Things to see and do in the Lake District – a series of ‘gem-hunting’ guides

Claife Viewing Station overlooking Windermere
Claife Viewing Station overlooking Windermere
If you’re taking your very first break in the Lake District – and even if you’ve been here many times before – it can be difficult to know how to get the best out of your precious holiday time, and to know where to find the best bits: those hidden gems!

Now that I’ve written quite a collection of blog posts about places throughout the Lake District, I thought it would be handy to present them by location in the form of a series of ‘gem-hunting’ guides – simply select the blue links to find out more about an area and access associated articles.

Currently the guides focus on the southern and central lakes, Keswick, and the north east Lakes. ** I hope to expand to further areas, and keep adding information as I explore, so do keep dropping by for more inspiration! **

Things to do in the Lake District, by area

South Lakes


Windermere in the spring
Windermere in the spring

A village with a warm atmosphere, independent shops, a thriving café culture, excellent viewpoints, scenic short walks, and that all-important supermarket! Read more and discover posts about Windermere…


The Glebe in Bowness-on-Windermere from the Laura Ashley Belsfield Hotel
The glebe in Bowness-on-Windermere from the Laura Ashley Belsfield Hotel

An extremely popular and bustling small town on the edge of Windermere lake. Read more and discover posts about Bowness-on-Windermere…

Around Southern (lake) Windermere

English Heritage's Stott Park Bobbin Mill
English Heritage’s Stott Park Bobbin Mill

The area around the south of (lake) Windermere, incorporates Newby Bridge, Lakeside, Haverthwaite, Backbarrow and Finsthwaite. The south of Windermere is home to the National Trust’s lakeside Fell Foot Park, a car museum, an aquarium, a 3-mile steam railway, viewpoint at Gummer’s How, and Cumbria’s only working bobbin mill with a lovely woodland walk to High Dam. You can reach this area by car or on a cruise on Windermere itself, stopping at Lakeside.


Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley near Kendal
Take a brewery tour at Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley

A small village by-passed by the A591 between Windermere and Kendal, Staveley is home to the Staveley Mill Yard and food and drink names such as Hawkshead Brewery. Read more in my post about Staveley…


Known as the ‘Auld Grey Town’, Kendal is the main shopping town in the South Lakes and forms the southerly gateway to the Lake District, although it is not part of the National Park and World Heritage Site itself.

Kirkby Lonsdale

Situated on the River Lune in the far south-eastern corner of Cumbria, this market town has a thriving presence of local independent shopkeepers and cafés.


A Victorian seaside town originally made popular by the growth of the railway. One fabulous hidden gem here is Yewbarrow House, a private garden which opens to the public under the National Garden Scheme for four one-day events each year.

Cartmel and surrounding area

The gardens at Holker Hall in spring
The gardens at Holker Hall in spring

The small and pretty village of Cartmel is home to the Cartmel Race Course and Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding, made by the Cartmel Village Shop.

Holker Hall and Gardens, situated in Cark-in-Cartmel, are a must-see, particularly in the spring when the rhododendrons are at their most colourful.


A quirky historic market town with genuinely interesting independent shops, and famous for The Hoad, a lighthouse on the hill just outside the town.

Places of particular interest in this area include Swarthmoor Hall, a 16th century house and the birthplace of the Quaker movement, Conishead Priory a gothic revival country house with Buddhist temple, and Old Hall Farm, an historic working farm in Bouth.

Central Lakes


Market Cross, Ambleside
Market Cross in the centre of Ambleside

Ambleside is an historic market town at the most northerly tip of Windermere lake, and is a university town. Surrounded by low-lying fells it has a distinct, characterful feel about it. Read more and discover posts about Ambleside…


Mawson's formal garden at Rydal Hall
Mawson’s formal garden at Rydal Hall

Near to Ambleside and home to Wordsworth’s former residence, Rydal Mount, Rydal is an extremely pretty area. Visit the historic Mawson garden at Rydal Hall, or take a walk around Rydal Water, stopping off to see Rydal Caves and Loughrigg Terrace, which is covered in bluebells in spring.


The view over Grasmere from Allan Bank
The view over Grasmere from Allan Bank

The most northerly village in the south Lakes, and completely surrounded by atmospheric mountains, Grasmere is home to another of William Wordsworth‘s former residences, Dove Cottage, as well as Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread and the National Trust’s Allan Bank.


The village of Hawkshead
In the village of Hawkshead

A pretty and quaint little village tucked away from the world to the west of (lake) Windermere. There aren’t many views of the surrounding area, but it sits to the north of the tranquil and less well-known Esthwaite Water. Pass by Hawkshead to get to Grizedale Forest. Read more about Hawkshead…


Coniston village
In Coniston village

A gorgeous stretch of water five miles long, Coniston Water is a hive of activity in the summer, with the southern and eastern sides of the lake remaining surprisingly peaceful. Famous for speed legend Donald Campbell and the social reformer John Ruskin. Read more and discover posts about Coniston…

Elterwater and the Langdales

From the New Dungeon Ghyll car park in Langdale
From the New Dungeon Ghyll car park in Langdale

Picturesque and very popular walking spots in the centre of the Lake District, and on the Cumbria Way footpath.

North Lakes


The view along Derwentwater towards the 'Jaws of Borrowdale' from Friar's Crag outside Keswick
The view along Derwentwater towards the ‘Jaws of Borrowdale’ from Friar’s Crag just outside Keswick

A vibrant and historic market town at the northern tip of Derwentwater. With a bustling shopping area, three parks, many visitor attractions including its very own theatre, and walks in every direction, Keswick is a must-visit on any trip to the Lake District. Read more and discover posts about Keswick…

Around Derwentwater

Surprise View overlooking Derwentwater
From Surprise View looking over Derwentwater

There’s so much to explore on and around Derwentwater, and through Borrowdale to the south. It’s very much walking territory, although there’s plenty to be accessed by boat, bus, and sometimes the car too. Read more and discover posts about Derwentwater…


Bassenthwaite Lake
Bassenthwaite Lake

Just a short distance north of Keswick you’ll come across Bassenthwaite Lake, which is four miles long and the most northerly stretch of water in the Lake District. Bassenthwaite is home to a stately home, ospreys, and England’s only true mountain forest. Read more about Bassenthwaite and discover posts…

North East Lakes


Daffodils alongside Ullswater in spring
The daffodils alongside Ullswater in the spring

One of the Lake District’s most dramatic stretches of water, Ullswater is home to the well-known waterfall, Aira Force (a handy spot for its loo facilities and café too). The views and walks at Glencoyne are particularly good (there’s a convenient car park here), and the area is famous for its spring daffodils which are believed to have been the inspiration behind William Wordsworth’s famous poem, ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’.

Explore the area by bus, boat (on board an Ullswater ‘Steamer’) and on foot using the Ullswater Way. The nearest small villages are Pooley Bridge and Glenridding, at either end of the lake.

Penrith and the Eden Valley

The remains of English Heritage's Brougham Castle near Penrith
The remains of English Heritage’s Brougham Castle near Penrith

The market town of Penrith and the Eden Valley are both home to a surprising number of historic hidden gems. Read more about Penrith and the Eden Valley and discover blog posts…

I hope these gem-hunting guides will help you to discover some of the Lake District’s favourite places as well as it’s best-kept secrets and hidden gems – and if you do, let me know by leaving a comment here or on one of the blog articles. I love to see your pictures too, so do remember to share them with me over on social media!