The Best Things to Do in Cumbria
Meet your inner poet in the lakes and mountains of Cumbria
Its dramatic mountains, lakes and valleys are the closest the United Kingdom has to a Northern Hemisphere take on Patagonia. Without the penguins, glaciers and proximity to Antarctica. That said, the Lake District in Cumbria also boasts a rich human history to complement the humps and bumps of its scenic topography. Known for the Lake Poets, its unforgettable scenery inspired a whole bunch of writers, from William Wordsworth and his pal Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Robert Southey and Mary Lamb. And no, she didn’t write ‘Mary had a little lamb.’ But, we have no doubt the scenery will inspire you to write a book of poems yourself. Or, at least, that novel you’ve been planning for years, about the young wizard who goes to Cumbria and so on. For even more inspiration, book a stay at one of the remarkable Cumbria homes in our collection. Here at Plum Guide, we’ve checked personally to make sure they’re perfect for your stay, so you're guaranteed to have a memorable trip for all the right reasons. Without further ado, here's our take on the best things to do in Cumbria.
Check out the lakes
Lake Windermere in front of distant mountains, Lake District, Cumbria UK
It may sound obvious, given the Lake District is at the heart of Cumbria. But…actually, no 'buts': it is pretty obvious. But which lakes? We’ll be the judge of that, since that's what we do. Lake Windermere is the one everyone is always going on about, and for good reason too: it's one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cumbria. The first thing to know about it is that the ‘lake’ part is redundant - the ‘mere’ bit at the end of the name tells us it’s a lake. So, it's essentially Winder Lake Lake. There’s your trivia to show off as you lie down with your friends or family on its pleasant shores. The lake is long and narrow, and filled with deluxe and colourful yachts. Wander out along the Lakeside Pier and rent equipment from the water sports operators. Escape the crowds with a trip to the quieter part of the lake, Newby Bridge. Or you could always escape to your lakeside Plum Guide home.
Helvellyn may sound like hell, and a trek to the ridge at its summit will feel like it too, for your knees at least. As you climb, you’ll notice a couple of lakes, including the Red Tarn, its shimmering surface reflecting the deep blues of the sky. It features the remaining water from a glacier that carved out part of the mountain. You might fancy a swim, but do yourself a favour and bring a wet suit. It gets mighty cold in the water in these parts, particularly in winter, when snow covers the region.
They wouldn’t call it the Lake District if it only had two lakes, so it's time to explore some more. You could read William Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes: for the Use of Tourists and Residents - but we’re much more up to date than he was. Embark on the Catbells Lakeland Walk, relax in the tranquil setting of the Loughrigg Fell, and see the crashing waterfall of the Aira Force (which has nothing to do with the president’s plane or that Harrison Ford movie). The beauty of the Lake District landed it a spot on our favourite places to visit in the whole of England, so you know you can't miss it when it comes to things to do in Cumbria.
Learn about the history
Carlisle Castle on a sunny day, Cumbria, England
Aside from the natural beauty, Cumbria’s unique draw is its rich history. Visit the 12th-century fortress that is Carlisle Castle, marvel at the stained glass windows of the Carlisle Cathedral, and inspect the exhibits in the city’s Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery. Around the bucolic countryside and its mountains linger the ghosts of poets past. Take a look around the Wordsworth Grasmere, where Britain’s most famous poet (Shakespeare would have something to say about that) lived and composed some of his best works. Learn about his sister Dorothy and get a glimpse of her journal to understand the history of the area and her 19th-century mind.
Other fascinating sights include the Lakeland Museum in Kendal, whose intriguing artefacts take you on a journey through the region’s history, arts and culture. There's also the Keswick Museum, which…well, it’s fairly similar, with a focus on the landscape, history and culture of Cumbria. We’ve not even mentioned the incredible Beatrix Potter, whose magical tales are explored and re-animated in the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. Then, head north to the historic Hadrian’s Wall, an Ancient Roman set of fortifications that runs for 73 miles (118 kilometres).
Entertain the kids
There are plenty of family-fun attractions in Cumbria, from the Pencil Museum and the Dock Museum to one of the cruises on the lakes. You can also enjoy a trip on one of the old-world steam engine railways. Take the whole family for a ride on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, or the South Tynedale Railway for a vintage way of exploring the countryside in northwest England. And there you have it. Now you know the best things to do in Cumbria.