 40 small breweries in Cumbria include Coniston (two supreme champion beers of Britain), Cumbrian Legendary, Dent, Eden, Hawkshead and Hesket Newmarket. Plus gin, vodka and whisky producers, the Lakes Distillery launching its Lakes Malt in 2018.

Buttermere

Buttermere

Favourite of walking guide writer Alfred Wainwright. Overlooked by Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, with Crummock Water and Loweswater up the road. Not far from the Georgian town of Cockermouth.

Carlisle

Carlisle

Capital of Cumbria and ‘great border city’. Carlisle Castle, Carlisle Cathedral and Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, with its big Roman section are its three main attractions.

Coast

Coast

Cumbria has well over 100 miles (161km) of coastline. And it comes with history: Whitehaven, third busiest harbour in Britain in the 18th century, Barrow once a great centre for iron and steel making and later shipbuilding, Ravenglass a Roman port.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Third biggest lake in the Lake District which you can explore with either Coniston Launch or the Steam Yacht Gondola. Coniston village at its north end.

Country shows

Country shows

Cumbria’s great unsung attraction. The Cumberland Show and the Westmorland Show are the two biggest. And there are plenty more between May and October.

Culture

Culture

A ‘cultural landscape’. That’s what earned the Lake District its World Heritage status. A landscape shaped by nature, farming, mining, quarrying, tourism and other human activities, which in turn influenced the Romantic poets, other writers, artists and conservationists like Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust.

Derwentwater

Derwentwater

Queen of the Lakes and royally served by the traditional vessels of the Keswick Launch Company. There are eight stops around the lake.

Dry stone walls

Dry stone walls

Thousands of miles of them. Handmade by generations of farmers and stone wallers. Up hill and down dale.

Family

Family

There’s certainly a lot for the family: adventure and outdoor centres, museums, historic homes, farm attractions and more.

Farm shops/food halls

Farm shops/food halls

Stock up on local produce at places like Tebay Services (M6), Low Sizergh Barn near Kendal, Cranstons (Penrith, Carlisle, Orton Grange near Carlisle, Brampton) and Rheged near Penrith. Rheged’s the second biggest tourist attraction in Cumbria.

Fells

Fells

Helvellyn, Scafell Pike (the highest in England), Blencathra, Catbells and the Old Man of Coniston. Five of the 214 fells that Alfred Wainwright wrote about in his classic, seven volume A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.

Festivals

Festivals

From music, mountains, wool and walking to pottery, print, lanterns and literature. Every taste, every genre is catered for. Ulverston’s the ‘festival town’ but Keswick’s not far behind.

Food

Food

Herdwick lamb, Grasmere Gingerbread, traditional Cumberland sausage, Cartmel sticky toffee pudding, Kendal mint cake and anything to do with damsons. That’s six flavours of Cumbrian food. From jam, chocolate, chutney and cheese to cakes, puddings, sausage and salami...there’s a producer making it.

Forests

Forests

Whinlatter near Keswick ‘England’s only mountain forest’ and Grizedale Forest near Hawkshead, famous for its outdoor sculptures. Both places are great for cycling and walking.

Fresh Air

Fresh Air

How many times do you hear visitors remark on the quality of the air?

Grasmere

Grasmere

Village and lake share the same name and the same lovely setting. Forever associated with poet William Wordsworth.

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Built by the Romans, the 73 miles of wall linked Bowness-on-Solway, west of Carlisle, to Wallsend near Newcastle. One of the best parts of this World Heritage site is a stretch near the Cumbrian fort of Birdoswald which itself unveils a £1 million investment in 2018.

Hardknott and Wrynose passes

Hardknott and Wrynose passes

Amongst the highest road passes in England, they link Eskdale with Little Langdale. Scary for some, sublime for others. You get to see a Roman fort at Hardknott on the way.

Herdwick sheep

Herdwick sheep

The native breed of the Lake District and an icon of the fells. Rough Fell and Swaledale sheep feel just as much at home here too.

Hotels

Hotels

More places are listed for Cumbria in the Good Hotel Guide 2018 than any other area outside London. A number have excellent restaurants, many have lovely views. Hotels, B&Bs, pubs and inns, self-catering places and campsites: there’s a huge choice for visitors.

Independent shops

Independent shops

Disappearing from high streets everywhere but still plentiful here: butchers (almost in every town), bakers, bookshops, electrical, outdoor, clothes and fashion, greengrocers, specialist food, hardware stores (surprisingly numerous) and such like.

Keswick

Keswick

Overlooked by Skiddaw and Latrigg, with Bassenthwaite Lake to the north, Derwentwater and Borrowdale to the south and the Newlands Valley to the south west. How’s that for a prime location? Great for outdoor clothing shops too (like Ambleside).

Landscape

Landscape

Cumbria’s the sum of numerous different parts, each with their own distinct personality: fells, lakes and valleys of the Lake District, ‘wilderness’ areas in the North Pennines, the Solway plain west of Carlisle, the gentle Eden Valley, the west coast, the south around Morecambe Bay and the wilder borderlands of the north.

