The Lake District Guide

A guide to Lakeland places




Windermere & the South Lakes

Where can you get the best view of Windermere? There's a walk up to Gummers How from the South end of the lake (on your way, call in at the Mason's Arms at Strawberry Bank for fine food, wine and ales, or a damson gin), a stroll up Orrest Head from Windermere village on the east side, and the delights of Claiffe Heights on the west. You can hire a rowing boat from Fell Foot or ride a steamer from Lakeside.

Catch the Windermere Lake Cruises boat from Lakeside (after visiting the aquarium) to Bowness-on-Windermere to visit one of many attractions - including The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction or the famous Blackwell Arts and Crafts House - or go for a walk along the shore footpath. Resume your journey and cruise up to Ambleside for a spot of shopping - buy the latest outdoor gear or watch the recent releases at Zeffirellis cinema, where you can enjoy dinner before or after the film at the vegetarian restaurant - very contemporary and totally delicious! Or travel down the quieter western side of the lake, calling in at the Drunken Duck Inn at Clappersgate on your way (see our review on the pubs page of this website). Hawkshead village is a charming and delightful place with many shops.

When you visit the South Lakes you simply have to try a piece or two of Grasmere Gingerbread from the famous Sarah Neilson shop. A walk along the interesting 'coffin trail' from Rydal, across Nab Scar, will bring you into Grasmere village just behind Dove Cottage (the gingerbread shop is just yards down the road).

If you have a liking for sweets or just need an energy boost, try the famous Kendal Mint Cake. Kendal is a super place for shopping town, with plenty of cafes and some excellent walks. You can stroll up to the castle or take in the panoramic views from Scout Scar. There's an interesting programme of cultural events at the Brewery Arts Centre too, ranging from live music and theatre to comedy clubs and fascinating craft workshops.

Beatrix Potter

A famous artist, writer and farmer, she was born in London in 1866, and spent many happy childhood vacations in the Lake District. Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published in 1902 by Frederick Warne and with the royalties she bought Hill Top Farm at Near Sawrey and settled in the Lake District. She gradually bought over 4,000 acres of lake District farmland with her fortune, and when she died in 1943 she left the land to the National Trust - this means it will remain undeveloped and open to all forever.

You can explore the fascinating and involving world of Beatrix Potter's Lake District for yourself. Hill Top is without doubt one of the world's most famous literary homes and formed the setting for several of her stories. The Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead displays original illustrations, watercolours and manuscripts. For a more down to earth experience for the family visit The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness where all her tales are recreated in super detail in the Lake District countryside. If you go north to Keswick and Derwentwater, you'll be in the land where she set some of her early books including The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.

Ullswater and the Eden Valley

Try a superbly relaxing cruise on steamer on Ullswater with breathtaking views such as the Michelin-starred Sharrow Bay Hotel superbly located on the shoreline. There are some superb walks along the east side of the lake if you take a boat to Howtown and head for Martindale (check the time of the return sailing). Cyclists can enjoy the Eden Valley Circular Cycle Route which has great scenery and delicious pub food along the way.

If you enjoy the arts and crafts enjoy some great contemporary art galleries such as the Upfront Gallery or Beckstone's Art Gallery. Penrith and Kirkby Stephen have plenty of specialist delightful arts and crafts shops if you'd like to take a bit of Cumbria home with you. Or there's Wetherigg Pottery: always fun-filled and entertaining, especially if you want to make and glaze your own pot. The green-fingered will want to explore Hutton-in-the-Forest's walled garden, or the superb Acorn Banks' Discovery Herb Garden, or the hundreds of rose varieties at Dalemain House.

Rheged, Europe's largest grass-roofed building, is a good for a whole day out with a giant screen cinema, local shops, and the contemporary taste food bar.

You can get sumptuously rich chocolates at Kennedy's Fine Chocolates of Orton, delicious Abbott Lodge Jersey Ice Cream, award-winning chocolate-almond cake at The Village Bakery at Melmerby, and veggie food at the Little Salkeld Watermill - where almost all produce is organic and local.

