As well as being one of the most beautiful places in the UK, the Lake District is a haven of culture. Alongside walking and climbing, wild swimming and sailing, you’ll find museums, galleries, theatres, and literature to inspire all ages.
Time getting to know this region is time well spent – discover the extent to which this land is steeped in tradition, gain an appreciation of its history, and explore the landscape that’s been a muse to countless artists, poets and writers.
Pause to stop, look around and smell the daffodils. Combine your visit to the Lake District with a stay in one of our idyllic country cottages, the perfect home from home for relaxing after a day exploring the outdoors, heritage and arts of this Cumbrian landscape.
Museums in the Lake District
Image credit: Derwent Pencil Museum
The area has a fascinating history and this is charted in the many museums you’ll find dotted throughout its towns and villages, including those in Kendal, Whitehaven, Penrith and Keswick.
Specialist Lake District museums depict the industry of the area – such as Windermere Jetty Museum, dedicated to boat building, and Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick, the hub of Lakeland pencil manufacturing. Entertainment isn’t forgotten either – the Laurel & Hardy Museum in Ulverston celebrates the life of comedy superstar Stan Laurel who was born in the town and who, with his movie partner in crime Oliver Hardy, dominated world cinema screens from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Lakeland Motor Museum at Newby Bridge
If you’re into classic cars then you’ll love this collection of vehicles from the 20th century. There are motorcycles and bicycles, as well as cars, with visiting exhibitions throughout the year. Don’t miss the Campbell Bluebird exhibition that celebrates the careers of racing legends Donald and Sir Malcolm Campbell.
Wordsworth at Grasmere
A celebration of the poet William Wordsworth, this museum encompasses his home, Dove Cottage, as well as its garden and orchard, all of which inspired his work. The cottage looks as it did in his lifetime and the museum displays a number of personal items, including journals and letters.
Brantwood at Coniston
This was the home of Victorian philosopher, social reformer, artist and writer John Ruskin. Explore the house and gardens on the edge of Coniston Water as they were in his day and discover his work through his writings, paintings and drawings. The Ruskin Museum in Coniston also honours his life and houses The Ruskin Gallery, The Coniston Gallery and The Bluebird Wing – a tribute to land and water speed record breaker, Donald Campbell.
Lake District art galleries
So many artists have sought and found inspiration in the Lake District, including Turner, Constable Lowry and even Beatrix Potter, who was a talented illustrator as well as an author.
Local and national artists continue to paint, sketch and write about the area, highlighting the landscape and the way it changes under different light and during the different seasons of the year. Galleries such as the Lakes Art Gallery, Heaton Cooper Studio, Cookhouse Gallery and Northern Lights Gallery in Keswick display their work.
Blackwell Arts & Crafts House
Image credit: Lakeland Arts
Blackwell House is a beautiful example of the early 20th-century Arts & Crafts style, with original features such as mosaic floors, carved stone and stained glass. The furniture is from leading designers of that movement, including architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott (who also designed the house), Stanley Webb Davies and William De Morgan.
The furniture and exhibits in the house are curated by Lakeland Arts from its own collections and art galleries. Regular exhibitions showcase the work of Arts & Crafts pioneers as well as sculptures, paintings and drawings by contemporary artists.
Abbot Hall, Kendal
Image credit: Lakeland Arts
A former family home, then an art gallery, Abbot Hall is part of Lakeland Arts, a major arts charity in the north of England. Its permanent exhibition includes watercolours by Turner and John Ruskin, as well as work by celebrated sculptor Barbara Hepworth, and painters Lucian Freud and David Hockney, among others. The hall also hosts a programme of visiting exhibitions, workshops and talks throughout the year.
Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery
The Exhibition Gallery within Tullie House is one of the biggest contemporary art galleries in the region. Situated in Carlisle, which lies north of the Lake District National Park, this museum and art gallery is worth visiting for its Pre-Raphaelite and Arts & Crafts exhibits, and its natural science displays. It also hosts world-class artists and has welcomed exhibitions of work by Rembrandt and Turner, among other greats of the art world.
Tullie House is also a focus for local people interested in the arts, with workshops, family crafts, storytelling, art fairs and talks held regularly.
Theatres in the Lake District
Theatre is another important cultural strand of Cumbrian life and there are a number of theatres in the Lake District. They present a regular programme of drama, live music, comedy and entertainment for both local people and visitors. In addition, the summer months bring open-air theatre to Brantwood at Coniston Water, with outdoor performances by Illyria Theatre Company in the meadow next to the lake.
Theatre by the Lake
Image credit: Theatre by the Lake
Sitting right next to the north edge of Derwentwater, Theatre by the Lake must surely have one of the most desirable locations of any theatre anywhere. Having started life as a mobile theatre in a lorry in a Keswick car park in 1961, Theatre by the Lake opened in its current location in 1999. Since then it has presented a variety of dramas, musicals, family entertainment and workshops to appreciative fans.
Brewery Arts Centre
A full programme of music, film, dance and family entertainment is on the menu at this vibrant arts hub in Kendal town centre. Many of the events staged as part of the annual Kendal Mountain Festival also take place here.
The Old Laundry Theatre
The Old Laundry Theatre is located in Bowness-on-Windermere in a former Edwardian laundry. It welcomes performers from the worlds of music, comedy, drama and children’s entertainment. The theatre shares its space with The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, which is a big hit with young visitors.
Arts and entertainment for families
Image credit: The World of Beatrix Potter
There’s always something for children to do in the Lake District, whether it’s pony trekking, getting to know the animals at Safari Zoo in Ulverston or zip-lining through the trees at Go Ape in Grizedale Forest.
For quieter days though, how about a visit to The World Of Beatrix Potter, an attraction which brings to life the author’s favourite characters, including Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Squirrel Nutkin. Visit Hill Top, Beatrix Potter's house at Hawkshead and see the inspiration for her books throughout the house and garden, or view some of her natural history paintings at The Armitt museum and gallery in Ambleside.
Also worth a visit, at The Puzzling Place World of Illusion in Keswick; you will not believe your eyes in its Anti-Gravity Room and Eyelusion Exhibition. And for puppet fans, Upfront Arts near Penrith stages puppet shows over the summer and is one of only four dedicated puppet theatres in England.
Cottages in the Lake District
No matter what part of the Lake District you find yourself in, after a busy day of activity you’ll want to relax and recharge ready to start over again in the morning. We have holiday cottages throughout the Lake District that provide the perfect base from which to explore – and the perfect place to come home to.
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