National parks

National parks

Cumbria’s got two: the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. And if you head through the Lune Gorge, south of Tebay, you’ll have one on each side of you.

Ospreys

Ospreys

Like many other visitors, they keep coming back. Bassenthwaite Lake near Keswick, Esthwaite Water near Hawkshead and Foulshaw Moss near Witherslack in the south are three places to catch sight of them.

Potter

Potter

Beatrix Potter. Mycologist, children’s author and Lakeland farmer. Hill Top, her first home in the Lake District, is a must for any Potter enthusiast. Plus the Armitt Museum and Library, Ambleside for her paintings of fungi, and the Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead for watercolours, drawings and memorabilia.

Railways

Railways

Standard or narrow gauge, Cumbria’s got some pretty scenic rail journeys. Settle to Carlisle, Ravenglass to Eskdale, South Tynedale Railway, Lakeside and Haverthwaite and the journey along the Cumbrian coastline. That’s five of them.

Ransome

Ransome

Arthur Ransome, author of Swallows and Amazons, spent his childhood holidays around Coniston Water and his later life elsewhere in the Lake District. He married Leon Trotsky’s secretary, Evgenia Shelepina.

Red squirrels

Red squirrels

Every so often there’s a road sign warning you that red squirrels might be about. You might be lucky to see one.

Restaurants

Restaurants

Three restaurants in Cumbria hold Michelin stars: L’enclume at Cartmel, Forest Side at Grasmere and Hrishi at Gilpin Hotel and Lake House near Windermere. L’enclume was also the Good Food Guide’s number one UK restaurant for four years running (2014-17). All three are in the Good Food Guide 2018 along with 17 other restaurants in Cumbria.

Reivers

Reivers

Not the most loveable of characters but their 300 years of feuding and raiding in the Anglo/Scottish borderlands is an extraordinary story. Presidents Nixon and Johnson both had Reiver surnames (there are more than 70) and so did the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.

Ruskin

Ruskin

John Ruskin, the great Victorian polymath. He spent the last 29 years of his life at Brantwood, Coniston Water. Not far away in Coniston village is the Ruskin Museum.

Sedbergh

Sedbergh

England’s Book Town, close to the Howgill Fells. A few miles north of the pretty town of Kirkby Lonsdale.

Stone circles

Stone circles

Castlerigg near Keswick is the best known and the one with a lovely setting. There’s Long Meg and her Daughters in the Eden Valley and others too.

Ullswater

Ullswater

Second largest lake in Cumbria and, for many, the most beautiful of them all. Judge for yourself by doing the 20 mile (32km) Ullswater Way or taking a trip on one of the Ullswater ‘Steamers’.

Valleys

Valleys

Some very well known like Borrowdale near Keswick, Eden, Eskdale and the Langdales. Others slightly less familiar like Newlands, Rusland, Lyth, Winster and Duddon.

Views

Views

There’s one round nearly every corner. Take your pick from Castle Crag, Scout Scar, Loughrigg Fell, Wastwater, High Cup Ghyll, Binsey, Fleetwith Pike, Arnside Knott, the Langdale Pikes and hundreds of others.

Vikings

Vikings

Fell, beck, thwaite, tarn and holme. Five words common in the Lake District and Cumbria that we can thank the Vikings for. And if you want to see some Viking treasure, check out the Furness Hoard at the Dock Museum, Barrow or Vikings Revealed at Tullie House in Carlisle.

Villages

Villages

You could start with Dent, Troutbeck, Hawkshead, Caldbeck, Grasmere and Cartmel for six pretty places. Cartmel is home to a beautiful priory church.

Wainwright

Wainwright

Alfred Wainwright, Kendal borough treasurer turned mountain guide book writer. His seven volume A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells will probably be around for as long as Bowfell or Blencathra.

Walking

Walking

On the flat or on the fell. Tough on the sole (sometimes) but good for the soul (generally). Cumbria is a walkers’ paradise.

Wasdale and Wastwater

Wasdale and Wastwater

One’s the birthplace of British climbing, the other’s the deepest lake in England. Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England, is close by.

Windermere

Windermere

England’s largest natural stretch of water and biggest of the area’s 16 lakes. Best seen from Tern, Teal, Swan or any of the other vessels belonging to Windermere Lake Cruises, Cumbria’s number one tourist attraction. Look out for the opening of Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories in 2018.

Wordsworth

Wordsworth

William Wordsworth. England’s greatest poet was born in Cockermouth in 1770 and spent almost all of his life in the Lake District. He wrote much of his best known poetry at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, next to the Wordsworth Museum.

World Heritage sites

World Heritage sites

Cumbria’s got two UNESCO World Heritage sites out of the 31 in the UK and its Overseas Territories: Hadrian’s Wall since 1987, the Lake District since 2017. That gives the two areas the same elevated status as the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China.

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