9 of the Best Places to Visit in Cumbria

Cumbria is one of the wildest and most beautiful places in Britain, home to the famous Lake District National Park and England’s only proper mountain range. No matter where you go, you’ll find stories that stretch back thousands of years, famous figures with their roots in small Cumbrian villages, and utterly incredible natural landscapes that have been inspiring artists for generations.

With so many different places to go in Cumbria, it’s often hard to decide where to start your exploration of the county, especially if you’re only there for a couple of days. If you’ve been wondering where to visit and what to do in Cumbria, read on to discover some of our favourite places. 

Keswick

The Cumbrian market town of Keswick is one of the most popular parts of the whole area for tourists thanks to the huge range of different things to see and do. Positioned with mountains like Catbells and the head of Derwentwater nearby, it’s one of the best places to stay in Cumbria if you’re looking to enjoy both the county’s hospitality and its scenery.

As well as being a favoured destination for walking fans, Keswick also has a reputation for being a top foodie location. With numerous pubs, restaurants, cafes and food shops found throughout the town’s streets, it’s a brilliant place to visit for the day and sample the various edible offerings produced in the town.

There is plenty of history to be discovered in Keswick, but it’s also a brilliant cultural destination in Cumbria thanks to the popular Theatre by the Lake venue and a handful of art galleries. With a large number of other Cumbrian tourist attractions surrounding the town, it’s an ideal place for a weekend getaway in the countryside.

Carlisle

Carlise may be the only city in Cumbria, but it’s actually the largest city in England and one of the most popular places to visit in the whole county. It’s located close to the Scottish border and was once the largest settlement on the famous Hadrian’s Wall, part of which can still be found within the city.

As well as the historic remains of Hadrian’s Wall, another key Cumbria tourist attraction in Carlisle is the city’s medieval cathedral, which has been used as a place of worship since 1122. History fans will also love the Citadel that is found on the south side of the city walls, originally built by order of King Henry VIII and open to visitors who join organised tours of the buildings.

Carlisle is a brilliant place in Cumbria to visit if you want to enjoy a great mix of historic and modern attractions, with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to be found amongst the museums and heritage sites. The city’s size also means that it’s an easy part of the country to reach by public transport, and makes a good base to explore the rest of the area from.

Lake Windermere

If you ask anyone to name a place in Cumbria, Lake Windermere is often the first place that is mentioned. Found on the north edge of the Lake District National Park, the village of Windermere is only a mile or so out from the edge of the lake and is a busy spot with lots of good shops and a railway station.

Lake Windermere is the largest lake in England, stretching out for 10.5 miles and surrounded by houses and villages. It’s also ringed with dramatic hills and mountains which provide stunning views from whichever part of the lake you are visiting and make this one of the most beautiful places in Cumbria to visit.

As well as visiting the nearby villages and towns such as Ambleside and Bowness-on-Windermere, there are also plenty of things to do on Lake Windermere itself. Boat trips, sailing lessons and even stand-up-paddleboarding are all popular activities out on the water, particularly in the summer when tourists flock to the lake from all over the country.

Ambleside

Ambleside is the most popular town next to Lake Windermere for visitors to the area, and one of the prettiest places in Cumbria. It’s a great base for exploring the rest of the Lake District National Park and more of the locations around the lake itself, particularly as there is a lake ferry terminal at nearby Waterhead Pier.

The town itself consists of mainly Victorian houses and other buildings, all formed of characteristic dark grey slate. It’s a busy town in Cumbria most of the year thanks to the brilliant range of different things to enjoy, from local craft shops to rustic pubs and sightseeing spots like the well-photographed Bridge House.

If you’re an avid walker then Ambleside is another great place to base yourself if you want to enjoy some of the best walks in Cumbria, particularly those in the Langdale Valley. Literature fans will also enjoy the museums dedicated to William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter, both of whom were greatly inspired by the incredible landscapes and scenery that surrounds the town. 

Kendal

Kendal is often referred to as the southern gateway to the Lakes and is a brilliant place to visit if you’re looking for things to do in Cumbria. This large, busy market town is full of shops, cafes, restaurants and holiday accommodation that makes it an ideal place to stay if you’re visiting this part of England.

