Lake District Things To Do Travel UK

22 Things To Do In The Lake District That Aren’t Hiking For 2022

If you’re planning a trip to the Lake District but don’t really want to spend all of your time there hiking or climbing mountains, don’t panic. There’s actually loads of other things to do that will still allow you to make the most of this beautiful place. With more nature and countryside than you can dream of, not to mention wildlife, lake activities and a lot of history and culture, you won’t be stuck for things to do in the Lake District. Here’s 22 things to do in the Lake District to get you started.

Waterhead on Lake Windermere

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Absolute Escapes, but all experiences, suggestions and opinions are my own.

Even in some of the most remote places you can enjoy a varied selection of things to do in the Lake District, many of which don’t involve a pair of hiking boots. The food options are in abundance, there are some of the most relaxing spa days to be had, and plenty of visitor centres and historic locations to visit. Then there’s the scattering of towns and villages, each offering something unique in terms of cafes, restaurants, markets and shops. 

This post was originally shared in 2017, but has been fully updated for 2022.

Where To Stay In The Lake District To Make The Most Of Things To Do

If you’ve never been to the Lake District before and you’re visiting for either a day trip or a one night stay, I would probably suggest going to either Keswick or Ambleside first. These are two of the main towns over there and you could even fit both in. These two places offer the most things to do in the Lake District that aren’t hiking. If you’d like some more of my tips on your first time in the Lakes, have a read of this post.

For longer stays such as weekends, a week stay or even longer, a self catered stay with Absolute Escapes can offer a range of beautiful holiday cottages and homes that give the seclusion and privacy from which to enjoy a Lakeland break. This will really allow you to get stuck into all the activities the region has to offer. 

And finally for a remote, secluded stay head to somewhere like Buttermere, one of the most scenic and natural spots to enjoy.

Places To Stay In Buttermere Lake District

Things To Do In The Lake District

This list of things to do in the Lake District can be easily done wherever you stay, especially for those who aren’t a fan of walking or heading up mountains. It will help you make the most of the beautiful scenery and Lakeland life, but won’t take you as far as a ten mile hike over the mountain tops. Seasoned Lake District goers will definitely recognise all of these, but for first timers it’s a good starting point!

Keswick Market Day

Keswick is a market town and the biggest in the Lake District, making it the most popular for tourists. Set between the imposing Skiddaw mountain and Derwentwater lake, it offers the most things to do in the Lake District in one place, and one of those is to enjoy market day. 

The market is on every Saturday with stalls lining the centre of the town selling locally made products and food. The cheese van is a big hit, as is the Greek stall selling all sorts of flavoured olive combinations and incredible feta cheese.

Also pick up local food, gifts, clothing and artwork.

Go Paddleboarding

It would be a real shame not to take part in some on the water fun on some of the lakes, and paddleboarding is a great activity that many people enjoy. There are numerous paddle boarding options and companies, or you could even do it yourself if you have your own board. 

Two companies I would recommend are Graythwaite Adventures, or Windermere Canoe Kayak, and I’ve shared a full review of my experiences with both of them here. They offer guided or do it yourself options, as well as other water sport activities too.

Paddle boarding on Lake Windermere

Visit the Lakes Distillery

The Lakes Distillery is near Bassenthwaite lake, and here you can do a tour of the whiskey distillery, or just visit to enjoy the shop and the bistro. The shop sells all the Lakes spirits – whisky, gin and vodka, as well as a lovely range of other gifts.

The bistro serves excellent food throughout the day, with a coffee and cake menu and a daytime menu, as well as afternoon tea. Of course you can sample the recommended serves of their spirits too. Well worth a visit.

Plan your trip to the Lakes Distillery and get more info on their website here.

Enjoy Afternoon Tea

It’s not just the Lakes Distillery that offer afternoon tea, some of the beautiful luxury hotels do too, as do some of the cafes or restaurants. Some of the best afternoon teas in the Lakes are at the following places: Inn on the Lake, Armathwaite Hotel, The Wild Boar, The Daffodil and Rothay Manor.

