Fun things to do in Cumbria

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Cumbria

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    Lakeland Wildlife Oasis

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    A great place for families where you can see some of the world's rarest creatures.There's an indoor tropical hall and butterfly house with hands on activities, including handling such things as snakes and chameleons, as well as watching the leaf-cutter ants at work (our favourite!) . Birds and butterflies and even bats, are free to fly around.

    Outside you can walk around an enclosed area, home to a variety of animals including the endeering meerkat.

    There's a picnic area and also a cafe and gift shop.

    Open every day except 25th and 26th December.
    Ample parking.

    Adults: £6
    Children: £4

    Chameleons Chameleon Brave boy..... Even braver.... So sweet.....
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    South Lakes Wild Animal Park

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    One of Cumbria's premier attractions and also one of Europe's top conservation parks.
    You don't feel like the animals are caged, here. They have enormous pens with a huge outdoor area.
    You can wander amongst kangaroos, emus and lemurs but don't attempt to picnic with them as they'll have your food.
    Rhinos, giraffes and baboons mingle happily together. You can hand feed the lemurs at feeding time and also watch the amazing feats of the Amur and Sumatran tigers as they leap up 6 metre poles to "catch" their food.

    Conservation talks and feeding times are a daily feature throughout the main tourist season as the plights of various animals are explained.
    It's a wonderful family day out and I certainly learnt a lot from the talks.

    There's a playground, train rides, cafe, picnic areas and gift shop.

    It is quite pricey, admission wise but I feel it's worth it. It's an unforgettable experience.

    Cheeky lemur Majestic tiger Fishy breath What's your name....?? Endangered spectacle bears
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    Heron Corn Mill and Paper Museum

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    Although just off the busy A6, the mill is situated in a very peaceful, pretty landscape. beside the river Bela close to the Lancashire border.
    It is a working water-driven corn mill housed in a restored 18th c. building.The machinery is driven by a 14feet diameter high breast shot waterwheel (or so it says!) The driving water is taken from water above a waterfall , nearby. Here, in a deep cleft in the bank, is also a fish ladder for the spawning salmon swimming upstream.
    There is an exhibition inside showing 900 years of milling.

    In another building there is the Museum of Papermaking (the present day paper factory is just across the river) depicting the history of papermaking. It was founded in 1988 to commemorate 500 years of papermaking in England. If you are lucky you can watch demonstrations of handmaking paper.
    We found the cornmill the more interesting, the paper museum being more photos and drawings. The man who showed us round the mill was a real enthusiast and had helped in the campaign to restore and re-open it.
    You can walk across a footbridge here and look for fish, yes, there were some. The waterfall was quite impressive (I'm a sucker for them) and wild flowers were growing everywhere.
    There is car parking and the odd picnic table. From here you can also follow the footpath over the hill and down to Dallam Park where you should see deer grazing.

    I seem to remember admission to the mill was fairly cheap.

    Heron Corn Mill The power behind the waterwheel Heron millstones Quieter side of the river Bela Today's paper mill and driving force
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    Lanercost Priory

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    Enroute to Northumberland we decided to take a look at Lanercost Priory. Not far from Hadrian's Wall, it's situated in north Cumbria, near Brampton.

    It was founded in 1166 by Henry II and completed in 1220. Being as close to Hadrian's Wall as it was, the priory suffered from frequent raids. By 1538 it had ceased being a monastery and was dissolved by Henry VIII after the dissolution. Some of the priory was turned into a private residential farm. The rest slowly crumbled away until 1740 when it was decided to restore the nave and use it as the parish church. It is still used today and is open to the public, free of charge

    The ruins of the priory, behind the church, are not free and are owned by English Heritage. A fee must be paid to view these, although we discovered that the scant remains were easily viewed, at no cost, by walking round the grave yard where you can see the remains quite easily. Apparently, there is an audio tour available from the gift shop if you are really into these sort of things.

    We found the church beautifully peaceful and the wooden ceiling was most impressive.

    The old Gatehouse at Lanercost Priory What is now the parish church Parish church Some of the ruins at Lanercost Lanercost Priory and church
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    Grange-over-Sands

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    Having lived in Grange all my teenage years, I couldn't wait to escape from it's boringness. Now, some 35 years later, I see it as a pleasant, old fashioned town with some excellent, traditional shops.

    Don't come to Grange looking for the high life, there is none. It only has one pub, although the hotels all have public bars. There are, however, enough cafes and restaurants to go round, all offering something a little different. No need to go hungry here!!