If you’re also looking for culture in Cumbria then Kendal is a brilliant place to visit, as there are lots of little independent galleries and craft shops dotted around the town as well as annual arts events held throughout the year. Another great independent venue in Kendal is the Hawkshead Brewery, where you can enjoy guided tours of the brewery as well as sampling the local beer that is produced there.

Popular sightseeing spots in Kendal include the spectacular National Trust property and estate Sizergh Castle and the ruins of Kendal Castle which is perched on a hill overlooking the town. If you’re new to Cumbria then Kendal is a great place to start exploring the area from, with a perfect mix of history, culture and entertainment. 

Penrith

The town of Penrith was once known as the capital of Cumbria, found in the beautiful Eden Valley which is relatively close to the Scottish border. It was a place of strategic importance back in Roman times and is still an important historic location to this day.

The main attraction of this town in Cumbria is the medieval Penrith Castle, built at the turn of the 15th century. The site itself is now in ruins but it remains a very popular tourist attraction where you can learn all about its history and how it was built to defend Cumbria from Scottish forces.

Penrith is also a great place to stay if you’re looking to go walking in Cumbria, as it’s less busy than other parts of the country but still provides a fantastic array of landscapes to explore. A real highlight is the ancient stone circle known as Long Meg and Her Daughters, which is found up on the hills close to the town. 

Ulverston

Ulverston marks the beginning of the 70-mile Cumbrian Way, a footpath which leads through the majority of the country and finishes in Carlisle. The town claims to be the birthplace of Stan Laurel, one half of the legendary comic duo Laurel and Hardy, and you’ll find a statue dedicated to this famous figure in the town’s centre.

Less than two miles away from Morecambe Bay, Ulverston was once a maritime community and there is still the world’s shortest and widest canal in the town. Another notable attraction is the Lakes Glass Centre where Cumbria’s famous Heron Glass and Cumbria Crystal is made, allowing visitors to watch the glass blowing process as well as purchasing pieces made there.

Whilst Ulverston doesn’t have as many things to do as many of the other places in Cumbria, it’s still a lovely town to stop in as you explore the whole area with several notable features that are well worth a visit.

Cockermouth

The market town of Cockermouth is most famous for being the birthplace of the famous English poet William Wordsworth, and here you can visit the property that was his childhood home and learn more about his life and upbringing. This is certainly one of the highlights of visiting the town, as it’s a great family attraction that is perfect for fans of history and literature.

Cockermouth itself is often thought of as the gateway to the Western Lake District and is an ideal place to stay if you’re planning on a walking holiday that explores some of the nearby lakes, waterfalls and fells. Bassenthwaite Lake is a popular destination for a day trip, or you can just spend your time enjoying locations in the town such as Cockermouth Castle and the streets of classic Georgian houses.

What makes Cockermouth such a brilliant place to visit is that it is just as beautiful as the more touristy towns like Keswick and Ambleside, but feels a lot quieter and more authentic all year-round. If you’re after a classic Cumbrian market town that won’t be overrun with other visitors, you’re in the right place. 

Lake District National Park

Finally, a list of the best places to visit in Cumbria wouldn’t be complete with a mention of the Lake District National Park. Found right in the heart of the county, the Lakes are one of the most famous parts of Britain and are a haven for walkers, climbers and fans of outstanding natural beauty.

Many of Cumbria’s towns are close by or inside the national park, positioned perfectly for visitors to get out and explore the mountains and bodies of water that make up the characteristic features of the Lake District. No matter what time of the year you are planning on visiting, there are plenty of places that offer unbeatable views and walking trails suitable for all abilities.

Cumbria is a fantastic part of England to visit either on holiday or just as a day trip, and there are plenty of beautiful towns and villages scattered amongst the hills that have been delighting tourists for hundreds of years. Whether you’re a serious walker, a fan of literature or are just looking for somewhere new to take your family on a UK break, there’s plenty to be found in this part of the country.

FAQs

What is Cumbria famous for?

Cumbria is most famous for being the home of the famous Lake District National Park, one of the biggest and most beautiful green spaces in England and a recently named UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cumbria is also well known for being the birthplace and home of the famous children’s author and the influential poet William Wordsworth, both of whom were greatly inspired by the area.

What county is Cumbria in?

Cumbria itself is a large county in North West England, formed in 1974. It is the most north-westerly country in England and one of the most sparsely populated parts of the United Kingdom because of the rugged landscape and number of mountains, hills and fells found within the Lake District National Park and surrounding countryside.