Enjoy a Spa Day or Break in the Lake District

There are some incredible luxury spa hotels in the Lake District, many of which take inspiration from the local surroundings in terms of style, treatments and products used. Make sure you do your research on which to visit, as some of them require you to be staying in the same hotel, or give priority to guests. Some of the high end spas also only charge for a couple of hours time slot.

Some of the best Lake District spa breaks and experiences can be had at the following hotels: Brimstone Hotel & Spa, Lodore Falls, Armathwaite Hotel & Spa, The Gilpin and Low Wood Bay. For more details on these hotels visit their websites, but this is an old post of mine that although the deals have expired, the info on the spas is still valid.

A Luxury Stay at the Langdale Estate & Brimstone Spa in the Lake District

Visit Whinlatter Visitor Centre & Forestry

Being a World Heritage site, Whinlatter has some of the most beautiful views in the Lakes. The visitor centre is a great day out, and being located in the heart of the forest you can embark on easy walks, trails, and wildlife spotting opportunities. It’s a great place to go if you want some outdoor adventures but not the mountain climbing kind, so it’s a good choice for families.

Do one of the mapped walking trails, they’re very easy and there’s kids ones to get involved in (the rabbit run and the fox trot), as well as some harder ones but all low level and not too strenuous. They take you through the beautiful forest reserve. It’s also a must visit for avid cyclists, as it has some of the best purpose built trails in the Lakes, with incredible views.

Whinlatter is home to a pair of nesting ospreys, and the centre is dedicated to protecting them. A walk to the viewing point at the right time of year should hopefully get you a sighting of the impressive birds of prey. If you don’t spot them there’s a life size statue and reconstructed nest at the Whinlatter customer centre on display for you to get the idea how big they are!

The visitor centre also has a cafe, and in summer you can simply enjoy lunch out on the terrace with a fabulous view over the forest and mountains seeing what wildlife you can spot.

Enjoy Traditional British pub food

If there’s one thing that everyone enjoys in the Lake District, it’s exceptional British pub food. Whether it’s after a walk, or a busy day of activities there are some fantastic old pubs serving hearty meals and local ales in every area.

I’ve shared some in this post on places to eat in Ambleside, with the Drunken Duck being a firm favourite, other favourites that come to mind are Wainwrights Inn and the Brittania in Langdale, and the Bridge Hotel in Buttermere. They serve some of the nicest homemade food and the menu always has additional specials. 

Ambleside Restaurants Worth Visiting
The Drunken Duck

Visit one of the many English Tearooms

As much as pubs are in abundance in the Lake District, so are quaint little tearooms and cafes serving coffee, tea, cakes and bakes. There are simply far too many to mention, but I find myself going back to the same ones that I always have a good experience in. Some of the best ones to visit include:

George Fisher’s tearoom in Keswick – serving homemade breakfasts, lunches and hot meals, and freshly baked cakes and shortbreads. Their food really is delicious. You can get some of their recipes in their cookbook available to buy. It gets busy on weekends so expect a queue from 11am onwards but it’s worth the wait and the view through the window is painted above so you know which mountains you’re looking at.

The Wild Strawberry Tearoom – another famous cafe at the other end of Keswick, and you pass it on the drive in along the one way system. They serve sandwiches, crepes and ice cream.

Waterhead Coffee Shop – this cafe is right by the lake at Ambleside, and as well as sandwiches, huge scones with cream, they also sell the best ice creams dipped in chocolate. They do a range of cakes and hot chocolates but leave room for an ice cream because they’re worth it!

You can also buy duck food from the cafe, so feed the ducks on the furthest beach of the lake after your refreshment. They’re very friendly and so are the swans! It’s a beautiful spot when the sun sets.

