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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 10 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Oliver Berry

The Lake District is a land of superlatives; the highest peaks in England, the deepest lakes, the most spectacular scenery. There is a wildness to the landscapes and a sense of nature on a grand scale, found in few other places in the British Isles.

It’s best-known as the heartland of British hiking, and it’s a brilliant place to go to explore the great outdoors, whether that means walking, climbing, boating or biking. Literary buffs will also find plenty to divert them: Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth were both inspired by the Lakeland landscape, and several of their former homes can be visited.

Orientation

The Lake District is split roughly in two halves. The eastern side is home to the largest lake, Windermere, and the busy tourist towns of Ambleside and Bowness-on-Windermere. The western half feels much wilder and emptier, and is home to the highest fells including Scafell Pike, England’s tallest peak at 978m. This is the place for serious walking and dramatic scenery, but there are fewer places to stay.

Northeast of Windermere lies Ullswater, the second-largest of Lakeland’s lakes. Further north still is Derwentwater, with the attractive market town of Keswick situated at its northern end.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Best walks in the Lake District

Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

The Lake District’s many hills – or ‘fells’ as they’re known in Cumbria – offer some of the best hiking in England, from short walks to full-day multi-summit treks. There’s nowhere better to appreciate the best of the British landscape.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 3 hours

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Boating on the Lakes

Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Wooded islands, beaches, lakeside mansions, craggy fells – you’ll see them all on a Lakeland cruise. The only question is which lake to choose.

Best for ages: 4+ | £5 | Any

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Lady staring at a painting by Beatrix Potter, at the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead, Cumbria. Beatrix Potter's original artwork on display in a 17th-century house.
Experience

Beatrix Potter Gallery

Hawkshead, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

This small gallery in Hawkshead is located in the old office of Beatrix Potter’s husband, solicitor William Heelis. It holds regular exhibitions of her work, including her beautiful botanical paintings.

Best for ages: 10+ | £7 | 3 hours

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Exterior fo the small shop in Grasmere
Experience

Grasmere Gingerbread Shop

Ambleside, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Sarah Nelson’s gingerbread is an institution in Grasmere: it’s been made to the same recipe since 1854. It’s wonderfully quaint – the frilly outfits worn by the shop staff are something from a bygone age.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 3 hours

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Pedestrians outside the gift shop and cafe in the Main Street in the centre of Grasmere Village
Experience

Grasmere Village

Ambleside, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

The region’s most picturesque and charming village. Grasmere is set on the shores of its eponymous lake and cradled by green fields and fells. William Wordsworth is buried in the churchyard of St Oswald’s – you can see the poet’s tombstone.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 3 hours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Half Day Best of the Lake District

Half Day Best of the Lake District

Windermere

This half day tour gives you a fantastic overview of the Lake District in a short amount of time. It’s an ideal way to see amazing landscape...

£53 | Rating 4.95 / 5 [23 ratings]

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Lake District Adventure Sightseeing Day Trip from Liverpool

Lake District Adventure Sightseeing Day Trip from Liverpool

Liverpool

Sightseeing Tours the way they should be. Fully narrated and escorted by driver guides who love their jobs almost as much as you will love y...

£59 | Rating 4.80 / 5 [78 ratings]

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MANCHESTER: Lake District Adventure - Sightseeing Day Trip Tour

MANCHESTER: Lake District Adventure - Sightseeing Day Trip Tour

Manchester

Sightseeing Tours the way they should be. Fully narrated and escorted by driver guides who love their jobs almost as much as you will love y...

£59 | Rating 4.51 / 5 [33 ratings]

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Mountain Goat Full Day Tour: Ten Lakes Tour of the Lake District

Mountain Goat Full Day Tour: Ten Lakes Tour of the Lake District

Windermere

The English Lake District is one of the most recent additions to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Admire the rolling countryside and craggy fel...

£51 | Rating 4.79 / 5 [903 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Forest Side Hotel

Grasmere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

One of the very best of the Lake District’s boutique hotels, a reinvented country mansion, brimming with wit, style and invention. In prime position for exploring the Lakes..

Official star rating:

Daffodil Hotel

Grasmere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

A large, lakeside hotel not far from Grasmere, with a variety of rooms to suit all kinds of visitors – families, couples, walkers and weekend breakers will all find a happy home here.

Official star rating:

The Samling

Windermere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

A charming, cosy boutique hotel, perched on a private hillside on a 67-acre estate, with an excellent restaurant and grandstand views across Lake Windermere.

Official star rating:

Linthwaite House Hotel

Windermere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Cool, elegant country house, with superb food and views, in an almost unbeatable location close to Lake Windermere and Ambleside.

Official star rating:

When to go

If you can, avoid visiting the Lakes in July and August, when it gets unpleasantly crowded and prices are highest. Easter and bank holidays can also be very busy. Better to visit in the quieter shoulder seasons – try April or May, when the lake shores are dusted with Wordsworthian daffodils, or September or October, when the hills are alight with autumnal colour.

Getting there and away

The M6 skirts the eastern edge, with the main entry points being Kendal and Penrith. Trains from London Euston to Windermere take just under four hours, with a change at Preston or Oxenholme.

Getting around

Cars are the most practical way to get around, but in the summer months roads get horribly congested – and parking can be very expensive. Most of the major tourist hubs such as Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere, have taxi services.

It is feasible to get around by bus, with regular services between the main towns. See the Lake District website for details.

Cycling is another option, although you won’t get away without tackling some hills; the 599 bus between Bowness and Grasmere has space to carry two bikes, and it’s also possible to take your bike on the Windermere Ferry. See the Lake District website for further details on cycling.

Where to stay

Many visitors choose to stay in one of the towns or villages around Lake Windermere, where hotels and B&Bs abound, especially around Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere Town and Ambleside.

Villages like Hawkshead, Coniston, Elterwater and the surrounding areas are much quieter, and have plenty of excellent pubs, country hotels and cottages to choose from.

In the northern part of the park, Keswick is the most practical base, with easy access to the beautiful valleys of Borrowdale and Buttermere nearby, and great mountain biking in nearby Whinlatter Forest.

In the western part of the park, there is a handful of places to stay around the remote valleys of Wasdale and Eskdale, including some classic inns and great campsites, but do be aware you’re a long way from anywhere.

Don’t overlook the outer edges of the park: accommodation is often easier to come by in Cockermouth, Kendal, Ulverston and Penrith, and nearly always a good deal cheaper too.