    Situated in Morecambe Bay,Grange has a long pedestrian promenade where owing to it's mild climate, palm trees thrive.It's where most visitors. take a leisurely stroll You may not get to see the sea, this is an estuary with mud flats and sinking sand and nowadays, the tide only reaches the promenade on exceptionally high tides. It is possible to walk across the sands, but only with a proper guide as the sands and fast incoming tide are treacherous. Organised walks take place in the summer which are very popular.

    I suppose Grange's most popular "things to do" is feeding the variety of wild fowl in the Ornamental Gardens. (I told you not to expect too much excitement!!) Very popular in school holidays. Watch out for the greedy seagulls!!

    At the present time, Grange's indoor swimming pool is closed; lack of funding. It's a pity as there really isn't much else to do.

    Just a pleasant place to wander, especially if you like "nice quality" shops.

    This is a popular place with the older folks.

    Grange Edwardian bandstand Gardens, Grange A very high tide at Grange View across Morecambe Bay from Grange Ornamental Gardens
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    Cumbrian Coastal Way

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    A long distance coastal path of 150 miles, starting at Sandside, near Milntorpe and ending near Getna, north of Carlisle. The route takes you around the many estuaries of Morecambe Bay and then heads over towards Barrow and up the Cumbrian Coast.

    This walk can be made in different stages, enabling you to stop off and explore some of Cumbria's lesser known towns and villages. Although much of this walk is off the beaten track, it parallels the Cumbrian Coastal and the Furness train line in many places.

    The estuaries provide excellent feeding grounds for many varieties of birds and are an ornithologists paradise. Further west and north are glorious sand dunes, open expanses of sandy beaches and (on a clear day) views to the Isle of Man, Ireland, the Solway Firth and the faint line of the Scottish hills. Behind, lie the Lakeland Fells, creating an altogether memorable scene.

    Not to be missed!!

    Near Ulverston, Cumbrian Way Coastal Way, River Kent estuary Greenodd Sands near Ulverston Levens viaduct, close to Cumbrian Way Cumbrian Way, near Ulverston
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    Levens Hall

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    Photography is not allowed in the house so unfortunately the interior will remain a secret unless, of course, you make a visit yourselves!!

    The house began life as a pele tower until the Bellingham family acquired it in the 1590's when it was gradually transformed into the beautiful building of today. It really is magnificently decorated with some of the walls being covered in a leather wallpaper.The leather came from Spain and was treated and decorated, then pieced together and hung. It is probably one of the best examples of this sort of wall covering in Europe.What a lot of time and effort this must have been but as we were informed, it lasted so well and the walls never had to be re-decorated!!Other walls have incrediblely intricate carved oak panels, again, so much effort has been put in. Lok up at the ceilings and you'll notice the Italian plasterwork. Everything was so beautiful, glimmering chandeliiers, beautiful stained glass windows with views to die for and traditional Jacobean furniture is found throughout the house.

    As the house is lived in, there are family photos dotted about and it was obvious that the small library room was lived in. This was a lovely room, with great light pouring in from the windows.

    The earliest English patchwork is also on display upstairs in the hall, dating from 1694. It is hard to grasp that what you are looking at is so old.

    In each room information is provided and stewards are placed discreetly about the house, enabling you to gain as much or as little information as you feel inclined to take in.

    Levens Hall even claims to have it's own ghosts, a black dog and a lady in pink.

    The Hall is open April to October from 12 noon but not Fridays or Saturdays. There is ample free parking, a picnic area, cafe and gift shop and plants can be purchased. Meat raised on the estate is for sale as well as other locally produced items. Morocco Ale, a beer first brewed in the Hall's very own brewery from an 18thc. recipe can be purchased, although today it is brewed at Daleside Brewery.

    Stunning Levens Hall Levens Hall Note the chimneys.... Levens Hall  and classic car rally Classic cars at Levens Hall
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    Sizergh Castle

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    On a beautiful late September day, we decided to visit Sizergh Castle, somewhere we had been meaning to visit for years, it being not far away from us. We ended up having a great day out.

    Now in the capable hands of the National Trust, Sizergh Castle has been the home to the Strickland family for over 750 years, where they still reside today.

    The castle began life as a Pele Tower in the 14thc., it's sixty foot height and nine foot thick walls built to defend the occupants from the invading Scots. The tower was added to in various stages, with the great Hall being built in 1450 and a mansion built around the tower,adding to the luxury.

