Brimming with no end of untouched natural beauty, the Lake District is the unequivocal jewel in England’s crown. In fact, there are so many places to visit in the Lake District that you may find it difficult deciding where to start. I’ve taken on the tricky task of narrowing down the must-see locations to a handpicked selection that will hopefully make your choice easier. Discover some of the best places to see in the Lake District as I guide you to iconic fells, caves, lakes, and more extraordinary scenery.
Top 10 Places to Visit in the Lake District
On the southern shore of Derwentwater, Borrowdale is made up of dramatic valleys blessed with some of the national park’s most beautiful scenery. With its jagged crags, imposing fells and wooded valleys, it’s no wonder artists and writers seek out its landscapes to inspire their creativity.
Things to do in Borrowdale
- Visit Ashness Bridge, the most photographed of its kind in the Lake District.
- Wild swimming at Fairy Glen and Blackmoss Pot near Stonethwaite.
- Climb up the Bowder Stone, Borrowdale’s largest rock.
- Walk through Brandlehow Woods
If you want to explore the lakes, I’d recommend saving Buttermere until last. It might only be 1.5 miles long, but it sure knows how to pack a punch! Teetering on the lakeside is some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire national park. With the likes of Red Pike, Haystacks, Rannerdale Knotts, and Fleetwith Pike making up Buttermere’s impressive backdrop, I’d be surprised if this doesn’t become one of your Lake District favourites.
Things to do at Buttermere
- Hike up Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike.
- Visit Scale Force Waterfall.
- Circular walk around Buttermere water.
- Enjoy some homemade cake at Syke Farm Tea Room.
3. Windermere and Ambleside
Bordering the largest lake in England, the neighbouring towns of Windermere and Ambleside are among the main hot spots for tourists, understandably so. The bustling streets are dotted with cafes, gift shops, and galleries, all set beneath the shadows of the mighty fells. It’s not short on natural wonders either with Stock Ghyll Force – a 70-foot waterfall, and Stagshaw Gardens within walking distance of Ambleside.
Things to do in Windermere and Ambleside
- Amble around Ambleside’s gift shops and galleries.
- Lake cruise.
- Walk around Stagshaw Gardens.
- Visit the Armitt Museum and Library.
- Walk up to Stock Ghyll Force Waterfall.
- Visit the Bridge House, one of the most photographed attractions in Ambleside.
This one’s for the hikers, bikers, and watersports fanatics who also wouldn’t mind a little bit of history and shopping thrown into the mix. The thriving market town of Keswick almost feels like the epicentre of the Lake District with its countless shops, vibrant market, pubs, restaurants and, of course, Derwentwater and the surrounding fells.
Things to do in Keswick
- Visit the famous Keswick Market
- Hike up Catbells
- Boat ride or watersports on Derwentwater
- Visit Theatre by the Lake
- Explore Millican Dalton’s Cave. This self-proclaimed “Professor of Adventure” lived in the cave each summer for 50 years during the early 20th century
Coniston has lured many famous residents and visitors to its glorious landscapes, including children’s author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, and artist, critic and philanthropist, John Ruskin. Beatrix Potter purchased the Monk Coniston Estate which was bequeathed to the National Trust when she died and can be explored during your visit to Coniston. If you’re keen to spot some local wildlife, treat yourself to a gondola cruise from Coniston Pier to Monk Coniston.
Things to do in Coniston
- Hike up the Old Man of Coniston.
- Walk up to Tom Gill Waterfall and around Tarn Hows.
- Lake cruise.
- Visit The Ruskin Museum.
- Steam yacht gondola cruise to Monk Coniston.
6. Grasmere and Rydal
Once home to poet William Wordsworth, Grasmere is an idyllic village and one of the best places to go in the Lake District for a spot of romance. Step back in time with a visit to Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth penned some of his most famous poems. Rydal is another spot favoured by the poet and he would spend many summers picnicking by Rydal Water, a short distance from the family’s home, Rydal Mount.
Things to do at Grasmere and Rydal
- Visit Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden
- Walk around Grasmere and Rydal waters
- Explore Rydal Cave
- Buy some Grasmere Gingerbread
- Visit Rydal Mount and Rydal Hall
- Wild swim at Alcock Tarn
- Hike up Helm Crag or Loughrigg Fell
- Mooch around Grasmere’s gift shops and galleries
7. Western Lakes
Personally, this is one of my favourite areas and arguably the best place to go in the Lake District. The Western Lakes area consists of four main valleys: Ennerdale, Eskdale, Wasdale, and Dunnerdale. It feels much more remote here and further away from the madding crowds. The untamed landscapes and rugged fells give it an air of mystery which is totally captivating.
Things to do in the Western Lakes
- Hike up Scafell Pike and other notable fells such as Yewbarrow, Great Gable and Scoat Fell.
- Ride on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway
- Go wild swimming at Tongue Pot
- Visit Stanley Ghyll Force Waterfall
- Drive over Hardknott Pass (not for the faint-hearted).
- Kayaking on Wastwater
8. Castlerigg Stone Circle
Britain is home to over 300 stone circles, and Castlerigg is one of the earliest, believed to have been constructed around 3000 BC. Cocooned in the majestic mountain landscape of High Seat and Helvellyn, the ancient stones are shrouded in much mystery. Unlike many other stone circles, Castlerigg has not yet been extensively excavated and it has never been determined whether the circle was a meeting place for traders or for religious gatherings.
9. Langdale Valley
This stunning valley is a sure favourite with walkers and cyclists as it features a multitude of peaks nestled at the heart of the Lake District. Victorian writer and critic, John Ruskin declared Langdale to have “The loveliest rock scenery, chased with silver waterfalls, that I ever set heart or foot on.”
Things to do in the Langdale Valley
- Walk to Blea Tarn from Great Langdale
- Fell walking in the Langdale Pikes.
- Explore Cathedral Cavern.
- Visit Skelwith Force Waterfall.
- Cycling and mountain biking.
Nestled into the Eden Valley, Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District. It’s fringed by quaint towns and villages such as Glenridding, Pooley Bridge, Patterdale, Watermillock and Howtown, each with their own wonderful personalities. Ullswater is one of more popular lakes for watersports such as wakesurfing, paddle boarding, open water swimming and kayaking.
Things to do in Ullswater
- Take a trip on the Ullswater “Steamers”.
- Hike up Helvellyn.
- Visit Glencoyne Bay, the inspiration for Wordsworth’s poem, “Daffodils”.
- Grab lunch at Granny Dowbekins in Pooley Bridge which stands on the River Eamont.
- Explore Dunmallard Hill Fort, said to be the burial place of Sir Tristian, a knight of the Round Table.
- Walk around Aira Force, one of the most stunning Lake District waterfalls set in ancient woodland.
- Walk along the Ullswater Way.