The Lake District in northwest England is a land of mountains, hills, pretty villages, and a lot of lakes. This is where you’ll find the largest lake in England, Windermere, and where Wordsworth wrote his poems and Beatrix Potter painted Peter Rabbit. The area has long attracted artists and poets, and one weekend here is enough to understand why.
The landscape is beautiful, and if you like hiking, it has the most incredible walks among the hills with spectacular views. While much of the area is quite remote, the cute little villages and small towns are busy with locals and tourists, especially in the summertime. There’s so much to see and do in the English Lake District, you need more than a weekend to cover it all. To get you started, here’s my pick of how to spend a weekend in the English Lake District.
Things To Do In The English Lake District
There are walking and hiking trails all over the Lake District, and there’s something to suit you whatever your fitness level. Some of these trails take you up into the mountains and include some steep inclines and some rocky ground underfoot. If you prefer a gentle walk, there are walks around each of the lakes.
But if you feel able, a hike up to the summits of some of these hills brings the reward of incredible views. For the adventurous, Catbells and Haystacks are challenging hikes, but the views are breathtaking. For an easier walk, Keswick Railway Path is a very interesting walk that takes you over bridges and through old railway arches.
The World Of Beatrix Potter
Although children do love The World of Beatrix Potter and you will see a lot of families with kids there, this most certainly isn’t only for children. If you have a fondness for Peter Rabbit or just want to know more about who Beatrix Potter was and how she worked, this is an interesting attraction with models of the characters in their settings and information about the author, her life, and her work with conservation. The attraction is located in Bowness-on-Windermere, the small town found on the banks of the lake, about halfway up its long swell. There’s also a good café and a cute gift shop with lots of Peter Rabbits for sale.
Dove Cottage, Home Of William Wordsworth
Wordsworth is probably the Lake District’s most famous resident, as he wrote most of his poems while living here. He lived in Dove Cottage from 1799, when he was 29, with his sister Dorothy, whose journal is on display here. A guided tour takes you into every room in the house, your guide giving commentary on Wordsworth and his life here. It’s a pretty old house in a lovely spot in the village of Grasmere, and the gardens are beautiful. You can easily spend 2 or 3 hours exploring the house and gardens, and there’s a newly opened café on site too now.
The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop
The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is no ordinary gingerbread shop. For a start, you can’t buy this very special gingerbread anywhere else in the world, which, alongside the fact that you can only fit four people in the shop at any one time, explains the queues you see outside the little shop no matter what time of year it is.
Grasmere Gingerbread was invented by Sarah Nelson in 1854 in this very shop, which was once her home. The gingerbread is crumbly on top and slightly chewy underneath, and there’s a spiciness to it that you just don’t find in other gingerbreads. It’s truly unique and worth queuing for. Once home again, you can order more gingerbread through the post within the UK.
Take A Rowing Boat Out On The Lake
Gazing at the lakes in the Lake District is undeniably magical, but there’s nothing like getting out on the water. You can hire a rowing boat at Windermere, Coniston Water, Derwentwater, Buttermere, Bassenthwaite, and Loweswater. You’ll be given a brief instruction, in case you haven’t rowed before, and you’ll be issued with a life vest to wear. It’s a lovely, peaceful way to enjoy the lakes, and you get a different perspective of the land around them from the water. Some lakes also have kayaking and paddle board hire. For more on kayaking, take a look at I Went Kayaking For The First Time At 51 — Here’s What Happened.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
There are many things to love about Castlerigg Stone Circle. It’s free to wander around, it’s set in a dramatic landscape, and you can park for free right by the field — though parking spaces are often full, especially at weekends. This is one of the earliest stone circles in Britain, raised around 3000 B.C. It’s incredibly well kept, especially to say anyone can walk around it and touch the stones; even sheep wander freely around the circle.
We enjoyed a picnic by the circle, and there was a steady stream of visitors the entire time we were there, but it never felt busy or overrun. No matter how many people, the circle somehow manages to maintain peace and calmness. It’s a very spiritual place, and people of all different faiths come here to soak up the atmosphere.
Best Restaurants In The English Lake District
Harry’s Café, Yew Tree Barn
Located inside Yew Tree Barn, an antique center near the village of Cartmel, Harry’s Café is a tucked-away little gem of a place to eat. It’s a café serving restaurant food — really good restaurant food. Don’t be fooled by the café vibe here, the food is seriously good. I love the setting of this cute café too. After enjoying lunch here we spent some time wandering the many rooms full of unusual antiques.
What To Order At Harry’s Café
Whatever you order here is going to be good, but the braised beef short rib is exceptional. It’s so tender it melts in the mouth and tastes amazing. I’m not exaggerating when I say I thought about this dish for days after eating it!
The Great North Pie Company
The branch in Ambleside of The Great North Pie Company is small and the menu is short, but it has tons of character and the pies are as good as the name suggests. There’s limited seating inside and a few tables and chairs outside, but I noticed a lot of people pop in and buy their pies to take away too. The pies all come with a choice of mashed potato, peas, and gravy.
What To Order At The Great North Pie Company
It’s not on the menu, but ask if they have their vegan spicy sweet potato pie available when you’re there. The chicken pie is also really good, but the spicy sweet potato just has that extra kick to it. We also enjoyed glasses of mulled wine while we were there, but this is strictly seasonal.
Best Hotels In The English Lake District
Located near the village of Cartmel, Pheasant Lodge is a Georgian manor house that has been converted into a beautiful rental. Sleeping six people, the house features high ceilings, spacious rooms, period furniture, and beautiful gardens. The house has retained its Georgian character, and it really feels like you’re living in a manor house during your stay. Its position in the south lakes makes it ideal for exploring the region. I love the boot room off the kitchen, which was so authentic that I felt like the lady of the manor. The house is accessed via a long driveway, and you can easily walk from there into the village of Cartmel.
Overlooking Lake Windermere with uninterrupted views of the water and the surrounding countryside, The Samling is a luxury hotel set in 67 acres of gardens, meadows, and woodland. The hotel and its position offer the perfect way to enjoy the area, but the hotel itself also offers enough to keep visitors entertained for hours. Apart from the lovely gardens, the restaurants here are exceptional. There’s a private hot tub on the grounds with incredible views that can be booked for 1-hour slots at a time. The hotel also has an impressive wine cellar and wine tastings can be booked ahead.
Gilpin Hotel And Lake House
Two hotels in one, Gilpin is a stunning complex of rooms and hotel amenities set over two sites There are 30 bedrooms at the hotel, some with their own en-suite spas, while the lake house has just six bedrooms and is perfect for exclusive use. Situated close to Windermere, the hotel is more like a holiday village than a simple hotel. The restaurant is located in the main hotel, but there’s a chauffeur service for guests staying at the lake house, so they can enjoy dining in the restaurant without having to worry about getting there and back. The service here really sets the hotel apart and makes it special.