We were truly mesmerised by how vast and beautiful the Lake District is. It truly is one of the best places to visit in the UK and there’s plenty of cool places to visit no matter how long you stay. After travelling around the most popular (plus some off-the-beaten-track) towns, waterfalls and lakes, we’ve assembled a list of the best places to visit in the Lake District. Use our inspiration to help plan your own trip and make sure you don’t miss anything!
Keswick and Derwentwater
Secluded away from the heart of the Lake District, Keswick is a charming little town to the north. It sits right on Derwentwater Lake, surrounded by rolling hills and some nice walking routes. We recommend spending a full day or half day exploring this famous town. Here’s what we recommend checking out:
Visit Castlerigg Stone Circle – On the way into town, a stop at Castlerigg Stone Circle is an absolute must! This ancient stone circle was built in the Early Bronze Age, between 3300 and 900 BC. That alone will tell you how historic this site is! The stone arrangement sits behind a backdrop of beautiful mountain scenery and you can see it within a quick 30-minute stop-off.
Take a walk around town – Browse the quaint shops, dine al fresco in a café or simply wander around looking at the old buildings and narrow streets. Keswick has a great collection of independent homeware, apparel, and gift shops.
Explore Derwentwater Lake – Starting at Crow Park, walk south to Friars Crag for amazing views of this peaceful lake. You may also wish to rent a kayak, private boat or join a guided boat tour. The lake is just as beautiful as the others you’ll see in the region and it’s far less crowded. Once you’ve enjoyed a nice walk along the shoreline, drive south of Derwentwater to the ‘Surprise View’ viewpoint; the best spot for seeing Derwentwater and excellent for photos. You could spend a good few hours walking around the lake if you fancy some exercise.
Brockhole on Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere
When most people take a trip to the lakes, they stay in or visit the central town of Bowness-on-Windermere. This is one of the busiest tourist locations and is the main port of call for boat tours, ferry trips and private boat rentals. It also has a marina where local owners dock their grand yachts and sailboats. Just down the road from Bowness, you have Windermere Town and then Brockhole on Windermere further to the north. All three destinations can be visited in one epic day trip. Although they’re quite touristic, there’s a lot to see and they are a must-see for any first timer to the lakes.
Brockhole-on-Windermere – Brockhole is an idyllic lake-side retreat that is home to the Lake District visitor centre, which is an attraction in itself! It also has an abundance of activities for families and some pretty views of the lake shore. Archery, wooden race karts, kayaks, mini golf, fun kids activities and a huge ziplining and adventure park are just some of the attractions here. There’s a ton of things to do and it suits families in particular.
Even if you don’t partake in the attractions, the lake scenery and beautiful gardens are well worth checking out. We had a nice picnic with a view. 😊
Bowness-on-Windermere – Head into the heart of the lakes for a bustling tourist atmosphere. The number one thing to do in Bowness is a guided boat tour on the lake. You can also rent you own motorboat without a licence or unleash your adventurous side in a kayak. Once you’ve explored the vast lake, walk through town to soak in the atmosphere. You’ll find a nice park, lots of pubs, cafes and restaurants and some cute gift shops. Fish and chips with ice cream anyone?
A nature trail south of town then takes you to a quieter shore area with beautiful views of the marina, beach shores to relax on and a forest. Bowness is busy but full of fun things to do!
Ambleside town and Stock Ghyll Waterfall
Ambleside is a great base whilst visiting the Lake District. It’s a central town that feels larger than most of the other small villages. It’s perched on the side of a hill and overlooks Windermere Lake to the south. Inside town, you’ll find an abundance of small guest houses, hotels and private cottages, with nature trails leading away from the main town streets. Aside from being a great place to stay, Ambleside is a bustling stop off point that mixes locals with tourists from around the world.
