Unmissable cultural attractions in the Lake District
From William Wordsworth’s chocolate-box cottage to a cabinet of curiosities at the Ruskin Museum, there are lots of intriguing museums, galleries and historic houses to explore in this area of outstanding natural beauty.
Known for its glacial lakes, dramatic mountain landscapes and picturesque market towns, the Lake District is a paradise right here in the UK.
Home to the highest mountain in England and gorgeous native woodlands, there is huge potential here for walks and hikes, plus an array of museums, galleries and historic homes for the perfect cultural pit-stop.
Many an artist has been inspired by the Lake District’s spectacular views, from the Romantic painter JMW Turner to the modern sculptor Josefina de Vasconcellos, but the region is particularly known for the abundance of literary legends who lived, worked and created their masterworks here, such as John Ruskin and William Wordsworth.
The Lake District also inspired some of the most famous tales by beloved English author and illustrator Beatrix Potter, who played a major role in maintaining and encouraging conservation of the area.
So, get back to nature and get visiting museums while you’re there – here are just a few stunning Lake District locations to start you off.
Don’t forget, all these places offer fantastic benefits with a National Art Pass – check out our full listings of museums and galleries for more inspiration.
This brilliant contemporary art gallery is close to landmarks such as Carlisle Cathedral and Hadrian’s Wall. The Roman Frontier Gallery is dedicated to exploring the western end of Hadrian’s Wall nearby, and there is a significant collection of Pre-Raphaelite art to enjoy. There is plenty of work by local Cumbrian artists plus watercolours, drawings, paintings and prints on display. The building itself is an architectural gem, boasting elegant features such as a Jacobean staircase and tiled walls, all surrounded by idyllic herb and flower gardens.
Dove Cottage is the former home of Romantic poet William Wordsworth and was once described as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’ by Wordsworth himself. The village of Grasmere has its own dramatic lake and rugged landscape, plus you can follow in the footsteps of Wordsworth who lived here during his most memorable years as a writer. Inside the charming cottage itself you can enjoy original features such as stone floors and glowing coal fires, plus explore an array of Wordsworth’s personal belongings and a spectacular collection of his manuscripts.
This museum is dedicated to exploring both the life and work of writer, philosopher and art critic John Ruskin, and the history of Coniston village. A whole hoard of curiosity cabinets are on display here, filled with intriguing objects, works of art and artefacts that shed light on local heritage and Ruskin’s connection to the Lake District. Coniston is also home to its own lake, Coniston Water, and an enormous fell, The Old Man of Coniston, which provides a dramatic backdrop to the picturesque village.
John Ruskin loved the Lake District so much he eventually bought this spectacular lakeside home in 1871 and spent the last years of his life here. ‘Brant’ is an old Norse word for ‘steep’, and the house embodies this through its multi-levelled gardens and towering appearance over Coniston Water. The views from this house are enough to warrant a visit alone, but there is also a trove of art and memorabilia on display inside, from paintings and furniture to significant personal possessions.
The town of Bowness-on-Windermere is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Lake District, largely due to its characterful cottages and enviable lakeshore scenery. It’s also the home of this unique house from the Arts and Crafts period, with period character, manicured gardens and a range of crafted objects on display such as Ruskin pottery and furniture by the historic company Morris & Co. Founded by Pre-Raphaelite artist William Morris, the company thrived during the Arts and Crafts period of the 1880s and 90s and their designs are still available in luxury stores such as Liberty of London.
The more you see, the more we do.
The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.