Keswick Adventures Blog

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14 Activities in the Lake District you Have to Try

Tarn Hows in the Lake District on a summer day

While Keswick is our favourite place in the national park, there are so many things to do in the Lake District that we highly recommend travelling slightly further afield and exploring. Each town, valley and mountain range has something different to offer and there really is something for everyone. Here are just some of the activities you can so in the Lake District.

1. Walking

You could spend your whole life trying out different walks in the Lake District and still not cover every single route. There are easy riverside strolls, wheelchair-friendly rambles, forest walks, gentle hills to scale, challenging mountain routes, rocky scrambles and more. Just about every place you stay will have walks directly from the front door and there are lots more available via public transport or your car. Choose a route that suits your group, pull on those walking boots, and off you go.

2. Stately homes and historic houses

It's no surprise that the Lake District has attracted many a wealthy person over the centuries and, as a result, there is a large selection of stately homes open to the public, each brimming with history and beauty. Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass is still run by the Pennington family, and the ancient castle is surrounded by spectacular views and stunning gardens. It also hosts many exciting events throughout the year.

Book-lovers will enjoy Hill Top - the former home of Beatrix Potter - as well as Wordsworth's old homes at Wordsworth House, Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount. Or head to Dalemain Mansion in Penrith, home to the International Marmalade Festival! 

3. Castle ruins

It's also worthwhile seeing those historic homes that haven't quite made it through the years. Thanks to its position on the other side of the Scottish Borders, Cumbria is home to a lot of historically interesting ruins, including a multitude of castles. Most impressive is Lowther Castle, which, despite having no roof, still stands proudly with most of its spectacular outer walls remaining intact. It has excellent gardens and a brilliant children's outdoor play area.

Brough Castle, Brougham Castle and Kendal Castle all now lie in ruins but tell of the fascinating local history.

4. Ancient stone circles

If you enjoy ancient sites and historical mystery, then seek out some of the Lake District's best stone circles - Stone Henge has nothing on us! Castlerigg Stone Circle above Keswick is probably the most impressive thanks to its panorama of mountains. Or head to Long Meg Stone Circle in the Eden Valley - these stones are said to have once been witches, turned to stone when they were caught dancing on the Sabbath. Combine that with a visit to the quirky Lacy's Caves carved out of the sandstone cliffs along the nearby river.

Above Ullswater the hillside is covered in ancient relics, mounds and stones, the most intact being the huge Cockpit Stone Circle, once thought to have been a trading place.

5. Steam trains

The most famous Lake District steam train has got to be the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (also known as the La'al Ratty). This miniature steam train putters along from the coast at Ravenglass to the spectacular mountains in Eskdale and is a real treat for all the family.

For a full-size experience, head to the opposite side of the Lakes to ride the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway with its splendid shining engines following a route along Windermere lake.

Though you won't see it moving, there is also a great café on the site of the old steam railway station. At Bassenthwaite Lake Station Café you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and brunch inside a former steam train.

6. Outdoor adventure activities

Though we believe that Keswick is the best place to enjoy an outdoor adventure, there are also plenty of other locations that you can get your adrenaline going. Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater are also great adventure hubs where you can experience ghyll scrambling, water sports, gyroplaning, paragliding and more.

7. Animal experiences

Animal lovers will find plenty of treats amongst the Lake District hills. The likes of the South Lakes Safari Zoo and the Lake District Wildlife Park are home to animals from all over the world including zebra, wildebeest, wild cats, gibbons and more. You can get up close and personal with alpaca and llama trekking at locations such as Alpacaly Ever After near Keswick and Wreay Syke Alpacas. Or see the predators: meet wolves and foxes at the Predator Experience or see impressive birds in flight at Muncaster Castle's bird displays.

8. Museums and art galleries

Museums celebrate centuries of local history, from ancient axe-making 'factories' to more recent slate mining; from the lives of normal people working the landscape, to creatives who came from afar and fell in love with the Lake District. You'll find all of this and more in many of the local museums, as well as plenty of local artwork in galleries around the county.

Wherever you're staying, there's bound to be something in your nearest town or village. But if you need somewhere to start, try the Windermere Jetty Museum, Tullie House in Carlisle or the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston.

9. Shopping

With only a few towns, you might think that shopping in the Lake District is limited. Well, you'd be wrong! Between Bowness, Keswick and Ambleside, there are plenty of independent stores selling everything from local foods to gifts, clothes and shoes. And that's before we event start looking to the vibrant villages that scatter the landscape, and the towns and cities just a short drive from the border of the national park.

Small villages like Pooley Bridge, Glenridding and Grasmere all have a small but lovely selection of interesting shops. Head out a little further to locations such as Kendal, Cockermouth and Carlisle and you'll find even more to fill your retail therapy quota.

10. Festivals

Pick the timing of your visit carefully and you can attend some of the amazing festivals that take place throughout the year. Look out for big music festivals like Kendal Calling and Solfest, or the Lake District Summer Music International Festival if you're more classically-minded.

Aside from music, there are film festivals, beer festivals, Christmas Fayres, summer fêtes, agricultural shows, literary festivals and food markets - all the great events you'd expect from such a vibrant county! And on top of that you'll also find smaller and more unique events such as Dragcaster at Muncaster Castle, the Mountain Festivals, and the Dalemain Marmalade Festival.

11. Indoor activities

Sometimes it's wet in the Lake District, and during those times you might want to stay warm and dry inside. While it's true that the Lake District is best experienced outside, it's also possible to have a great day without venturing into torrential rain. Our own axe throwing and archery can be done indoors in Keswick. Or try your skills at rock climbing at Kendal Climbing Wall, which has one of the tallest walls in England (as well as smaller, easier routes!). There are also museums, family-run cinemas, boat rides, historic homes, distillery tours and indoor attractions such as the Honister Slate Mine Tour.

12. Forests and woodland

There are plenty of wonderful woodlands in the Lake District, home to rare plants, ancient trees, and wonderful creatures. They're perfect for walking, forest bathing, mountain biking, and even creative pursuits.

The largest forests in the Lake District are Whinlatter near Keswick and Grizedale between Windermere and Coniston. Whinlatter includes a high ropes course, segway tours, alpaca treks, famous mountain bike routes, and a Gruffalo trail for children. Grizedale is well-known for its woodland sculpture trails, biking routes, Tree Top adventure and horse riding.

13. Cycling and mountain biking

Road cyclists love the quiet back lanes that twist and bend all across the Lake District. And those who like an extra challenge can take on high mountain passes like Whinlatter, Honister and - most infamous - Hardknott. Or, if you like something flat and easy, the coastal routes up the Solway Coast and around Morecambe Bay are lovely.

If you prefer your two-wheel excursions off-road, then there are great routes at Whinlatter Forest, through the quarries around Coniston and around Back o' Skiddaw, as well as many more around the mountains and the Lakes.

14. Water activities

With so much water in the Lake District, you have to get your feet wet at least once! Take a kayak onto Derwentwater, go swimming in Ullswater, sail across Coniston, or even try diving in Wastwater! There are plenty of boat hires available at the most popular sites, and experts offering guided tours, training, and even multi-day retreats.

If you really want to stay drive, then sit back and enjoy a cruise across the water. Lake cruises are available on the biggest lakes: Windermere, Derwentwater, Ullswater and Coniston.

Lake District activities

The Lake District isn't all about hiking: there are loads of activities and attractions to explore, and this isn't even an exhaustive list! If you're after outdoor activities around Keswick and Derwentwater, then drop us a line, but we hope you have an incredible visit, whatever you get up to.

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