Guide to The Lake District

A Guide to The Lake District Blog

In this guide to The Lake District, you will find everything you need to plan your trip including where to go, what to do, and of course, where to stay!

While visitors often come to the UK in search of The Queen, afternoon tea, and Big Ben, there is so much more to the country than that. The UK is home to incredible history, stunning scenery, and some amazing people. All of which can be found in the picturesque Lake District.

Although I only spent a long weekend in the Lake District it’s a place that absolutely stole my heart.

Located in Cumbria which is in the NorthWest of England, The Lake District is a popular destination for domestic travel and for visitors alike. With its stunning countryside, beautiful lakes, and a laid back vibe it is definitely somewhere to be explored.

Top Places to Visit in The Lake District

  1. Ambleside 
  2. Hawkshead 
  3. Keswick 
  4. Windermere 
  5. Buttermere 
  6. Grasmere 
  7. Borrowdale 
  8. Kendal 

Click for Other UK place guides

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A Guide to The Lake District Blog

Ambleside

The perfect spot to base yourself on any trip to the Lake District. Not even 5 miles away from Lake Windermere and full of vibrant cafes, shops & scenery. Stroll around the town or head out to the lake or the waterfall nearby.

Hawkshead

One of the smaller towns in the Lakes but one with so much stunning scenery it is not to be missed. Enjoy the quaint village and make sure you check out the Hill Top walk and Beatrix Potter’s house.

Keswick

On the beautiful River Greta with views of the mountains from almost anywhere in town, you’ll find plenty to do in Keswick. This is also the perfect base to head out and explore the iconic Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Windermere

Possibly the most well known and therefore most visited town in the Lake District, and for very good reason. With the biggest of the lakes in the area, it’s a must to get out on a cruise, for a paddle or in a sailboat to enjoy the best views the town has to offer.

Buttermere

As the only valley in the Lake District to have 3 lakes, this is a perfect spot for anyone looking to leave the city life behind and get lost in nature. A hiker’s haven and the spot for some of the best views in the country.

Grasmere

Home to the great author William Wadsworth it’s no surprise that he drew inspiration from this location. A stunning setting, with a quaint charm this is definitely somewhere to see. Indulge in the delicious local gingerbread and go looking for faeries by the lake, there’s magic to be found throughout the town.

Borrowdale

This is a great spot for anyone looking for an off the beaten track adventure. One of the smallest valley’s in the Lake District and possibly home to more sheep than anything else. Nearest to Keswick this a great place to spend in the hills and avoiding the peak season crowds.

Kendal

An old market town with charm is what you’ll find here. Home of the classic Kendal Mint Cake but that’s not all! Visit the Kendal Castle and the Museum to get a real feel for the history of not only the town but the entire Lake District

Top 10 Things to do In The Lake District

A Guide to The Lake District Blog

Hilltop Walk + Beatrix Potter House

This National Trust site is a must-see even if you aren’t familiar with the classic children’s tales. The scenery as you ramble along the trails by Esthwaite Water, up to the hill and can see over the town. Pop in to the house where Betrix Potter lived or mosey through the gardens before continuing on the trail that will take you back into town.

Scafell Pike

The highest mountain in England and also one of the best views in the country is part of the SouthWestern Fells. At just under 1000 meters above sea level, this hike is challenging but the views are well worth it for those who can make it to the top.

Ashness Bridge + Surprise View Point

If you wondered what the most photographed bridge in England looked like, this is it! Nothing massive but still a charm to it, mostly due to the mountain views and babbling brook running underneath. Plus the real show stopper is just a short drive (or a little hike) up the path to sweeping views of Keswick from above at Surprise View Point.

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Closest to Keswick, this almost 5000-year-old stone circle is one of the most historic parts of the Lake District. Made up of 38 freestanding stones thousands of people flock to this site every year to see the stones and witness the stunning views of the High Seat and Helvellyn mountains.

Stockghyll Force Waterfall

This trail is less than 30 minutes from the center of Ambleside and a perfect spot to escape the crowds especially during peak season. The entrance can be found behind the Salvation Hotel and from here you’ll be able to follow the signs through the forest to the waterfall.

Explore Lake Buttermere

Known as one of the most beautiful parts of England and the Lake District as a whole, most visitors flock to Buttermere for the scenery. The lake itself and the trail that surrounds it are the biggest draws, but there are tons of other trails including those on Red Pike and Haystack mountain.

Ambleside Pier

Right next to Borrans Park is the lovely Ambleside Pier and both are a must-visit when it comes to this part of the Lakes. The park is massive and perfect for picnics and a pickup game of football. Stroll on and you’ll find yourself on the pier where many of the ferries take off. You can rent boats here, enjoy a pint on a patio and find tons of shops to visit.

Visit Grasmere Gingerbread

This is one of the more unique things to do in Grasmere, but definitely a fun one. Invented in 1854 by local Sarah Nelson, the Grasmere Gingerbread is different from what you get at Christmas. Soft, chewy and spicy these little squares are absolutely dreamy & a crowd-pleaser.