    Interior walls were decorated with intricately carved oak panels and within the original part of the house are five spectacularly carved overmantels, the best examples of such in this country.Different rooms have different types of wall panelling, the oldest being the linenfold oak panelling, so called because of it's "folded" linen look. In the Inlaid rooom, the best preserved room on display to the public, is the original state bed complete with it's carvings and covers. The ornate plaster ceiling is a work of art,if you look up there are various animals and figures depicted as well as numerous coats of arms. Unrecognised craftsmen created the ceiling, taking years to complete it.

    The walls in here are incredible panelling inlaid with poplar and bog oak. The panelling and bed were sold to the Victoria and Albert museum but have been re-instated in the castle, with the panelling restored to it's former glory. Apparently it took craftsmen years to make this panelling, now it can be re-produced by machine in a matter of hours. A section of machine made panelling is on display in the entrance hall.

    Beautiful English and French furniture, along with some impressive portraits, are found throughout the castle which is said to be the best fortified house in the whole of Cumbria. And justly so, I say. Magnificent.

    Although the castle is extensive, major renovation work is taking place to the whole of one side. It makes you wonder what the place will be like when it is all open to the public.

    Parking, toilets, gift shop, cafe, plant sales.

    Non giftaid admission: £6.40 per adult for garden and house.

    Be aware the castle and gardens are closed on Fridays and Saturdays, allowing the family a couple of days privacy.

    No photography allowed inside the castle.

    For tips on Sizergh's beautiful garden, read next tip.

    Pele Tower, Sizergh Castle Part of Sizergh vastle Sizergh Castle From the lake Original pele tower and entrance at Sizergh Castle
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    Levens Hall World Famous Gardens

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    Levens Hall Gardens are amazing, a definite must see in this area.

    The gardens were created from 1694 onwards, by a French gardener, Guillame Beaumont who was installed by Colonel James Grahame when he took the house over.The world famous topiary is the garden's main feature and took years to complete. It is reputedly some of the oldest topiary in the world! Hedges have been lovingly nurtured into wierd and wonderful creations and you cannot help but be impressed by them.Make sure you have your camera at the ready!!

    There is a wilderness garden,(not as we think of today but a formal garden with paths through shrubbery) where the intriguing spiral sculpture by Harry Bagot (a member of the resident family) sits upon a plinth and definitely adds to the garden.At the top of this garden is a nice little children's play area.

    We loved walking through the various "tunnels" in the shrubs, not sure where we would find ourselves.Through one of these is the Fountain garden, added in 1994 to celebrate 300 years of the gardens existence.

    One of the features we loved was that vegetables were intermittently planted amongst flowers and shrubs. Gourds, pumpkins and courgettes blended in with nasturtiums, purple climbing beans, curly kale and rhubarb.There is also an orchard and nuttery, where apples lay rotting where they had fallen. I was rather sorry to see many of the vegetables and fruit left to rot, I would have thought garden produce could have been sold in the shop instead of silly, trivial unrelated to the garden, items in the gift shop!! I would have bought some, anyway!!

    Tucked into a distant corner is a triangular little building which was the smoke house. Nothing to do with smoking food, but a place where those who wished to light up were banished! How things have come full circle!!

    We were really impressed with both the hall and gardens, as you can see, I took quite a lot of photos!!

    Topiary garden, Levens Hall Spectacular gardens at Levens Hall Vegetables in Levens Hall garden Fantastic..... Sculpture, Levens Hall gardens
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    Sizergh Castle Gardens.

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    These gardens are truly magnificent and well worth the combined entrance fee of £6.40 for castle and gardens.There are 14 acres of designed garden set amongst the 1600 acres of parkland, where public footpaths allow you to wander at will.

    Take your time and make sure you see everything, there really is so much to discover.

    Our favourite areas were the kitchen garden and limestone rockery. In the walled kitchen garden,we were met by a forest of nasturtiums, carpeting much of the garden. I believe they are grown to attract caterpillars away from more valuable crops but also they are edible, including the flowers. A large section was taken over by rambling pumpkins, some of which were absolutely enormous.Also in here is a large herbery.

    The limestone rockery was added in the 1920's by a local company still in operation today. It is truly magnificent with limestone paths and steps meandering amongst colourful shrubbery and small pools and waterfalls. Not to be missed.

