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27 Best things to see & do in Lake District

  • Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Oliver Berry
  • Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Man walking on Catbells mountain in the Lake District with a scenic panorama view of Derwentwater lake and Keswick in the background

Bucket List Experience

Best walks in the Lake District

The lofty hills and glacial valleys of the Lakes lured walkers long before Alfred Wainwright published his seminal walking guides in the 1950s. Wainwright’s books opened up the region to a much wider audience, and his 214 ‘official fells’ represent the ultimate challenge for hikers and serious walkers.

But there are plenty of easier options; gentle strolls, family trails and networks of pub walks that offer the chance to pair an outdoor activity with great places for lunch.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3 hours

  • Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

a wooden boat travelling across a lake

Bucket List Experience

Boating on the Lakes

You really couldn’t come to the Lakes and not get out on the water at least once. Thankfully, there’s plenty of opportunity to do so, with four of the major lakes – Windermere, Coniston, Ullswater and Derwentwater – all offering scheduled boat trips, along with the chance to hire your own rowboat, motorboat or sailboat if you prefer to travel under your own steam.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 4+

Duration: Any

  • Buttermere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Walk around Lake Buttermere

Bucket List Experience

Walk around Lake Buttermere

This 4.5-mile circular walk around Lake Buttermere, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, starts and ends in pretty Buttermere village, and takes in wonderful views of the craggy peaks of Littledale Edge, Dale’s Head and Mellbreak, skirting the shores of beautiful Lake Buttermere. Ideal if you want to be surrounded by mountain scenery without actually having to do any climbing.

Halfway around at the southern tip, you’ll pass the ‘Sentinels’, the Lake District’s most photographed trees. Also look out for the ‘lone tree’, another highly-photographable feature.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 2 hours

  • Ravenglass, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Close up of a steam train locomotive

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Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway

First opened in 1875, this 7-mile line from Ravenglass to Dalegarth chugs along a scenic valley, and was originally built to ferry iron ore from the mines out to the coast.

Affectionately known as La’al Ratty, the miniature trains puff up to the high point at Miterdale for spectacular views of the Scafell range.

Some of the trains are steam-powered, but others have diesel engines – so check the timetable if you’re particularly keen on steam.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 40 minutes

  • Keswick, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Aerial view of the stone circle in a field

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Castlerigg Stone Circle

If this spectacular site proves anything, it’s that ancient builders certainly knew how to pick out a location.

Situated on a grassy hilltop just outside Keswick, this 3,000-year-old monument commands a panoramic view over the surrounding fells, stretching all the way to Helvellyn and High Seat. It was built during the Neolithic period and consists of 38 standing stones, although it’s thought there were originally 42.

Scholars are divided on its purpose – but it is most likely to have been used as a meeting place or ceremonial site.

Good for age: 8+

  • Wasdale, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Peak of Scafell Pike

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Walk up Scafell Pike

This is the big one: the highest point in England at 978m, and the one everyone wants to tick off on their bucket list. Granted, compared to some of the world’s great mountains, it’s a tiddler, but don’t underestimate the challenge of Scafell Pike: it feels high, exposed and extremely windswept, and it requires a steep, tiring slog to reach the top. But on a clear day in good weather, there’s no finer feeling than to stand on England’s rooftop.

There are a number of different ways to the summit, including an excellent trail across from Borrowdale, but the classic (and shortest) route starts in Wasdale Head, at the head of the deep, dark lake of Wastwater. From here, it ascends up Lingmell Gill, climbs past Brown Tongue and Hollow Stones, then turns at Lingmell Col for the final steep, tiring push to the summit.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: Full day

  • Ambleside, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of Hill Top, Cumbria, home of Beatrix Potter.

Bucket List Experience

Hill Top

Alongside William Wordsworth, the Lake District’s other literary luminary is, of course, Beatrix Potter – celebrated for her charming anthropomorphic tales of rabbits, squirrels, hedgehogs and piglets, but also a hugely talented botanical painter and, later in her life, a passionate (and very knowledgeable) hill farmer.

Hill Top was the first house she bought in the Lake District, in 1905, largely financed with the proceeds from her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She lived happily here until 1913 before buying a larger house at nearby Castle Farm.

The house is littered with her belongings and furniture; true fans might also recognise a few scenes from her books, including The Tale of Tom Kitten and The Tale of Samuel Whiskers.

After her death in 1943, Beatrix Potter left the cottage – along with huge tracts of land, and numerous hill farms across the Lake District – to the National Trust.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 13+

  • Rydal, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior of the house

Bucket List Experience

Rydal Mount

Though Dove Cottage is the most famous of Wordsworth’s Lakeland homes, Rydal Mount is the one where he spent the most time – 37 years, to be precise, from 1813 until his death in 1850.

It makes an interesting companion piece to nearby Dove Cottage; altogether grander in scale, and surrounded by fine gardens, it’s a clear sign of Wordsworth’s increasing fame, wealth and poetic prestige.

Most of the house’s rooms are open to the public, from the family bedrooms to the grand drawing room and the poet’s own attic study. It’s full of interesting details for Wordsworth scholars: portraits of the poet, and possessions including his favourite walking stick, his picnic box, and the well-thumbed family bible.

Outside are the landscaped gardens which William apparently laid out to his own design (he was a passionate gardener).

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

  • Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Close up of tombstones with Wordsworth's name on

Bucket List Experience

William Wordsworth

The Lake District is indelibly linked with the ‘Romantic Movement’, the generation of 18th-century poets who drew inspiration from nature and the world around them.

Chief among them was William Wordsworth, who was born in the Lake District and spent much of his childhood and adult life here.

Several sites associated with the poet can be visited, including three of his former homes and his childhood school, as well as his last resting place in the peaceful churchyard of St Oswald’s in Grasmere.

For a general overview of Wordsworth and the Romantic Movement, head for the Wordsworth Museum, next to Dove Cottage.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 3 hours

  • Grasmere, Cumbria, United Kingdom (UK)

Of all the Wordsworth sites dotted around the Lake District, Dove Cottage is arguably the most atmospheric. Once an inn called the Dove & Olive, this little whitewashed cottage was Wordsworth’s first home in the Lakes after returning from London; he moved here in 1799 with his sister Dorothy, wife Mary and his small family, and remained here till 1808.

Informative guided tours delve into the secrets of the house and its history. The house is packed with fascinating possessions, from a pair of his spectacles and his passport to a portrait of his favourite dog, Pepper, given to him by Sir Walter Scott. Look out for the bedroom plastered with newspaper – a makeshift form of insulation necessitated by the Wordsworth’s impecunious circumstances.

At the back of the cottage is a charmingly wild garden, which Wordsworth called his ‘domestic slip of mountain’ – he tended to it himself, and often composed poetry out here too.

Adult price: £12

Good for age: 18+