Things to do in Penrith
Rheged, Penrith by morebyless

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.

Discover our top picks

Winter Droving Penrith
Families 28–30 October 2021, FREE

The Winter Droving in Penrith

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

Literature 15–17 October 2021, from £14.00

Lakes International Comic Art Festival

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is back in the Cumbrian town of Kendal, bigger and better than ever, and with plenty of storytelling treats in both words and pictures.

Activity 1 October 2021 9:30 am, from £75

Needle Felting Herdwicks with Quirky Workshops

Join Quirky Workshops for a full day of felting, after which you’ll be able to take your new adorable Herdwick doorstop home.

Activity 5 September 2021 10:00 am, from £75

Mosaics at Cowshed Creative

Cowshed Creative offers a lively calendar of workshops based in a two-storey Lakeland barn conversion nestled in the peaceful Kentmere Valley.

Kendal Torchlight Carnival
Activity 24–26 September 2021, FREE

Kendal Torchlight Carnival

A great event for families with children. A parade of hand-made torches circulates the whole of Kendal, with local schools, businesses, and organisations competing to put on the best show.

Kendal Mountain Festival
Cinema 18–21 November 2021, FREE

Kendal Mountain Festival

The four-day Kendal Mountain Festival is always packed with exciting activities for everyone from children to pensioners. Happening virtually in 2021, this year’s event is no less of an outdoors extravaganza.

David Nash, Running Table, Grizedale, 2021
Exhibitions Until 12 December 2021, FREE

David Nash: Return to the Forest at Grizedale Sculpture in Cumbria

Return to the Forest captures a seminal moment in the development of one of Britain’s most important contemporary sculptors.

Mark Woods: Absorption at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal
Exhibitions Until 18 September 2021, FREE

Mark Woods: Absorption at Cross Lane Projects in Kendal

Cross Lane Projects in Kendal, Cumbria, is excited to announce it will reopen this summer with an exhibition by Mark Woods.

Cumbria District Guides

Allan Bank, Grasmere, image courtesy of Visit Cumbria

South Lakes, Cumbria

No trip to Cumbria is complete without a visit to the South Lakes, Coniston and Grizedale among them. Here’s our guide.

Kendal and Sedbergh, Cumbria

Packed with fantastic places to visit and a wide range of high-quality restaurants, bars and pubs, there’s loads to do in Kendal and Sedbergh.

Eden Valley, Cumbria

Our guide to the best things to do in the beautiful Eden Valley in Cumbria, which stretches from Sedbergh to Penrith.

Cockermouth and West Cumbria

Our guide to West Cumbria, with its independent, industrial streak, and Wordsworth’s birthplace, Cockermouth.

Carlisle and Keswick, Cumbria

Our guide to things to do in Carlisle, a city framed by its famous castle, and the ‘honeypot’ town of Keswick in Cumbria.

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