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  • Writer's pictureGreen Traveller

Local Attractions in the Lake District

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Lake District, Jackie King picks out a selection of natural spaces, historic houses and gardens in this glorious National Park in the northwest of England.

Magnificent historic houses, ancient castles, idyllic gardens and some of the most awe-inspiring natural spaces in the UK - the Lake District really does offer something for everyone.

As you might expect from England's biggest National Park, the scope for adventure here is huge, and we're not just talking about natural spaces. Of course, with the likes of Scafell Pike and Lake Windermere on your doorstep, no one would blame you for spending hours just wandering the wilds - but there's so much more to see, from award-winning Muncaster Castle to the childhood homes of William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.

We also highly recommend spending some time soaking up the region's culture, whether that's in the form of the latest exhibition at Abbott Hall art gallery, or a quirky comedy night at the Brewery Arts Centre.

Google map: shows the location and details of all the places to stay, local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities in our Green Travel Guide to The Lake District:

Green = Places to stay Blue = Local food & drink Yellow = Attractions Purple = Activities

Places of interest in The Lake District


An ancient and historic Cumbrian house which was at least 250 years old when it was bought by current owner Lord Inglewood's family in 1605. As well as exploring its particularly striking exterior, be sure to take a tour of the inside of the house, where you'll be able to wander from the Medieval Stone Hall to the high Victorian Drawing Room. The house is equally well known for its elaborate gardens that date back to around the 17th Century. For a picturesque walk head over to the terraces and topiary, while those looking for something more rugged try wandering the woodland walk.

Holker Hall & Gardens

The impressive Holker Hall dates back to the beginning of the 16th Century, with sections of the house having to be rebuilt after a destructive fire in 1871. The house boasts impressive interiors, while the garden boasts a unique collection of trees and shrubs, and is an ideal location for a peaceful afternoon stroll. Over one third of the Estate has some form of environmental designation, whether that be a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or a National Nature Reserve. The owners are also keen to protect natural habitats and conserve local wildlife such as the native red squirrel. The Estate is also home to a 200-year old deer park.

Mirehouse Historic House & Gardens

This family-run historic house can be found right in the heart of the north Lake District just three miles from Keswick. Having been build in 1666, the ground floor of the house was only opened to the public in 1981, where visitors can now come to explore an interesting collection of furniture and portraits. You'll also find a fantastic collection of manuscripts, some that were written by literary heavyweights such as Wordsworth and Tennyson. There's plenty on offer for children, with an adventure playground, owl hunt and history quiz to keep them occupied. There's also plenty of exploration to be done around the house's natural gardens, where the Poetry Walk and walled Bee Garden are favourites.

Levens Hall & Gardens

An impressive Elizabethan mansion built around a 13th Century pele tower. Levens Hall is home of the Bagot family, and offers a host of Jacobean furniture, fine paintings and early English patchwork. Perhaps most impressive are the award-winning gardens, which were laid out in 1694. The topiary, beech hedges and seasonal beds combine to create a stunning visual display, particularly around the topiary garden's huge abstract shapes, pyramids and columns. Spend a few hours exploring and you'll no doubt need to visit the house kitchens, where you can pick up anything from homemade sandwiches the a pint of Levens' own Moroccan Ale.

Dalemain Historic House & Gardens

You'll find Dalemain just outside Ullswater along the northern fringes of the Lake District. Venture past the Georgian facade and into the house itself, and Tudor and Medieval influences become much apparent. There has been a settlement on the site since Saxon times, with the Old Hall added in the 14th Century and the two projecting wings being built during the 16th Century. The interiors boast fine furniture, family portraits, ceramics and the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry Museum. You can also explore a blacksmith's museum in the 16th Century barn or explore the surrounding estate (which includes a Deer Park).

Holehird Gardens

Holehird consists of 17 acres of hillside gardens and visitors have the freedom to wonder around countless specimen trees and shrubs, extensive rock and heather gardens, a walled garden, alpine houses and herbaceous borders. The walled garden was originally a kitchen garden for the mansion and then spent a brief period as a tree nursery before being acquired by the Lakeland Horticultural Society in the 1980s. With unique colours and displays throughout the year - as well as three National Collections and several educational courses - this is a great year round attraction for the whole family.

Scafell Pike

At 3,209ft, the might Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, one of a horseshoe of high fells that surrounds the head of Eskdale. Views from the mountain's summit have inspired the likes of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Baines, with thousands making the ascent each year either as a one-off adventure, or as part of the annual Three Peaks Challenge. As breathtaking as the view might be from the very top, you could equally gaze up at the majesty of the mountain itself, and out across nearby Wastwater Lake.

Lake Windermere

At just over ten miles long and 220 feet deep, Windermere is the largest natural lake in England and is fed by numerous rivers. There are numerous activity providers in the surrounding towns that offer a range of water-based activities, from sailing and kayaking to windsurfing, plus there's plenty of scope for picturesque cycling and walking along the water's edge.

Fell Foot Park

Found at the very Southern tip of Lake Windermere, Fell Foot Park is an ideal location for a bit of family relaxation. There are plenty of sweeping lawns for picnics and gentle strolls, while easy lake access means plenty of swimming, paddling, boating and even canoeing - rowing boats and kayaks are available to hire, with an adventure playground for little ones. If you work up an appetite you can visit the boathouse cafe for some tea and homemade cake, while gazing out over Windermere.

Tarn Hows

One of the most visited spots in the National Park, the attraction of Tarn Hows is its sheer natural beauty, surrounded as it is by thick woodland and views out over the likes of the Helvellyn range and the Langdale Pikes. In 1929, when the Tarns and its setting came up for sale, Beatrix Potter made the top bid - she went on to sell half of the land to the National Trust and entrusted them with the other half in her will. There's a short path that tracks around the tarn which is suitable for familes and follows a mostly flat trail.

Acorn Bank Garden and Watermill

Perhaps best known for the wealth of herbs and traditional fruit gardens that grow within its walls, Acorn Bank is a great palce to come and while away the afternoon, perhaps exploring the fascinating industrial past or simply tucking in to fresh food at the tearooms. One of the very best things to do is to wander along Crowdundle Beck towards the partially restored watermill, trying to spot local wildlfie in the woods along the way. There's also plenty of scope for relaxation in the walled gardens while the kids count the crested newts in the garden pond.

Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Starting at Haverthwaite railway station, the railway runs for around three and a half miles, alongside the banks of the scenic River Leven and calls at Nweby Bridge Halt and Lakeside Station. The train stops here so you can continue your journey by steamer service to the likes of Ambleside and Bowness. While you're waiting at Haverthwaite station you can always have a bite to eat in the restaurant while the kis enjoy the Woodland Play Area. If you and your friends fancy becoming a steam train driver for the day, you can take part in an 'Experience Day' that can involve driving, firing, guard and signalman duties.

Brewery Arts Centre

If you're looking for a little relief from all that walking and cycling, you could do much worse than to pay a visit to the Brewery Arts Centre, a cultural hub in Kendal that combines a cinema, theatre, live music and festival events with a fantastic bar and restaurant. There's also the Warehouse coffee lounge that doubles up as a digital cinema. So whether you're after a little comedy or your own miniature music festival there should be something to tickle your fancy.

Brockhole Visitor Centre

For a true taste of the Lakes look no further than Brockhole Visitor Centre, owned by the Lake District National Park Authority, it has scenic views and gardens that stretch right down to the shores of Windermere. This is a fantastic place for children, with an indoor place space and adventure playground, not to mention the new Predator Park wildlife experience, where you'll encounter all manner of British creatures. Also highly recommended are the centre's extensive gardens, particularly the 30-acre Thomas Mawson designed Arts and Crafts garden, boasting rows of colorful terraces and stunning views out over the Langdale Pikes.

Abbott Hall Art Gallery

The building was originally built in 1759 and, by the 1950s, was one of only two Grade-I listed buildings in Kendal but had almost become derelict. Saved by a local charitable trust, Abbott Hall opened as an art gallery in 1962 and has since developed an extremely popular and varied exhibition programme, with current exhibitions including drawings and water colours from Victorian critic John Ruskin, the Great Books of Lady Anne Clifford and a celebration of the gallery reaching its 50th year where top examples will be chosen from the gallery's permanent collections.

