The National Trust is responsible for a whopping 20% of the Lake District National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site! It was also co-founded by Hardwicke Rawnsley, a priest in the region, and much of its Lakes property was left by another famous name: Beatrix Potter. The first Lake District National Trust property – Brandelhow above Derwentwater – was bought in 1902 following a national fundraising campaign.
There are a variety of sights you can enjoy on your visit. Many are free to everyone (though there may be a parking charge), and some include a fee (or are free or discounted for National Trust members). You can find spectacular walks, fascinating historical remains, or grand stately homes and gardens across the region, all of which offer something fascinating and unique.
Read on for our guide to many of the National Trust properties you can enjoy on a day out in the Lake District.
Aira Force, Ullswater
Aira Force is a stunning waterfall tucked away within tranquil woodland near Ullswater lake. Best seen after heavy rain, you can leave your car in the National Trust car park then walk an easy, though uphill, path to the main falls. Admire the water as it dramatically splashes through a narrow crag below a picturesque stone bridge. Why not enjoy some paddling in the various pools on your way up or down?
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Allan Bank, Grasmere
Briefly home to William Wordsworth, as well as the former residence of National Trust co-founder Canon Rawnsley, Allan Bank has something of a chequered history! Standing just outside the village of Grasmere, Wordsworth once described it as a “temple of abomination”, and two fires caused serious damage to the building. The National Trust has done – and continues to do – extensive restoration work, and the house is now a relaxed historic home with lots of activities for children, large gardens for picnicking and squirrel-spotting, and lovely lake views.
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Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead
In the pretty village of Hawkshead, with its cobbled streets and wonky gunnels, you’ll find a number of nods to famous Lake District writers! One such is the Beatrix Potter Gallery, which exhibits the author’s original artwork in her husband’s former solicitors office. You can also find out more about this amazing woman’s life, from her involvement with the National Trust to her work conserving the famous Herdwick sheep.
Claife Viewing Station, Windermere
When tourism started to boom in the Lake District during the Victorian era, the fashion was to be taken to a number of pre-selected viewing points to admire the scenery (without getting into the ‘wilds’ of the land)! One such viewpoint is Claife Viewing Station. Once the scene of dances and parties, it has been partially restored to make the most of the panorama of Windermere lake, with stained glass windows framing the view. Why not visit as part of a walk along Windermere’s west shore?
Fell Foot, Windermere
At the southern tip of Windermere is Fell Foot, a lovely park and one of the few spots you can directly access the lake for a paddle or a splash about! Perfect for families, you can enjoy walks or a picnic, admire the Gothic Revival boathouses, or even hire a boat!
Hill Top, Near Sawrey
A must-visit for any lovers of Beatrix Potter, Hill Top is the author’s former farmhouse home. Stepping inside is like going back in time, so carefully has it been preserved to look just as Beatrix would have kept it when living there. Filled with her personal possessions, you can find scenes from her books and paintings right there in the house!
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Sizergh Castle, near Kendal
Starting life as a defensive tower, Sizergh Castle was transformed into a grand home in the 16th century. There’s lots to see from the different periods of its life, including a medieval banqueting hall, oak panelling, four poster beds and even original weaponry. There’s even more to discover on the extended estate including gardens, wetlands, and guided countryside walks.
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Stagshaw Garden, Ambleside
Stagshaw Garden is hidden away from the bustling town of Ambleside in a quiet, informal woodland that resonates peace. Bursting with colour in the spring and summer, you’ll find a varied range of plants, including rhododendrons and colourful camellias. Benches are dotted around so you can enjoy views of the lake and surrounding fells.
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Steam Yacht Gondola, Coniston
If you’re ever around Coniston, you’ll likely see the fabulous Steam Yacht Gondola making its way across the water. Rebuilt by the National Trust based on an original 19th century boat, you can now enjoy a cruise either around the entire lake, or around its north or south ends. There are a number of jetties where you can alight, or simply enjoy the backdrop as you gracefully sail along the lake on a round trip.
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Sticklebarn is a lovely pub in the spectacular Great Langdale valley. Run by the National Trust, it serves local dishes and celebrates Cumbria’s fantastic food heritage. It has even started printing the carbon footprint of its menu items so you can see how eco-friendly you’re being at the same time as enjoying some wonderful refreshments!
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Tarn Hows, Hawkshead
Though man-made, Tarn Hows is a beautiful tarn with an ever-changing aspect. Whatever season you visit, you’re bound to be blown away by the surrounding scenery. An accessible walk is suitable for prams and wheelchairs, and you can even hire mobility scooters for free. This is a great, easy walk for all the family.
Townend, near Windermere
Townend is an atmospheric 17th century yeoman’s house. Though small, it’s bursting with character with whitewashed walls, round chimney pots, and flagged floors. The house hosts a number of exhibitions, and on Thursdays you can even experience creations from the original family’s recipe book!
Wray Castle, Ambleside
Though looking every bit like a grand castle, Wray Castle is actually a folly – an ornamental building that has never been an actual home. It has, however, had a number of other uses! Beatrix Potter once holidayed there, and it has also spent parts of its life as a youth hostel and a training college for Merchant Navy radio officers! The folly was bequeathed without any of its furniture, making it an unusual attraction, devoid of the usual dressings of a historic house. Yet, it is still utterly charming with plenty of space for kids to run around, and some wonderful grounds for you to explore.
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