Bowness-on-Windermere has become the Lake District’s most popular tourist destination, attracting large volumes of visitors each year, and for good reason. Windermere itself is the largest natural lake in England and its mountainous, forested surroundings would be worth the trip alone. However, you can enhance the scenic views by taking a cruise on the lake on a historic 'steamer' or modern launch, viewed from which the scenery is all the more impressive.
For fans of her tales, Bowness is also home to the wonderful World of Beatrix Potter, where you can relive your favourite childhood stories or share them with your own kids. If you go further afield, trails that lead to Orrest Head from the town offer views across the lake and the fells beyond. Bowness will fulfil your every want, whether you wish to enjoy the lake for sailing and water sports, or simply to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of the area and the town’s delightful setting.
This small but vibrant town is a popular hub for visitors to the Lake District located on the northern shore of the Derwent Water and ideally positioned for exploring the spectacular Thirlmere reservoir as well as the fells of Skiddaw and the magnificent peaks of the Cat Bells. The quaint market town itself is also a charming place to explore thanks to its collection of boutique shops, quirky attractions, delightful eateries and a weekly market that exhibits authentic local produce.
The town is one of the best places to visit in the Lake District thanks to its several attractions including the Cumberland Pencil Museum that, you guessed it, documents the history of pencils, as well as the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery that displays local artefacts. For further adventures, visitors can discover Castlerigg Stone Circle dates back to the Neolithic era on a hilltop east of town or take a boat cruise of the vast lake Derwent Water.
Perched precariously on the historically lively border between England and Scotland, Carlisle is technically England’s biggest city – by area at least. Its wide, open roads and green spaces give it the most unusual of titles. While it isn’t strictly part of the Lake District National Park, the county town of Cumbria still attracts multiple visitors thanks to its location on the Hadrian’s Wall trail.
Looming over the northern side of Carlisle town, the castle – built from stones taken from Hadrian’s Wall – has protected the city from invasion for a thousand years and is now a popular attraction. Carlisle also has a large central shopping district, the greatest variety of restaurants in Cumbria, and a nightlife scene that is surprisingly active.
One of the gateways to the Lakes, Kendal is located to the southeast of the Lake District, just eight miles from Windermere, the most famous of the lakes. Its prime location and amenities make it ideal for those who want to experience the Lake District atmosphere without straying too far from the conveniences of modern life.
Kendal has plenty to keep the family entertained. There are the ruins of a castle, one of the oldest museums in the country (which houses one of the largest stuffed animal collections in Europe) and Lakeland Maze Farm Park nearby. The town is perhaps best known for its world-famous Mint Cake, a sugary snack used by hikers around the world in need of sustenance. Be sure to grab yourself a bar to eat and or take home as a souvenir!
Grasmere is probably Cumbria’s most popular village, thanks to the poet William Wordsworth. Wordsworth spent his most inspired years at Dove Cottage, writing his most famous poetry there, while the nearby Rydal Mount house is still owned by his descendants. Both are now highly acclaimed visitor attractions, and you can also visit the Wordsworth family grave at the 13th-century St Oswald’s Church in the centre of the village.
Nowadays, Grasmere is totally given over to the tourist industry, with plenty of gift shops and places to eat. Grasmere is home to the famous Sarah Nelson's Grasmere Gingerbread shop, which draws visitors from hundreds of miles around to try the baked wonders. The town is only a short walk to the lake, which is at its best at early morning in the summer when the mist rises over the water.
Rowing boats are available for hire every day of the week between March and early November so you can explore the lake as the Wordsworth himself did many years ago. Altogether, Grasmere is packed with quintessential Cumbrian charm, making it one of the best places to visit in the Lake District.