Things to Do in Cumbria

Creative Tourist

Think of Cumbria and what springs to mind? A rural retreat complete with hearty hikes and snug pubs? If these are the images scudding across your mind’s eye, you’d not be wrong. Yet there are more things to do in Cumbria than its outdoor image might suggest. Tourism actually began here back in the 1700s, when clergyman Thomas West published a Guide to the Lakes. It banished forever the idea that Cumbria was wild and inhospitable. It’s thanks to West that when we think of the Lake District, we think of a chocolate-box landscape. Yet the ideal of the ‘picturesque’ is both a blessing and a curse: good for tourism, yet occasionally overshadowing the contemporary art that is made, performed and shown here year-round.

Cumbria is full of artists, from those taking part in the C-Art fest to those exhibiting at Blackwell and Abbot Hall; for them, the landscape’s ability to turn in a moment from benign beauty to lowering skies continues to inspire. It is this that has piqued our interest – and will, we hope, keep yours.

Discover our top picks

Cinema Until 26 June 2021, from £50.88

Picnic Cinema: Withnail & I at Sleddale Hall

Picnic Cinema is back this September with a series of screenings of Withnail & I at Sleddale Hall aka Crow Crag — the cottage from the cult classic film.

Winter Droving Penrith
Families 28–30 October 2021, FREE

The Winter Droving in Penrith

An incredible wonderland of outdoor arts, masquerade and pint carrying competitions in Penrith.

Literature 15–17 October 2021, from £14.00

Lakes International Comic Art Festival

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is back in the Cumbrian town of Kendal, bigger and better than ever, and with plenty of storytelling treats in both words and pictures.

Festivals 29 July–1 August 2021, from £22.00

Kendal Calling Festival 2021

Featuring over 200 artists and performers, immersive arts experiences and kids activities, Kendal Calling is a great, family-friendly festival set in the stunning Lake District.

Kendal Torchlight Carnival
Activity 24–26 September 2021, FREE

Kendal Torchlight Carnival

A great event for families with children. A parade of hand-made torches circulates the whole of Kendal, with local schools, businesses, and organisations competing to put on the best show.

Kendal Mountain Festival
Cinema 18–21 November 2021, FREE

Kendal Mountain Festival

The four-day Kendal Mountain Festival is always packed with exciting activities for everyone from children to pensioners. Happening virtually in 2021, this year’s event is no less of an outdoors extravaganza.

Festivals 25 July 2021 1:00 pm, FREE

Potfest in the Park

Elaborate vases, intricate centrepieces, and ceramics – Potfest in the Park celebrates the creative possibilities of clay.

David Nash: Return to the Forest at Grizedale Forest
Exhibitions Until 12 December 2021, FREE

David Nash: Return to the Forest at Grizedale Sculpture in Cumbria

Return to the Forest captures a seminal moment in the development of one of Britain’s most important contemporary sculptors.

Cumbria District Guides

Allan Bank, Grasmere, image courtesy of Visit Cumbria

South Lakes, Cumbria

No trip to Cumbria is complete without a visit to its best-loved places, Coniston and…

Kendal and Sedbergh, Cumbria

The South Lakes are where it’s at for most visitors, and usually has the tailbacks…

Eden Valley, Cumbria

Sustainability is a theme that resonates throughout the Eden Valley, which stretches from Sedbergh to…

Cockermouth and West Cumbria

Once known for its industry, West Cumbria has an independent, industrial streak that sets it…

Carlisle and Keswick, Cumbria

Carlisle is a city framed by its famous castle and still showing the battle scars…