When it comes to classic small villages in England, the Lake District has some of the loveliest you could lay eyes on. Indeed, while many Brits wax lyrical about rural France or Italy, it’s a shame we sometimes overlook such delightful places much closer to home. Besides, if you visit Grasmere or Cartmel, you won’t need a phrasebook. Nor will you get a cracking pint of real ale or the ultimate sticky toffee pudding in the foothills of the Dordogne Valley.
Here are six of the prettiest villages to visit in Cumbria on your next trip to the Lake District:
A pretty river is at the heart of this quirky little place, which is about as postcard cute as Lake District villages get. Once a site of water mills and the textile industry in the Industrial Revolution days, it’s now a peaceful place of lovely old houses, traditional pubs and some remarkable history.
Must visit: St Kentigern’s Church is fascinating site that dates back to the 12th Century.
Going from obscure yet beautiful village to sensational foodie destination in the past decade, Cartmel is worth a visit just to indulge in a serving of the village’s namesake Sticky Toffee Pudding. It’s wonderfully nostalgic too, with stony streets, a unique gatehouse and the sort of pretty, pint-sized cottages where any visitor over six foot might want to wear a crash helmet. Right on the edge of the Lake District, it’s well worth the drive- although with celebrity fans including Chris Evans, it can get busy in high season.
Must visit: Be sure to sample the food and drink of one Cartmel’s classic old pubs, or indeed its newer restaurants.
With babbling streams, classic Lake District houses and a surprising past, Coniston is another small place with a big story to tell. Home to the award-winning Ruskin Museum and a fair selection of local shops and pubs, there is plenty to occupy you for a day out, too. If the weather is fine, there are many outdoor activities at nearby Coniston Water (above) too, from kayaking to cycle trails.
Must visit: Nearby Brantwood is a real gem for art and history lovers, just on the opposite side of Coniston Water.
For so many visitors in the Lake District, Grasmere is the region’s quintessential village. A certain William Wordsworth was among the first to be captivated by the romance of the place, describing it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” A village it might be, but there is a heck of a lot going on for the visitor. From time honoured traditions and festivals, to a whole host of delightful shops, it has plenty of culture and yet is also the perfect gateway to some of the Lake District’s best loved walks and wild places.
Must visit: Wordsworth’s former home Dove Cottage is beautifully preserved. Those with a sweet tooth or a love of art should also leave plenty of time for the shops.
Packed with delightfully wonky houses, quaint independent shops and eateries, Hawkshead is a village to the east of Windermere with bags of character. Beatrix Potter was just one famous figure who fell for the charms of the village. It’s a great place to stop for a cream tea or lunch, before or after a walk. The local church is also worth visiting for its beautiful stained glass (above). For the most part the village is also completely car free, making it peaceful even in high summer (although there’s a decent sized car park easily found on the edge of the village).
Must visit: If you like fly fishing, Esthwaite Water is the most productive of all the lakes for a great day’s sport.
There are dinner parties with a bigger head count than this tiny village. Yet perhaps this is exactly why it is so charming? Peaceful is hardly the word. It nestles in the Kentmere Valley, East of Windermere. An excellent place for those who like life in the slow, quiet lane, it’s also a good location to get stuck into some wonderful wilderness walks. The so-called Kentmere Horseshoe is a series of fells not too far away, but steep enough to challenge, while Badger Rock is a popular place for climbers to practise their skills.
Must visit: Kentmere Hall is an interesting site for its fortified defences, designed to keep 13th century raiders from Scotland at bay. The tower house’s walls are a whopping 5 feet thick.
Relax at Rothay Garden, Grasmere, for the best in Lake District Food, Spa Facilities & Hospitality
With award-winning food, elegant rooms and a truly beautiful location, Rothay Garden is among the best hotels in the Lake District. Join us for the perfect balance of relaxation and adventure, with our excellent Riverside Spa, fabulous local walks and a superb choice of rooms and suites.