How do you get the most out of a weekend in one of the most popular holiday destinations in the whole of the UK? If your initial impression was that the Lakes is just a place to sit calmly next by lake, sipping tea then you’re in for a surprise.
Indeed, the Lake District offers one of the most diverse weekend holidays you can imagine. Whether you’re into hiking or water-based activities, food and drink, or music and entertainment, there’s something in the Lake District for you.
Get ready for a weekend in a region that boasts a unique social atmosphere, numerous cultural and sports events, Michelin-star rated fine dining, and fascinating pieces of northwestern history.
And we haven’t even mentioned the glorious natural beauty of the lakes, fells, hills, and mountains yet. We’ve compiled a list of just a few of this amazing area’s best attractions. Welcome to the Lake District.
Insider Tips for an AMAZING Weekend in the Lake District
Nestled up in the northwest of England in the pretty county of Cumbria, lies the Lake District. It is so named for its famous lakes, but also contains some of England’s most beautiful mountains, hills, landmarks, and a national park.
The area is hugely popular with local and international tourists, who come to experience a “weekend in the lakes”. Each year, around 16 million people pass through here, enjoying the glorious countryside culture, food, and scenery.
Lake District mini-breaks have become a must-do weekend getaway option, as the region is easy to access, and close to major centers like Manchester and Liverpool. Thankfully, in recent years, several affordable accommodation options have made Lake District breaks even more accesible to visitors.
Here’s some information that can help make a Lake District weekend unforgettable.
The Lake District is fairly spread out in terms of area, encompassing both the Lakes and the National Park. But the best places to stay over for a weekend are in, or close to the several villages that dot the region.
Choosing where to stay in the Lake District can be tough as its quite spread out. You can either stay on the eastern M6 side, or venture into the A591 for a “deeper” Lake District experience. Either way, it’s advisable to choose a place that’s not too far from the weekend fun spots. Fortunately, there are many options for a weekend away in the Lakes, from budget Lake District hostels to top-end hotels. Here are our favorites.
Our Favorite Hostel – YHA Keswick
- Minutes from the town center
- Beautiful setting on the banks of the River Greta
- Restaurant and self-catering kitchen options
A highly-rated hostel with single-sex dorms and private rooms, plus it’s just five minutes from the town center on foot. The hostel is especially popular with cyclists, as it has easy access to the best long-distance routes.
Our Favorite Airbnb: Modern fittings in a rustic cottage
Just of Ambleside’s main market square, this charming little local cottage that’s been kitted out with everything you’ll need. There’s a generous kitchen, and the onsite parking makes it great for exploring the region at your own pace.
Our Favorite Budget Hotel – Days Inn Kendal
- Located right on Killington lake
- Large rooms with TV and Wi-Fi
- Located close to the main thoroughfare to access regional attractions
Consistently rated as the best value by guests, the hotel has access to Killington Lake and is a quick ride to many of the local Kendal attractions. For convenience, a fast-food takeout and coffee shop is located right in the hotel.
Our Favorite Splurge Hotel – Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa
- Incredible old-world 11th-century building in a woodland setting
- Modern plusses like a hydrotherapy pool, spa, and holistic beauty salon
- Fine dining specializing in Cumbrian and French cuisine
If you’re looking to splurge a little, this is one of the fanciest Lake District getaways you can try. Best of all is the setting – a beautiful 400-acre deer park estate housing a former home not unlike Downton Abbey!
Looking for other types of accommodation? Check out our guide to the best Hostels in Lake District!
Know How to Get Around in the Lake District
The area is such a beautiful part of the country. You can bring a car and go on a road trip in Lake District but there are actually several public transport options available to tour the area. Local trains run between the main towns Kendal, Staveley, and Windermere, which makes for a quaint excursion if you want to village-hop.
There are also several minibus and bus operators offering day tours and half-day tours of the area, ideal for Lake District short breaks. If your plans are even more localized and the weather plays along, simply explore the town and local area on foot.
Better yet, why not rent a bicycle and pedal your way through the magnificent countryside? There are guided cycles through the national park for those who have the legs.
