We’re well into the New Year by now, and if you’re anything like us those New Year’s Resolutions you were definitely going to do in 2019 have already fallen by the wayside! Don’t worry though, because we’ve come up with a to-do list that you’ll actually want to stick to – a list of 19 things to try out in the Lake District for 2019. Whether it’s getting out and exploring the world famous scenery, indulging in the incredible local food scene, sampling the wide range of culture, or simply revisiting your favourite walks, here’s what to do in the Lake District this year.
1. Start ticking off Wainwrights
You can’t visit the Lakes and not climb a fell! Considered by many as the definitive guide to the Lake District mountains, Alfred Wainwright’s seven volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells is a must have for any visitor to the region. If you want to climb a few fells while you’re in the Lakes but not sure where to start, these guides are a great resource to consult – and they’re now a popular form of ‘peak bagging’. There are 214 in total, so if you want to see them all you’d better get cracking!
2. Go for a swim
The Lake District is ideal for wild swimming – it’s right there in the name – and when done safely it can be an invigorating way to experience the region. The National Park website has guidelines for safe swimming, as well as information on some of the best lakes for a swim. Going for a dip halfway up a mountain in one of the region’s many tarns is also a unique experience – try Easedale Tarn near Grasmere, or if you’re adventurous and well prepared, Red Tarn right beneath the summit of Helvellyn – it’s the highest substantial body of water in England. We’re also situated just 50 metres from the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake, which is one of the shallowest in the area – meaning it benefits from warmer water.
3. Enjoy a festival of food
The Lake District is home to a number of enticing food festivals in 2019! Taste Cumbria is county’s biggest annual food and drink festival, and there are five different events through the year, with the very best of Cumbrian produce available to taste and buy in Kirkby Lonsdale, Ulverston, Whitehaven, and the flagship event in Cockermouth – just five miles from our park – with 80 different stalls, a hot food court, secret gin garden, chef demonstrations and masterclasses and much more. Cockermouth is also home to a special Christmas market in December. Alternatively, head to Muncaster Castle in May for a three day celebration of food, drink and all things Cumbrian, as part of their 5th Food and Drink Festival. Or, if you want to spice things up, why not visit the Holker Chilli Fest in September? Specialist chilli companies from all over the country will gather at Holker Hall and Gardens with cooking demonstrations and chilli eating competitions, as well as entertainment including fire eating performers.
4. Experience Michelin star dining
There are four different Michelin starred restaurants in the Lake District, each offering exquisite food and an unforgettable dining experience. The most famous is perhaps Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, which was named best restaurant in Britain for four consecutive years by the Good Food Guide and featured in the BBC’s ‘The Trip’ with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Other Michelin starred restaurants include L’Enclume’s sister restaurant, Rogan & Co, also run by Rogan in Cartmel, The Forest Side Hotel in Grasmere, run by head chef Kevin Tickle, and HRiSHi at the Gilpin Hotel in Windermere, run by Hrishikesh Desai.
5. Sample some unique Lake District treats
There’s a rich culinary heritage in the Lake District and it would be remiss of any visitor not to try some of the most famous dishes that are unique to the region. The first place to start is Kendal Mint Cake, a heady mix of mint and glucose that is perfect for giving you a much-needed energy boost when out on the fells – even Sir Edmund Hillary and his team carried it on their ascent of Mount Everest. Once you’re back on lower ground, join the ever-present queue at the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop; the top secret recipe is like no gingerbread you’ve ever tasted, and it’s well worth the wait. While you’re in the region you should also make the effort to eat a proper Cumberland Sausage – and for dessert indulge in sticky toffee pudding. You can thank us later.
6. Explore on two wheels
The narrow roads and steep, unforgiving climbs of the Lake District might not jump out as being particularly cycling friendly, but with such incredible scenery there is some absolutely perfect cycling country in the region, with routes for both the adventurous and for families – you can find some of the best at the Sustrans website. Both Whinlatter and Grizedale forests feature mountain bike trails, too, so you can have a proper off-road adventure on two wheels, giving you the opportunity to reach a peak on two wheels. If you’d prefer a much lower effort way to explore, you can still get about via two wheels – Go Ape offer Segway experience days at Whinlatter.
