What to do at Christmas in the Lake District holiday cottages

What to do at Christmas in the Lake District

Kim Brough 06 September 2022

Christmas in the Lake District is a truly special time. Christmas trees glimmer through the windows of quaint country cottages, colourful lights twinkle alongside the stars and, if we’re lucky enough to have snow, the mountain landscape becomes a magical world of pristine white.

As well as this, there are plenty of fun, festive events to take part in throughout the season - we've rounded up our favourites in this guide.

So, get into the festive spirit and start planning your Christmas holiday in the Lake District now.

Christmas light switch-ons

Christmas lights

If you’re visiting the Lake District before December, you can still enjoy plenty of festive fun! Christmas light switch-ons take place across the Lake District and Cumbria from November, and you’ll find events in most towns and in several of the larger villages, too.

One of the most popular is the Ambleside Christmas lights switch-on, which takes place in November. There’s a lantern parade through the town, where Santa makes an appearance, as well as Christmas cruises on the lake and an exciting firework display to round off the evening.

Lake District Christmas fairs and markets

Christmas fair

There are lots of wonderful Christmas markets in Cumbria that take place throughout November and December. You can pick up Christmas trinkets, enjoy festive treats and even meet Santa and his reindeer!

Hawkshead Christmas Market is one of the best: the quaint traffic-free village in the South Lakes is brimming with fun and frolics in early December. The cobbled streets are lit up and the smell of sugar floats over the quirky houses. There’s music and entertainment throughout the day and it’ll really put you in the Christmas spirit!

Cumbrian Christmas shopping

Christmas shopping

Save your Christmas shopping until you get to the Lake District and you’ll find all sorts of unique gifts for your loved ones. Not only can you pick from one of the many Christmas markets, but you can stroll through the pretty streets of Cumbrian towns and villages and admire the window displays while you shop too. 

Cockermouth is one of our favourite places for Christmas shopping in Cumbria. The town is brimming with independent stores selling everything from artwork and spa gifts to food hampers and clothing. Carlisle, Cumbria’s only city, also offers plenty of shopping opportunities from more well-known high street brands. Or head to Kendal for characterful shopping yards and streets.

Santa on the steam trains

Steam train

There’s something truly magical about a steam train. Add a Christmas theme and the enchantment multiplies for an incredibly special experience.

The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway runs an annual Santa Express from late November until the end of December. Hop on the miniature train at Ravenglass and then travel through Lake District scenery to Dalegarth Grotto, where Santa awaits you in the heart of the mountains. It’s a popular event, so make sure you book well in advance!

On the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, you’ll also find festive fun with Santa Special trains. Staff are dressed as elves and the main man himself will be on board to give you a “ho, ho, ho” and hand out gifts.

Father Christmas lake cruises

Father Christmas cruises

If trains aren’t your thing, then how about taking a boat instead? 

At both Windermere and Derwentwater, you can sail on a Father Christmas cruise, taking in the scenery from the water with old St Nick. There are gifts for the kids and sherry and mince pies for the adults.

Panto season in the Lakes

Panto seasonCredit: Theatre by the Lake

He’s behind you!

Enjoy one of the UK’s most unusual festive traditions at a pantomime. Kids love it for the bright colours and the noise you can make, and adults like it for… well, for the same reasons! Head to the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick or Carlisle's Sands Centre for some of the best Lake District pantos.

Dickensian festivals

Dickensian festival

No one does Christmas quite like Charles Dickens. In fact, the author popularised the whole idea of a white Christmas! So it’s no wonder that Dickensian and Victorian-themed festivals are so popular at this time of year.

Ulverston Dickensian Festival is one of the UK’s most popular and is always a fabulous event. Dress up in your best top hats and fur coats and be transported back 150 years to Victorian-era England. There’s plenty of free entertainment, stalls, costume competitions and music.

Keswick Victorian Fayre is also well worth a visit. It encapsulates the meaning of the season with numerous charity stalls selling all sorts of gifts, crafts and trinkets. You’ll find traditional games such as tombolas, as well as a funfair for the children to enjoy.

Lake District festive fun runs

Running in winter

When it’s time to shake the dust after all those Christmas parties and get-togethers, what could be more fun than donning your Santa hat and participating in a fun run?

The Christmas Pudding 10k is a course through the spectacular Langdale Valley. It’s no easy jog, but the landscape combined with the colourful costumes make this an exciting event for any runners to take part in. For shorter options, look out for Santa Dashes in locations such as Keswick and Kendal.

Christmas dinner in the Lakes

Christmas dinner

Fancy a big slap-up festive meal that you don’t have to cook? The Lake District has you covered, with lots of special Christmas dinner events taking place at pubs, restaurants and other venues across the county. 

You’ll find roaring log fires, twinkling Christmas trees, and glittering tinsel surrounding you as you indulge in your turkey or nut roast and sherry. We love the Inn on the Lake at Ullswater, where Father Christmas will even make a special appearance at some meals. Or try the Lodore Falls’ Yuletide Afternoon Tea. You’ll be full to bursting!

Crafty Cumbrian Christmas

Christmas crafts

Have you ever fancied creating your own Christmas cards, making a festive wreath, or learning how to add a bit of pizzazz to your gift wrapping? Crafts are a wonderful festive activity and you can learn new skills as well as create something lovely. 

Quirky Workshops in Greystoke is the go-to spot for crafts (make sure to book well in advance), or browse the activities at Cowshed Creative near Kendal.

Themed festive events

Themed Christmas eventsCredit: Holker Hall

The Lake District’s best attractions pull out all the stops during Christmas, and everywhere you go you’ll find fun events and festive-themed attractions. 

Muncaster Castle hosts Victorian tours, Tea in the Castle, and Christmas Illuminations. Brockhole, on Windermere, has excellent child-friendly events in its extensive grounds and in the house. And Lowther Castle is dressed to impress with a popular Christmas market and more. Each property is always bedecked in its Christmas best and you’ll feel that special festive cheer that only comes at this time of year!

Enjoy a Christmas getaway to the Lake District

Christmas in the Lake District

Whatever you dream of doing on your festive getaway to the Lake District, we have a wide range of cosy Christmas cottages perfect for the occasion.

Curl up in front of the wood burner after days out at the Lake District's many festive events, rustle up some tasty treats in a farmhouse-style kitchen, and wake up in a warm and cosy bed to discover a heap of presents under the tree!

Take a look at our full collection of Christmas cottages in the Lake District by clicking the button below. 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

Like it? Share it...

Read more like this

The Culinary Tourism Report

Looking for your next gastronomical getaway? Then look no further than our in-depth report of the best culinary destinations in the UK!

Easter in the Lake District

Take a look at these Easter activities in the Lake District and plan your fun-filled spring getaway.

Things to do in Cockermouth

From wonderful walks to top shops to visit, Cockermouth has everything for a fun-filled holiday.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Sallys Cottages is an appointed representative of ITC Compliance Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (their registration number is 313486) and which is permitted to advise on and arrange general insurance contracts as an intermediary.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Sallys Cottages | The Travel Chapter Limited is registered in England and Wales. | Registered office Travel Chapter House Gammaton Road Bideford EX39 4DF Company No. 02431506 | VAT reg: 143053210.