The Lake District and Cumbria are blessed with amazing scenery for you to feast your eyes upon. But bring your focus down from the mountain peaks and the waters of the lakes and you’ll find even more beauty in the villages of the county.
With coastal delights, ancient settlements, hidden valley dwellings, villages and hamlets forming much of the area’s character, read on to discover some of our favourite pretty Lake District villages.
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Hawkshead easily tops the list, practically without trying! Sitting between Windermere and Coniston, the centre of this village has been designated a traffic-free zone, so you can get a uniquely olde-worlde enjoyment from it. With narrow ginnels, cobbled courtyards and whitewashed buildings, it’s just what you’d imagine when picturing a pretty village. There’s plenty for old and young to see too, with connections to Wordsworth and the Beatrix Potter Gallery, as well as some lovely independent shops and quirky cafés.
- The Beatrix Potter Gallery is a collection of the beloved author’s artwork in a 17th-century house that was once the law office of her husband, William Heelis.
- Hawkshead Grammar School provides a fascinating insight into school life 200 years ago. The Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, attended as a boy, and you can still see his name carved onto one of the wooden desks!
- If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then pop along to the Chocolate Factory. Both kids and adults have the chance to create delicious treats at this yummy attraction.
Between the stunning Lake District, and glorious Morecambe Bay is Cartmel, famous for its racecourse and fabulous sticky toffee pudding. It’s a real foodie paradise with two Michelin-starred restaurants, a cheese delicatessen, and lovely pubs and cafés. Cottages sit next to a delightful stream whilst grand, ivy-covered houses nestle alongside quirky village shops.
- Cartmel Priory has lived through raids, pestilence, and the dissolution of the monasteries. It still stands proud today, in the centre of the village for all to visit. Enjoy the unique architecture and peaceful atmosphere.
- The famous Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding is an absolute taste sensation. It’s sold in the quaint village shop alongside a host of inspired sweet treats.
- Zip about the village and the local countryside with Lakeland Segway, the longest-running Segway company in the UK! It’s a delightful way to explore Cartmel.
Once home to William Wordsworth and his family, Grasmere still retains the character that inspired much of the poet’s work. You’ll pass slate-built cottages on your way to the nearby lake, which offers a gentle walk. There are independent shops, restaurants, cafés and art galleries to explore, as well as the grand scenery of the surrounding countryside.
- Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread Shop is a tiny but wonderful shop selling the famous sweet treat. The experience is elevated by the friendly staff dressed in traditional Victorian garb.
- Dove Cottage is the former home of Wordsworth and his family. Now a museum, you can learn all about their lives, and walk through the garden that William once described as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”
- Nowhere conjures up fairies and sprites quite like Grasmere! See if you can spot any amongst the reeds with a trip to Faeryland on the lake, where you can hire colourful rowing bows or sit back for afternoon tea.
This petite village in the valley of Eskdale is surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery and is home to a handful of handsome buildings. Glorious walks beckon from the door, including up the fells to Blea Tarn and Burnmoor Tarn. The high hills around here are wild and isolated, where you’ll feel completely free from the pressures of everyday life. There are also two good traditional pubs where you can warm your toes and fill your belly after a day out.
- Eskdale Mill lies over a stone bridge at the edge of the village and is open to the public. Gather around and listen to tales of the milling history of the area, with hands-on exhibitions and knowledgeable guides.
- West Lakes Adventure is the local outdoor adventure company and will help you explore the countryside in the most fun way! Get in touch with them for kayaking, ghyll scrambling, archery, and more.
- The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway - known locally as La’al Ratty - is an absolute joy. The miniature steam trains tootle along to the coast at Ravenglass, making several stops along the way. Use it for a relaxed round trip, or to return to Boot after a linear walk.
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In an area known locally as Back o’ Skiddaw, Caldbeck is a wonderful village with colourful houses, a mining history, and riverside walks. As one of the lesser-visited areas of the Lake District, you can enjoy fantastic scenery without the crowds. The grounds of a lovely church include a gravestone of infamous hunter John Peel, while ducks bob on the village pond, just oozing charm!
- The Howk is a limestone gorge with waterfalls and an old bobbin mill. Just a short walk along the river from the village, it’s a magical place with a true sense of history.
- The Cumbria Way passes through the village, and you can follow it over the rolling Caldbeck hills, along the river, and to the base of mighty Skiddaw. If you’ve still got the energy after that, summit the famous mountain, or else continue on to Keswick where you can refresh beforecatching a bus back to Caldbeck.
