The Lake District Guide
Your guide to things to do and places to go in the South West Lakes, around Coniston and in the Lake District Peninsulas
1 Furness Abbey (Barrow)
This abbey is certainly very impressive,
even now, and its setting is rather beautiful. If you're interested in the
history of monastic orders, this will give you a real sense of how these
monks lived. It was one of the richest Cistercian abbies in Britain, and
though it now consists of a set of roofless sandstone walls, it was once
the most powerful abbey in the Northwest, owning much of Cumbria as well
as land in Ireland. You can take a
free audio tour which adds immeasurably to your understanding of the
place, and you can explore the beautiful wooded vale in which the abbey is
set. When you've seen enough, there's a rather good pub just down the
road, the Abbey Tavern, where you can sit and enjoy a drink among some of the ruined
outbuildings of the abbey.
2 The Dock Museum (Barrow)
As a child I remember seeing the molten
iron ore slag being poured onto the slag heaps, glowing fiery red as it
flowed out of the smelting vessels. Since then much has changed, and the
steel industry has long since gone. Naturally enough, the history of the
town's changing fortunes is a major focus of the museum, which purports to
explain how Barrow "grew from a tiny nineteenth century hamlet to the biggest iron and steel
centre in the world and a major shipbuilding force in just forty years".
Indeed, the museum is located in a dry dock where ships were once
repaired. The galleries include a "Shipbuilders to the world" exhibition,
and there are the expected hands-on
interactive displays: the whole story of the town is well presented. The landscaped waterfront site
is pleasant enough to spend an hour or two, and has an
adventure playground and walkways linked to Cumbria's Coastal Way.
There's a coffee shop, museum shop, wheelchair accessibility to all areas, and ample free car and
coach parking. Groups are welcome and guided tours are available if booked in
3 Lazerzone @ TheCustom House (Barrow)
The most advanced Lazer Tag system in the
world, or so say Lazer Tag! They'd like you to pit your wits against
friends and family as you experience this exciting new phenomenon. And if
you do, your
heart will pound as you compete against each other. OK, enough of that. In
fact it's fun, fast and friendly, but don't be surprised if you suddenly
get serious about shooting your friends and "enemies" as the game
progresses. The unusual feature is that the arena itself can tag you if
you're not quick enough.
4 Barrow Superbowl (Barrow)
A modern, fun way to spend a
wet afternoon in the Lakes! Or you could just go along to have a bit of
fun with the kids. There's a cafe on the premises, so you can eat and
play, and it's a friendly place with a well stocked bar for the adults to
Shopping: Barrow is good for shopping. Major high street names mingle with local specialist
shops in a spacious pedestrianised town centre. The big names are in
Portland Walk and Dalton Road, whilst surrounding streets offer a
wide variety of independent retailers offering value, variety
and personal service. For the bargain hunter, Barrow's Indoor Market has
80 stalls and is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Forum Twenty Eight is Barrow's main theatre and arts venue with a varied programme of music, dance, comedy and drama events, staged by touring and local companies. There are also regular exhibitions, with rooms available for hire for corporate and social events. Tel. 01229 820000
Sightseeing: Piel Castle is a 14th century defensive stronghold built by Furness Abbey and now owned by English Heritage on remote Piel Island, which can be reached by ferry from Roa Island, three miles southeast of Barrow on the A5087 (turn off at Rampside, signposted "Lifeboat Station"). It's an interesting journey and once there, you can look at the keep and then refresh yourself at the Sun Inn (where you can camp and maybe meet the King Of Piel). Phone: 01229 835809.
Festival of the Sea: Since the sea is so important to Barrow, no wonder they have a festival to celebrate it. A full and updated list of festival events can be found at www.barrowtourism.co.uk
Nature reserves: Barrow can now boast three internationally renowned coastal nature reserves.
6 Cartmel Village and Priory (Cartmel)
The beautiful Priory Church is right in the middle of this wonderful little village. It's over 800 years old, originally an outpost of Furness Abbey, and a fascinating mixture of Norman, Early English and Decorated styles, with a truly impressive nave. There is also some excellent wood carving, especially the misericords, which shows the wealth of the Furness Abbey monks.
Cartmel village, based around the cobbled Elizabethan Market Square, is a pleasant place, with lots of pubs and shops which offer a variety of Lakeland products. There's also a couple of antique shops. If you venture out of the village, you'll find the River Eea, surrounded by beautiful countryside and many great walks.
Lord and Lady Cavendish
still make their home here, and welcome visitors (though probably not
personally) to see what the hose has to offer - which is quite a lot,
actually. Holker is certainly one of the most interesting Lakes houses,
just over a mile north of the village of Cark-in-Cartmel. It's a vast
sandstone hall made up of an eclectic mixture of styles, and it overlooks
some absolutely superb gardens. Having said that, only a part of the house
is open to the public, a wing built as recently as 1871, though with Louis
XV furniture and fitments from much earlier periods. Look out for the
cantilevered staircase and the magnificent library, with over 3000 leather
8 Art Crystal (Grange-over-Sands)
One of the five master crystal engravers
left in the UK works here, creating masterpieces right in front of you.
You can have a piece engraved, or purchase any of the special pieces
featuring Lake District scenes.
