The Best English Heritage Attractions in the Lake District and Cumbria

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Telling the story of England’s history over 6,000 years, English Heritage’s buildings and monuments play an important part in the country’s identity. The charity looks after over 20 sites in the county, including historic homes and ancient structures. If you’re a lover of history, or are interested in getting a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors, then you’ll love our pick of the best English Heritage attractions in the Lake District and Cumbria!

Note: access to all sites is free for members of English Heritage. Some sites are free for non-members, and others require a small fee. Dogs are usually welcome on a lead.

Carlisle Castle

Carlisle Castle in CumbriaLocated in Cumbria’s capital city, Carlisle Castle has withstood multitudes of attacks since it was built in the 12th century. The Norman castle has changed owners many times and was a one-time prison for Mary, Queen of Scots. It now hosts Cumbria's Museum of Military Life, and you see this on your visit as well as prisoner carvings, exhibitions, and views over the border city.

Location: Carlisle
Free to enter: No

Hardknott Roman Fort

Hardknott Fort on Hardknott Pass in the Lake DistrictThe Roman’s have left their mark all across Cumbria, and perhaps the most extraordinary remnants are at Hardknott Roman Fort. This isolated fort has been well preserved, but what is surprising is its very location up one of the steepest and most difficult passes in the Lake District. You can still see the original Roman road, parade ground, and bathhouse.

Location: Eskdale
Free to enter: Yes

Stott Park Bobbin Mill

Stott Park Bobbin Mill in the Lake DistrictOn the quieter western shores of Windermere, Stott Park Bobbin Mill is a real gem. The still-working mill invites you to take a step into the area’s industrial history. Learn all about its historical role supplying millions of bobbins for the Lancashire spinning and weaving industries, see the running machinery, and trace the journey from tree to bobbin. You can even pick up your own from the gift shop!

Location: Finsthwaite
Free to enter: No

Castlerigg Stone Circle

Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake DistrictProbably the most beautifully situated stone circle in the country, Castlerigg enjoys panoramic views of Skiddaw, Blencathra, and the surrounding Lake District mountains. It was built around 2,000 years earlier than its more famous cousin at Stonehenge, and ceremonies are still held to this day to celebrate the solstice.

Location: Keswick
Free to enter: Yes

Ambleside Roman Fort

Ambleside Roman Fort in the Lake DistrictIt’s thought that Ambleside Roman Fort was built under Hadrian’s rule and that it was a supply base between Brougham and Ravenglass. The 2nd century ruins have been well preserved and can be found just a stone’s throw from the northern tip of Windermere lake. Today you can still see the granaries, main gate and headquarters building.

Location: Ambleside
Free to enter: Yes

Furness Abbey

Furness Abbey in CumbriaFound right in the south of the county, Furness Abbey is the impressive remains of a former Catholic monastery. It was once the second wealthiest in the country, and the discovery of hidden treasure in 2012 only reinforced this knowledge. Furness Abbey is best seen in the day, as ghosts are said to lurk in the ruins at night!

Location: Barrow-in-Furness
Free to enter: No

Ravenglass Roman Bath House

Ravenglass Roman Bath HouseThough little has survived of Ravenglass’ Roman history, the bathhouse is one such remnant and is one of the tallest surviving structures in Britain. The walls are up to 4 metres tall and you can get a real sense of soldiers passing through the doorways. You can even see traces of rendering and splayed window openings! The earthworks of the original fort can also be viewed nearby.

Location: Ravenglass
Free to enter: Yes

Brough Castle

Brough Castle in CumbriaIf you drive along the A66 to arrive in Cumbria, you’ll no doubt spot the ruins of Brough Castle as you zip by. Backed by the North Pennines, it was once owned by the Clifford family but suffered a fire in the 1500s, leaving it uninhabitable. History was to sadly repeat itself after it was restored: a second fire in the 17th century razed the building once again. Nowadays, you can visit the site and climb to the top of the remaining tower to take in the lovely views.

Location: Church Brough
Free to enter: No

Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian's Wall at Birdoswald in CumbriaHadrian’s Wall stretches through Cumbria from Bowness-in-Solway on its way to the North East. There are numerous places you can learn more about this feat of engineering, including at Birdoswald Roman Fort, Pike Hill Signal Tower and Poltross Burn Milecastle. Admire rare artefacts, learn about excavation work, walk in the footsteps of the Romans, and look out on the rugged scenery that has changed little in the 2,000 years since the wall was built.

Location: Various
Free to enter: Partially

Shap Abbey

Shap Abbey in CumbriaThe most impressive remains of Shap Abbey have to be the tall 15th century tower that stands proudly in the lush Lowther Valley. Though most of the rest of the abbey has been demolished, you can still clearly see the outlines of the building. Shap was the last abbey to be dissolved by Henry VIII in the Dissolution.

Location: Shap
Free to enter: Yes

Brougham Castle

Brougham Castle in CumbriaOne of the most well preserved castle ruins in Cumbria, Brougham Castle still commands your attention as you pass alongside the River Eamont. It has inspired both Turner, who painted the building, and Wordsworth, who mentions it in a couple of his poems. See if you can find your own inspiration as you admire the unusual double gatehouse and the ‘Tower of League’.

Location: Brougham
Free to enter: No

Lanercost Priory

Lanercost Priory in CumbriaThough nowadays the location is a peaceful retreat, Lanercost Priory has been the scene of many an upheaval. The Augustinian priory has been attached frequently in the past, including by Robert the Bruce himself. Despite this, the building remains remarkably well preserved and you can still see it at its full height. Step inside to take in the sweeping arches, high windows, and statue of St Mary Magdalene.

Location: Lanercost, near Brampton
Free to enter: No

Self-catering cottages in the Lake District

Pick your favourite historic location and then browse our holiday cottages to find your perfect place to stay.

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