Apple Pie Cafe – a tiny little cafe and bakery in the centre of Ambleside, and as you can imagine their apple pie is incredible. 

Mathildes Cafe – this cafe in Grasmere is part of the Heaton Cooper art studio, so you can browse the paintings and artwork, books and supplies before having coffee and cake.

The Strawberry, Keswick

Shop the Independent & Boutique Local Shops

You could pass away hours rummaging through the independent little boutiques dotted around the towns of the Lake District. There’s some beautiful homeware and gift shops at places like Chesters by the River, and in Keswick and Ambleside.

Pay the Bath House in Ambleside a visit for natural cosmetics and perfumes, as well as many others that I’ve mentioned in my travel guide to Ambleside. In Keswick there are plenty more but a few to mention include Keswick cheese deli, Treeby & Bolton shop and gallery, and have a browse around Packhorse Court.

A must mention that can be found in both Ambleside and Keswick is Ye Olde Friars sweetshop – this old fashioned sweetshop is an absolute dream! They have everything from the chocolate counter, to a full range of jelly beans, bags of pre-made jellies, mints, and chocolates. Novelty boxed and sweet gifts depending on the time of year are also available. I’d 100% recommend a visit especially at Christmas.

Read my blog on worthwhile souvenirs to get in the Lake District.

Go on a Boat Trip or Hire Your Own

One of the most obvious things to do on the lakes of the Lake District is go on a boat trip, and all of the big lakes have multiple landing points and different types of trips. Windermere is the biggest lake, and they have a range of different trips to take to various locations including Bowness and Ambleside through Windermere Lake Cruises.

In Keswick go on a Derwentwater trip on one of their open boats to take in the views, or on Ullswater board one of their old steamers. Find out more details on all of your options via Lake Cruises on Visit Cumbria here

If you want to hire your own for a period of time then you can do so, and I always used to love the rowing boats for hire at Waterhead in Ambleside. Enjoy being out on the water with the beautiful backdrop behind you.

Things to do In the Lake District that Arent Hiking

Visit Skelwith Bridge

A few minutes drive from the centre of Ambleside is Skelwith Bridge, where you’ll find Chesters by the River cafe and the lifestyle and homeware shop. The shop sells some lovely candles, healthy recipe books and other gifts. The cafe is really popular and has an outdoor terrace overlooking the forest and stream. 

Discover the World of Beatrix Potter

The famous children’s book author is present across the Lake District, with shops, galleries and museums dedicated to her life’s work. She left her entire estate to the National Trust when she died, and you can visit or experience many aspects of it.

Hill Top is Beatrix Potter’s 17th Century farmhouse, and you can visit the house and gardens with pre booked tickets. It’s located near Hawkshead, has plenty of parking and you can take a picnic. Find more on Hill Top including how to book your tickets on the National Trust website here

Nearby in Hawkshead is the Beatrix Potter Gallery, which is in what used to be her husband’s solicitors office. See the exhibition of her life and work. No ticket is necessary but plan your visit here.

The World of Beatrix Potter attraction in Bowness is a family attraction, with an interactive exhibition of the characters and stories from her books. There is a gift shop and a cafe on site too. Find out more on the World of Beatrix Potter on their official site.

Become Acquainted with Wordsworth

Another Lake District icon is of course William Wordsworth, the poet and writer who grew up in and eventually moved back to the Lake District, and is largely responsible for the area becoming a popular tourist spot. 

Wordsworth House can be found in Cockermouth, and is his birthplace. You can visit to see it still displayed how it would have been at the time of his childhood, and it’s owned by the National Trust. There is also a memorial of him opposite. Find more on Wordsworth House here.  

Wordsworth Dove Cottage in Grasmere is where Wordsworth and his wife spent a lot of their time, and it’s also where he wrote many of his most famous poems. Go back to the 17th century with a visit to Dove Cottage, it’s gardens and the orchard. There is also a cafe that you can visit after. FInd more info and plan your Dove Cottage visit here

Lastly, another family home of William Wordsworth was Rydal Mount, and you can also book a visit here. In addition to just visiting the home, they also host poetry reading evenings and sketch classes. 

