8 Top Things To Do In Cumbria



When looking for things to do in Cumbria, most people think immediately of the Lake District National Park. Immortalised by poets from William Wordsworth to John Ruskin, this huge UNESCO World Heritage Site encompasses a significant portion of the county, and is home to beautiful lakes, wild fells and England's highest mountains. 

If you’re planning to explore the Lake District, the South Lakes area around Coniston Water and Lake Windermere is a great place to start. National Trust properties like the Gothic-Revival Wray Castle, and open areas like Grizedale Forest, where hikers and cyclists can follow trails dotted with natural sculptures, are two good places for an active family day out.

Other popular Lake District attractions include Wordsworth’s home at Dove Cottage, and the World of Beatrix Potter, where children (and grownups) can meet all their favourite characters including, of course, Peter Rabbit. 

Further north stands Lowther Castle, a striking ruin with mountain views – and beyond the park there are seaside towns, ancient stone circles like Long Meg and her Daughters and the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to explore.

Can’t wait to get started? Check out our list of the 8 top things to do in Cumbria.

Boats on Lake Windermere (Unsplash)

Lake Windermere

Windermere is the largest lake in England, and probably the best known in the Lake District. On a visit here you can hire motor boats, rowing boats or canoes to explore, or sit back and enjoy the scenery on cruise trips that run between Lakeside, Bowness and Ambleside. The shores of the lake are dotted with historic houses, woodlands and pretty towns and villages overlooking the water, all linked by a series of trails for hiking and cycling, many of which have spectacular views from the surrounding fells. 

Find somewhere to stay near Lake Windermere

Wray Castle

Despite its appearance, this striking neo-Gothic castle beside Lake Windermere never saw any military action – in fact, it was created for a wealthy heiress in the 19th century. Something of a curiosity, it only opened to the public in 2011. It’s free to explore the ground floor (now empty), but the big draws of a visit here are the specimen trees in its woodland gardens, the splendid views of Lake Windermere, and a number of peaceful lakeside trails for walking and cycling. 

Beatrix Potter stayed here as a child in 1882, loved the place and eventually bought a considerable amount of land around the estate, although she never managed to snap up the castle itself. In summer, try joining a Windermere Lake Cruise to arrive at the castle’s private jetty by boat.

Grizedale Forest

Bring a bike for great trails in Grizedale Forest (Unsplash)

Set between Windermere and Coniston Water, Grizedale is a must for lovers of the outdoors, with waymarked paths for mountain bikers, horse riders and hikers. Stop at the Visitor Centre to pick up details, and to hire bikes. As an added bonus, the forest is dotted with an ever-changing roster of natural sculptures, which you can look out for as you explore. Small children aren’t forgotten either – the Gruffalo Spotters’ Trail starts at the Visitor Centre and includes an activity pack with a Gruffalo mask and paws. How can you resist?

If you still have some energy, or have teenagers with you, there’s also a Go Ape centre with treetop obstacles and ziplines. If you’re exhausted already, fancy a giggle or just want to keep an eye on your rampaging kids, you can also hire a Segway.

If Grizedale grabs you, check out our list of 8 scenic Cumbria walks to try on your next visit

Long Meg and her Daughters

Set in rolling countryside with great views of the Pennines, this Bronze Age stone circle is the largest in Cumbria. Dating to around 1500 BC, it consists of 69 stones, of which the tallest (Long Meg herself) is carved with mysterious symbols. Naturally, there are several legends associated with the site; most agree that Long Meg was a witch who was turned to stone along with her coven for profaning the Sabbath. Many claim that it is impossible to count the number of stones correctly, but that if you do, then you can put your ear to Long Meg and hear her whisper. Do you dare try?

The last word here is left to Wordsworth, who wrote that ‘Next to Stonehenge, it is beyond dispute the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains.’

For more great views, try these must-visit Lake District peaks

World of Beatrix Potter

If you’re a lover of Peter Rabbit or Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, then this imaginative visitor attraction, which explores all 23 of Beatrix Potter’s famous stories, should definitely be on your list. After a film introducing visitors to the whimsical tales, kids can explore recreated scenes featuring characters from their favourite books (including sounds and smells), and a Peter Rabbit Garden, which won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. There’s also an enduringly popular puppet theatre. 

It’s fair to say that fewer people know about Potter’s involvement with the National Trust. The author was a friend of one of the Trust’s founders, as well as a great advocate for Lake District conservation. When she died she left 4,000 acres of land to the organisation, including her house at nearby Hill Top, and several farms that still operate today.

Lowther Castle

Lowther Castle (Unsplash)

This fortified mansion was built in the early 19th century on a site dating back to medieval times. Today its impressive facade and outer walls still stand amid 130 acres of extensively restored gardens, which include a maze, Victorian follies, themed flower gardens and sculpted hedges, all with fabulous views of the Lowther Valley and the mountains of the Lake District.

The estate is honeycombed with walking and cycling trails, and you can hire bikes (including electric ones) to explore.

Dove Cottage/Wordsworth Museum

William Wordsworth, who was born in the Lake District and immortalised the landscape in his poetry, lived in this 17th-century cottage from 1799 until 1808, and wrote many of his greatest works here. The building has been preserved much as he would have remembered it, and features domestic artefacts, recreated rooms (including the poet’s study) and scenes that evoke moments from his writing. Guided tours give visitors a perspective on what life was like at the time.

There’s also a Wordsworth museum on the site, where you can trace his life and work through personal items, hands-on activities, original manuscripts and a film, as well as audio-visual exhibits featuring contemporary poets and local people.

Solway Coast

With all the talk of lakes, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Cumbria also has around 120 miles of coastline. Alongside seaside resorts like Seascale, Saint Bees and Grange-over-Sands, the Solway Coast stands out. This huge Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty encompasses nature reserves, extensive dune systems and salt marshes that are a magnet for birdwatchers, as well as vast stretches of unspoilt sand at places like Grune Point and Mawbray Banks where you can enjoy fabulous views of the coast. And of course, being in the west, it also has great sunsets… 

The Solway Coast Discovery Centre in Silloth-on-Solway is a good place to start, with exhibits that highlight the wildlife and geography of the area plus plenty of tips for the best places to visit.

Pick a campsite near the Solway Coast

If the Solway Coast is your idea of heaven, take a look at our list of the 5 best beaches In Cumbria to visit