Located in Cumbria (in the North West of England) The Lake District National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK, and one of my personal favourite destinations. Unspoilt scenery stretches for over 2000km² and encompasses rugged mountains, historic woodlands, and of course plenty of pristine lakes and rivers.
The region is therefore a paradise for adventure lovers, or those just wanting to enjoy its natural landscapes. In other words, there’s something for everyone to enjoy when visiting, so I’ve compiled my top 10 Lake District activities to help you decide where to begin…
1) Lake District Activities: Go Hiking –
Walking/hiking in the Lake District is a bucket list activity that shouldn’t be missed! The national park is home to 150 high peaks and at least 200 fells – including Scafell Pike (the highest mountain in England). In this way, there’s a summit that can be reached by all levels of fitness!
On one trip alone, my family and I tackled Middle Fell (which reaches 582m) and then the majority of Great Gable (899m) in the Western Lakes. Each was incredibly rewarding when we reached the top, not only due to the sense of accomplishment but also thanks to the breathtaking views.
This said you don’t need to tackle high fells to enjoy the stunning scenery of the lakes. There’s plenty of low-level circular walks that can also be enjoyed. These tend to be highly accessible, dog friendly, and well signposted. So, there’s no need to worry about getting lost nor packing a compass. One prime example is Orrest Head, which gradually wides uphill to provide an amazing outlook over lake Windemere.
2) Take To The Water –
A lot of the best activities in the Lake District (unsurprisingly) involve its many lakes and rivers. At 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep, Windemere is the largest natural lake in England! Because of this, taking a traditional steamboat tour around Lake Windermere is repeatedly voted as Cumbria’s most popular attraction. I’d have to agree, as every trip to the lake is magical, with the sights you see constantly changing, depending on the time of day, the season… and of course the weather.
However, adventure seekers may also want to try their hand at sailing at one of the many Yacht Clubs along the edge of Ullswater (which is seen as the most beautiful of all England’s lakes), or pick up a kayak and explore the depths of Wastwater, which sits underneath the shadow of Scafell Pike, and most of the regions highest mountains.
3) Discover Waterfalls –
One of the less known facts about the Lakes is that it’s littered with magnificent waterfalls, and discovering where they’re hidden in the national park is no doubt one of my favourite things to do in the Lake District.
Tucked away in the woods, as if it belongs in a fairytale, one of the most beautiful waterfalls is the Stanley Ghyll Force, which can be found just a short walk from Eskdale.
Slightly larger, Aira Force in Glenridding (just off the banks of Ullswater) is another must-see, as it cascades underneath a traditional stone bridge, creating a picture-perfect view. Likewise, one of the tallest and most impressive waterfalls in the Lake District is Scale Force, situated close to Buttermere village.
4) Visit Historic Market Towns –
Whilst most Lake District things to do revolve around nature, the area is also full of charming towns and villages. One of the most picturesque places in the Lake District is the small town of Ambleside. Located at the head of Lake Windermere, the small town is the perfect medley of narrow backstreets, contemporary cafes and quirky Lake District attractions – such as ‘Bridge House’ (the most photographed building in the Lakes).
In addition, there’s more walking shops and camping stores than you could dream of, so it’s the perfect place to pick up any last-minute hiking gear! In this way, Ambleside is definitely my favourite town in the region. However, more of the best places to visit in the Lake District include Keswick, Grasmere, Cartmel and Ravenglass, which are just as delightful.
5) Go Rock Climbing and Caving –
Another of the top activities to do in the Lake District for adrenaline seekers is natural rock climbing. Guided tours are available across the National Park and offer world-class climbs and views. Meanwhile, there’s also an opportunity to discover something underground by going caving or potholing. Arguably the most impressive sight to explore is the Cathedral Quarry, a small network of interlinked caves, with a stunning main chamber, located above Little Langdale.
6) Discover Historic buildings –
From the most haunted castle in the UK (Muncaster Castle) to the peaceful farmhouse where Beatrix Potter created her best-known stories, some of the best places to visit in the Lake District are no doubt its historic buildings and properties, many of which are entrusted to the National Trust, and make for the perfect day out.
7) Drive Along Hardknott Pass –
The most nerve-racking, and slightly frightening, of Lake District activities is a drive along Hardknott Pass, the steepest road in the country, with a gradient of 33%.
Filled with sharp corners and blind summits, the road isn’t for faint-hearted, but the drive is one of the most fun things to do in the Lake District if you’re looking for an adrenaline surge. Plus (as with everything in the Lake District) the views along the narrow road are amazing!
8) Drink in a Classic English Pub –
My dad wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t recommend a trip to a classic English pub in my list of ‘Lake District activities’. Even the smallest Hamlets in the area have a pub (or two) that provide refuge and hydration for walkers.
Perhaps the most Idyllic pub I’ve visited is the Wasdale Head Inn, situated at the foot of Scafell Pike, it’s definitely amongst the best places to go in the Lake District for a drink. A visit is especially rewarding after a long day of hiking in the area!
Top Tip: looking for somewhere to stay in the Lake District? My favourite area is the Western Lakes, which is often more peaceful, and remote when compared to some of the more well-known locations. Thus, in my opinion, Wasdale campsites are some of the best places to stay.
9) Tour Cumbria on a Miniature Steam Train –
Something a little gimmicky, but certainly one of the best activities in the Lake District, is a trip along the Ravenglass and Eskdale Miniature steam railway. Starting in the coastal town of Ravenglass, the train travels steadily across the estuary, and through beautiful valleys, to its final stop: Boot Station in Eskdale (near the end of Hardknott Pass).
This unique train provides the opportunity to do some sightseeing from the comfort of your seat. Plus, it’s a fun day out if you’re visiting the Lake District with kids. Moreover, when staying in the Eskdale Valley previously, we’ve used the railway as a starting point for several beautiful walks.
There are many options to choose from (you can pick up a map from any of the stations). However, my favourite route is walking back from Ravenglass towards Eskdale. This takes you past an ancient Roman Bath-house, and over the majestic Muncaster Fell.
10) Take a Day Trip to Hadrian’s wall –
While technically found outside of the Lake District National Park, Hadrian’s Wall is Cumbria’s most popular attraction, and easily reached during a trip to the Lakes. Built around 122 AD by the Romans to separate the empire from Scotland, the wall once stretched 73 miles, coast to coast and held many castles and small forts along its length.
Today, only about 10% of the original structure remains, but I find it quite remarkable that anything that old can still be discovered and enjoyed. Thus, a visit to Hadrian’s wall has to claim the last spot on my list of top Lake District activities.
I’ve only mentioned 10 Lake District activities in this post, but there are plenty more things to do in the Lake District! This fact and its beautiful scenery mean that the area is somewhere many people visit time and time again. There’s simply always something new and exciting to discover. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the region is one of the very best holiday destinations in the UK.