The Gingerbread Shop in Grasmere

The gingerbread from Grasmere is world famous, and if you’re heading to buy some be prepared to queue. The history of the recipe dates back to Victorian times when Sarah Nelson was a cook. It’s worth waiting in line for. See more on the Gingerbread Shop here.

See Bridge House in Ambleside

An iconic landmark of the Lake District, and you can’t miss it as you drive into Ambleside. Owned by the National Trust the tiny house on the bridge is one of the most photographed relics of the Lake District. It’s now a shop although it’s been closed for quite some time, and literally consists of a tiny room upstairs and down, connected by a rickety staircase. 

A Travel Guide To Ambleside, The Lake District

Go Wild Water Swimming

If hiking isn’t the adventure for you then perhaps open water or wild swimming is? The Lake District is certainly a stunning spot for it, with swimming allowed in any of the lakes, just not the reservoirs or privately owned areas.

The official Lake District national park website has key information on which lakes are best for it, safety tips and even some guided options or clubs if you were interested in doing this. I jumped into Lake Windermere when paddleboarding last year and even on the hottest day it was freezing – so enjoy!

Alpaca Walking

This has become a popular activity and can be done in multiple places across Cumbria. One of the most famous companies to do it with is Alpacaly Ever After, due to the various treks with incredible views, but you can also do it at Whinlatter Forest, or Bardsea Alpacas to name a few.

See the Famous Waterfalls of the Lake District

You’re bound to recognise some of the names of the famous Lake District waterfalls, including Aria Force, Scale Force, Lodore Falls and Sour Milk Gill. Some of them are harder to reach, but a good few of them can be visited without a strenuous hike. 

Have a read of this guide by the Walking Englishman for details and to help choose which you might like to visit.

The Lake District Wildlife Park

Only a 10 minute drive from Keswick you can find the Lake District Wildlife Park, a family day out to see and experience a whole range of different animals. There are bookable experiences such as Alpaca walking, or the Hawk walk, and a range of events such as meerkat talks, reptile talks and birds of prey talks.

You do have to buy tickets to visit, and unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed here. Find more information and opening times on the Wildlife Park website.

Lake District Museums & Galleries

Being such a unique part of the country with so much history, there are obviously many museum and gallery experiences to take your interest. I’ve already mentioned those associated with Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth, but here are a few others:

The Derwent Pencil Museum – one for a rainy day, the Derwent Pencil Museum was the place where the first ever pencil was made. The museum takes you through the graphite mining process, and also has the worlds largest pencil on display. You can also buy artwork supplies here in the gift shop. See the official website for more info.

The Windermere Jetty Museum – dedicated to boats, steamboats and their history on Lake Windermere. See the website here.

Keswick Museum – for a comprehensive and immersive insight into the Lake District, particularly Keswick and it’s history the Keswick Museum is the one to visit. They have collections to view, and a gallery of artwork.

The Lake District naturally provides many artists with unbeatable scenery to capture, and you can’t visit any town without seeing little galleries filled with art.

The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Go back in time with a steam train journey from Haverthwaite Railway station, taking in the scenic views from your carriage. Dogs can join you too. The train takes you to Lakeside which is the southern point of Lake Windermere, so you could then continue on your steam journey onboard a boat up to Ambleside.

Find train timetables and fares on their website here.

The Lakes Aquarium 

Another rainy day activity, or maybe one the kids would enjoy, the Lakes Aquarium is open daily from 10am. Find admission prices and more info here.

Ambleside, Lake District

This list certainly doesn’t cover all things to do in the Lake District that aren’t hiking, but it’s a good start. Of course there are other things like horse riding, climbing walls, a theatre in Ambleside and many low level, short walks that you could enjoy too. Take a look at my Lake District archives for more inspiration, restaurant suggestions, spa experiences, dog friendly accommodation and more.