Feeling nautical? Windermere, Derwentwater, Ullswater and Coniston offer boat and steamer cruises. Each of these has several stops around the lake, so you could easily plan a route with a number of points to explore in a day. (Tip: If you’re cycling, be sure to check which boats will allow your bike onboard.)
Word has it that electric bikes have staged a play for supremacy in the region. What better way to scoot along a country road during those breaks in the lakes?
Just because the Lake District is out in the sticks, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of pubs and restaurants to enjoy. There are even a few theaters and a healthy live Cumbrian music scene to explore.
- A hub of eateries and pubs within walking distance of each other
- A small-town nightclub experience if you dare!
- Lots of local ales and varied foods to try
Lake Road, St John’s Street, and Station Street are where most evening spots can be found. While traditional Cumbrian and British pub grub are commonplace, Bar eS in Keswick offers Mexican and Spanish tapas. The Loft Nightclub is the option for a bit of late-night dancing.
Windermere, Bowness and Kendal
- Numerous small eateries to cater to every taste
- The most popular tourist area for the South Lakes region
- Minutes from more options in Bowness and Kendal
These three towns are within less than 30 minutes of each other, close to Windermere Lake. Dance clubs in Bowness will mix classic and modern tunes. Kendal also offers live music at Bootleggers and the Kendal Jazz Club.
- Enjoys the benefits of being a university town
- Home to England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike
- Visit White Platts recreation ground before heading to dinner
Like most other English towns, there are tons of pubs and eateries serving local ales and cuisine. Among the most popular are The Lily Bar and the Golden Rule. But the addition of students from the nearby University of Cumbria campus adds extra zest to the drinking spots, especially on weekends.
Cumbria – the county in which the Lake District is found – offers several options for eating. Between pubs, tea rooms, markets, festivals, and top-end fine dining, there’s something for everyone.
Eat Local at a Farmer’s Market
- Try the local produce and regional treats
- Is a great excuse to visit the town square and surrounds
- Not all are weekly, so keep an eye on dates
Farmer’s Markets are abundant across the national park and county area, specializing in local produce and regional treats. Our top pick is probably the Keswick Market Square, happening every Saturday. The Orton Farmer’s Market in Penrith is on every second Saturday of the month, and there’s another at Pooley Bridge on the last Sunday of each month.
Have a Taste Adventure at a Food Festival
- A vibrant atmosphere for food lovers of all tastes
- Pop-up restaurants provide a delicious taste adventure
- Explore, taste, and discover delicious street food to gastronomic gourmet
Taste Cumbria is the best-known series of weekend food festivals, taking place all-year-round. Besides the traditional market stands, celebrity chef demos and masterclasses are a real treat for foodies. The Kendal Festival of Food, the Sedbergh Food Festival and several others also dot the annual calendar. Our favorite is the Holker Chili Fest in September.
Experience a Taste Sensation at a Gourmet Restaurant
- Michelin starred restaurants to pick and choose from
- Make the weekend a gastronomic memory to treasure
- Try the locally-inspired dishes for a unique touch
Fine dining is surprisingly ample in the Lake District. In fact, four restaurants here boast prestigious Michelin Stars. The legendary L’Enclume in Cartmel has two and specializes in 10 and 20-course meals to die for. The HRiSHi at the Gilpin Hotel in Windermere, The Forest Side Hotel in Grasmere, and Rogan and Co (also in Cartmel) are the three other high-end eateries to splurge at for a special dinner.
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Lake District short breaks offer numerous options for sporting activities throughout the year, from fun cycling challenges to swimming and trail running and even traditional sports.
Catch a Game at a Sports Pub
- A great excuse for a Saturday afternoon pint
- Best when it’s noisy!
- Remember to support the local team if you want to make friends
Sports and weekends go together like fish and chips. Most pubs and sports bars will be showing “the game” (probably football or rugby) over the weekend, complete with that great atmosphere fuelled by pints and pub grub. Remember to root for whichever team the locals support.
Opt for an Outdoors Adventure
- There’s an activity for any age, any group or any family
- Climbing, water, survival, cycling, racing activities – they’re all here
- Environmentally conscious events that push sustainability
The national park environment of the lakes lends itself perfectly to adventure activities. Numerous opportunities for adventure sports exist here. Our favourites include archery, kayaking, ziplining, kart racing and bolting around the forest on a Segway. There are also four golf courses to try out, too, so there is no shortage of activity options
Run the Lakeland Trails
- Numerous running and walking events
- The team has developed an all-year-round calendar – yes, they even run in winter!
