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

Elisabeth Frink - Walking Madonna- © Frink Estate and Archive executors. Courtesy of The Ingram Collection, Image © JP Bland 2016. Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Fragility and Power, Kendal, Cumbria
Exhibitions 22 June–29 September 2018, FREE

Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power at Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Featuring a number of pieces which have never been seen before in public, ‘Elisabeth Frink: Fragility and Power’ at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal delves into the life and work of one of the most widely-loved, exciting and individual sculptors of the 20th century.

Theatre 24 May–27 October 2018, from £12.50

Rails at Theatre by the Lake

Shortlisted for the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, Rails is a play about loneliness, dreaming and trying to hope in a town that doesn’t seem to want you to.

Paines Plough Roundabout
Theatre 13–15 September 2018, from £10.50

Roundabout at Brewery Arts Centre

A unique, intimate and magical pop-up theatre, Roundabout promises top-class writing and an unforgettable theatrical experience.

Winter Droving Penrith
Families 27 October 2018, FREE

The Winter Droving in Penrith

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

Female Trouble at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal, Cumbria
Exhibitions 28 June–24 August 2018, FREE

Female Trouble at Cross Lane Projects

Featuring 21 prints by Dame Paula Rego and 20 new paintings by Rebecca Scott, ‘Female Trouble’ is the inaugural exhibition at Cross Lane Projects, a new contemporary gallery and artist studio housed in a former Kendal Mint Cake factory in Cumbria. 

Edge by Frances Winder at Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, Cumbria
Exhibitions 27 July–15 September 2018, FREE

Edge by Frances Winder at Brewery Arts Centre

Edge is a new contemporary art exhibition by Frances Winder at Brewery Arts Centre in Cumbria which will include some large abstract beach pieces.

Rodin: rethinking the fragment at Abbot Hall
Exhibitions 10 August–27 October 2018, FREE

Rodin: rethinking the fragment at Abbot Hall

The Thinker – one of Auguste Rodin’s most famous works – will go on show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Cumbria this summer as part of a wider exhibition exploring the great artist’s life and work.

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…