Things to do in Penrith and the Surrounding Area

Katie Hale

Handsome, red-brick Penrith may appear to have more in common with the stout market towns of the Yorkshire Dales. With plenty of cosy pubs, charming tea shops and a farmers’ market on a Tuesday, Penrith owes much of its heritage to its location. Situated on a traditional north-south route, Penrith occupies an important point on England’s ‘Route 66’.

With the picturesque Lake District to the west and the sweeping ridge of the Pennines to the east, Penrith is the main gateway for exploring the lush countryside and traditional towns of the striking Eden Valley. Grounded and honest, Penrith and its beautiful surrounding river valley present a less touristy alternative to the honeypots of Coniston and Windermere.

Situated on the A66, Penrith has been an important stopping-off point since the Neolithic period. Since then, it has been called home by Roman troops, William Wordsworth, and even Richard III. Fans of Withnail and I may enjoy the pilgrimage to Sleddale Hall, a farmhouse on the north side of Wet Sleddale, which was featured as ‘Crow Crag’, Uncle Monty’s country cottage in the bibulous cult film.

But this area has a darker history, too. Penrith and its surroundings have historically belonged to both Scotland and England (the last battle on English soil was fought at Clifton Moor in 1745, just a few miles south of Penrith), and, like the beacon which broods on top of the hill overlooking the town, the castles and pele towers dotting the landscapes are stark reminders of the bloody history of the Anglo-Scottish border.

Now, this loaded, rugged and dramatic landscape holds tightly to its heritage and stories through its cultural spaces and iconic festivals. Just two miles west of Penrith, The Rheged Centre houses a cinema, gallery spaces and artisan shops full of local produce. The centre takes its name from the Celtic kingdom of Rheged, of which the Eden Valley was once the centre. And nearby is the sprawling country estate of Lowther, where the great, family-friendly festival Kendal Calling takes place in the summer. Additionally, Winter Droving, created by Eden Arts, is an incredible Cumbrian celebration; steeped in tradition, the event marks the centuries-old festival of Samhain – the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. A fabulous outdoor arts extravaganza.

Our top picks

Rheged Centre

Rheged Centre, Rheged Centre, Redhills, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0DQ - Visit now

A visitor centre off the A66, containing gallery spaces, cinema screen, artisan shopping and local produce, as well as cafes and children’s play areas.


Kendal Calling Festival 2023

Kendal Calling at Lowther Castle and Gardens, Cumbria, 27–30 July 2023, from £178.75 - Book now

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 Calling

Brougham Castle

Brougham Castle, Moor Lane, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2AA - Visit now

Two miles from Penrith, Brougham Castle sits on the River Eamont in the Eden Valley, a proud reminder of strength in a turbulent bygone age.

Brougham Castle
Creative Tourist

Lacy’s Caves in Penrith

Lacy’s Caves in Penrith, Little Salkeld, Penrith, CA10 1NW - Visit now

Lacy’s Caves is a fascinating and beautiful place that just so happens to be made for wild swimmers. The river Eden meanders invitingly past these curious caves and the Victorian gypsum mines.

Visit Cumbria

Penrith Castle

Penrith Castle, Castle Terrace, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 7EA - Visit now

Ruins of a 14th century castle, former home of Richard III. Situated in Penrith’s Castle Park, and managed by English Heritage.

Penrith Castle
Creative Tourist

J&J Graham

J&J Graham, 6-7 Market Square, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 7BS - Visit now

Right in the heart of the town centre, J&J Graham is a Penrith icon. The current deli and bakery dates back to 1880, but the business itself has been going since 1793. It’s no wonder that it gets so much right.

J&J Graham of Penrith

Xavier’s Café & Wine Bar

Xavier’s Café & Wine Bar, 15 victoria Road, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 8HN - Visit now

Xavier’s is Penrith’s answer to Paris’ wine-infused café culture. Set back from the street on the edge of the town centre, the outside tables are a nod towards those wide French pavements and those balmy Parisian summer evenings.

Xavier's Cafe and Wine

Where to go in Cumbria

Gilpin Lake House

Gilpin Lake House is a stunning Lake District getaway, hosting just 16 guests on 100 acres of private grounds, with its own lake.

The Armitt Museum
The Armitt Museum

Full of interesting and unusual objects, The Armitt is a museum that shares the history and heritage of Ambleside and its people.

Wordsworth Grasmere

From book launches to writing groups to poetry nights, there’s always something going on at Wordsworth Grasmere.

Tourist Attraction
Brockhole on Windermere

Attempt to hit a clay flying at 65mph or navigate the obstacles along a wood chip track on a Krazy Kart, all within the grounds of a 19th century Arts and Crafts style house in Cumbria

Hadrian’s Wall

No other World Heritage Site in Europe provides the public with as much access to so many archaeological ruins as Hadrian’s Wall.

Holker Hall & Gardens
Event venue
Holker Hall & Gardens

One of Cumbria’s finest historical sites, Holker Hall and Garden offers a gloriously asymmetrical pile of rambling galleries and green spaces.

Morecambe Bay

A significant natural landmark along the west coast, Morecambe Bay is home to an open-water swimming group who have over 2000 members.

Tourist Attraction
Hell Gill

There’s plenty of wild swimming to be done at Hell Gill, but there’s more to explore in this 500m long slot canyon.


Wastwater is the deepest lake in England at 258 feet and one of the most dramatic spots in the country to swim.

Tourist Attraction

Perhaps no water in England is more storied than Windermere, where swimmers who enjoy a challenge have naturally flocked here for centuries.

Tourist Attraction
Lacy’s Caves in Penrith

Lacy’s Caves are fascinating structures in an area marked with the indelible pick-axe of history, and they just so happen to be in a spot made for wild swimmers.

Cumbria Visitor Guides

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.

Literary places in Cumbria
Literary places in Cumbria

If it was good enough for Wordsworth and Wainwright, then Cumbria surely has much to offer the literature lover who strayed off the M6. From Kendal in the south to Carlisle in the north, we sniff out the best bookish shenanigans.

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.

Tasting Menus in The North

Looking for the finest luxury multi-course restaurants in Manchester? Look no further. We've picked out the very best tasting menus in the city - just make sure you have deep pockets.

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