Holker Hall & Gardens

Home of Lord and Lady Cavendish this country home is a fantastic piece of history to explore. The formal gardens cover 10 acres and are kept absolutely pristine, come during the Spring and you’ll be treated to incredible blooms. The house itself is open to the public and visitors will feel transported back in time with every turn.

Windermere Lake Cruise

A trip to the Lake District is not complete without a boat trip on the lake, and Winderemere being the most famous has tons of options. There are self-drive options or kayak rentals, sailboats and even paddleboards but if you want the views with minimal effort book in for a Lake Cruise. Knowledgeable captains will give you the history as you cruise around the stunning lake taking in the views.

GrasmereGingerbread

Food In The Lake District

You won’t go hungry on your trip to the Lake District, and no matter what you’re looking for or what you need you’ll be sure to find it most everywhere you go. A few must-visit spots include:

Hole in t’wall (Windermere): Built in 1612 it’s the oldest pub in town with a perfect beer garden for a sunny afternoon and a great food menu to enjoy.
Apple Pie Cafe (Ambleside): Craving a good breakfast and an even better pastry? Make sure you come early! Take away treats and table service breakfast/brunch are a hot item at this Ambleside classic
Faeryland (Grassmere): Fancy a cake and a cuppa with the best view in town? Look no further than this magical spot on the lakeside. They even offer boat rentals too so you can cross 2 things off your list in 1 visit.
The Honeypot (Hawkshead): Stocking 50+ local and international honey’s not only is this a sweet spot to visit but they offer tons of local items to create your own dishes at home and to take away, especially the pies!
Kat’s Kitchen (Keswick): Looking for a veggie or vegan option, this is it! Enjoy cakes, breakfasts and even an awesome burger (meat-free of course) with a stunning view of the lake and the mountains.

The Lake District Money Saving Tips

When it comes to visiting the Lake District it doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. An adventure up this way can definitely be done on a budget, and here are a few tips to keep from going broke.

Camping!

If you are looking for where you can save the most, accommodation is probably the most obvious cost. Hotels can be pricey and even some hostels during peak season can take up a large portion of your budget. Most campsites across the Lake District cost less than £9/night and some are even free.

Cook for yourself.

If you’re camping then you’ll likely be cooking for yourself anyway, however, if you opt to stay in a hostel or hotel with a self-catering kitchen this can save you a pretty penny too. Make a trip to the supermarket before you arrive for some essentials and whip up a feast wherever you’re staying instead of spending on restaurants every day.

Book your accommodation in advance.

If you are looking to even save just a little bit of money, then booking ahead of time can really save your budget. If you know when you want to make your trip to the Lake District happen you can sort out for accommodation well in advance, especially during peak season.

The Lake District Packing Advice

Visiting the Lake District means you can leave the high heels at home. You’ll find no use for them on the trails, in a boat or for casual pints in the beer garden. Comfort is key on your visit to the Lakes and you’ll want to ensure you’re prepared for anything.

The weather in Lake District can turn, even in the summer months as you’ll be quite a bit more North, so layers are key. You may set off in the morning to glorious sunshine but while hiking a trail the winds can pick up so it’s best to bring a warm layer with you. Comfortable walking boots/shoes are a must if you want to take advantage of all the trails on offer too.

A waterproof coat is never a bad idea, even if it is just in case of an emergency. If you’re visiting during the wetter months of the years you’ll definitely be wanting waterproof everything, wellies, slacks a good jacket will make all the difference.

For cooler evenings or for a meal out in town jeans and a jumper should do you just fine, no need to fuss over anything too fancy here, the Lake District’s laid back vibe extends to its dress code too.

For a full UK packing list check this out.

Where to Stay in The Lake District

When it comes to choosing accommodation in the Lake District, the options are seemingly endless. Choose from quaint bed & breakfasts, budget-friendly hostels, hotels with lake views and even some seriously impressive camping/glamping locations. If you’re headed out with a group of people you may want to rent a big cottage, or if you’re looking for a trip with that special someone a spa break. The options for accommodation will also depend on where you choose to base yourself on your visit to the Lake District.

If you want to be at the heart of it all you’ll likely want to base yourself in Keswick. Here you’ll find tons of restaurants, pubs, shops & all that you could want. Second to that would be Windermere, the most well known of the lakes and therefore a well-travelled location. For somewhere off the beaten track, a little why not look into accommodation in Hawkshead, you’ll still find great restaurants and shops but it’s a little quieter than the other more well-known towns.

Budget Accommodation

For those on a budget but still looking for a great place to stay, head for YHA Hawkshead. This hostel has a front and center view of the lake and is tucked away from the main town giving you a feeling of having it all to yourself. Room options include dorms and private rooms as well as options to camp with your own tent or book into one of the cabins or teepees on site. There is a cafe as well as a self-catering kitchen and on-site parking, all of that without breaking the bank is the perfect reason to stay here. 