Stock Ghyll Waterfall – The first thing on your agenda in Ambleside should be a walk up-hill to the beautiful falls. You really wouldn’t think that this impressive waterfall is only a 10-minute walk away from town. Follow the trail through the trees to the east of Ambleside and up towards Stock Ghyll.
Once you’ve seen the waterfall, descend back into town for a few hours of gift shopping, eating at a corner café or simply wandering around town. Ambleside feels very welcoming, and it has a great collection of confectionary shops for those that have a sweet tooth. It also has a pretty church, park and river relaxation area.
Pooley Bridge, Aira Force Waterfall and Glenridding town
Ullswater is another must-see lake in the aptly named Lake District. Seemingly huge in size and with stunning views as you drive by the lakeshore, it’s one of the best places to visit in the Lake District for adventurers. Kayaking, paddle-boarding, boat tours and sailing are just a small sample of the activities that you can enjoy here. It’s all about the lake views and calm waters!
Here are the main areas to check out on your daytrip to Ullswater:
Aira Force Waterfall – Park up your car or bike and hike the short forest trail to find the dramatic Aira Force falls. This National Trust site is a nature lovers paradise, with a long stream that you can follow to the river source and two main waterfalls. The first falls you’ll encounter is the most impressive and can be reached in a 15-minute walk.
Pooley Bridge – Named for its unique crossing bridge that overlooks the main river stream, Pooley Bridge is a pretty town that’s perched by the east of the lake. It has several cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating and more pubs and shops on the main street. Visit for a couple of hours to enjoy scenic views and a well-earned lunch.
Glenridding – Many people visit Ullswater Lake and only stop off at Pooley Bridge, forgetting the picturesque town of Glenridding to the south-west. Drive 12-minutes from Pooley to this small town and see the beauty of Ullswater from a different perspective. More boat cruises and kayak rentals are available, plus a nice town where you can stop off for a coffee, browse the gift shops or grab a bite to lunch. The shore long trail has plenty of benches to enjoy a picnic with a view. We personally think Glenridding Town is the best location to experience Ullswater Lake.
If you asked us for one of the best places to visit in the Lake District for those that like less tourists and a quiet atmosphere, Grasmere is calling your name! This charming town is the prettiest of all Lake District villages in our opinion. Old buildings with ivy covered walls, a scenic stone bridge and lots of nice cafes, shops and restaurants will greet you on arrival. You then have a vast lake just a short walk from town. Here are the top things to see and do during your visit:
Wordsworth House – Did you know that world-famous poet William Wordsworth used to live in Grasmere? His cute village house, Dove Cottage, has been turned into a tourist attraction that you can check out on your visit. Stop by for an insight into his life and work.
Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread – The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop has existed since 1854 and is widely regarded as one of the best places to buy this tasty treat in the world. Stop by this small, quirky shop to sample recipes that date back centuries! Sample their trademark gingerbread for under a £1 or buy some gifts to take home. Next door, there’s a small daffodil garden to check out.
Grasmere Town – A walk through town is an attraction in itself. We loved wandering the picturesque streets and stopping off for a coffee at Heaton Cooper Sutdio. It’s a small town but it will keep you enthralled for a couple hours before heading to the lake.
Grasmere lake – Walk to the south of Grasmere town and you’ll find a trail that takes you past the famous Faeryland outpost, onward to a lakeside trail. Spend 1 – 3 hours walking around the lake and a collection of idyllic roads with cottages and green, bushy scenery. The Grasmere Lake walking route is quiet and blissful, especially on a warm summer’s day.
Explore the best hiking routes
One of the many reason’s adventurers come to the Lake District is to hike its majestic peaks. The lakes are home to some of the highest and most epic mountains in the country, providing a challenge for seasoned walkers. Saying that, it also has a variety of more leisurely hikes and short walks by its rivers and lakes. Here are some of the most epic hiking routes to check out.
Scafell Pike – The highest and most prominent peak in England. Trekking to the top is a challenge but a massive accomplishment!
