Historic tours in the Lake District
With its distinctive buildings and unique industrial and farming heritage, the Lake District is brimming with historic interest. Here we've picked out a few of the best places to experience an historic tour and to find out just what it was like to live and work in the area in days gone by!
Wordsworth House, Cockermouth
Wordsworth House was the birthplace of Lake District poet William Wordsworth and a 30-minute guided tour of the house explores his family life, and how the house itself was saved for future generations to enjoy. Step back into the 18th century, meet the Wordsworth family servants, and explore the garden that inspired Wordsworth's love of nature - finishing off with a nice cup of tea and slice of cake in the tearoom!
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Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Finsthwaite
One attraction that really brings the Lake District's industrial history to life is Stott Park Bobbin Mill on the western shore of Windermere. The only working bobbin mill in the area, Stott Park is managed by English Heritage and on a 45-minute tour here you'll find out how the surrounding woodlands were coppiced and the raw materials turned into bobbins for the spinning and weaving industries! Afterwards you may also choose to take the tranquil woodland walk up to High Dam, a man-made tarn which was originally created to power the mill. Look out for Stott Park's steam weekends when the old steam engine is woken from its slumber!
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Find out what it was really like to live in a traditional Lakeland farmhouse by visiting Townend in the Troutbeck valley. This gorgeous traditional stone building was home to the Browne family for over 400 years! The house is full of quirky carved wooden furniture, including an early 'fitted kitchen' and its creator, George Browne, is known to have embellished his carving to make it look much older than it was! There's such a lot of character to this house, and a visit is guaranteed to make you smile! Check the National Trust website for tour times.
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This beautiful stately home is situated to the north of Ullswater and the name, Dalemain, means 'manor in the valley'. As with many local country houses, it started out life as a pele tower (during the reign of Henry II) and the rest of the house was added over the following centuries. The Georgian front was built in 1744 and the house is now home to the Hasell-McCosh family. Guided tours take place between Sundays and Wednesdays.
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Sizergh Castle, near Kendal
Sizergh Castle has been associated with the Strickland family for over 700 years, and is particularly well known for its stunning Elizabethan oak panelling. The Inlaid Chamber is of international significance, and was returned to the house from the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1999. Guided tours of Sizergh are available for an additional small charge - visit the National Trust website for dates and times.
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Dove Cottage, Grasmere
Dove Cottage is famously the former residence of William Wordsworth, but is much more besides - not many people know that it was once an inn called the 'Dove and Olive Bough'! To step inside the cottage is to instantly step back in time, with stone floors beneath your feet, dark downstairs rooms (imagine carrying out the household chores in such little light!), and a collection of the Wordsworths' personal belongings on show throughout. It's a Lake District must-see for literary fans and history buffs alike!
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Muncaster Castle, Ravenglass
This imposing castle has been added to, extended, and refurbished many times throughout the centuries and is an essential part of a visit to the south western corner of the Lake District. The castle's 40-minute audio tour (you can linger longer if you want to!) is narrated by members of the family, and takes you around its public rooms detailing stories and the history of Muncaster. You'll also hear ghostly tales related to Tom Fool, aka Tom Skelton, who was court jester here in the 16th century!
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Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum
Continuing on an industrial theme, we had to include Threlkeld Quarry, which was opened in the 1870s to supply railway ballast for the Penrith to Keswick line. Although a small operation to begin with, by 1894 it was creating 80,000 tons of stone per year for a variety of uses and local projects! Today you can take an underground tour that recreates the mine experience, see the mine's very own narrow gauge railway, and even try your hand at mineral panning!
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Honister Slate Mine, near Keswick
The Lake District has an extensive history of mining, and slate was being taken from the quarry on Honister and Yew Crags from the early 1700s. Honister is now best known for its adrenaline-fuelled Via Ferrata and Infinity Bridge experiences, but you can also book a slightly less energetic underground tour of the mine! Book on a standard mine exploration, or enquire about the special Cathedral Mine and historical tours.
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Lakeland Hauntings, Keswick and Cockermouth
If folklore and legend really capture your imagination, you may enjoy a tour of a Lake District town with Lakeland Hauntings! These ghost walks take place around the market towns of Keswick and Cockermouth and, led by 'The Lady', a professional actor in Victorian mourning dress, they delve into local legend, myth, folklore, real events and eyewitness accounts. The stories are all carefully researched and designed for an adult audience, although they are also described as broadly accessible to ages 10+.
We hope we've inspired you to explore some of the Lake District's fascinating past, and we'd love to see photos of your historic days out, so do remember to share them with us over on Twitter and Facebook!
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