Farmers markets take place all year round. Orton Farmers' Market takes place every Saturday, and was the National Farmers' Market of the Year 2005 - you can see its write up in the Guardian Good Food Guide. And make sure you look out for Appleby Jazz Festival, Penrith Beer and Sausage Festival, and the Lowther Horse Driving Trials - among many others!

Coniston and the Lake District Peninsulas

Sticky Toffee Pudding, Laurel and Hardy, and a Michelin starred restaurant are just three great reasons to visit this area. Call in at Stan Laurel's birthplace in Ulverston or enjoy one of many festivals in Ulverston, which has many independent shops and warm traditional pubs if you prefer real ale.

Lions, tigers and rhinos are all to be seen in excellent surroundings at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park, where you can feed selected animals. You can just about see the coastal town of Barrow from the point where the giraffe are fed. And if you love history, visit Furness Abbey or the fascinating Dock Museum for a bit of history. Walk along the coast road to from Rampside to get some fresh sea air, or try the Bosun's locker for a homemade ice-cream before you hop on the ferry across to Piel Island.

The pretty village of Cartmel is the best of the lot in many ways! For one thing, the village is beautiful, the Priory outstanding, and better still, perhaps, the famous Sticky Toffee Pudding is made here. Enjoy the twice yearly races (the setting is second to none) and if your bets win, try Michelin starred L'Enclume for a gourmet feast. You can stay in one of the luxurious rooms, as well, if you prefer to stay overnight.

Coniston hosts a water speed records event each year, but for a more relaxed day out you why not enjoy a barbecue on the side of the lake after a pre-dinner walk or a cruise on the National Trust's steam yacht Gondola? And there is a superb walk around Tarn Hows, which looks fantastic in summer and splendid in winter.

Barrow in Furness

With the sea on one side, the Lake District on the other, Cumbria's largest town offers much to see and do.....For, with wide sandy beaches and dunes, it's possible to stroll, run, swim, picnic and enjoy some of the best conditions anywhere for wind and water activities. Play one of Barrow's three golf courses, try horse riding, cycle along the dockside promenade or walk one of the way-marked trails. Beachside, country and town footpaths take you through nature reserves, along historic sites and through the fascinating docks area. The annual Walking Festival is held in July.

And families love visiting this area with the amazing South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Furness Owl Centre, superb playgrounds at Barrow Park and Vickerstown Park and fun beaches. The kids (and you!) can charge around in Lazerzone, enjoy the wave pool at the Park Leisure Centre, try ten pin bowling, and see the latest film at the multiplex or enjoy an evening at the theatre.

With three internationally known nature reserves, Barrow isn't just a haven for seals, birds, flora and fauna but it's also great for lovers of wildlife, too. Furness Abbey, 14th century Piel Castle and maritime heritage are all waiting for the keen historian (or the not-so-keen) and Barrow's large, award winning Dock Museum casts light on the town's industrial past

From trendy waterside eateries to cosmopolitan town centre bars, from varied restaurants to lively bars, clubs, and pubs including The Canteen, the Princess Selandia, the forum and The 28 theatre and arts centre, Barrow has the best nightlife in the county. And what about speciality shops and the Barrow Indoor Market - open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays - which happens to be the largest in Cumbria!

Carlisle - Hadrian's Wall Country

Carlisle, with its vibrant but warm atmosphere has many great shops in The Lanes indoor shopping centre, stylish cafe bars for a relaxing meal or drink, a compact and pedestrianised centre, a magnificent castle, which looms over the centre, a dramatic and colourful past, which you can explore in the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery and the wonderful Lanercost Priory. There are two magnificent parks, Rickerby Park and Bitts Park. Go a little further and you can explore the world of sailing, windsurfing, rowing or fishing at Talkin Torn Country Park.

For the history buff and walker alike, Hadrian's Wall National Trail path goes through spectacular countryside, including the fascinating Birdoswald Roman Fort, or alternatively you can explore the length of this impressive World Heritage Site on the Hadrian's Wall Bus.

Just a short distance away from Carlisle you con explore the High Head Sculpture Valley at Ivegil, which includes life size sculptures made from wood, stone, iron and bronze. Carlisle comes alive at Christmas with the festive light display and there are regular events throughout the year including horse races and agricultural shows, farmers markets and continental food fairs.