    Other features are the pretty lake in front of the castle, the terrace running along the top of the lake, Dutch garden, wild flower garden, rose garden, orchards, oh, so many interesting areas to explore.

    Garden produce is, I think, sold at Low Sizergh Farm Barn, not far away.

    Massive pumpkins in the kitchen garden. South garden, Sizergh Lake from terrace Limestone rockery Colours at Sizergh
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    Muncaster Castle Gardens.

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    Just the most amazingly beautiful gardens I have visited!Over seventy acres of spectacular gardens and woodland to wander around to your heart's content.

    Plants from all over the world, especially from the Sino-Himalayan region, have been cleverly placed throughout the grounds and there is always something spectacular to look at, whatever the season. In winter, many of the trees and shrubs are lit up which must be beautiful.As we were visiting in early May, we knew the rhododendrons would be at their peak. We were not disappointed and I just couldn't stop taking photos!!An added bonus is the fantastic backdrop of the glorious Lakeland mountains, offering yet more photographic opportunities!

    Do come wearing decent footwear as there is loads of walking to be done on over six miles of footpaths and it often can be rather wet underfoot.

    One of the most colourful areas in May is the Ghyll, which meanders steeply down in front of the castle. So many different colours are on display here and with the Lakeland landscape behind, you can't avoid being impressed.

    Within the gardens is the Owl Centre (seperate tip), a garden centre, a cafe and gift shop and a childrens playground. The local heronry is often fed at 4.30pm, causing much excitement as they roost in the trees on Cannon Bank, patiently awaiting their free meal! Yet more photos!

    Apart from the spectacular colours of the flowers and shrubs, the highlight for us was the bluebell woods. Absolutely amazing. The whole woodland is carpeted with blue, such a beautiful sight. This can be a wet walk, being in the shade and does involve some uphill walking but not to be missed in early May.

    Admission for gardens in full season: £8 per adult.

    For more info, please look at my Ravenglass page tips.

    Beautiful colours in Muncaster gardens. Ravenglass primula at Muncaster Spectacular blooms at Muncaster Bluebell woods at Muncaster Colourful landscape at Muncaster
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    Muncaster Castle

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

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    Many years ago, we visited the castle gardens but not the house. We have been meaning to make a return visit so took the opportunity on the recent Bank Holiday weekend.

    What can I say? The place is amazing! The castle has belonged to various members of the current Pennington family for eight centuries and is their family home so the whole place has a friendly, lived in feeling. Three generations of the Pennington family live in the castle and you are bound to come across one of them on your tours! In fact, you are allowed to see some of the rooms in use but must not look in cupboards or behind doors in case you come across someone's pyjamas and personal effects!Also, the public are not allowed into the family kitchen as they don't wish people to see how untidily they live!!

    Upon entering the castle, you are given audio wands with interactive tours of the rooms, narrated by members of the family. It is really quite personal and you can listen to as much or as little as you feel like.

    The castle is reputedly one of the most haunted in the country and the Tapestry room seems to be the epicentre. I stood by the bed in this room as people have reported feeling cold there but I felt nothing out of the ordinary.

    The admission price per adult has to include the gardens,as you walk through them to reach the castle, which is £10.50 per adult. The gardens on their own are £8. Well worth the money, we spent from 10.30am to 5.30 pm and could still have seen more!

    Throughout the year, various tours and events take place with ghost weekends proving very popular!

    The castle is closed on normal Saturdays as weddings are held here. See website for opening times.

    Gardens tip is seperate tip.

    For more info, look at my Ravenglass page.

    Stately Muncaster Castle Muncaster Castle entrance. Castle from the terrace. Muncaster in all it's glory..... Commanding views from Muncaster
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    Acorn Bank Gardens

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

    This is a National Trust garden, between Penrith and Appleby.

    When we arrived at Acornbank, around 11.30am, a fellow visitor told us there was no room in the carpark and we should park on the driveway's verge. "Oh dear, can it be so full so early on?"we wondered. We needn't have worried, the carpark only holds 15 cars, so the place was actually pretty quiet for a holiday weekend.

    £4.20 admission included a gift aid donation which is entirely voluntary.

    We wandered into the walled herb garden which houses the largest collection of medicinal and culinary herbs in northern England, a staggering 300 varieties. These are in sections according to their medicinal properties, ie; respiratory, heart, cancer, etc. etc. I was in my element here, recognising many varieties but also finding unfamiliar varieties and plants I never knew could be used to aid health.Also to be noted are the ten different types of rhubarb. There is a guide book as you enter here, listing all the herbs and their uses.

