Best places to visit in Cumbria

Penned on the 14th December 2022

Best places to visit in Cumbria

Bordering Scotland in the north western reaches of the UK you’ll find the breathtakingly beautiful county of Cumbria. It’s home to the wild and dramatic Lake District National Park and England’s only mountain range, as well as unspoilt coastlines and picturesque villages. It’s no wonder that Cumbria’s famed poet William Wordsworth described it as “the loveliest spot that man hath found”. But it’s not just the beautiful landscape that allures visitors. The county is filled with fascinating historical sites, fun family adventures, characterful market towns for shopping and charming pubs for cosying down with a real ale and a hot meal.

So, whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, an outdoor adventurer, a history buff or a literature lover, there’s plenty for you to enjoy in Cumbria. If you're looking for some inspiration for the best places to visit, here are some of our favourites to get you inspired.


Adventures in nature

Lake District National Park

Winding road through the hills of the Lake District with lake in background

This breath-taking national park is the largest in the country and the newest UNESCO World Heritage Site. With picture-perfect lakes, deep valleys and mountainous fells everywhere you look, it’s unsurprisingly one of Cumbria’s most popular destinations and a haven for walkers and lovers of the great outdoors. Scaffell Pike, in particular, attracts thousands of climbers every year. At 978 metres it’s England's tallest mountain, so it’s not a hike for the light-hearted. But if you can make it to the peak you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views encompassing all four nations of the British Isles.

Once you’ve had your fill of adventure you can refuel in one of the many cafés or tea rooms lining the streets of the national park’s charming towns and villages.



Stunning autumnal trees reflecting in the still Lake Windermere at dawn

To the north end of the Lake District is Windermere, the largest and most popular lake in the National Park (and the largest natural lake in England). It’s easy to see why it’s so well loved. The pretty town is filled with shops, galleries, cafés and bars, all set against a magical backdrop of mountain peaks and, of course, the lake itself.  Adventure-seekers can enjoy spending time on the 10.5 mile long lake in a canoe, kayak, a stand-up paddleboard or a sailing boat, or if you’d rather something that requires a little less effort you could opt for a Windermere lake cruise. On dry land there are ample walks and cycling routes to choose from too with a mix of distances and difficulties - but all with stunning panoramic views.


North Pennines

Sunny illumination the rolling hills of The North Pennies

The North Pennines is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and an unmissable destination for nature lovers in Cumbria, with a wild landscape of open heather moors, stunning meadows, tumbling rivers and rolling hills. The area covers a staggering 770 square miles, so it’s the perfect place for all kinds of outdoor adventures. There’s something for all interests and abilities, from gentle hiking and bird watching to adrenaline-inducing abseiling and ‘ghyll scrambling’ (climbing, sliding and jumping down mountain streams and ravines!). Eden Outdoor Adventures offers a whole range of guided activities to help you have fun and stay safe. 



Historic landmarks & attractions

Penrith Castle

Blue sky and sunny day over the ruins of Penrith Castle

The picturesque town of Penrith is the former capital of Cumbria, nestled in the beautiful Eden Valley on the Scottish borders. The town was a site of military significance in Roman times, so there’s rich history around every corner - but the main historical attraction is the  ruins of Penrith Castle, built at the turn of the 15th century primarily as a defence against Scottish raids. It’s now managed by English Heritage and entry is free. Wander the striking medieval ruins accessed by a wooden footbridge over the moat, before exploring the surrounding Castle Park complete with flower beds, crazy golf and a children’s play area for little visitors to let off some steam. 


Hill Top, Ambleside

17th century farmhouse of Beatrix Potter, a beautiful building lines with gardens and flowers

Near Ambleside in the Lake District you’ll find Hill Top, the 17th century farmhouse of Beatrix Potter and a must-visit for literary and history lovers. The house was bought by the famous children’s author in 1905 using the proceeds from her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and is now managed by the National Trust. Inside is like a time-capsule of her life, with all of the rooms filled with her favourite things, and outside you can wander the beautiful garden lined with vegetables and flowers. There’s a quaint shop too, selling Beatrix Potter books, figurines and more.

Allow time to explore the pretty market town and tourist hotspot, Ambleside, after your visit. The town is right at the head of the stunning Lake Windermere and is lined with Victorian buildings in the area’s characteristic natural grey slate. There are plenty of shops to browse and welcoming pubs to stop for a pint of ale.


Hadrian’s Wall, Brampton

Walking alongside the remains of Hadrian's Wall.

This epic UNESCO World Heritage Site was built to guard the Roman Empire back in 122AD and stretches 73 miles from coast to coast. You can discover the Wall’s fascinating history at over twenty different sites across Cumbria and the neighbouring county of Northumberland. Birdoswald Roman Fort near Brampton is a good place to start. From here you can explore the remains of the longest visible stretch of the Wall, as well as ruins of a Roman Fort, a turret and milecastle. You can delve into the Wall’s story at the visitor centre and get a glimpse of what life was like for the people living on the edge of Roman Britain. Plus, of course, you’ll take in spectacular views of the breathtaking landscape and surrounding countryside. 

Once you’re ready to rest your legs, there’s a café on-site serving burgers, sandwiches, soups and more, as well as plenty of children’s options. 