Mid-Range Accommodation

The Paddock Guesthouse is just a stone’s throw away from the Keswick town center. This bed and breakfast is housed in a building from the 1800’s full of charm and history-making it perfect for a weekend away. Beautiful fell views from most of the rooms mean you’ll be transported to another world without even leaving the bed, but it is recommended to leave as Keswick as so much to offer. 

High-End Accommodation

On the picturesque shores Ullswater you’ll find heaven. Also known as Another Place. But this is far from just another place, this luxury hotel is one of the most incredible in the Lake District. The facilities are top-notch with a pool, sauna, jacuzzi and fitness room, just to name a few, as well as a gorgeous bar and dining area to be enjoyed. Separated into 2 wings you’ll find just 40 rooms in total here, all with thoughtful decor and stunning views. 

guide to the lake district

Getting Around in The Lake District

One of the best ways to see the Lake District is on a road trip, so if you’re arriving into one of the bigger cities in England you can easily access the Lakes by car. Some airports within close proximity to the area include Manchester (87 miles) and Newcastle (70 miles).

Depending on what area you’re hoping to spend your time in, you can also opt to arrive in the Lake District by train. Oxenholme Rail station serves as a good base to explore Kendal, however, there are lines that will also take you to Penrith, Windermere, and Barrow.

The Lakes Connection is the public bus service operating in serval towns and areas in the Lake District. Offering single tickets and day tickets this is a great option if you arrive by train, or do not want to use your vehicle. Keep in mind it does not service everywhere in the Lake District. For more information click here.

Having your own vehicle when visiting the Lake District is likely the most efficient and time-friendly option for your visit.

The Lake District Safety Advice

For the most part the Lake District is one of the safest places to explore, even for solo/female travellers. There are a few things to keep in mind for your visit to ensure your safety though

  • If you are camping, be sure not to leave any valuables in the tent or car.
  • Visiting alone and planning to do some hiking? Why not let the front desk of your hotel know what time you’re expected back as a precaution.
  • Ensure your mobile phone is charged when you set off for the day or have a portable charger in case of emergencies.

It’s never a good idea to travel without travel insurance. You can read Claire’s full review of the best backpacking insurance here.

The Best Time To Visit The Lake District

When it comes to the Lake District and when to visit, it all depends on what you want to do. Peak season here runs from April to October so there is a real chance that towns and trails will be a lot busier than the months outside that time.

That being said, the weather during that window is probably the best. Located more north in the Country means you may run the risk of snow during the middle of winter and the narrow roads may be blocked due to weather.

If you don’t mind a little rain then March could be the best time if you prefer a more quiet time to visit. Plus all that rain makes the lakes fuller and the forests all the more lush.

Author Bio

Laura is a Canadian content creator who has called Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the UK her “home”. Her travel experiences have taken her to the volcanoes of Central America, the waterfalls of Hawaii, the castles of England, and much more. In addition to creating She Who Wanders, her work can be found published on HI-Hostels Canada and Nomadasaurus.

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What to Read in The United Kingdom

Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist is a great companion on your trip to the UK. You can get it before your trip to help you plan out all of the best places to go. It’s a go to bucket list of the not to miss places to visit in the UK.

It’s full of beautiful photography and it goes much further than just the typical tourist traps and includes everything from coastal walks, music festivals, and hidden away pubs you must visit. 

If you are interested in learning more about the upper echelons of the British aristocracy then this book abut the life of Anne Glenconner is a great read.

She has long been at the center of the royal circle as a life long friend of the Queen and her sister. Her father was the Earl of Leicester and controlled one of the largest estates  in England. 

Sadly Anne turned out to be “the greatest disappointment” to her father and she was unable to inherit his great estate and instead make her own way in the world while surviving the vipers of court life! And interesting read to see how the ‘other half’ live.

The UK that you will see today is a product of the post WWII industrial revolution.

Nineteenth-century Britain experienced an unprecedented series of changes in the wake of the war. Cities grew fast and revolutions in transports, communication, science, and the way people lived happened in quick succession. 

Added to these changes was a growing skepticism of religion, a questioning of power resulting in political and social unrest.

In spite if these turbulent times Britain remained strong on a global level which saw it quickly rise as a global leader… this was of course before Brexit!

If you are looking for a light read to accompany yo on your UK vacation then Bridget Jones’s Diary is the perfect literary companion. Even if you have watched the movie, the book is soooo much better.

Us brits are legit obsessed with manners to a fault. Seriously we love nothing more that throwing as many please and thank you’s in to a sentence as we can make fit. And don’t even get me started with our obsession with apologizing for EVERYTHING! 

But our obsession doesn’t just stop there, there is so much more to British etiquette most of which will confuse the hell out of visitors from foreign lands. 

In this book you will get an illuminating insight in to all of the social rules we are governed by, from never putting your elbows on the table to holding open doors. But this book goes deeper and shines a light on where this crazy obsession with good manners comes from. Its a interesting and quirky must read.

Looking for a novel to sink your teeth into on those long cross country train journeys in the UK. White Teeth is it.

Set against London’ s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.

Check out My travel books

The Solo Girls Guide to Traveling Without Fear

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