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

Aerial Festival
Festivals Until 2 October 2020, FREE

Aerial Festival (online)

Cumbria’s Aerial Festival has commissioned musicians, writers and filmmakers to create new work, for online release this September.

Music Until 3 October 2020, FREE

Aerial presents: Hayden Thorpe (online)

Wild Beasts frontman Hayden Thorpe has been commissioned by Aerial Festival to create a collection of new songs inspired by the South Lakes.

Literature Until 3 October 2020, FREE

Aerial presents: Caught by the River (online)

Join Stuart Maconie, Helen Mort, Jack Cooper, and Roy Wilkinson for a unique collission of sounds and words.

Theatre Until 3 October 2020, FREE

Aerial presents: Lone Taxidermist (online)

Lone Taxidermist presents ‘Marra’: a deep interrogation into the dialect and ceremonies of West Cumbria, endangered voices and esoteric rituals from auctioneers to gurners.

Literature Until 3 October 2020, FREE

Aerial presents: 10 Years of Corbel Stone Press (online)

Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton celebrate 10 years of their work at Corbel Stone Press – one of the foremost small presses in the UK dedicated to landscape and the natural world.

Boundary Songs: Notes from the Edge of the Lake District National Park at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal
Exhibitions 10–23 October 2020, FREE

Boundary Songs: Notes from the Edge of the Lake District National Park at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal

Cross Lane Projects in Kendal presents a quietly deep meditation on the politics and social-environmental fabric of the Lake District National Park.

Swallows and Amazons For Ever! at Windermere Jetty Museum
Exhibitions Until 18 April 2021,

Swallows and Amazons For Ever! at Windermere Jetty Museum

Celebrate the spirit of adventure, learn more about the Cumbrian landscape and uncover the inspiration behind Arthur Ransome’s classic tale.

Olivia Bax: Off Grid at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal, Cumbria
Exhibitions 31 October–12 December 2020, FREE

Olivia Bax: Off Grid at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal, Cumbria

Cross Lane Projects presents ‘Off Grid’ – a solo exhibition of new work by Olivia Bax, winner of the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award 2019/20.

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…

Penrith, Cumbria

Located in the Lake District’s Eden Valley, the market town of Penrith is a jumping-off…

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…