Honister Pass – A scenic hiking route with famous land formations and viewpoints. A good trail for all levels of hiking experience.
Catbells – Another epic mountain range that overlooks Derwentwater and the town of Keswick. It’s vast, green and has an altitude of 451 metres.
Helvellyn – A challenging ascent between Thirlmere and Ullswater. It has an astonishing height of 950m and its peak ascent is a real mission. A great route for the experienced hiker.
The Old Man of Coniston – Another route for the advanced / intermediate hiker. There are multiple ways to complete the hike to the summit and it features both lake and mountain scenery.
The above is just a small selection of the hikes and walks available in the Lake District and there really is something for all levels of experience. If you want to challenge yourself but are unsure where to start, why not join a group climbing tour?
If you’re interested in Roman history and like to venture off the beaten track on your adventures, Hardknott Fort is one of the best places to visit in the Lake District for exactly that! Travel west of the central towns and lakes and deep into the mountains. When you arrive, you’ll find the open-air remains of a 2nd century Roman Fortress. It’s surrounded by impressive countryside scenery and the lack of tourists is a breath of fresh air. Old stone walls mark out what was once a fully functioning Roman outpost.
We recommend combining your visit to Hardknott Fort with a hiking trail. There are plenty of excellent routes nearby, including Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England.
Rydal Water is one of the best places to visit in the Lake District for those that want a brisk walk with scenic views, but don’t fancy hiking the huge peaks of challenging terrain. The walking route takes you along one of the smallest lakes in the region, traversing through countryside, forests and the lake shore. The main stopping point on the Rydal Water walk is Rydal Cave; a mammoth cave opening that is very cool to see. Aim to spend around 2hr 30 to complete the full walking route. We recommend bringing along a picnic and enjoying lunch with a view!
Rydal Water’s central location between Grasmere and Ambleside means you can easily visit on a morning and combine your day trip with another attraction.
Wray Castle & Hill Top – Beatrix Potter’s House
Most of the action in Windermere takes place to the east of the lake in the towns of Bowness and Windermere town. Venture across to the west and the feel is very different. There are less crowds and the small villages feel peaceful and untouched by tourism. The west lake-shore of Windermere is also home to two must-see attractions; Wray Castle and Beatrix Potter’s Home – The National Trust Hill Top. Explore both locations by car and experience some beautiful views on the drive.
Hill-Top – Hill Top is the National Trust site that’s showcases Beatrix Potter’s home. It’s the place where this talented author lived and wrote some of her most well-known stories, and has since been transformed into a museum. Drive up the hill and into this small village to learn about Beatrix Potter’s life and works.
Wray Castle – Descend the rolling hills and drive to the north of the lake. Here you’ll find the fairy-tale-esque Wray Castle. Unlike many of the UK’s historic castles, this one was custom built as a home in 1840 and has its distinctive design for aesthetic reasons – it hasn’t actually fended off any battles or invasions! Nevertheless, it’s a cool place to see and the scenery is beautiful.
South Lakes Safari Zoo
If you’re staying to the south of the Lake District and have plenty of time to spare, we highly recommend a visit to South Lakes Zoo. The safari park has over 1000 species of animals; where you can get up close and personal with giraffes, lions, tigers and other creatures. Most of the zoo is outdoors so you can enjoy nature and a little bit of lakes sunshine whilst you see the animals.
South Lakes Zoo is a fair drive away from the central Lake District areas but is well worth the trip if you have a family that wants a different activity away from the many lakes and walks on your itinerary. Prices are very affordable for a zoo of its calibre and you can book various meet and greet experiences.
We hope we’ve inspired you with some of the best places to visit in the Lake District. Just as we were, you’ll be astounded at the sheer beauty of this hidden corner of England and will be wide-eyed at every corner. Rent a car or bring your own along and plan a road trip that you won’t forget! Find more guides to the Lake District and wider UK here.
bY rICKYAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.