Things to see and do in Cumbria and the Lake District: our top picks

By Kingfisher Visitor Guides

Cumbria and the Lake District offers so many exciting things to see and do, it's difficult to pick just a few. Check out our top picks.

Visit Aira Force waterfall

One of the things you must do, is visit probably the most famous waterfall in the Lake District, the main force falls 70 feet from below a stone footbridge and from there you can also head to the summit of Gowbarrow fell for absolutely stunning views of Ullswater. There is also a landscaped Victorian park and a welcome tea room.

Don’t miss the passes

They’re a challenge, but the steep mountain roads simply have to be experienced. Kirkstone Pass is the Lake District’s highest pass open to cars. It connects Ambleside to Patterdale and is known by locals as The Struggle. Hardknott Pass heads west and is the steepest road in England, with a maximum gradient of 1 in 3.

Explore lake Windermere

Lake Windermere is the biggest natural expanse of water in England, at nearly 11 miles long, up to one mile wide and up to 220 feet deep. It is surrounded by magnificent mountain scenery and you can travel the entire length with Windermere Lake Cruises from Bowness, Ambleside or Lakeside.

Discover a hidden gem

Eden is a beautiful corner of Cumbria taking in the lakes and mountains around Ullswater, part of the Lake District National Park and the moorlands of the North Pennines around Alston, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. And for this reason the Eden Valley is visited time and again by those who have discovered it. The River Eden, one of the finest salmon and trout rivers in the North of England, rises in Mallerstang, and flows through the old market towns of Kirkby Stephen and Appleby.

Bag a Wainwright or two

The Wainwrights are the 214 hills and mountains described in author-climber A.J Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. It’s a mission by some to complete all of them; you could start with just one, perhaps the distinctive Cat Bells overlooking Keswick and Derwentwater. The view from the top is definitely worth the climb.

Check out the wildlife

Cumbria has the dubious honour of being the site of the last English wolf and recently, the last golden eagle. But plenty remains. Cumbria Wildlife Trust manages 44 nature reserves across the county. You could see ospreys, seals, red squirrels, otters, rare plants… you are simply surrounded by wildlife.

Go deep into a forest

Cumbrians are lucky to have so many fantastic forests and woodlands remaining. Here are two to explore: Grizedale, between the lakes of Coniston and Windermere, offers stunning walking and cycling trails. Whinlatter is England’s only true mountain forest, with great views, challenging trails and adventure play areas for the kids.

Inspire yourself

Cumbria has inspired many writers over the years, who in turn have brought visitors to the county. William Wordsworth remains England’s most famous poet. Beatrix Potter’s children’s stories are still popular today. Then there’s Ransome, Coleridge, Wainwright, Southey and don’t forget Postman Pat author John Cunliffe!

Take on an adventure

The Lake District is known as The Adventure Capital of the UK and there’s so much fun to be had on its mountains and waterways, in its forests and in the air. Wild swimming, kayaking, mountain biking, paragliding, climbing, golf, running, cycling, horse riding, quad biking, zorbing, paintballing and much more.

Sample Cumbrian delicacies

Don’t just view the county, taste it. Cumberland Sausage is a famous national dish but local butchers all have their own versions. Grasmere Gingerbread is a delicious cross between cake and a biscuit. Cumberland Rum Nicky is a dessert of shortcrust pastry, dates, brown sugar and rum. Not forgetting the renowned Kendal Mint Cake, a delicious glucose-based confectionary flavoured with peppermint. And the list goes on…

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Image credits: ©Andrew Locking/John Hodgson/Lake District National Park Authority; Andrew Walter/Cumbria Wildlife Trust; Hardyuno/Michael Conrad/Monkey Business/

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