- Environmentally conscious events that push sustainability
If you’re a runner, try one of these event weekends. The arranging team prides itself on its robust calendar and sustainability initiatives. They organize events throughout the year ranging between 5 km (3 miles) and full marathon distances. These events are hugely popular, so if you plan to enter, do so well in advance. Note that the trails can be hilly and rugged.
All Lake District short breaks need a musical soundtrack. Fortunately, there are always options to explore in this regard.
- Festival weekends attract big crowds for a bigger party atmosphere
- The growing festival scene in the area draws music lovers from all genres
- Various festivals celebrating contemporary and classical music and arts
The Kendal Calling Festival has grown significantly in recent years, as top-tier pop and rock artists headline the summer event. The Lake District Summer Music Festival focuses on classical music and arts. Oh and don’t forget the Keswick Jazz festival over four days, usually in May.
Live Music Venues
- Plenty of live music to be found dotted around the lakes all year round
- Touring artists and local bands
- Cumbria has a strong weekend music culture
For one-off shows and touring artists, The Brewery Arts Center features not only music but theatrical, comedy and cinema evenings as well. The best known local hangout with regular live music (local and touring) is Bootleggers in Kendal. Other notable venues include The Royal Oak in Grasmere and The Packhorse in Keswick. Jazz lovers should stop by Zeffirellis in Ambleside for their smooth fix.
Plug ‘n’ Play
- Your chance to explore the performer in you
- Also features a headline act to round off the night
- A great initiative that provides lots of laughs and uncovers amazing talent
If you fancy yourself the next Bob Dylan, the Plug n’ Play venue in Penrith is an open mic venue where you can try yourself in front of a baying audience. Each night is hosted by a different main artist, so it’s a worthwhile night out, regardless of the (lack of) walk-in talent.
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10 Other Awesome Things to do in the Lake District This Weekend
Short breaks in the Lake District run the risk of being just that – too short. But even if you can’t do everything, here are a few things you should definitely try to get to.
#1 – Hill Top & The World of Beatrix Potter
The magical walkthrough of the legendary Beatrix Potter’s creation is simply a must-see for the child within us all. It takes about an hour to walk through the garden and exhibition. Explore the world of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-duck, Mrs Tiggy-winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher and others. The experience is enhanced with a virtual walk and a Peter Rabbit tea room!
Elsewhere, near Hawkshead, you can also visit the home of Beatrix Potter herself. The house is now a sort of time capsule of when she lived there, and a part of the United Kingdom’s National Trust.
#2 – Honister Slate Mine
How often do you get to visit a working mine? Famous as the last operating slate mine in England, Honister is also a busy tourist attraction that offers some unique things to do.
The fully-guided underground tour takes you deep into the mine. You can also opt to ‘climb the mine’ on the inside! It’s a real climb, as you navigate rope bridges, vertical walls, and steel ladders.
The exceptionally brave can try the Via Ferrata, a climb up the outside of the mine along the original miners’ track. There’s an extreme version of the route, too. But don’t worry, both have you secured to the fixed line for safety.
#3 – The Lakeland Motor Museum
Automotive enthusiasts will want to spend hours here. It’s a 30 000-piece exhibition that details the entire 20th century of vehicles. You’ll see bicycles, motorbikes, cars and lots of other items related to automobiles. Some areas have set up life-like scenes – we like the 1920s Prohibition-era gangster scene.
Featured exhibits of note include the Campbell Bluebird and a tribute to the Isle of Man TT. There’s even a section dedicated to caravans! Local Lakeland history is not forgotten with displays exploring the old Woodland and Mining industries.
#4 – The Lakes Aquarium
A fun excursion is the Lakes Aquarium, which offers both fresh- and saltwater exhibits to explore. There’s a lot more than fish here – some areas contain other animals like large ants or otters. The aquarium is also zoned: Africa, The Americas, Asia, and The Rainforest are all given due space and consideration over the two floors.
