The Lake District Guide
Things to do and places to go in the Western Lake District and the Cumbrian Coast
The Western Lake District - The Cumbrian Coast
Away from the glorious mountain scenery on the Cumbrian cost you'll find a much less busy collection of charming villages, towns, and rural landscapes which offer everything you could need in a Lakes holiday. If you have a few days to explore this region, you'll find it just as rewarding as the areas we traditionally think of as "The Lakes", further inland around Coniston, Ambleside, Bowness and Keswick. You might be spending the time differently to the way you would further inland, but you can have just as much fun.
In the towns there's a treasure trove of
antique shops, curios, art galleries and bookshops. Gift shops and crafts
abound - often to be found in some astonishingly quirky locations. Make
sure you look out for the
"Made in Cumbria" logo so you can be sure you're purchasing locally
produced crafts and food.
Arts, Culture & Architecture
You'll find lots of galleries, museums and theatres, each with its
special identity and changing programme. Crafts featured prominently
throughout the area range from potters to wood turners, spinners to weavers,
sculptors to furniture makers.
Stanwix Park Holiday Centre (Silloth)
This holiday park has an excellent indoor leisure centre, swimming pools, gym,
sauna, steam room, spa, sun shower, tenpin bowling, snooker and pool,
amusement areas, soft play area, family entertainment, disco and adult
cabaret. It also offers caravans and apartments for hire for weekly and
short breaks. They can accommodate campers, touring caravans and motor
The Gincase (Silloth)
The Gincase is an award winning
farm attraction, with a farmhouse tearoom serving delicious, genuinely
home-made food, a craft barn full of quality local gifts, an art gallery
with work by local artists, and a rare-breed animal park suitable for
children. Open Easter to end October.
Bank Mill Nursery (Beckfoot, Silloth)
This nursery has a huge collection of plants and it also has a butterfly collection, a nature reserve
and a conservation area. Great for all the family!
The Lake District Coast Aquarium (Maryport)
A highly praised all-weather attraction
that has something for everyone. Like many places these days, this
aquarium has a touchy-feely side to it: in this case, the rays and
starfish give you a "real feel" for the marine environment. If you want to
know what's going on in the waters around our shores, this is the place to
see it! Outside crazy golf and adventure playpark. All tickets allow
re-entry for talks and fish feeding.
interesting little town. Its history goes back to Roman times, so if you
have a few hours to spare, it's well worth a visit, especially to the
harbour. It's a pretty little Georgian town, and it has - among many other
things - the largest collection of Roman altars in Britain. Great for
historians, and great for anyone who likes charm and peace.
Senhouse Roman Museum (Senhouse)
Roman history, and I've spent a lot of time exploring it overseas. But
here in Britain we have some especially fine Roman remains - Hardknott
Fort and Hadrian's Wall. This is part of the Hadrian's Wall site, and the
exhibition tells some fascinating stories of life in Britain under Roman
occupation. By the way, Hadrian's Wall is a world heritage site, so this
has to be A Top Attraction!
The Lakeland Sheep and Visitors' Centre (Cockermouth)
Why not have a centre devoted to sheep?
The Lakeland Sheep and Visitors' centre has lots of sheep-fun, including
herding (flocking?) with collie dogs, shearing, and sheep intelligence
tests. No, I admit I just made that last bit up. But it's well worth a
visit. There's also a comfortable hotel at which you can stay. An indoor attraction, which is both fun &
educational, with a live farm show! There are 19 breeds of sheep, geese &
a dairy cow to enjoy, also working dogs. With a large gift shop with
sheepskin products and all kinds of sheepish things, and a cafe serving
hot meals and snacks, there's enough to keep all members of the family
entertained for a few hours.
The Lakes Home Centre (Cockermouth)
This garden centre has the
biggest range of quality giftware in the area. They have a comprehensive
garden centre with just about all you could need including a vast array of
plants, furniture, water features and statues. They also stock DIY and
interior design products, fitted kitchens, bathrooms, cookware, and
they've also got a tea room. You can find them at Cockermouth and
find out more about them at
Yes, it's the childhood home of the poet
everyone knows about - William Wordsworth. Using costumed staff, the house
gives you a feel of what it must have been like in Wordsworth's days. You
can see some live demonstrations of aspects of life in the 18th Century.
I always like brewery tours - there's
something magical about the process of transforming water into beer by
fermentation. The brewery has its own well, and their well-informed guides
will show you how their fine ales are made, after which you can enjoy a
pint or two of their beer. This is just about as good as beer gets -
served at the site of production!
