A UNESCO World Heritage Site and England’s biggest national park, the Lake District is home to some of the country’s most important natural treasures. And it’s also where over 40,000 people call home, living in its towns and villages.
Located in the county of Cumbria, the region covers an area of some 912 square miles, within which there are four main towns and several villages, each with its own unique charm, history and character.
So, what are the best towns to visit in Lake District National Park? What villages shouldn’t be missed? From Ambleside to Windermere, we’re exploring the top Lake District towns and villages.
It may be small, but Ambleside holds its own as one of the most famous towns in the Lake District. This pretty market town sits just north of Lake Windermere, with a ferry terminal offering access to other local towns. Amongst its many attractions, Ambleside is home to one of the national park’s most photographed attractions, Bridge House. This unusual building is a National Trust treasure and a museum.
Sandwiched between the stunning Derwent Water lake and the iconic mountain of Skiddaw, it’s easy to see why Keswick is often cited as the national park’s adventure capital. Once a significant lead mining source, Keswick has been a market town since attaining royal charter status in the 13th century and a popular tourist destination since the 18th century. Today, it is considered one of the best towns to visit in Lake District boundaries. Amongst its many draws is the town’s connection to renowned lake poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, both of whom lived there.
When the parish church St Martin’s was built in the 15th century, the town of Bowness was born on the eastern shore of England’s largest lake, Windermere. However, it was when the railway reached it in 1847 that it became a tourist hotspot.
Whilst Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere are technically two separate Lake District towns, the two have melded together over the years to form a vibrant hub. Most sources mention them in the same breath and, while they each have their own town centres, they are often treated as one settlement.
The Best Villages in Lake District National Park
We’ve explored the four best towns to visit in Lake District National Park, but there’s no overlooking its many charming villages.
Not only is Grasmere the owner of its very own lake, but it’s also the site of the grave of famed poet William Wordsworth.
Step back to the time of Beatrix Potter in the small jumble of homes, shops and squares that make up Hawkshead. With cars prohibited within its boundaries, this tiny village is a real breath of fresh air.
Fans of William Wordsworth come to the small village of Rydal to visit his family home, Rydal Mount, which is open to the public along with its gardens.
Known for its mint cakes, Kendal boasts the ruins of a 13th century castle and seat of the family of Katherine Parr, sixth wife of King Henry VIII.
Lake District Towns and Villages
From Ambleside to Windermere, we’ve discovered the unique characteristics of the most famous towns in the Lake District. Alongside the best villages in Lake District National Park, they provide the ideal launchpad for exploring the area’s scenic beauty, a link to the past and plenty of things to see and do.