Wordsworth House and Garden, Cockermouth

A beautiful Georgian townhouse in Cockermouth

Another destination for literature fans, this beautiful Georgian townhouse in Cockermouth was the childhood home of English romantic poet William Wordsworth in the 1770s. The house, now managed by National Trust, is presented as it would have been 250 years ago, including a working kitchen with a burning fire and food on the table, a children’s bedroom full of toys and clothes, and books and games in the Wordsworth Room. In the 18th century garden where William gained his love of nature as a young boy, you’ll find rows of vegetables, herbs and flowers just as it would have been, as well as a restored terraced walk overlooking the River Derwent. There are children’s trails to explore too, as well as an ever-changing programme of displays and exhibitions. 


Family days out

Derwent Pencil Museum, Keswick

Entrance to Derwent Pencil Museum

Located in Keswick in the Lake District, the home of the first pencil over three centuries ago, this quirky museum offers something fun for all the family. You’ll enter through a replica graphite mine, then throughout the museum you’ll discover the history of the pencil from its humble beginnings right through to modern day production. Kids will love the world’s longest colouring pencils (8 metres long!), the secret WW2 pencils with hidden maps, and the Art Studio, where crafts events are held throughout the year. There are demonstrations and tuition workshops too, for aspiring artists or anyone who wants to give doodling or sketching a go. 

After your visit be sure to explore Keswick. It’s a well-loved Cumbrian town with a variety of things to do here, from walks around the stunning Derwentwater lake, to shopping and sampling local food in the independent shops and eateries.


St. Bees

The quaint coastal village of St Bees

This cosy coastal village is the perfect place for a family day out by the sea. While away hours in the fresh sea air, building sandcastles at the beach, paddling on the shore and peering into rock pools, before heading to Hartley’s Tea Rooms for a locally-made ice cream. Energetic families will enjoy the one-hour walk along the red sandstone cliffs to St. Bees Head Lighthouse too, where on clear days you can see right out to the Isle of Man. The area is an RSPB reserve with the only cliff-nesting seabird colony in North West England, so look out for guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and herring gulls along the way.  

Once you’ve built up an appetite head to The Manor country inn for a hearty pie or a mouth-watering fish & chips. If you’ve got room, choose the sticky toffee pudding for dessert - sticky toffee was born in the county of Cumbria, so it’s a must-try during your visit!



Rolling hills behind the beautiful Ullswater Lake

Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District and a great choice for a family day out. You can set sail on a voyage on the Ullswater Steamers, marvel at the breath-taking surrounding scenery and look out for red squirrels on the shore. Once you’re back on land, head to Aira Force for a little more adventure. The 2.1km circular walking trail here takes you through ancient woodland and towering trees to a dramatic 70 foot waterfall. There’s a play area near the car park too, where the kids can jump and climb to their heart’s content while you sip a hot drink from the National Trust Tearoom.  



Foodie destinations

The Cottage in the Wood, Keswick

The Cottage in the Wood, illuminated by pretty light at night

Perched high in the tranquil Whinlatter Forest above Keswick, this Michelin-listed restaurant’s menu is as stunning as its setting. And with passionate head chef Sam Miller at the helm, the venue’s inventive dishes are a true ode to Cumbria. On the set Taste Menus you’ll find local seasonal produce such as ‘venison loin with turnip, pear and chard’ and ‘roasted langoustine with celeriac, brown butter, celery and black cabbage’, as well as artisan cheese plates and the likes of ‘blueberry pine cake with warm cream’ for dessert. Top it all off with some exceptional wine or a luxurious cocktail for an ultra special foodie night out. 



An array of colourful vegetarian food at Baba Ganoush in Kendal

This historic market town is popular for its scenery and outdoors activities, but it’s got a thriving foodie scene too - and not just because it’s the home of the famed hikers’ snack, Kendal Mint Cake! Once you’ve built up an appetite on the nearby walking trails, if you fancy something a little more substantial take your pick from one of the town’s many restaurants, pubs, cafés and delis. For vegetarian soups, salads and comfort foods, try Baba Ganoush in Berry’s Yard. Or for a romantic evening meal of innovative European dishes, head to Corner124. Beer-lovers shouldn’t miss the Hawkshead Brewery where you can take a guided tour and sample their eclectic range of ales, lagers, IPAs, stouts and sours.


Thornby Moor Dairy, Crofton

Snow settles over Thorny Moor Dairy

Thornby Moor Dairy has been a specialist cheesemaker since 1979, when Carolyn Fairburn set it up in the basement of her family home in a converted barn on Solway Plain. She was entirely self-taught, originally making Allerdale cheese using milk from her own herd of goats. Today, the dairy has expanded a larger premises at Crofton Hall and makes a whole range of Cumbrian cheese using both cow’s and goat’s milk, including Cumberland Oak Smoked and Blue Whinnow. Call in to sample the selection, or for the ultimate cheese-lovers’ activity try one of the dairy’s wonderful Cheese Making Days!



Staying in Cumbria

Exterior of treehouse (left) Interior of treehouse (right)

If you’re looking for a unique place to stay during your visit to Cumbria, we have some idyllic  options to choose from. Tawny Owl Treehouse is a handcrafted luxury treehouse with stunning interiors and an outdoor bathtub amongst the treetops. Or how about The Wren’s Nest, a gorgeous cabin hidden in magical woodland, with a heavenly wood-fired hot tub? Take a look at our Cumbria hideaway collection here and start planning your dream escape. 


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