With its gleaming, mirror-like lakes, dramatic fells and lush green valleys, the Lake District is known all around the world for its beauty – and for inspiring countless writers, artists and poets. Boasting England’s highest peak – as well as its deepest lake – the Lake District is also packed with lovely villages, fascinating world heritage sites, and some of the most spectacular walking routes in the country.
If you’re looking to book a holiday, there’s never been a better time to explore Cumbria’s tranquil landscape, or to simply lose yourself among the Lake District’s quiet, mesmerising beauty. To get you inspired, here are seven stunning places to visit in the Lake District.
Tucked away in the very heart of the Lake District, Grasmere is a beautiful and charming village that’s an absolute joy to explore. Grasmere is best known as the home of William Wordsworth, and today you can visit his former residence, Dove Cottage, where he lived with his sister and later, his wife. It was at Dove Cottage that Wordsworth wrote his most famous poems, and today, the relatively unchanged cottage brings to life what this family home would have been like when Wordsworth and his family lived there. Fans of Wordsworth’s work may also want to visit Wordsworth Museum and art gallery, as well the family’s burial plot at St Oswald’s Church.
Poetry aside, the village of Grasmere has plenty to offer. Packed with tea rooms, historic stone cottages, pubs, shops and cafes, you can easily spend the day here pottering around. Victorian cook Sarah Nelson also lived and worked in Grasmere, and today you can visit her cottage and buy some of her famous gingerbread – though you may have to queue!
If you’re looking to soak up some natural beauty, you’ll also be spoilt for choice. Grasmere is circled by the Central Fells, and with the dramatic Helm Crag to the South and Dunmail Raise to the North, the village is ideally situated for hiking. The rather creepy sounding Coffin Route is actually a glorious woodland walk, and the Easedale Tarn route takes you past waterfalls, stone bridges, and pristine pools. Afterwards, you may want to pay a visit to Faeryland, where you can enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea, and take a colourful wooden rowing boat out onto Grasmere lake.
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2. Coniston Water
Another must-visit destination for literary lovers and boating enthusiasts alike is Coniston Water. At five miles long and a mile wide, and surrounded by ancient woodland and imposing fells, Coniston Water is remarkably beautiful, and a lovely place to spend a day. If you’re in the mood for a hike, you can trek up the mountain known as the Old Man of Coniston; one of the loveliest walks is Brim Fell, which joins the Old Man to Swirl How, but you can check out all Coniston hikes on Mud & Routes.
Coniston Water is popular with literary enthusiasts due to its impressive connections with several writers and academics. Swallows and Amazons author Arthur Ransom was inspired by Coniston Water (and Lake Windermere), and the famous Victorian philosopher John Ruskin lived in Coniston village until his death in 1900. His former home, Brantwood House, is open to the public, offering fascinating insights into his life and work, and showcasing many of the pieces of art and unique treasures that he collected on his travels.
Coniston Village has lots to offer visitors too, with plenty of shops, pubs and cafes, as well as the Ruskin Museum, which tells the story of Coniston from its early Stone Age beginnings. Coniston is especially popular with boating enthusiasts, and at Coniston Boating Centre you can hire motorboats, paddleboards, canoes, and dinghies – and explore the lake in your own time. Alternatively, you can always discover the beauty of the lake on a Coniston Launch cruise.
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3. Scafell Pike
If you’re a keen hiker and fancy a challenge, then climbing Scafell Pike is surely a must while visiting the Lake District. At 978 metres high, Scafell Pike is England’s highest mountain, and from the summit, you can enjoy spectacular unobstructed views of the National Park and surrounding fells – and, on a clear day, you can even see Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the Isle of Man.
The route is tough and very steep at times, so if you want to climb Scafell Pike you’ll need to have a decent level of fitness, or be an experienced hiker. Climbing the Pike is usually an all-day event, and from Wasdale Head, where most routes start, it usually takes at least three hours to reach the top. It’s best to allow yourself at least seven hours to complete the hike in good weather – and be sure to check the mountain forecast, wear the right clothing, and bring the necessary equipment and supplies. To find out more about climbing Scafell Pike, head over to the National Trust website.
At the foot of Scafell Pike is Wasdale Head, a pretty hamlet which is perfectly situated for visitors to take advantage of the rugged beauty of this area: it’s just a short walk to the stunning lake of Wastwater, Kirk Fell, Red Pike, and Great Gable. If you’d like to enjoy a hot meal after hiking up Scafell Pike – or a refreshing pint – be sure to visit the Wasdale Head Inn. You’ll definitely have earned it!
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4. Castlerigg Stone Circle
There are more than 300 stone circles in England, but with its panoramic views and rugged mountain setting, Castlerigg is arguably among the most beautiful and atmospheric. Overlooking the Thirlmere Valley, and with the High Seat and Helvellyn Mountains as a backdrop, Castlerigg Stone Circle is worth visiting for its awe-inspiring beauty alone – but its history is just as compelling.
