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, and galleries for them to exhibit in. One of our favourite spaces for contemporary work is Cross Lane Projects, which hosts exhibitions from spring through to autumn, while working alongside the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award and Kendal Mountain Festival — a highlight of the district’s cultural calendar, and one that boasts an adjacent Book Festival).

Another key hosting venue for that Festival is Brewery Arts, which serves as a live music venue, a gallery space, a cinema, creative learning hub, and restaurant and bar. It’s a lot for one venue to shoulder, but it does so incredibly well. No less ambitious, Grizedale Arts brings together artists and thinkers at its site at Lawson Park Farm and develops projects, skills and ideas that respond to the complexities of the Lake District. The historic Blackwell, meanwhile, embodies the exact opposite of rarefied stately-home-stuffiness, showcasing an eclectic range of contemporary artists, designers and makers.

As you’d expect, much of the art you’ll find here responds to the landscape in which it sits. Kendal’s Grade I listed Abbot Hall is a beauty, and currently hosting an exhibition by internationally renowned British landscape artist Julie Brook. While over at Ambleside’s Armitt Museum, you can gain fascinating insights into the life and artistic work of Beatrix Potter, a name synonymous with the Lake District.

Another name synonymous with the Lakes is Wordsworth, and nestled in the beautiful historic hamlet in Grasmere, overlooking the lake, you’ll find his home at Dove Cottage AKA Wordsworth Grasmere. It serves as a reminder of what a gem this place is, and for how long it has acted as a source of inspiration for local artists and visitors alike.

What's on in Cumbria

Where to go in Cumbria

Cumbria
Theatre
The Coro

Nestled in the heart of Ulverston, a rural market town on the fringes of the Lake District, stands The Coro —an esteemed historic hub for arts, culture, and entertainment

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Shop
Sam Read Bookseller

Award-winning small bookshop in the Lake District. Est. by Sam Read in 1887. Run by Will Smith and Polly Atkin.

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Restaurant
1863 Restaurant

For over 150 years, 1863 has been integral to the village of Ullswater. Now, reimagined for the 21st century as a glamorous Michelin location.

Cumbria
Gallery
Red Barn Gallery

Red Barn Gallery is paramount in the Art World of the North West. Internationally renown works are put aside new artists, and the displays never ‘stand still’.

Cumbria
Restaurant
La Casita

La Casita serves the most authentic tapas in Penrith – the only thing not-so-Spanish about La Casita is their high quality fresh Cumbrian ingredients.

Cumbria
Restaurant
Grants of CastleGate

This modern bistro and bar, open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday, serves up classic British pub fare reimagined to its most indulgent.

Cumbria
Museum
Dent Village Heritage Centre & Museum

Dent Village Heritage Centre & Museum displays important, yet lesser known, histories. The centre itself has been built entirely through local labour, with the displays covering histories from vampires to slavery.

Cumbria
Museum
The Puzzling Place

Interactive optical illusion, for each visitor to immerse themselves in. This specialty museum in Keswick will baffle, surprise and amuse.

Cumbria Visitor Guides

Stately Homes in the North

The North of England is blessed with countless stunning stately homes, many dating back decades and even centuries. Here are some of the very best.

Literary places in Cumbria
Literary places in Cumbria

It was good enough for Wordsworth and Wainwright... From Kendal in the south to Carlisle in the north, we sniff out the best bookish shenanigans in Cumbria.

Walks in Penrith
Walks in Penrith

A selection of some of most rewarding and beautiful walks in Penrith, full of chances to catch open air and natural attraction.

Walks in Kendal

A round-up of the best walks in Kendal, including the town centre, official tours and the surrounding area by Creative Tourist.

Museums in Cumbria

Cumbria is studded with fantastic museums - read our picks of the best here.

Art Galleries in Cumbria

Ranging from impressive, nationally-significant collections in Grade listed buildings, to historic houses that now have a particular focus on local, contemporary artists, here's our guide to Cumbria's collection of art galleries.

Restaurants in Cumbria

Cumbria is far from short of good places to eat – here’s our guide to restaurants to put on your map of the area.

Music Venues in Cumbria

When the sun goes down and you've had your fair share of Cumbria's great outdoors, head to the area's music venues to catch folk and jazz sessions, as well as regular performances by touring musicians.

Theatres in Cumbria
Theatres in Cumbria

For striking performances in the truly beautiful setting of the Lake District - check out our pick of theatres in Cumbria.

Pillock at Contact
Spotlight on

Fringe Theatre in Manchester and the North

Check out our top picks of shows previewing in the North West before heading to Edinburgh Fringe Festival later in the summer.

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