    There are two orchards, full of daffodils, wild flowers and other more exotic plants in early May. Specialities here focus on rare, regional and traditional fruit trees.These orchards are protected from the northerly elements by the high garden walls and ancient oaks whgich help to keep the cold out.

    A popular spot is the garden pond where we and others spent some time watching the huge amount of great crested newts going about their everyday business. Quite fascinating. The pond was a hive of activity!!

    We broke for lunch, back in the motorhome, just as the heavens opened and felt quite smug eating safely under cover whilst true English picnickers were struggling under golfing umbrellas!! As the rain ceased, we re-emerged and took the woodland walk to the partly restored mill, following the Crowdundle Beck through the dripping trees. We were just too early for the bluebells but wood anenomes and wild garlic, along with primroses and garden daffodils added colour to the deep green woodland which waas just awakening after the hard winter.

    The mill dates from the 19thC and belonged to the estate of Acornbank. It's restoration began in the 1980's and there is still more to do to have it fully operational but the functioning waterwheel was opened to the public in 1997. This operates on Bank holidays and some weekends.Outside the mill is the mill garden, complete with some very fine cockerels!!

    National Trust , open Weds. - Suns.

    There is a gift shop selling local crafts and plants, a tearoom which uses the fruit from the orchard in many of it's offerings, a small carpark and toilets.

    The beautiful sandstone house is not open to the public, some of it has been turned into holiday lets.

    Acorn Bank Gardens, spring 2010 Acornbank Garden spring 2010 Orchards and daffodils Herb garden. Mill walk, Acornbank gardens.
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    The Eden Valley.

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

    The Eden Valley lies between the Lake District to the west and the Pennines to the east. The river rises near Mallerstang and passes through the towns of Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and finally enters the Solway Firth after flowing through Carlisle. In general,the further north the river travels, the wider the valley and river become and the hills lie lower than nearer the source.

    Much of the area is founded on red sandstone and the buildings are predominantly red. Most industry is agricultural with large farm estates very much in evidence.Penrith is the major town in the area and offers plenty of shopping opportunities. Appleby is home to the annual horse fair when travellers from the length and breadth of the country arrive en-mass to sell horses and "play games!!"

    The Settle to Carlisle railway passes along the Eden Valley with numerous stations along the way where steam trains are a regular sight.

    The Eden Valley is relatively undiscovered compared with the popular Lake District and yet walking possibilities are endless here, with both low level river walks and the more challenging Pennine Way passing through. Historic houses and gardens, museums, galleries,mills, stone circles and caves are just a few of the 70 odd attractions be found in this area.

    Why not give the Eden Valley a visit instead of the Lake District? Or even combine the two as they are next door to each other.

    For more info, please look at my Kirkoswald page.

    Lacy's Caves, above the River Eden. Long Meg stone circle. Armathwaite on the River Eden One of the Settle to Carlisle railway viaducts Kirkoswald market square.
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    Appleby in Westmorland

    by nickandchris Updated Jul 1, 2010

    Appleby is probably better known than Kirkby Stephen, it holds the annual horse fair in June (and has done since 18th century) when gypsies from all over the country head to Appleby to "mess about with horses."It brings much needed money and tourists to the town.

    Apleby in Westmorland lies in the heart of the Eden Valley with the river Eden running attractively through the town. There is a pleasant river-side walk, along the "loop" in the river.

    The town actually belonged to Scotland until 1092 when it "moved" to England and later became the county town of Westmorland. Sadly, this county no longer exists and Appleby has been swallowed up by the "new"county of Cumbria.

    Boroughgate is the wide street that runs through the town, linking the norman castle (once home to Lady Anne Clifford in the 17thc. and no longer open to the public,)at the top of town with the cloisters and medieval church of St. Lawrence, at the bottom end of town.Markets are held here, weekly as well as there being a variety of shops. We noticed the very old Boots the chemist along with other architecturally interesting buildings.

    The Settle to Carlisle railway runs through here, a very scenic line.

    Parking appears to be on the street, with designated parking bays and on a Saturday in early summer, the place was buzzing.

    A nice place to have a wander round, maybe a pub lunch followed by a wander along the river.

    For more info on this area, please look at my Kirkby Stephen page.

    River Eden in Appleby Cloisters, Appleby Bridge over Eden, Appleby Town centre Appleby architecture
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