We all appreciate a recommendation from a good friend or a must-see highlight from a travel expert. And let's face it, if UNESCO gives the Lake District World Heritage Status, it's got to be good, right? But there's something special about unearthing your own hidden gem, discovering somewhere your friends don't know, or being let in on a local secret. Well, in this blog we're going to share with you our top ten places to escape the crowds in Cumbria and the Lake District, even in the busier months. Shhhh, don't tell everyone, though!
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Nestled between the western fells of the Lake District National Park and Cumbria's outstanding coastline, Eskdale is a stunning valley that is often overlooked by visitors. Children can enjoy attractions like the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway and lovely walks to hidden gems such as Stanley Falls. History buffs can marvel at the impressive historical sites of Muncaster Castle and Hardknott Roman Fort, while the nationally acclaimed hill climbs of Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass are sure to excite the avid cyclists among you. Combine all that with excellent pubs offering local food and real ales, and you'll see why Eskdale is one of our personal favourites!
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Only a short drive from the tourist hot spot of Keswick is Cockermouth, a vibrant little market town boasting a delightful riverside location. One of 51 designated 'gem towns' in the UK, much of Cockermouth's Georgian architectural charm has been retained thanks to this protection. Despite its loveliness, it is not overwhelmed with visitors in the busy summer months. Roam around its quirky independent shops and antique collectors or relax in one of the town's lovely cafés, restaurants or bars. Don't miss a tour and tasting at Jennings Brewery, and visit Wordsworth House and Garden to explore the childhood home of famous poet William Wordsworth.
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With only one unpaved road leading into Ennerdale, this is one of the least-visited valleys in the Lake District. It's an outdoor enthusiast's dream with glorious options for hiking, climbing, scrambling and cycling. There's just one small village, and the road stops at Bowness Knott at the edge of Ennerdale Water, the only lake without a paved running alongside it. Anywhere you want to go from here will be under your own steam and boy is it worth it! Miles of public paths are ideal for walkers and off-road cyclists, while Pillar Rock is the ultimate Lake District climbing experience. Its remoteness makes it harder to get to, but any enthusiast should have it on their bucket list!
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4. Hadrian's Wall Country
Okay, so not a completely hidden gem: Hadrian's Wall is a world-famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, after all. However, we think you'll be surprised at how you can enjoy this stunning northwest corner of Cumbria without battling the crowds! Birdoswald Roman Fort, managed by English Heritage, should be the starting point of your Hadrian's Wall exploration. It is home to the longest surviving stretch of wall and offers a self-guided tour that takes in the surrounding countryside as well as the extensive remains of a Roman fort. Nearby, Talkin Tarn Country Park is little known to visitors and offers a gentle circular walk suitable for all the family. With a playground, boat hire and plenty of picnic spots, it's a great place to relax and enjoy the impressive backdrop of the Pennines beyond. The small market town of Brampton and the majestic ruins of Lanercost Priory provide yet more reasons to visit this delightful area.
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5. Furness Peninsula
This stunning stretch of coastline doesn't always make it onto people's itinerary when visiting Cumbria, but it should. Easy to access from the M6 motorway, the Furness Peninsula links the South Lakes to the west coast and the shipbuilding town of Barrow. The area offers an excellent base for cyclists wishing to enjoy the Bay Cycle Way, an 80-mile mainly flat route that takes in quiet roads and stunning sea views. Unique attractions like the Buddhist centre of Conishead Priory and the medieval treasure that is Furness Abbey provide excellent sightseeing. If you have kids, then don't miss the vast expanse of beach at Bardsea and Baycliff for a chance to run free and explore.
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6. Little Salkeld and the North Eden Valley
This delightful little-known region is packed full of picture-postcard villages and quiet rural roads. In the heart of Little Salkeld village you'll find Little Salkeld Flour Mill nestled on the banks of the River Eden, Cumbria's only fully functioning watermill. Here, it's possible to have a tour of the working mill, buy its organic flour and enjoy its delicious produce in the mill's adjoining tearoom. Not far from the mill is the formidable Bronze Age stone circle of Long Meg and Her Daughters, which you can take in as part of a popular walk from the village. Another site worth exploring is Lacy's Caves, a series of beautiful sandstone caves in a riverside cliff. The caves are named after Colonel Samuel Lacy who created them on his estate in the 18th century when ruins and grottos were thought to be romantic.
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7. South East Eden Valley
It's hard to believe that this delightful corner of the county isn't overrun with visitors year-round; it's so convenient from the M6 motorway yet retains a remote and rural feel. If you love history, you'll enjoy exploring the imposing ruins of Brough Castle and discovering its past as an important stronghold against the Scots. On the border of the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales, Tan Hill Inn, Britain's Highest Pub, is a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site and offers excellent opportunities for stargazing. Nearby, the lively market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland is a picturesque riverside community with a Motte and Bailey Castle open to visitors, and a good selection of independent shops and eateries.
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8. Cumbria's West Coast
While the crowds head to the popular villages of the Central Lakes, Cumbria's picturesque western coastline remains a peaceful place to explore. The pretty little Roman port of Ravenglass is a tranquil traffic-free community where small fishing boats bob in the harbour against the backdrop of the setting sun. The beaches at Seascale and St Bees are certainly worth a visit, and a climb up St Bees Head is sure to blow out the cobwebs on even the calmest of days. The Western Lake District is steeped in mining and maritime history, and museums at Whitehaven and Maryport tell tales of this bygone era. Or, if you're a wildlife lover, explore the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. For a feeling of true remoteness, head to Silecroft in the very south of the county to explore the long stretches of quiet, sandy beaches.
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9. The Duddon Valley and Duddon Estuary
Lying between the Irish Sea and the Lakeland Fells, The Duddon Estuary is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. Its distinct environment of mudflat and sand is home to a wide variety of significant flora and fauna. A short walk takes in a tour of the Duddon Mosses National Nature Reserve and, when the tide is out, there is a vast expanse of beach to enjoy. Black Combe dominates the horizon as if inviting you to make the climb. A walk up this iconic Lakeland Fell begins in the village of Whicham and follows a waymarked path up to the summit. On a clear day, you'll soon realise why the famous poet William Wordsworth referenced this view in his works. Not only do you get to glimpse the Lakeland Fells from an angle not often seen, but the views take in Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Scotland as you look out over the Irish Sea. The nearby villages of Foxfield and Kirkby-in-Furness have stations on the Cumbrian Coastline Railway, making them an excellent base for exploring the West Coast. Following the river upstream, the wider Duddon Valley will open up, bringing with it tranquil rolling scenery, crystal clear rivers, and woodland that's filled with wildlife.
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10. Ingleton and Around
On the border of Cumbria and Yorkshire, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Ingleton packs a punch when it comes to outdoor adventures. The village itself has an excellent BMX pump track, an outdoor swimming pool and a fabulous waterfall trail. Beyond the centre, there are plenty of opportunities for walking, climbing and caving. Nearby, Ingleborough Cave and White Scar Cave are two family-friendly show caves offering excellent tours to visitors. The area is renowned for its Three Peaks Challenge, a 26-mile circular walk taking in its three principal peaks: Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.
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For more tips on the quietest places to visit in the Lake District and Cumbria, please get in touch and our team of local people will be happy to help. You can also browse all of our self-catering holiday cottages with our cottage search.