Castlerigg isn’t only one of the most spectacular stone circles in England; it’s also one of the oldest. Where most English stone circles date from around 2000 to 800 BC, Castlerigg’s 38 stones (originally 42) were erected around 3,000 BC by the Neolithic inhabitants of the area. Over 30 metres in diameter, some of the stones are more than two metres in height – and though we don’t know what this ancient monument was built for, its consequence can still be felt today.
Unburdened by ticket offices or souvenir stands, Castlerigg is usually wonderfully quiet, and for maximum awe-factor, you might want to visit at sunset (just be sure to bring your camera!). There is limited parking at the site, though you may want to consider walking from Keswick town centre, which only takes around 30 minutes and is a pleasant hike.
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5. Lake Windermere
At 10 and a half miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep, Lake Windermere isn’t only the biggest lake in the National Park – it’s the largest natural lake in England, more akin to a Scottish loch. This glacial blue lake (a remnant of the Ice Age) stretches in a thin ribbon across the southern half of the Lake District National Park, and it’s the busiest and best known of all the lakes. However, if you’re looking for solitude, you can still find it in Windermere’s surrounding countryside: head over to Komoot to check out the best hikes around the area.
If you’re interested in trying your hand at some watersports, Lake Windermere is the place to get involved, and there are several marinas and sailing and windsurfing centres to be found along the shore. Or, if you fancy exploring the lake in a more leisurely manner, you could always book a cruise with Windermere Lake Cruises, which has a fleet of modern boats, as well as traditional ‘steamers’. The Windermere Jetty Museum, which is dedicated to boats, people, and the rich history of Windermere may also be of interest.
Windermere is also the name of the village which sits a little over a mile from the lake, although it’s Bowness-on-Windermere that’s the busiest tourist hub in the Lake District. While these are two separate villages with distinctively different high streets, they’ve essentially merged as one, and there are lots of attractions here, from the World of Beatrix Potter, which is reopening on May 17th, to the many shops, galleries, cafes and tearooms. And if you’re interested in touring the Windermere area, why not do it in style in the fabulous tuk tuks offered by this company?
While you’re in the area, you could also consider visiting the Claife Viewing Station which is a Victorian tourist attraction near Windermere and offers spectacular views across the west shore.
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At seven and a half miles long and a mile across, Ullswater is the second largest lake in England, after Lake Windermere – though, thanks to its magnificent Helvellyn Mountain scenery, many people consider Ullswater to be more beautiful. Though it’s quieter than Windermere, there’s still plenty to see and do here, and if you’re looking to hit the water, you can hire motorboats, canoes, and rowing boats from St Patrick’s Boat Landing.
If you’re in the mood for a strenuous hike, you can walk along the popular Ullswater Way, a 20-mile circular route around the lake. Or, if you don’t fancy trekking such a long distance, why not combine a shorter trek with a boat ride? Alternatively, the pretty village of Glenridding is a great place to begin a walk up Helvellyn Mountain; you can check out different routes over on Mud & Routes. And if you fancy exploring some gorgeous walking trails, forests, and waterfalls, then you might like to visit Aira Force which is a National Trust area.
There are plenty of interesting historical spots around Ullswater too, including the grand Dalemain House and Gardens, the lovely village of Dacre, with its 14th Century ruins, and the 17th-century mill village of Hartsop. If you’re intrigued with more macabre historical attractions, you could always pay a visit to Brothers Water, at the bottom of the Kirkstone Pass, which is named for the two brothers who drowned there in the 1800s…
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7. Tarn Hows
Though the Lake District is famous for its natural beauty, you may be surprised to know that one of its most popular beauty spots is partly man-made. In Victorian times, a stream was dammed, causing three separate tarns (lakes) to flood and create one large tarn. The Hows are the small, wooded hills encircling the tarn. Tarn Hows was a favourite spot of Beatrix Potter, who bought and managed the land, and then left it to the National Trust when she died.
There’s a flat, circular walk around Tarn Hows which provides incredible views of the region, and because it’s just over 1.5 miles long – and wheelchair accessible – it’s a popular spot for families looking to enjoy a leisurely walk. To find out more about the trail, head over to the National Trust website. Because it’s so peaceful and protected, Tarn Hows is also the perfect place to have a picnic – or to simply sit back in the sun and admire your gorgeous surroundings.
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With its glistening blue lakes, towering mountains, and picturesque villages, the Lake District is the perfect staycation destination. If you like getting active on holiday – whether that involves trekking up mountains, sailing, swimming, or canoeing, or strolling through forests – the Lake District offers all that and more.
Equally, if you want to take it a bit easier and potter around in antique shops, visit museums and historical sites, and enjoy treating yourself in charming pubs, cafes and tea rooms, you’ll also be spoilt for choice.
If you’d like more travel inspiration, head over to the Travel section of our site.
Are you hoping to visit the Lake District this year? Or are there any other UK destinations you’re planning on checking out? We’d love to hear about your holiday plans! Leave us a comment below, or join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum.