27 things to do on a rainy day in the Lake District

The Langdale valley
After the rains… The Langdale valley

One of the very first posts I wrote for the blog was a list of 10 things to do in the Lake District on a rainy day. We do get quite a few wet days here, but, as they say, the Lake District wouldn’t be the Lake District without them!

Since writing that post however, I’ve come across many more wonderful places to spend the day during wet weather. I thought it was more than time for a rewrite, so here are my suggestions for places to go on a rainy day in the Lake District:

1. Rheged, near Penrith

Rheged is a great destination for a wet day if you have young children. There are two cafés and there’s also a restaurant, so you can choose between a full meal or a lighter lunch, and you’ll find a small selection of shops selling gifts, local food, outdoor wear and children’s toys. Rheged is home to an enormous cinema screen, a children’s craft room, and indoor and outdoor play areas. Take a look at the Rheged website for upcoming films, events, theatre productions, and creative workshops for families.

2. The Quaker Tapestry, Kendal

The Quaker Tapestry is a collection of exquisitely detailed embroidered panels, which were made by 4,000 men, women and children from 15 countries between 1981 and 1996, and tell the story of Quakerism and its influence on historic events and the modern world.

Over 40 panels are on display at the Georgian Meeting House in Kendal, and whilst that may not sound a lot, it’s incredible how the panels draw you in and time really does fly. We found the exhibition a really enjoyable use of a cold, miserable afternoon, and there’s a café for a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake…

3. Sizergh Castle, near Kendal

The window and panelling of the Inlaid Chamber at Sizergh Castle
The window and panelling of the Inlaid Chamber at Sizergh Castle

Sizergh Castle has been associated with the Strickland family for over 700 years and is notable for its wood panelling, which can be found throughout the house. The Elizabethan Inlaid Chamber is particularly special, and was returned to the castle in 1999 from the Victoria and Albert Museum. The tearoom and shop are separate to the house, so you’ll need a brolly for the walk between the two, but a visit here is well worthwhile in the rain or sunshine.

4. The Armitt Museum, Ambleside

The Armitt Museum in Ambleside

The Armitt is a small museum, library and gallery located at the foot of the Ambleside campus of the University of Cumbria. Opened in 1912, it is dedicated to the Lake District’s cultural heritage, and was supported in its early days by Beatrix Potter. Beatrix gifted several items to the Armitt, including a large collection of botanical watercolours she had painted, which form the exhibition, ‘Beatrix Potter, Image and Reality’. The Armitt also houses a nationally important collection of artwork by Kurt Schwitters, an influential artist who lived in Ambleside during the later years of his life.

5. Hayes Garden World, Ambleside

An undercover display at Hayes Garden World in Ambleside
A display under cover at Hayes Garden World in Ambleside

There’s plenty to keep gardeners and non-gardeners alike happy at Hayes on a rainy day, and you’re not limited to the indoors. Plant lovers can still make it round large sections of the outdoor space – particularly the area containing bedding plants – as some plants are kept under an enormous circular glass cover (although I know dedicated gardeners won’t be deterred if they spot something exceptional out in the rain!).

For those who aren’t particularly green-fingered there are also departments dedicated to books, gifts, food, clothing and shoes, home furnishings, outdoor wear, garden furniture and pets, and there’s a large café upstairs. We’re regular visitors to Hayes and are rarely disappointed.

6. Holker Hall, Cark-in-Cartmel

Holker HallIf you enjoy looking round historic houses, Holker Hall is one of a number of residences around the Lake District you’ll want to make time to see. There’s also the Food Hall, selling local food, and a good café here, and if the weather dries up the gardens are lovely. On a very wet day it’s handy to know that you can buy a ticket for the Hall only.

7. Levens Hall, near Kendal

Levens Hall and one of the two 'umbrellas' in the topiary garden
One of the two Levens Hall ‘umbrellas’, with the house in the background – they apparently do function as a shelter in a downpour!

I’ve featured Levens Hall on the blog recently because I absolutely adore its historic topiary garden, which is the oldest topiary garden in the world. Whilst the outside may not be so inviting on a soggy day, the house is also well worth a visit. It’s been on the site since the 1300s, with the current interior dating back to the Elizabethan period, and featuring ornate oak panelling and plasterwork.

8. Hutton-in-the-Forest, near Penrith

Hutton-in-the-Forest provides you with an intriguing tour of interior style throughout time, with rooms from the medieval Stone Hall through to those boasting Arts and Crafts and Victorian designs. There are four early William Morris wallpapers to be seen here too. If you’re still reluctant to go outside, you can also take your time in the Cloisters tearoom.

9. The Lakes Distillery, Bassenthwaite

The Lakes Distillery is a fairly recent addition to the Lake District’s selection of attractions, and was created from a Victorian cattle farm to the north of Bassenthwaite Lake. The distillery creates its own whisky, gin and vodka (something to make you smile on a miserable day!), and you can take one of its tours along with an optional guided tasting experience, stop for lunch or supper at the Bistro, and book to meet the alpacas.

10. Shopping in one of the towns

Rainbow over Kendal
Rainbow over Kendal

I can’t promise that you won’t get wet, but rainy days are a good excuse to spend time exploring the shops and enjoying a leisurely lunch. The biggest shopping towns serving the Lake District are Keswick, Penrith and Kendal, and each has its own distinct personality. You may also like to take a wander around other interesting towns and villages including Ambleside, Windermere, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cockermouth and Kirkby Lonsdale. Carlisle, to the north of the Lake District, is the nearest city centre.

11. A climbing wall

Regular readers of the blog will know that it’s highly unlikely you’ll find me clambering up a climbing wall any time soon, but I know other people enjoy this, so I’m including it here anyway. Which wall you choose will probably depend on where you are in the Lake District, but take a look online at the Lakeland Climbing Centre in Kendal, Kong Adventure in Keswick, Keswick Climbing Wall and Activity Centre, and The Ambleside Climbing Wall.

12. Butterfield and French, The Antiques Emporium, Kendal

Inside Butterfield and French, The Antiques Emporium, in Kendal

If you’re a fan of second-hand and collectibles, Butterfield and French, The Antiques Emporium, is a lovely collection of around 70 individual traders all displaying in a unit at Dockray Hall Mill to the north of the town. It would make a great stop-off point on a day out in Kendal.

13. Lakeland, Windermere

Outside Lakeland in Windermere

Windermere is home to the flagship store of the kitchenware retailer Lakeland, which is always popular on a wet day, and will especially appeal to home bakers, keen cooks, and lovers of kitchen gadgets. Upstairs you’ll find the First Floor Café – get there early on a rainy day, as there can be a bit of a wait. The staff will give you a ‘gadget’ so that you can wander round the shop for a bit, and you’ll be notified when your table is ready.

14. Blackwell, Bowness-on-Windermere

The view over Windermere from the White Drawing Room
The view over Windermere from the White Drawing Room

Operated by Lakeland Arts, Blackwell is an important example of an Arts and Crafts house and was originally built as a holiday home. I really appreciate a visit here in winter when you can enjoy the views over the lake from the warmth inside. The temporary exhibitions are always changing, and the tearoom serves lunches and afternoon teas made with excellent quality ingredients. I wrote about Blackwell last year on the blog…

15. Lakeland Motor Museum, Backbarrow, near Newby Bridge

The Lakeland Motor Museum is based at Backbarrow, near Newby Bridge, at the southern tip of Windermere (lake). It houses a collection of over 30,000 exhibits, including cars, motorcycles, bicycles and other forms of automobilia, and an exhibition dedicated to speed record breaker Donald Campbell. The museum site was once the Backbarrow Blue Mill, which produced the washing additive known as Dolly Blue, and closed in the 1980s, so there’s some fascinating local history here too. I’ve really enjoyed visiting in the past, and you can also get a really nice lunch next door at neighbouring Café Ambio.

16. The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, Bowness-on-Windermere

The World of Beatrix Potter exhibition in Bowness-on-Windermere
The World of Beatrix Potter exhibition in Bowness-on-Windermere, also home to The Old Laundry Theatre

Beatrix Potter was famously the children’s author behind the tales of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck. At The World of Beatrix Potter, these, and many of her other characters, are all brought to life in scenes from the books, and you can see, hear and even smell what’s going on in the stories! A tour of the attraction takes around an hour, and there’s a short introductory film and a virtual walking experience at the end. You’ll find a tearoom and gift shop as well.

17. The Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere

The Old Laundry Theatre is housed in the same building as The World of Beatrix Potter attraction, and its name comes from the fact that the building was originally an Edwardian laundry. Have a look at the website to see what will be on when you’re staying in the Lakes. One incredibly popular show, which has returned for two seasons now, is the musical adventure ‘Where is Peter Rabbit?’

18. Wray Castle, near Ambleside

Looking up from the main hall inside Wray Castle
Looking up from the main hall inside Wray Castle

I love Wray Castle. It’s an eccentric mock-Gothic house which looks like a castle and was built as a home overlooking the northern end of Windermere lake. It has a fascinating history and was used until the late 1990s as a residential training college for radio officers in the Merchant Navy.

In more recent years, the National Trust has opened it up to visitors, but it is very much an empty shell, which has been kitted out with a variety of themed rooms for the benefit of families with children. If you don’t have children and would like to visit to see the building, I suggest you pick a dry day outside of school holidays – on a rainy day, Wray Castle will be very busy with children! I visited Wray Castle last year on the blog…

19. Brantwood, Coniston

The Turret Room off Ruskin's bedroom at Brantwood, Coniston

In my opinion, some of the best views over Coniston Water can be found at Brantwood, so this house is a good place from which to take a look at the scenery but remain dry! Brantwood was once home to the social reformer John Ruskin, so you learn a great deal about the man, as well as his influence on British industrial history. I wrote more about Brantwood after a recent visit…

20. The Ruskin Museum, Coniston

The Ruskin Museum, ConistonLocated in the centre of Coniston village, The Ruskin Museum tells the story of Coniston. The area has a full and interesting past, with tales relating to the Coniston Coppermines, quarrying, farming, children’s writer Arthur Ransome (author of Swallows and Amazons), Donald Campbell’s speed records on the lake, and the social reformer John Ruskin, as well as the handmade local industries he inspired.

21. Allan Bank, Grasmere

Chess board overlooking Grasmere from Allan Bank
Chess anyone?

Allan Bank is owned and managed by the National Trust and was once briefly home to William Wordsworth, and later home to one of the National Trust’s co-founders, Canon Hardwick Rawnsley. I visited this intriguing house earlier this year, and there are lots of ways you could spend an afternoon with the family in this very informal space – create some knitting, read from the library of local books, have a game of chess, and enjoy a cup of tea.

The only drawback is that there’s no parking, so you will need to leave the car in Grasmere itself and take an umbrella for the 10-minute walk up the driveway to the house. Take a look at the blog post from my visit…

22. Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Finsthwaite, near Newby Bridge

On a tour of Stott Park Bobbin Mill
On a tour of the mill

The last working bobbin mill in the Lake District, Stott Park is a fascinating link between the present day and Cumbria’s industrial past, and a tour around the mill takes about an hour. I’ve written about Stott Park Bobbin Mill previously on the blog…

23. The Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

The Theatre by the Lake café and restaurant
The Theatre by the Lake café and restaurant

The Theatre by the Lake is a lovely venue in the town, and usually has a number of productions running at any one time. Most take place in the evening, but there are some daytime showings as well. The theatre hosts events such as the annual Words by the Water festival in March, so take a look at the website to see what’s on while you’re in the Lakes.

24. Keswick Museum

This museum has several collections featuring art, local history and geology, and has an ever-changing series of interesting exhibitions relating to the local area. Previous examples include a collection of photographs taken by the local Abraham brothers, who climbed in the Lake District mountains in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

25. Abbot Hall Art Gallery and The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, Kendal

Both of these venues are run by Lakeland Arts and are located next to one another to the south of Kendal town centre. Abbot Hall was built in 1759 and, a Grade I listed villa, is now an award-winning art gallery exhibiting work by artists from across the world. I’ve seen some stunning artwork there, so take a look at the website for details of the latest exhibitions.

As the name suggests, the neighbouring Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry delves into the Lake District’s intriguing past, with exhibitions about Arthur Ransome, the Arts and Crafts movement, local farming and the area’s industrial heritage.

26. Lingholm Kitchen, Portinscale, near Keswick

The Lingholm KitchenYou’ll need a brolly to get from the car or jetty to the Lingholm Kitchen, but I’ve included this because I think it’s worth the effort. Once you’re there you can enjoy a generous lunch, and the Kitchen is a long, light and airy building with floor length windows throughout, so you don’t feel closed away despite the weather. Read about the Lingholm Kitchen following my visit last year…

27. Just embrace the wet weather!

Beautiful colours in the Langdale valley from the New Dungeon Ghyll car park
Beautiful colours in the Langdale valley from the New Dungeon Ghyll car park

You could of course just get out and enjoy the wet weather anyway – I’ve seen some of the most beautiful scenes to photograph after a rain shower!

Make sure you have your waterproofs and warm clothing, as it can get pretty cold once you get wet, and be especially wary of the many stone surfaces we have in the Lake District, as they become very slippery – wear footwear with a good sole, and take into account the weather conditions before going onto higher ground.

Have I missed a favourite Lake District gem that you enjoy visiting in the rain? If so, do share your tips for getting the most out of a soggy day in the Lakes by leaving a comment below!


  1. If you’ve got to the bottom of this very long list and have been reading thoroughly, it could be that the rain has now stopped and you can do anything you choose! 🙂

  2. Amal Loring

    Dear Janine

    Thank you for the great blog. How about adding ” Hill Top” Nr Sawrey. Beatrix Potter home. The house is beautiful, gardens are lovely, with a fabulous gift shop. There is also her house in Hawkshead.

    • Thank you Amal, They are both great suggestions – especially for National Trust members! You’re right, Hill Top is a lovely place to visit, and I was amazed how well preserved the house seemed to be, considering how many visitors it attracts each year!

  3. Janine –

    Great blog idea, and great suggestions. I’d particularly add to your final point… WATERFALLS! Wet weather – particularly a prolonged spell – means spectacular falls, and many of them, from Stock Ghyll Force to Skelwith Force are only a few minutes walk from a road.


    • Thank you for the super suggestion Dave. Between us we’ve now made it to 30 things to do! 🙂 Yes, I ended up at a gushing Skelwith Force one rather soggy afternoon, but was too scared to set foot on the slippery rocks to photograph it properly – I loved the ornate metal bridge upstream though! Stock Ghyll has been on my list of places to visit for a long time, and I still haven’t done it – I hear it looks good in autumn, so perhaps I’ll make it a priority this year!

  4. Anna Logisch

    I really love Townend nr. Troutbeck – a wonderful medieval house.

  5. Alan Bedford

    How about the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway-you can be nice and cosy in a steam train!

  6. Lis Hodgson.

    Best ones for me.
    .Kendal river walk with the Anglican Prish Church Abbott Hall , The Quaker Galleey and the Old Yards. Hire a guide

    Cark in Cartmel. wonderful walks, deer park and the house itself. ..a must…..excellent coffee shop.

    Medieval town..Priory with a vicar who knows how to give a sermon…coffee shops and L’enclume….Michelen Star restaurant….fattest ducks in The Lakes!

    • Hi Lis, Thank you for commenting – it’s really great to hear your recommendations. I do like Holker and Cartmel very much, and the Quaker Tapestry is fascinating.

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