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Cumbria and the Lake District cultural attractions

Whether you prefer to see a cathedral or a museum, we’ve captured Cumbria’s best arts and culture destinations. Treasured poet William Wordsworth was born in Cockermouth and later lived in Grasmere. Cockermouth has Wordsworth House to remember him by and Grasmere has Dove Cottage.

The World of Beatrix Potter visitor centre in Bowness-on-Windermere brings her stories to life, and the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead is within the 17th-century building once used as the office of Beatrix Potter’s husband, a solicitor. Other places worth visiting include The Armitt Museum in Ambleside. Collections include Beatrix Potter, German artist Kurt Schwitters, photography and fine art.

The largest music festival is Kendal Calling, held each July, months after selling out. Confusingly, it began life in Kendal but since 2009 has been held at Lowther Deer Park, near Penrith. Featuring an impressive line-up from across the genres, from big names to local heroes, Kendal Calling also attracts some major names in comedy.

There are few more stunning festival locations than the shores of Derwentwater for the Keswick Mountain Festival. The ultimate outdoors weekend features speakers and displays from top outdoors sportspeople, rounded off with two evenings of live music from major name acts, held each June.

The Keswick Jazz and Blues Festival is held over four days in May and celebrates the best in New Orleans, swing, classic, traditional and mainstream, while a festival of growing reputation is Bowness Bay Blues in March, packing out several venues across the town.

Our picks


East of Lake, Coniston LA21 8AD

Brantwood in Coniston was home to John Ruskin from 1872 until 1900. It is one of the most beautifully situated houses in the Lake District, enjoying spectacular lake and mountain views. Today Brantwood preserves Ruskin’s legacy, but also strives to promote the relevance of Ruskin’s ideas in society today. Filled with many fine paintings, beautiful furniture and Ruskin’s personal treasures, the house retains the character of its famous resident and with a range of contemporary exhibitions, concerts, courses and special events Brantwood continues in the Ruskin tradition today. Visit website

Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life
Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life

Alma Block, The Castle, Carlisle CA3 8UR

Located within the historic grounds of Carlisle Castle, Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life tells the story of over 300 years of Cumbria’s regimental past. Get closer to history, with a great variety of items including uniforms, medals, weapons and silver from 1702 to present day. Visit website

Wordsworth House
Wordsworth House

Main St, Cockermouth CA13 9RX

Wordsworth House and Garden is Cumbria Tourism’s Small Visitor Attraction of the Year. With real food on the table and a real fire in the grate, it offers an unforgettable chance to experience life in the 1770s. Take a guided or audio tour, listen to a talk or explore the working kitchen and other hands-on rooms at your own pace. Discover the weird and wonderful details of Georgian life, from what the Wordsworth family ate to how often they washed. The children’s bedroom is full of toys and dressing up clothes. There is a daily trail, and holiday activities range from wild art workshops to family garden adventures. Visit website

Upfront Gallery
Art gallery

Unthank, Penrith CA11 9TG

Upfront Gallery has a changing programme of exhibitions throughout the year by artists from Cumbria and beyond. The coffee shop’s extensive menu of vegetarian food is complemented by a range of delicious puddings and cakes. The gift shop sells bags, cards, ceramics, jewellery, scarves etc. Visit website

Lakeland Arts
Lakeland Arts

Kirkland, Kendal LA9 5AL

Lakeland Arts offers four inspiring experiences that bring art and heritage collections to life. Enjoy stunning locations, insights into the Lake District UNESCO World Heritage story and beautiful art and craftsmanship on display at four attractions. The attractions are open year-round, including bank holidays and are fantastic places to visit for all ages, whatever the weather. Visit website

Like these? Try these…

Cumbria and the Lake District attractions

Cumbria and the Lake District restaurants and cafes

Cumbria and the Lake District shopping

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Image credits: ©Ben Barden/Brantwood; Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life, Carlisle Castle; Dariusz Oczkowicz/; Lakeland Arts; National Trust Images/Richard Jakobson/

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