The South Lakes are where it’s at for most visitors, and usually has the tailbacks to prove it. But make time for Kendal, a pretty market town that happens to be a hub of artistic activity. Here, Abbot Hall Art Gallery illustrates just how much the local landscape has influenced generations of artists, with its fine display of 18th and 19th century landscapes, works by the likes of Turner and Constable, and a strong 20th-century collection. The nearby Brewery Arts Centre also hosts everything from cinema and dance to comedy and art, while Kendal Mountain Festival (Nov) majors in mountain-themed literature, cinema, art and talks of the heroic man vs. nature variety.
Head East across the M6 to the sleepy town of Sedbergh: nestled within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it’s is as stunning as its Lakeland neighbours, but far quieter. In 2003, Sedbergh became England’s ‘Book Town’, with bookshops and an annual festival. It is also home to Farfield Mill, a series of studios and a gallery that show some of the best historic and contemporary textiles in the North West (it’s a good place to stop off for a bite to eat, too).