I’m a Lake District local and here’s my current ‘must do’/’bucket’ list for Cumbria and the Lake District.
1. A Virgin balloon flight over the Lake District.
This is by far the best way to see the Lake District in all its glory and majesty and to appreciate the unique geography of the mountains, valleys and lakes. Even locals like me spot tarns, cairns and many other features that we never knew existed as they are so well hidden away in this treasure trove corner of England.
2. Take a cruise on Lake Windermere.
Stretching for more than 10 miles between Ambleside and Newby Bridge, Windermere is the largest lake in England.
‘Lake Windermere Cruises’ is Cumbria’s most popular attraction and a trip on a ‘traditional steamer’ around the lake and its 18 islands is a ‘must do’ for all visitors.
I still take a cruise up the lake once or twice a year and have done so for nearly 40 years now as everyday is different. The sights you will see change so much depending on the time of day, the season and of course the weather.
3. Visiting William Wordsworth’s house in Grasmere.
Dove Cottage the famous poet’s first home in the Lake District and is now owned by the Wordsworth Trust. The cottage is full of memorabilia, including the poet’s ice-skates, his passport, a pair of his reading glasses and a portrait of one of his favourite dogs, given to him as a present by Sir Walter Scott. At the back of the cottage is Wordsworth’s ‘domestic slip of mountain’, the half-wild garden where he liked to sit and compose some of his world famous poems.
4. A drive through the Langdale Valley or a walk if you want to burn off some calories.
The Langdale Valley is a hallowed place amongst fell walkers and home to some of the Lake District’s most famous walks and scenery including the Langdale Pikes, Crinkle Crags and Bowfell. Whether you walk or drive, magnificent views are guaranteed.
As you climb out of the Langdale Valley on the southern side you come across Blea Tarn in the image here. This is a much photographed scene and the views from the tarn are iconic and truly breathtaking. If you’re driving, park in the National Trust car park and take a gentle but very scenic stroll around the tarn to take in the glorious views.
To finish off your drive or walk, there’s few better places for a pint than at the Old Dungeon Ghyll at the foot of the Langdale Pikes. This is very much traditional Lake District walkers and hikes pub or drive a little further to the ‘chocolate box’ gorgeous Britannia Inn at the eastern end of the valley in the tiny village of Elterwater.
5. A meal at L’Enclume in Cartmel.
This is now on many peoples all time ‘bucket lists’.
The only 2 Michelin star in north west of England has many accolades including 5 AA rosettes. No-one can understand why Michelin hasn’t awarded this wonderful restaurant 3 stars!
L’Enclume is genuinely one of the best restaurants in the world and chef/owner Simon Rogan is rated as 1 of the world’s best chefs. His food is unique and you’ll be amazed at the tastes and textures that mesmerise you as you take a trip through 15 incredible but delicate small courses. If you’re not lucky enough to be able to book a table for dinner (the waiting list can be several months for weekend bookings), then try the smaller lunch menu.
A unique restaurant that delivers several hours and courses of scintillating gastronomy and a wonderful indulgence for all food lovers. Beautifully located in 1 of Cumbria’s most lovely villages.
6. Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top.
This farmhouse in Near Sawrey on the western shores of Lake Windermere is where Beatrix Potter created some of her best-known stories. She bought the house in 1905 using royalties from her first book, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and Miss Potter bequeathed the house to the National Trust following her death in 1943.
Beatrix Potter fans will spot many items from her illustrations and books including Mrs Tiggywinkle’s kitchen and Mr Macgregor’s garden. A wonderful day out for everyone.
7. A trip around Ullswater lake.
Many people (including myself) regard Ullswater as the most beautiful of all England’s lakes and one of the most spectacular valleys in the Lake District National Park.
The best way to see Ullswater is on-board 1 of the traditional ‘Ullswater Steamers’ which offer trips around the lake calling at Pooley Bridge, Glenridding, and Howtown. The ‘Ullswater Steamers’ operate all year round.
This is a great day out-catch a ‘Steamer’ from Glenridding at the southern end of the lake to Howtown which is about half way up the lake on the eastern shore. Conclude your day with a wonderful 2½ hour walk back to Glenridding along the lakeshore.
This is one of the most stunning scenic low level walks in the Lake District. Virtually the entire walk is on good footpaths that are a long way from any roads. You can stop off at various bays on the shore of the lake for a picnic or to just relax and lap up the peace and quiet with a backdrop of spectacular scenery and mountain views that include England’s 2nd highest mountain, Helvellyn.
8. A drive though Borrowdale to Buttermere and Crummock Water and back via Newlands valley.
If Ullswater is the most beautiful lake in England, these 3 valleys have to be the most beautiful valleys in England.
You’ll be accompanied by a panorama of some of England’s highest and most spectacular mountains, 4 of England’s most beautiful lakes and drive through several gorgeous ‘chocolate box’ villages and hamlets.
9. A day out at Cartmel races.
Even if you don’t enjoy horse racing, this is a wonderful fun day out for everyone.
Cartmel races have the 3rd highest average attendance of any race meeting in the UK yet it is 1 of the smallest race courses in Britain and the only racecourse in Britain actually located within a village. And what a village! Many people, myself included, now consider Cartmel to be Cumbria’s best village.
On race days, the crowds start arriving in Cartmel quite early and as the atmosphere builds around the whole village. Cartmel square becomes a very special place to be with plenty of ‘watering holes’ in this medieval square. The tiny village has an amazing 5 pubs, numerous cafes and 2 of the best restaurants in the north of England.
A fabulous event for all the family with a funfair, country market, food stalls and a great Lake District atmosphere.
10. A drink sat outside an iconic Lake District pub.
The Lake District is full of quintessential English villages and picture box country pubs.
Add this to pubs that have spectacular views and in good weather this is can be a memory that will stay with you for many years.
Here my list of just a few of the wonderful pubs that have tables and chairs outside in spectacular Lake District settings:-
The Britannia Inn at Elterwater, The Pig & Whistle in Cartmel, The Blacksmiths Arms at Broughton Mills (a bit of a secret place and not known by many tourists), The Drunken Duck near Hawkshead, The Masons Arms at Strawberry Bank (Cartmel Fell) and the Old Dungeon Ghyll, Langdale. Enjoy your drink and savour that view!
This was another helpful read from the very helpful Holiday Cottages Cumbria team, providers of some of the best luxury holiday cottages in the Lake District. You can see our cottages here