The best villages to visit in the Lake District

When it comes to embarking on a classic British road trip, it’s hard to look past the beauty of the Lake District. With its green rolling hills and gorgeous blue lakes, the Lake District is exceptionally charming and overwhelmingly pretty.

Villages of quaint houses with slate walls, thatched roofs and meandering roads complete the postcard-perfect scene. You can begin to see why it’s one of my favourite places in the U.K.

All image credits: Macca Sherifi

Artists, poets, and writers such as John Keats and William Wordsworth called the Lake District home, letting their imaginations run wild among inspirational landscapes.

The Lake District is ideal for outdoor activities with its perfect hiking routes and numerous lakes fit for all water sports. It’s also the ideal setting for a long drive through beautiful villages, stopping off at some of these to enjoy local food and drink and soak up the countryside air.

So, as you plan your next adventure, these are my favourite villages in the Lake District to add to your itinerary.

Kendal

If you’re entering the Lake District by car from the west, Kendal makes for a perfect first stop, especially if you’re on a family road trip.

The main draw here is the castle. Built in the late 12th century, Kendal Castle stands at the top of the steep Castle Hill. Although the castle is now a ruin, it’s great for exploring and the site offers spectacular views over the River Kent and buildings below.

Kendal is dubbed the ‘Gateway to the Lakes,’ as it’s often the first destination people come across as they enter the Lake District. It’s especially familiar to ardent hikers, with its famous hiking trails like The Langdale Pikes and Hawkshead to Lake Windermere proving irresistible.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, make sure you pick up some original Kendal mint cake!

Windermere

Under nine miles from Kendal is the Lake District’s most famous small town, Windermere. Although it’s not technically a village, it’s too important a stop to miss off this list!

Home to the Lake District’s largest body of water, this road trip stop is ideal for adventure-seekers. One of my favourite activities is sailing out on Lake Windermere itself. If you’ve never sailed before, there are plenty of companies offering introductory courses. It’s an amazing way to immerse yourself in the natural splendour of the Lakes.

After a long day out on the lake or exploring the local area, rest up in one of Windermere’s cosy establishments such as the Hole in t’Wall or grab some exquisite seafood at Hooked.

Coniston

Driving along the B285, with Lake Windermere on your left, you’ll arrive at another phenomenal lake in the form of Coniston Water and Coniston village itself.

At five miles long, Coniston Water is another perfect spot for water-based activities. Here, you can hire boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards with the backdrop of rolling hills and the famous Old Man of Coniston.

The village provides a great base for walkers, with numerous paths mapped out to help you scale the Old Man. It’s also home to the 400 year old coaching inn, The Black Bull Inn. If you’re planning on stopping off here for the night, The Black Bull provides exceptional accommodation for travellers in an idyllic setting.

If not, pop in for some traditional pub fare and rest your weary feet.

Grasmere

The A593 will take you from Coniston to Ambleside, crossing the River Brathay in the process. At Ambleside, turn left onto Rydal Road and you’ll soon catch a glimpse of the breath-taking Rydal Water, finally passing Lake Grasmere before arriving in the tranquil village.

Grasmere sits in the heart of the Lake District. With its stone cottages, boutique shops, and tea rooms, the village epitomises the feel of the Lakes.

It’s also a food-lover’s dream, with fine dining catered for in the form of Michelin-starred restaurant, The Forest Side which doubles up as a hotel. It’s one of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at and is a real celebration of the Lake District.

For an on-the-go traditional snack, head to Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread!

Once you’re fuelled up on local gingerbread, the Wordsworth Museum is a great stop before you head off in the car. Wordsworth called this place home and his memory lives on in the museum which houses a vast collection of his letters and poems.

Ullswater

Heading northeast, this longer stretch of road takes you from Grasmere to the vast expanse of Ullswater.

One of the best things to do in the Lake District is to catch the Ullswater steamer from Pooley Bridge to Howtown or further south to the village of Glenridding. The journey lets you see the lake in all its glory, while travelling by steamer is like stepping back in time.

Keswick

Just over 15 miles west of Ullswater lies another of the Lake District’s famous small towns, Keswick. Tourism is responsible for 98% of the jobs here.

When I’m in Keswick I love to hike up to Cat Bells. The climb gives you unrivalled viewpoints looking out over Derwent Water, and it’s an intermediate hiking route rather than one reserved for the experts!

In terms of accommodation, the nearby Cottage in the Woods makes for a wonderfully peaceful stay. The food here is spectacular too.

Honister

Now, this is serious road trip territory. 10 miles south of Keswick lies the Honister Pass, connecting Buttermere with the Borrowdale Valley.

It is one of Cumbria’s highest passes and is an epic drive which takes you through the less-populated locations of the Lakes.

Honister itself is home to a working slate mine and Via Ferrata, one of the most extreme activities you’ll find in the Lake District. Using the original miner tracks, you can climb up the steep incline of Fleetwith Pike.

From the small villages of Grasmere and Coniston to the larger locations of Windermere and Keswick, the Lake District is a strikingly unique part of the U.K. that I visit whenever I can.

Its winding roads, hill climbs, and descending valleys make it a perfect road trip destination for no two roads are the same. Stopping off at each of these villages, or looking out across vast breadths of water, gives you a piece of traditional England that you simply can’t find anywhere else.

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