Muncaster Castle

You'd be silly not to fit a trip to award-winning Muncaster Castle into your Lake District holiday. Not only will you get to explore the castle itself (which is supposedly haunted), you'll also be free to wander 70 acres of gardens and to explore the World Owl Centre, housing over 200 birds. The gardens date back to the 18th Century and are now home to one of Europe's largest collections of rhododendrons, while the owners are working in partnership with several other gardens to conserve endangered plants and trees. Widely recognised as the world's leading owl conservation organisation, the World Owl Trust is based within the walls of the castle and is home to over 40 species of the magnificent birds.

Kendal Castle

It may be a little less impressive now than it would have been at the end of the late 12th Century, but Kendal Castle is still well worth a visit. The location means you'll have a great vantage point out over Kendal itself, while Kendal museum offers a fascinating exhibition that tell's the story of the castle's history. You'll also find various medieval objects, reconstructions of the castle and hands-on displays. The castle's surroundings make a great picnic destination on sunny days, with wooded walks along the lower slopes of Castle Hill.

Wray Castle

Originally built in the 1840s for just two people to live in, the castle sits on Windermere's western side and has remained unoccupied for the last eight years. Head inside and you'll be able to wander the grand living spaces and winding servant's passages. While the rooms may be free of furniture, photographs taken by Beatrix Potter's father help you imagine what life here would have been like during the 19th century. There's also plenty to keep children occupied - from building cardboard castles and dressing up to following trails through the garden.

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House is widely regarded to be one of England's most significant buildings from the 20th Century. Designed by M H Ballie Scott between 1897 and 1900, the house is an excellent example of architecture from the turn of the century. And it isn't simply a piece of art itself - venture indoors and you'll find a selection of exhibitions that have, in the past, included the likes of pottery, contemporary glass sculpture and Japanese crafts. Be sure to visit the tea room if you get peckish - the owners put as much emphasis on quality handmade food as they do on top notch arts exhibits.

Brantwood Historic House

Brantwood is the former home of John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the Victorian era. Ruskin no doubt acquired the house because of its stunning location, set in a 250-acre wood estate with spectacular views. Right at the heart of the estate are eight unique gardens, most of which continue with the radical experiments in land management and horticulture begun by Ruskin himself. Particularly interesting is Zig-Zaggy, which is based upon designs first sketched by the critic over 130 years ago. Another great option is Professor's Garden, which was Ruskin's favourite and which was dedicated to plants that were good for both body and soul.

Hill Top

Come and visit Beatrix Potter's 17th century farmhouse, which has been wonderfully maintained and looks as if the famous author had just popped out for a walk. Inside, every room offers some link or image to one of Potter's famous tales, while the garden offers up an exciting trail for children, as well as a traditional country garden that changes with the seasons. You'll also be able to gaze out over some of the views that inspired the stories, and wander along one of the marked walking trails from the property.

The World of Beatrix Potter

The only Beatrix Potter themed attraction in Europe, where kids can come and visit the likes of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and many other beloved characters. Attractions include all 23 Tales of Beatrix Potter, each one brought to life in an indoor recreation of the Lakeland countryside, complete with all the sights, sounds and even smells. Head over to the Miss Potter Room for an explanation of the life of Beatrix Potter complete with unique Visual Walks display, film presentation and exciting exhibits. If you feel peckish head for the Tailor of Gloucester tearoom.

Dove Cottage & the Wordsworth Museum

Dove Cottage in Grasmere was the home of William Wordsworth between 1799 and 1808. It is here that Wordsworth wrote much of his poetry, and where his sister Dorothy added to her now famous collection of journals. The cottage itself was built in the early 17th century and boasts a picturesque garden and orchard, once tended to by William and Dorothy. The Wordsworth Trust was founded in 1981, with an award-winning museum housing collections of manuscripts, books and paintings relating to British Romanticism. Visit the Dove Cottage tearoom and pick up snacks made from high-quality local produce.

Wordsworth House

Take a step back in time and explore poetry giant William Wordsworth's childhood home. This traditional Georgian townhouse was birthplace of both Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, and is presented as a bustling family home with butlers on hand to offer up information and a fascinating working Georgian kitchen complete with servants that are happy to tell visitors the story of the house and garden. There are also daily ten-minute walks, poetry readings and children's trails, plus a full programme of family activities during the summer holidays.

For information on characterful places to stay, local food and drink, and nearby outdoor activities, see our Green Traveller's Guide to the Lake District

Artwork for Green Traveller's Guide to the Lake District


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