This is an ethical, well run aquarium. There’s a virtual dive bell, where you can “meet” some fierce creatures face to face! Our favorite is the underwater tunnel walk below Lake Windermere
The hostel boasts a commanding location on the shores of Lake Windermere with breathtaking views over the lake, the Langdale Pikes and surrounding mountains. The hostel has a modern and cosy restaurant serving good food and local ales as well as fully refurbished self-catering facilities.
- Free WiFi
- Bicycle Hire
#5 – The Lakes Distillery
This fully operational distillery offers tours to the public. See how the local whiskey, gin, and vodka are made, and then taste the end result. Part of the tour involves a 30 minute trek from the mouth of the Derwent River to the distillery itself, which is in Bassenthwaite.
The Lakes Sloe Gin is a Cumrbia speciality as is the single malt. There’s also a fun bonus stop available at the distillery, involving an alpaca tour. Don’t get too distracted though – they tend to be quite comical.
#6 – Low Gillerthwaite Field Center Dark Sky Events
This is one for nature lovers and stargazers. The field center hosts occasional Dark Sky events, which are fascinating weekend-long talks and give you access to telescopes and sky viewing. The location is remote, so if the sky is clear, it’s a remarkable viewing experience. Little wonder the LGFC is an accredited Dark Sky Discovery site.
Fair warning, it could get cold out there. Fortunately, the Field Center is equipped with a lounge, hot soup and a roaring fire to combat the chill. The Dark Sky events are usually free but will require advance booking.
#7 – Climb a Fell
Fells are a hallmark of the Lakes District. They’re high hills barren, bleak hills common in the Lakes region. A visit to the Lakes would be incomplete without at least one hike or climbing experience ticked off your list. It’s also great exercise.
If you’re new to hiking, start slow and easy. Safety first: Always have a map or a GPS at the ready. Guidebooks are plentiful in the area to help you choose a sensible and appropriate path. Most of all, remember to say hi to the distinctive Herdwick Sheep if you see one…
For more safety advice, check out the Lake Districts official safety guide.
#8 – Ullswater Lake Hop-On Hop-Off Full-Day Cruise
Let someone else do the driving. Much like a hop-on hop-off bus in a major city, these boat rides allow you to traverse the lakes at your leisure. If you’re lucky, you may even get a glimpse of a wild deer herd on the slopes of the fell.
You can get off at any time to take a hike or visit a landmark (the Cumbrian cream tea at the Inn on the Lake is highly recommended). Alternatively, just use your ticket to hang out on the lake all day.
#9 – Great Langdale Audio Trail
Combine the fun of hiking with a spot of education about local history. The six-mile-long Great Langdale Audio Trail is accompanied by audio, which you can download before going on the walk. The audio guide discusses the wildlife, historical sites and industries of Langdale.
The walk is fairly gentle, so you don’t need to be a hugely experienced hiker to enjoy it. All in all, budget 3-4 hours plus stops. There are a few other audio trails to consider in the region, like the Hearts of Oak audio trail.
#10 – Castlerigg Stone Circle
Stonehenge is the most famous display of standing stones in the world but it certainly isn’t the only one in the British Isles. Castlerigg is thought to have been constructed between 4000 and 5000 years ago and like Stone Henge, we don’t really know why. Its location near Keswick makes for a breathtaking sight, offering incredible views of the hills and fells that surround it.
Every visitor is challenged to count the stones. Legend has it that you the stones are impossible to accurately count. (Officially, there are 38.) Castlerigg is a truly wonderful example of British historical artifacts.
Don’t forget to pack a good book! Top 10 England’s Lake District (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide): is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.
Whenever your visiting a place on holiday, it pays to be prepared. Here are a few basics to tick on your Weekend in Lake District checklist:
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Final Thoughts on a Great Weekend in Lake District
The only serious decision you need to make is which particular weekend you’d like to go. Short breaks at the Lake District offer an amazing all-year-round experience, whether you’re into music, sports, hiking, or just relaxing on a lake.
In summer, you can enjoy music festivals and warmer days, while winter offers possible snow-topped hills and cozy firesides with ales and fine food.
Plan well, and most importantly, enjoy those weekend breaks in the Lake District to the fullest!
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