7. Or explore by boat!
As you might imagine, there are a myriad of ways to explore the region’s many lakes by boat, whether it’s a steamer on Ullswater, a Derwentwater cruise from the Keswick Launch, the Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston Water, or one of the many other boat launches that can ferry you about over the water. You can also hire canoes and kayaks, rowboats and paddle boards on almost all of the lakes, and even learn to sail! Regardless of how you get on the water, once you’re there you’ll be blown away by the incredible 360° views – it really is a completely different perspective.
8. Learn about lakeside life at a spectacular new museum
Windermere Jetty is a spectacular new museum on the shores of Windermere that showcases the sights, smells and sounds of life on the lake. Due to open in March 2019, the museum is the exciting result of a £20million development by Lakeland Arts, and will feature interactive galleries of boats, steam and stories, immersing you in Windermere’s boating heritage. There will also be heritage boat trips, venturing out onto the lake on board Osprey, one of their fully restored Edwardian steam launches – and when you’re ready to take a break and relax, the lakeside cafe will offer spectacular views of the lake, whatever the weather.
9. Tackle the Via Ferrata at Honister
For a different sort of thrilling Lake District climb, head to Honister Slate Mine, located at the head of Honister Pass, high in the fells between Keswick and Buttermere. Here you’ll find the Via Ferrata, an award-winning climb following the original miners track up the steep outer incline of Fleetwith Pike, using cables, ladders and rungs fixed to the rock face – the added continuous cable means it is safe and suitable for anyone over the age of 10, but this doesn’t make it any less thrilling and adrenaline-fuelled. For an even greater challenge, there is also an ‘Xtreme’ route, with added edge exposure, vertical climbs, cliff edge ladders and cargo net crossing.
10. Get caught in the rain
You haven’t really experienced the Lake District until you’ve been caught in one of its signature rain showers – it’s where the lakes come from, after all. Don’t let a bit of rain put you off though; while you don’t want to be venturing up a fell in low visibility, there are still so many low level walks you can enjoy that aren’t in any way spoiled by some wet weather – after all, as Wainwright said, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Dress appropriately and you’ll be just fine – and it’ll make that post-walk trip to the pub all the more enjoyable.
11. Get a taste of traditional rural life at an agriculture show
The Lake District’s status as a World Heritage site and must-see tourist destination sometimes means that the region’s agricultural heritage can be forgotten or overlooked – but it boasts a rich farming tradition that is celebrated every year in a number of different agriculture shows throughout the Lake District. The Cumberland Show, for instance, dates back over 180 years, while the Penrith Show was first held way back in 1834. These events are always great to visit, with livestock classes judging the best in show for cattle, sheep, horses, or poultry; vintage vehicle competitions; traditional games like Cumberland Wrestling; marquees; food halls; trade stands; children’s amusements, and much, much more. There are shows held in pretty much every part of the Lake District, usually in the summer.
12. Enjoy a drop at the Lakes Distillery
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This relatively new addition to the Lake District only opened its doors in December 2014, but it’s already swept up numerous awards over the last few years. Producing whisky, gin, and vodka, the Lakes Distillery was named ‘one of the best new distilleries in the world’ by Time Out in 2016, and with good reason. Just down the road from us on the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake, there are daily tours and tastings, and you can even meet their alpacas on weekends. There’s a fully stocked shop, so you can take home a souvenir to savour, and the on-site bistro is award-winning, too.
13. Visit one of the Lake District’s historic sites
With a rich history that dates back thousands of years, there are loads of historic sites that are well worth seeing while you’re in the region. Cumbria is home to several Neolithic stone circles, one of the most of any region in the country, each with a fascinating history that mystifies scholars to this day. Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick is the oldest remaining stone circle in England, dating back 5,000 years, and is also one of the most dramatic, surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the Lake District. Long Meg and Her Daughters, in Little Salkeld, has a chilling tale of folklore to enjoy – legend has it that they’re actually a witch and her daughters who were turned to stone! You’re also not too far from Hadrian’s Wall here, so there are some superb Roman sites to see too. High Street Roman Road dates back 2,000 years, and traverses some spectacular scenery high up in the fells – the highest of them, High Street, is in fact named after the road itself. One of the most remote Roman forts in the country can also be found in the Lake District, at Hardknott Roman Fort – it’s also one of the most dramatically sited, with stunning views of the Eskdale Valley.