Other Lake District posts:

Places to Stay in Buttermere

The Ambleside Restaurants worth Visiting

A Travel Guide For Visiting Ambleside

Paddleboarding on Lake Windermere

Luxury Dog Friendly Cottages at Mirefoot

Langdale Lodges and Brimstone Spa

Pin 22 things to do in the Lake District!

Things to do in the Lake District
  1. Sam | North East Family Fun

    13th February 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Oh the lakes are high up on our list of places to visit this summer so I will keep this post in mind for then – love the look of the old fashioned sweet shop!

    1. sfox

      14th February 2017 at 10:05 am

      Its incredible, not the cheapest so you really have to be selective and strong willed haha!

  2. DAnni

    13th February 2017 at 8:56 pm

    This post is fantastic! I definitely want to go to the Lakes in the summer now!

  3. Chloe McGuirk

    14th February 2017 at 6:22 am


    I can’t believe we live so close to the Lakes but we’ve never properly been. I really want to get there properly this Summer and have a good explore. Definitely saving this guide for future reference, love all the cute places you’ve found.

    I was obsessed with Pooh Sticks when I was a kid, my Grandma taught me how to play and I loved it. Whenever I pass over the perfect bridge I still like to have a go now!

    1. sfox

      14th February 2017 at 10:04 am

      Ah you have to go theres some beautiful hotels too! I still have one you stayed at bookmarked to try

  4. Rachel

    14th February 2017 at 8:44 am

    Fab post and gorgeous pics! I love a weekend in the Lakes and like to set off really early from Newcastle on a Saturday morning because the sunrises along the a69 are stunning! Definitely bookmarking this for our next drive over!

    1. sfox

      14th February 2017 at 10:02 am

      Thats exactly what we did last week! Thank you 🙂

  5. Cat hooper

    14th February 2017 at 9:17 am

    I love the lakes but couldn’t go without doing some kind of hike…for the amazing views alone. We had a lush long weekend in Kendal last year and the kids managed a few 5 milers with not too many kickoffs. Mind you I wouldn’t mind sitting in that tea room!

    1. sfox

      14th February 2017 at 10:03 am

      At least in the Lakes there are so MANY options for walks at all levels, my favourite is round the lake in Buttermere 🙂 well done to the kids!

  6. Meghan

    15th February 2017 at 12:23 pm

    This looks like the perfect weekend getaway! I am definitely seeing this as a good spot year round. Now to get back to the UK! Also, I appreciate that you included things beyond hiking. While fun, getting away is a perfect time for relaxing too!

  7. Ellis

    15th February 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Great guide. What are pooh sticks? Never heard of it.

    1. sfox

      15th February 2017 at 2:35 pm

      It’s basically just a game kids play where you each pick a stick and throw it into a river or stream on one side of a bridge, and see whose stick wins the race to the other side!

  8. Carmen Baguio

    15th February 2017 at 7:16 pm

    What a great list! I think I would have to try out the different tea rooms and ice cream shops!

  9. Kelly Hurst

    19th February 2017 at 5:54 pm

    We go every year but this gives us a few more things to think about, I love the lakes so much

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  14. Kimberley

    20th January 2018 at 2:00 pm

    This is a great post! I’m currently researching what to do on our annual trip up to the Lakes, as we always tend to do the same old things, you’ve given me a lot of ideas – thanks!

  15. Jennifer

    22nd February 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Love this article because with 3 under 5s we are not hikers. We recently went to the Cocoabean in Hawkshead. The kids had a great time, see the video Its well worth a visit if you have kids.

  16. Lyd

    13th September 2018 at 4:09 pm

    I practically grew up in The Lakes but I don’t remember visiting Buttermere or Langdale! I definitely DO remember choc dip ice creams, they were an absolute must have on every visit, no matter how cold.


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