Culture Trip's Guide to the Lake District

Ullswater, in the Lake District, is the English countryside at its best
Ullswater, in the Lake District, is the English countryside at its best | © Adam Burton / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mischa Smith
20 October 2020

In this ready collection of bookable travel ideas inspired by what you love, discover things to do, where to stay and the best spots to eat and drink.

What many find remarkable about the Lake District isn’t the twisting ribbon lakes, the sun-dappled pines or the majestic glow that sparkles across the glassy water, it’s that Unesco only awarded England’s largest and, arguably, most loved national park World Heritage status as recently as 2017. As if plucked from a storybook – the area did once house Beatrix Potter after all – the Lake District is teeming with natural delights. Here’s a sample of the best.

Where to stay

Wayfarers Independent Hostel

Courtesy of Wayfarers Independent Hostel / Expedia

If you’re staying at the Wayfarers, on the edge of the Lake District, the likelihood is you won’t be spending much time here. Catering to scores of adventurers each week, the hostel is a no-frills go-to for hikers and cyclists. An ideal post-activity crash pad, this family-run residence is kitted with lockers, a drying room and bike hire and storage – expect to see acres of Lycra thanks to the Coast-to-Coast route, which runs through the Lake District.

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Waterhead Hotel

Resort, Hotel
Courtesy of Waterhead Hotel / Expedia

Fluffy pampas grass sprouts up at the front of the Waterhead, a quaint hotel owned by English Lakes, a family-run group specialising in lakeside accommodation. Suffice to say, they know what they’re doing, as the ethereal Windermere can be seen from all Classic rooms with windows running almost ceiling to floor. Grasmere gingerbread is a Cumbrian delicacy you’ll find in every room; paired with the warming copper tones that lend an autumnal quality to the interiors, it just begs to be enjoyed with a steaming Ringtons tea or better still, a glass of Baileys.

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Linthwaite House

4.7/5 (261 Reviews)
Courtesy of Linthwaite House / Expedia

Tree-lined land stretches out in every direction, lending a fairytale quality to this country-house hotel, which comprises 14 acres (5.7ha) of private woodland and a tarn with two rowboats. Starting life as a summer house in the early 20th century, Linthwaite is all about escapism and an ideal retreat for nature-starved urbanites. The gardens are manicured to Stepford Wives standards, but for an unrulier landscape you need only step outside to see hills, mountains and Lake Windermere skirting the hotel’s hilltop position.

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  • What to do

    ActivitiesGhyll-Scrambling Water Adventure in the Lake District
    From $87 per person
    3 hours
    5 (1)

    If clambering across rocks, scaling gushing waterfalls and leaping across gullies is your thing, then look no further, not least because this might be the only adrenaline excursion of its kind in the area. For three hours, all concerns will wash away – quite literally – as you clamber across the rugged terrain of one of Britain’s most challenging and exhilarating landscapes. Wetsuits and warm weather gear are provided, and you’ll even get some memento photos that’ll last longer than the bruises – hopefully.

    Tours10 Lakes Spectacular Tour of the Lake District
    From $81 per person
    8 hours
    5 (1)

    Packed with activities and varying landscapes, this day-long tour of the 10 lakes of the Lake District is almost as impressive as the World Heritage site itself. Watch as wild swimmers plunge into tranquil tarns, glacial ribbon lakes wind around ravines – or “ghylls” as they’re known locally – and water pours down the cascading Moss Force waterfall, and just see if you’re not a vision of serenity afterwards.

    ActivitiesCanoe on Derwent Water
    From $87 per person
    3 hours

    There’s no better way to experience the majesty of the Lake District than being on the water. Echoing the calming quality of water, the Canadian canoe skates through the lake leaving a trail in its wake. With trees sprouting from the banks of the water and mountainous landscapes stretching towards the sky, it’s easy to see why dabbling with a paddle on Derwent Water has been dubbed the Jewel of the Lake District.

    Where to eat and drink

    Fresher’s Café

    Cafe, Coffee
    Map View

    It’s hard to hear the word fresher and not think of those early days of uni, and in many ways, this low-key cafe is a lot like a students’ stomping ground. Specialising in feel-good favourites like jacket spuds slathered in butter and deep-filled quiches (the speciality), Fresher’s is exactly where you should head the morning after one too many rums – the unofficial and unexpected drink of Cumbria – but it will also be just as satisfactory after several laps around the lakes.

    The Pig, Windermere

    Restaurant, British, $$$
    Map View

    Whenever the word “pig” appears in the name of an eatery, you can bet your bottom dollar the menu will read like a medieval feast, and the Pig in Windermere is no exception. Black pudding scotch eggs in pork crackling, smoked pig and potato hash, maple bacon chops – even the pizza comes covered with everyone’s favourite Christmas side. There are an alarming number of smiling hogs on display, which some might find off-putting – at least, until the slow roasted suckling pig comes out. There are also decent veggie options, but this place is unapologetically made for meat lovers.

    Boaters Bar

    Bar, British
    Map View

    The family-friendly Boaters Bar has already proved popular with locals who flock to watch the water and sink a beer or two – they have their own on-site microbrewery here, after all. This spacious waterside space makes a huge effort to appeal to the whole family. The menu is kid-friendly, the chairs are large and comfortable – and you won’t find a better view of Lake Windermere.

    These recommendations were updated on October 20, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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