The Lake District National Park is known all over the world, and for good reason. Boasting sublime mountain views across England’s deepest and largest lakes, Cumbria has been attracting visitors and inspiring writers for centuries.
With so much to see and do across the Fells, it is important to pick the right spot for your stay. This handy guide to the best Lake District towns and villages will help you plan your perfect trip, whether you are looking for a starting point for breathtaking walks or want to get to know more about the region’s famous literary figures.
If you see anywhere you like, why not make a trip of it, and book one of the best Lake District holiday cottages nearby.
Best for: Culture and charm
North of the Esthwaite waters, Hawkshead is a small but perfectly formed Cumbrian village, ideal for exploring some of the best lakes and mountains in England.
Beatrix Potter once called the Lake District home and her husband’s former Hawkshead office is now home to a beautiful National Trust gallery dedicated to her work.
After you’ve enjoyed your time in the world of Peter Rabbit, you can hop over the road to sample one of the 50 kinds of local honey sold at the charming Honey Pot shop or catch a bite to eat at one of the many cute cafes, like Poppi-Red.
Where to eat: The Sun Inn Restaurant has a fantastically varied menu, including vegan and vegetarian options. The food here has more of a sense of special occasion than your average pub grub, but it won’t break the bank!
Where to drink: The Outgate Inn has a large menu of wines and spirits and is the perfect cosy spot to relax after a day of sightseeing. For the beer drinkers, be sure to sample one of the local seasonal favourites, such as the Dizzy Blonde or Double Hop!
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Best for: Museums and shopping
Located on the edge of Lake Derwentwater, the lively market town of Keswick has loads of attractions and year-long around events for all ages.
The town’s many public parks, museums and galleries are all perfect places to relax after enjoying some outdoor activities in the surrounding area. There’s also the one of a kind Derwent Pencil Museum and the Puzzling Place, with its immersive illusions, a hologram gallery and a puzzle shop.
The market offers a range of award-winning fresh produce for food lovers as well as locally made arts and crafts. The perfect place to pick up a gift for family and friends, to make them jealous of your trip!
Where to eat: Head down to Fellpack, a locally run cafe and restaurant, to explore their quirky award-winning menu. The boys have been “fueling Lakeland adventures” since 2017 and offer a deliciously fresh take on what a Cumbrian restaurant can offer.
Where to drink: The Pheasant Inn is a traditional Lake District pub with CAMRA accredited ales and a fine selection of wines, spirits and soft drinks. You can enjoy your drinks on the elevated beer garden in the summer or by the cosy open fire in the winter while you plan your next day’s adventure!
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Best for: History and calm
Considered the cutest village in the Lake District, Grasmere is also rich in history. Many of the beautiful grey stone buildings are centuries old and the church dates as far back as the 13th century.
William Wordsworth and his wife Mary both taught at Grasmere’s village school and are remembered by a simple tombstone at St Oswald’s Church.
In addition to this literary history, the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is run by the third-generation descendants of Sarh Nelson, a famous Victorian chef. Once you have stocked up delicious gingerbread why not see if you can find Rydal cave!
Best places to eat: For that special occasion, you can guarantee you’ll be looked after at the dining room at the Grasmere House hotel. With both an a la carte and fixed price menu, the restaurant is renowned for its impeccable service and charming ambience.
Best places to drink: Tweedies Bar is a local favourite specialising in local ales, perries and ciders. The pub welcomes dogs and walkers all year round and Alex and her team will be sure to look after you and are always happy to share their tips for exploring the local area.
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Best for: Watersports and dining
At the heart of the Lake District, Bowness-on-Windermere is packed with local shops and cafes serving delicious ice creams and is the perfect spot for enjoying sailing and watersports.
For those preferring dry land, the town is also a well located to travel to local attractions such as the Beatrix Potter Attraction. In the evening, there are plenty of dinner spots from which to enjoy the sunset over Lake Windermere.
With the town at times getting quite busy, finding your own secluded cottage will offer a far more relaxing stay than in a house, hotel or bed and breakfast.
Best places to eat: Diners are spoilt for choice in Bowness, but for a serious sit-down meal you can’t get better than Porto. With a fantastic seasonal menu specialising in local produce, this up-market modern European restaurant is worth every penny.
Best places to drink: To start your evening in style, pop into the Fitzy Tarte to enjoy their modern cocktail and dazzling drinks menu. This trendy spot offers a warm and friendly environment and their bar staff are sure to impress with their showmanship and innovative recipes.
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Best for: Photography and nature
On the North side of Lake Windermere lies the idyllic village of Ambleside. Quieter than its Southern neighbour, it nevertheless offers a unique array of sights and is a good base for those without cars looking to explore the lake and mountains.
The 70-foot waterfall at the top of Stock Ghyll beck is one of the highest in England and the 17th Century Bridge House is a must visit for those with a love of traditional English architecture. Both also make the perfect spot for a holiday snap!
In the village itself, the Armitt Library and Museum is dedicated to showcasing the cultural heritage of the region and Rydal Mount was the final home of one of the Lake District’s most famous sons, William Wordsworth.
Best places to eat: Gandhi’s cafe offers a stunning selection of vegan and vegetarian food from around the world. After a long day of exploring your very English surroundings, their menu will transport you to India, Thailand and Korea – all before bed!
Best places to drink: Tucked away from the main road, the Golden Rule is a quintessential Lake District pub. Always buzzing with locals and visitors, it is the perfect spot to recount your day’s adventures over a drink.
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Best for: Walking and climbing
Coniston is in the Southern part of the National Park and a firm favourite of walkers and climbers, who come to enjoy the surrounding beauty of the Furness Fells and Dow Crag.
Coniston Water is well known as the site where Donald Campbell broke the water speed record in his boat ‘Bluebird’ in 1955. There is a poignant memorial to him on the village green and his daring exploits are documented in the Ruskin Museum.
Visitors can also travel out onto Coniston Water at a more leisurely speed, on the National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola or on a rental boat from the Boating Centre. After a busy day of activities, the 400-year-old Black Bull Inn is the perfect spot to enjoy an award-winning ale.
Best places to eat: The award-winning Steam Bistro is known across the region for its varied menu and exceptional service. After a busy day of activities, their sticky toffee pudding is the perfect way to treat yourself!
Best places to drink: On the top of a hill overlooking Coniston water, the Ship Inn has a menu that caters for everyone. A real country pub with character and charm it’s worth the short walk here at all times of the year.
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Best for: Quiet and calm
Cartmel is a hidden gem close to the River Ea and not far from the coastal town of Grange-over-Sands. Just outside the National Park, the village still has a host of interesting sights to explore and is as picturesque as any of its larger neighbours.
The Cartmel Priory is a must visit for any fans of history. The 800-year-old building has spectacular stained glass windows and is a place of many local legends. You are sure to find something new at every turn!
The village also has many traditional pubs and shops and the meandering streets are the perfect place to wind down after a day walking in the surrounding hills. Be sure to try some sticky toffee, the delicious dessert was invented here!
Best places to eat: The spectacular dining at L’enclume has put Cartmel on the gastronomical map. Since opening the restaurant in 2002, head chef Simon Rogan has received consistent international acclaim, including two Michelin stars. There are simpler (and cheaper!) options in town but if you’re looking for an unforgettable food experience, be sure to book a place here in advance.
Best places to drink: The Pig and Whistle offers a sleek and modern alternative to your traditional Cumbrian pub. With a great selection of drinks on offer and beautiful views across the Fells from the beer garden, it’s a great spot to unwind and relax.
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