- At the Priest’s Mill you’ll find a fully working waterwheel and an award-winning conversion with café and independent shops. Selling jewellery, antiques, and products made from local Herdwick wool, you’ll have a splendid time browsing what’s on offer!
As the Lake District’s only coastal village, Ravenglass really deserves its place on this list. Sitting on the estuary where three rivers meet, it enjoys spectacular sunsets and long sandy stretches of shoreline when the tide is out. Fishing boats can be seen bobbing serenely on the water, while the slow pace of life allows you to really sit back and relax. The village is backed by stunning mountain scenery and the delightful La’al Ratty steam railway will take you on a trip towards those fells in Eskdale.
- For a relaxed day out, hop on a train and explore the delightful location with minimal effort. The La’al Ratty pootles to the heart of mountainous Eskdale, while the West Coast line explores Cumbria’s hidden seascapes, with a track that follows the coast for much of the way.
- Muncaster Castle stands proudly in a raised position just outside the village. Boasting glorious gardens, a unique history (including its own ghosts!), and amazing bird displays, it’s a must-do while you’re in the area.
- The remains of a Roman bath house in Ravenglass are some of the tallest surviving Roman structures in the North. You can still walk through the original arches and imagine some of Hadrian’s soldiers bathing here!
The valley of Borrowdale has several wonderful villages and hamlets, making it hard to pick just one. Seatoller sits at the foot of Honister Pass – one of the Lake District’s famous high road passes – and mostly comprises slate-clad miners' cottages with gorgeous views. Bundled together in this modest village, the buildings feel cosy and welcoming, with a real traditional air. The surrounding countryside, too, is perfect for a walking holiday and makes the location truly idyllic.
- Above the village, on the imposing Honister Pass, is Honister Slate Mine, where you can take part in incredible outdoor adventure activities like Climb the Mine and the Via Ferrata Xtreme, or learn all about the mine’s history on a fascinating tour.
- If you’re an experienced hiker, then you’ll love the walking opportunities around Seatoller. The scenery of Borrowdale is truly spectacular, and mountains such as Dale Head, Great Gable and Glaramara lie in wait.
- Buttermere is a beautiful lake just over Honister Pass. Perfect for a day trip to enjoy a circular lakeside walk, pop into the pub, or pick up a home-made ice cream.
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Does any village in the Lake District have a more memorable backdrop than Elterwater? The impressive Langdale Fells dominate the landscape here, giving the village a picturesque surround. Traditional slate-clad terraced houses line the main street, while larger whitewashed cottages stand off to the side. A small river bubbles through the village towards the nearby lake of the same name, which literally translates from old Norse to 'swan lake'.
- Elterwater is a small lake, so perfect for a gentle stroll. On the eastern end, the River Brathay flows from the lake in a series of gorgeous waterfalls at Skelwith Force. The roaring water adds an exciting element to your hike!
- Cathedral Cave is so named for the impressive main chamber amongst a number of quarries in the area. Not only is the awe-inspiring sight a must-see, but it provides a fascinating insight into the former industrial heritage of this region.
- Blea Tarn is a small but mighty tarn close to Eletrwater, where the pikes of the Langdales reflect in the tranquil water. It’s so picturesque that it’s been used in well known TV shows and films like The Witcher and Snow White and the Huntsman.
Courtesy of Cumbria Tourism
This historic village has medieval origins and is made up mostly of wonderful old farm buildings and cottages. Almost all of the buildings offer some titbit of historical interest, while the small green in the centre adds to the tranquillity of this enchanting place. Overlooking the fields and forests of the Lowther Estate, this is a sylvan dream for anyone who seeks true peace and calm.
- Askham Hall boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant - Allium - that serves incredible seasonal tasting menus with optional wine pairings.
- The impressive shell of Lowther Castle boasts glorious grounds that include multiple garden features, summerhouses, river views, an incredible children’s playground, and cycle tracks.
- Between Askham and Ullswater is the impressive Cockpit stone circle. On a hillside scattered with Bronze Age remains, the Cockpit stands out for its clarity and size.
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Have you fallen in love with the breathtaking beauty of the prettiest villages in the Lake District? Whether you've been inspired to follow in the footsteps of William Wordsworth in Grasmere or you're drawn to the cobbled courtyards of Hawkshead, we hope you'll find the perfect holiday cottage to complete your Lake District escape. To inspire your Lake District adventures further you may also enjoy 9 inspiring Lake District Views and 7 scenic drives in the Lake District.
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