Cumbria and the Lake District are a tourist destination which attracts people from all over the world. Over 15 million people visit each year. The Lake District was recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2017 and is part of an iconic group of truly special locations across the globe.
Famous for its tea shops, beautiful clear lakes, historic locations, walking routes and enchanting scenery we think Cumbria is one of the best locations in the UK for a ‘staycation’.
If you’re planning on visiting us we’ve put together our top picks for things to do in the Lake District. Here is our top 8 things to do in the Lake District & Cumbria.
Ullswater photo (above) – Copyright: [Andrew Locking]
Top 8 things to do in the Lake District & Cumbria
Postcard of the Bowder Stone from 1890. [Public Domain image: Library of Congress]
1. The Bowder Stone
The Bowder Stone, Grange in Borrowdale, Keswick, is one of the most famous landmarks in the Lake District. It’s pretty impressive no matter how you look at it.
Precariously balanced on one tiny corner of its massive bulk it’s thought to have been toppled after a glacier at Borrowdale retreated. It’s at least 15,000 years old and this volcanic lump of stone is around 9 metres high, 15 metres wide, and 27 metres in circumference. This leviathan weighs in at some 2000 tonnes. In other words, it’s a significant lump of rock!
It’s popular with boulderers for obvious reasons and handily for the less adventurous climber there’s a set of steps to take you to the top so you can take in the views.
2. Long Meg & Her Daughters
Long Meg & Her Daughters, Little Salkeld, Penrith, is a Bronze Age monolith. Long Meg stands at nearly four metres tall. The stone circle is made up of 59 stones (the daughters) which are some 93 metres in diameter.
There are quite a few legends associated with the stones but probably the most well-known reports that the stones were once a coven of witches, who were turned to stone by a local wizard. If you attempt to count the total number of stones and count the same number twice the spell will be broken and bring you bad luck.
3. Lacy’s Caves
Lacy’s Caves, Little Salkeld, Penrith, is made up of a series of five chambers cut into the cliff directly overlooking the River Eden. They get their name from a Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Lacy of nearby Salkeld Hall, who had them constricted in the mid-eighteenth century. It is thought they were designed as a lavish dining space where the Colonel could entertain his guests in style and wow them with his wealth as they took in the once landscaped ornamental gardens surrounding the caves.
Penrith Castle, Cumbria in 1772 – Public Domain Image [William Gilpin, Observations, Cumberland & Westmoreland]
4. Pendragon Castle
Pendragon Castle, Mallerstang, near Kirkby Stephen, is famous for its associations with the legend of King Arthur as the home to Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon.
Roman coins have been found on the castle site, which might provide a tenuous link to the warrior king of Britain. But in reality, the legend has its roots in a book written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1136, the History of the Kings of Britain. Through Monmouth’s imaginative interpretation of real and fictitious events Pendragon Castle became linked with Arthurian legend as the home of Uther who allegedly owned the castle and was killed there when Saxons besieged the castle and poisoned the well. Despite those romantic associations the first properly recorded fortification on the site was an early twelfth century ringwork castle, which had a stone tower added a little while later.
One infamous owner was rather well known, one Hugh de Morville, who In addition to being Lord of Westmorland he’s also one of the four knights who murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket in Canterbury in 1170 after witnessing Henry II having a bit of a moan about troublesome priests.
The castle was later attacked by the Scots in 1341 and set on fire, resulting in severe damage. It was later restored by Roger de Clifford in the 1360s and was still in use in 1539. Following the Civil War and the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the castle passed into the hands of Lady Anne Clifford, along with Skipton, Brough, Appleby, Brougham and Penrith. She carried out major restoration all of these castles during her lifetime. Unfortunately, her successor the Earl of Thanet wasn’t so sympathetic and by 1685 Pendragon Castle had been largely demolished and it gradually deteriorated leaving the ruin, we see today.
Castlerigg Stone Circle – Copyright: [Harry Johnson]
5. Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle, Castle Lane, Keswick, is without doubt the most dramatic stone circle in the UK, surrounded by breath-taking views no matter where you look. At some 3000 years old it’s one of the earliest circles too. It’s 30 metres in diameter and made up of 38 surviving stones. The sttting and the circle itself has inspired countless poets and painters particularly from the 19th century Romantic movement including the likes of John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Sears.
Wastwater – Copyright: [John Hodgson]
Wastwater, located in the Wasdale Valley, in the Western Lake District, nestles at the foot of a who host of mountains, including Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Lingmell with Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain, which sits at the top of Lingmell.
The lake is nearly 5 km long, ¾ km wide and nearly 80 metres deep, the latter making it the deepest of all of the Lake District lakes. It setting is dramatic and hugely romantic, which is probably why it’s been voted Britain’s favourite view and as such, you really should take the time to visit and take it in for yourself.
7. Allonby Beach
Allonby Beach, Allonby, near Maryport, is part of the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Nature Beauty. This dramatic five-mile long beach, at high tide is a collection of sand, shingle, pebbles, and rocks.
At low tide it comes into its own revealing a huge expanse of sand which you can potter about on with the added bonus of stunning views across the beautiful Solway Firth looking north towards the Dumfries hills in Scotland, with the Lake District Fells to the east.
So why not follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins and enjoy a pint or two in the Ship Hotel which they immortalise in their book the Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices; “discovered that the most delicious piece of sea-coast to be found within the limits of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands, all summed up together, was Allonby on the coast of Cumberland.”
8. Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall, discover this most dramatic of monuments for yourself, which stretches 73 miles from the Irish Sea coast in the west to the North Sea coast to the east. Standing guard over the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire.
Visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and discover the remains of the Wall itself and the forts, towers, turrets, and towns that once kept watch over it. Take in spectacular views over this rugged landscape and imagine what life was like for the people that made their lives on the edge of the Roman world.