9 Lakeland Miniature Village
11 South Lakes Wild Animal Park (Dalton-in-Furness)
This is an amazing place, and it's a pity
it isn't a bit nearer the centre of the Lakes, for it deserves all the
visitors it gets. Practising real conservation, and caring for the animals
in wonderful ways that other zoos might do well to emulate, the animal
park offers something for everyone, from a train ride and pets corner for
the little ones to the spectacle of the tigers being fed in a unique way
that enhances their fitness and fulfils their instincts. As they say: "We
have the fittest and wildest Amur and Surnatran tigers in Europe. See them
climbing 6 metres up a vertical tree to "catch" their food. Watch this
unique method of enrichment feeding at 2.30pm every day." They also have
penguins, lemurs, hippos, rhinos, snakes, giraffes. Highly recommended:
whatever you think of zoos, this might just change your mind, for it is
real conservation in action. A Top
12 Steam Yacht Gondola (Coniston Water)
This is a relaxing and
graceful way to travel, in an "original" steamboat,
rebuilt from the original Victorian Gondola by the National Trust. Gondola
calls in at Brantwood (where you can get discounted admission, as you can
at the Ruskin Museum). All sailings are subject to weather conditions.
13 Brantwood (Coniston)
Brantwood, (John Ruskin's home 1872 - 1900), is
one of the most beautifully
situated houses in the lake District (perhaps rivalled most closely by
Blackwell at Windermere). I can thoroughly recommend a day or half-day
trip. Ruskin was an interesting man, a visionary, well ahead of his time,
and the story of his life and decline into reclusiveness, if not madness,
is fascinating. The house is very interesting, with a video exhibit on his
philosophy and principles, rooms of his paintings and various memorabilia.
Ruskin championed the pre-Raphaelites and Turner, so it's no surprise to
find the house full of furniture and art which testify to his aesthetic
sensibilities. Once you've enjoyed the house, you can also explore the estate and
gardens. If you want to enjoy some contemporary art, there's the Severn Studio.
In addition, there's a
bookshop, the Jumping Jenny restaurant and the Coach House craft gallery
for you to look around.
14 Coniston Launch (Coniston Water)
quietly on 1920s launches, now powered by solar
electric power. You can glide along Coniston Water for a round trip or
you can stop off at one of
seven jetties including Brantwood - discounted house tickets can be
on the boats. Since Arthur Ransome partly
based his books here, you can look at Wildcat Island of Swallows and
Amazons fame; you can also follow the course over which Donald Campbell
tried to break the water speed record and died in the attempt. The boats
are great fun and give you a different perspective of Coniston and the
hills around the Lake.
15 The Ruskin Museum (Coniston)
An award winning small museum,
this excellent attraction tells the story of Coniston and its local
heroes. Indeed, socialist philosophy espousing the dignity of man, and
human heroism combine in the lives and achievements of Coniston's famous
son's: John Ruskin and Donald Campbell. In addition, you can find out all
about geology, copper mines, slate quarrying, stone walls and Langdale
Grizedale Forest (near Rusland and Hawkshead)
17 Broughton-in-Furness & The Duddon Valley, plus Broughton Mills and Woodland
Broughton Village lies at the top of the estuary of the River Duddon, the fells and sea combining to create the scenery so loved by William Wordsworth. A conservation area within the Lake District National Park, Broughton is a delightful mix of shops, pubs, cafes and quality accommodation. A lovely rural area well worth the visit.
You can get a leaflet called "Three Jewels of Lakeland"
Duddon Valley, Broughton Mills and Woodland), which offers 16 excellent walk routes! The leaflet gives clear route details, illustrations and points and items of
interest, plus history, geology, wildlife and sheep-farming information on
this remote and unspoilt corner of Cumbria. If you're staying for a few
days, there are plenty of good accommodation options available locally.
18 Stott Park Bobbin Mill (near Lakeside and Newby Bridge, south end of Lake Windermere)
You can enjoy a
fascinating visit to one of the best preserved genuine early steam-powered 19th century working
wood mills. In an inclusive 45 minute guided tour you'll learn the fascinating
story of the cotton industry, wooden bobbin manufacturing and the people
who worked here. There's an exhibition and shop, and the mill is set in lovely scenery -
for a picnic! Steam days: Monday to Thursday. The mill is located only 1 mile
Steamer Pier where you can find regular steamers to and from Bowness and Ambleside. A Top Attraction!
19 Fell Foot Country Park (near Lakeside and Newby Bridge, south end of Lake Windermere)
Come and explore this Victorian park on the east shore of Lake Windermere.
A great place for the family with boat hire, children's activities and
adventure play area. Fantastic view of the Lakeland Fells. And the flowers
produce a wonderful riot
of colour in springtime and early summer.
19 a Fell Foot: 4 Winds Lakeland Tipis Now here's something different. How about life in a tip (or teepee)? This company are the leaders in Tipi tenting and operate from a site near Fell Foot. They chose their site for its magnificent views, forest areas, superb natural environment and basic facilities. They like to claim they have brought Native American style into the centre of the Lake District! You can stay there in a group, hire the tipis, use them as nomadic dwellings and have them sited where you wish for your function. Very unusual, very functional. Contact them through their website: www.4windslakelandtipis.co.uk and see if your dreams can come true.
20 Lakes Aquarium (Lakeside, south end of Lake Windermere)
Explore the lakes of the
world and discover some incredible creatures – from otters in Asia,
piranhas in the Americas and cheeky marmosets in the rainforest. Not
forgetting all your favourite creatures that live a bit closer to home,
including diving ducks in the spectacular underwater tunnel, as well as
seahorses and rays at the seashore. Remember to pay a visit to the world’s
first Virtual Dive Bell.
spectacular interactive adventure and come face to face with awesome
virtual creatures including a terrifying shark, charging hippo and fierce
crocodile – without getting wet!
21 Lakeside & Haverthwaite
Railway Company (Lakeside, south
end of Lake Windermere)