Trotters World of Animals (Bassenthwaite Lake)
A wildlife experience with hourly
presentations and demonstrations. You can watch the otters, apes and
monkeys, and see flying displays by eagles, vultures and other birds of
prey. There are many other exotic animals including lynx, zebra and
buffalo. Indoor and outdoor playcentres, and there's a tearoom and picnic area.
not really a fan of keeping animals in captivity, but I recognise we need zoos and wildlife parks as more and more natural habitat is
destroyed. This park houses a bird of prey centre, the UK's only Canadian
lynx, a breeding troop of Mandrills, and much more besides. Great for the
Honister Slate Mine (Borrowdale)
The last working slate mine in England
and a great all-weather attraction. You can go deep underground on a fully guided
mine tour. Witness the clogs (that's not footwear, it's the newly-mined
slate!) being transformed into roofing slate. We went down a few years ago
and enjoyed the trip enormously - we've always enjoyed exploring the
Lakes' mining industries. Here you can get a feel for what it must have
been like, although of course the conditions in which the old miners
worked were far more primitive than anything you'll see now. Browse the visitor centre or
visit the Yew Tree country pub and restaurant serving good food in
a pleasant environment.
The Rum Story (Whitehaven)
interesting exhibition with more than just the history of rum to discover
- so have a look at the website
www.rumstory.co.uk and find out why it's based in Whitehaven.
The Beacon Museum (Whitehaven)
You can discover the maritime, industrial
and social history of this fascinating town, with its mining and
shipbuilding legacy, and its American connections and links to the world
of slavery. You can also enjoy the harbour views and try forecasting
the weather from the top floor! There's an art gallery, cafe and shop.
Lowes Court Gallery (Egremont)
is an interesting gallery with a wide range of prints, paintings and craft
work. You might pick up a piece of sculpture or a painting by an artist of
the future, since they support both emerging and established artists. Once
again it's great to see a shop selling items made locally. (Look for the
"Made in Cumbria" mark.)
Florence Mine Heritage Centre
will give you an enthralling trip around the last working deep iron ore
mine in Europe. This area was once the site of a massive iron ore mining
and smelting operation, with the slag heaps glowing bright red like
volcanic lava in the dark of night. Nowadays, of course, it's all much
more low-key. But this is an opportunity to see a working mine where you
can find out all about the industrial history of the area. A Top
Sellafield Visitors' Centre (Sellafield)
Like it or loathe it, nuclear power is a very real issue at the moment.
This is a classy science display by the company who own Britain's nuclear
power stations. If you want to know more, go along, but keep an open mind
about the rights and wrongs of this very controversial industry. And bear
in mind that Windscale (as it was) and Sellafield (as it is now) has a
long history of nuclear leaks and accidents, and you won't be hearing
about those when you tour their visitors' centre.
Muncaster Castle (Ravenglass)
Like so many historic country houses, Muncaster's owners have developed entertaining diversions to keep the estate together. Here you can see owls and herons, and a very entertaining meadow vole maze. In addition, you can check out claims that the historic castle is haunted, and enjoy the Himalayan Gardens and the World Owl Centre.
Specialist tours of the Castle, Gardens and Owl Centre are available on
request at additional cost. Special events through out the year,
with details on the website. Located 1 mile south of Ravenglass on the
A595. Follow signs for the Western Lake District from junction 36 of the
M6 motorway. Sat Nav CA18 1RD.
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (Ravenglass)
This was always a favourite of our family
when we were kids, and it's just as charming and entertaining today as it
was then. They are, as they claim, a "family friendly steam railway" in
the Western Lake District. If it's sunny, you can enjoy riding the very
scenic line in open carriages and if the weather turns grey, there are
closed coaches to enjoy the journey. You get a free guide to the line,
which will give you a wealth of information about the amazing scenery
you're seeing, and there's a free La'al Ratty (the line's nickname)
children's game to play. It's also true there is unrivalled walking and
cycling. At Dalegarth Station there's now a Visitor Centre including "Fellbites
Cafe" and the "Scafell Gift Shop". Great fun, highly recommended.
Millom was the centre of
the iron industry in the Lakes, so it has a lot of mileage to make up in
tourism! But there are things to see and do: there are some
beautiful beaches, plenty of walking, nature reserves, and an RAF museum.
Get the facts from Millom Tourist Information Centre.