Last Updated on 2nd March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Filled with charming houses, winding alleyways and situated lakeside, the villages, and towns in the Lake District are some of the most charming settlements in the whole of the UK. Here’s your complete guide to the most picturesque, best and cutest villages and towns in the Lake District…
One of the most important things to know before visiting the Lake District is that the area boasts some of the most beautiful villages and towns to be found anywhere in the UK.
As such, during any visit, it’s imperative to set aside a little time to allow yourself to get lost amongst the granite houses and historic buildings that these settlements have to offer.
While many opt to go hiking or enjoying water sports, you’d do well to set aside at least half a day to enjoy the museums of Coniston Water or the foodie side of Ambleside.
Only around 40,000 people live in the Lake District, meaning that there’s no town that is incredibly large and there are certainly no cities to be found. The closest cities are Carlisle to the north and Lancaster to the south.
Best towns in the Lake District
A little stream babbles alongside a high street filled with independent boutiques and quirky little eateries. This is the delightful settlement of Ambleside, easily one of the cutest villages in the Lake District.
From the ease of access to the local area to the sprawling Victorian Houses that line the wide streets, there’s plenty to see and do in this Cumbrian Town. One particular highlight of Ambleside is the Bridge House. This 17th-century house spans both sides of the river and is now a small free to visit museum.
On the banks of Ullswater, the second largest lake in the Lake District, you’ll find the village of Pooley Bridge. Predominantly populated by pubs and holiday lets, this village is a great gateway to the National Park (and was our first stop in the Lake District Itself during a long weekend road trip through the region).
From here, there’s easy access to Ullswater and the Kirkstone Pass; one of the most beautiful roads in the entire region. Somewhere along the Kirkstone Pass road, visitors will stumble upon the Kirkstone Pass Inn, which in turn is the third highest pub in England!
Quaint, tiny and in the middle of nowhere, Hawkshead is a quintessentially British village. Filled with small cafés and winding walkways, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a cream tea (a regional speciality), or to explore a medieval Cumbrian village.
Established from a nearby Monastery in the 12th-Century, today the little settlement is a picture perfect example of Cumbrian architecture at its very finest.
Other highlights of Hawkshead include plenty of 17th-century architecture and an annual exhibition in the Beatrix Potter gallery which showcases a selection of Beatrix Potter’s original illustrations and drawings.
Once home to iconic historical figures such as Arthur Ransome (author of the Swallows and Amazons series of children’s books) and John Ruskin (iconic critic, author, and rights movement advocate), the small village of Coniston is easily one of the cutest villages in the Lake District.
Watched over by the Mount of the Old Man of Coniston, here you’ll find John Ruskin’s grave, an award winning museum and plenty of vintage shops. On Coniston Water, there’s Coniston Boating Centre, where you can rent boats, kayaks, bikes and much more.
Windermere is not only the largest body of water in the Lake District but also home to one of the cutest towns. Of all the things to do in the Lake District, a visit to Windermere is an absolute must!
After all, the station of Windermere is the main train station in the National Park and since its construction and opening in 1847. For many visitors, the railway line serves as the Gateway to the Lake District.
Originally named Birthwaite, the village’s name was eventually changed to Windermere, after the body of water which lies alongside the Lake District town. Today, the original village of Birthwaite (now named Windermere) has sprawled across the landscape and merged with nearby Bowness-on-Windermere.
In Windermere itself, you can expect to find dozens of narrow streets, wide Victorian façades and plenty of things to see and do. The town is also home to the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction.
Located on the shoreline of Derwentwater, you’ll find the cute little town of Keswick. This quintessentially British market town has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and extensive archaeological finds have been discovered in the area.
However, the first mention of the town itself dates back to the 13th-Century. During the middle ages, the King of England, Edward I granted market status to the town and it has traded ever since. As a result, there have been market stalls in some form or another continuously for 700 years.
You may well recognise the name ‘Kendal’ thanks to the popular hiking snack, Kendal Mint Cake. For the uninitiated, Kendal Mint Cake is a glucose-based sugar treat that’s popular among hikers and mountaineers due to its high energy content.
The local sweet was developed in Cumbria but can now be found in outdoor stores internationally. Head to Kendal if you want to experience the magic of a town frozen in time and set in the mountains.
One of the more famous towns in Grasmere, in part thanks to the fact that the poet William Wordsworth called the town “The loveliest spot that man hath ever found.”
The village is situated on the shores of Grasmere Lake, a small but serene body of water surrounded by bright green hills and craggy peaks. Grasmere itself is known for its quaint stone houses, rustic pubs, and welcoming atmosphere, which make it a popular destination for hikers.
Visitors can explore the village’s historic sites such as visiting Dove Cottage and Wordsworth Museum and St Oswald’s Church, stroll along scenic walking paths, and sample local delicacies like Grasmere gingerbread and Cumberland sausage.
This tiny Lake District Hamlet of Seatoller is nestled among the rugged fells of Borrowdale, one of the most scenic valleys in the Lake District. There are just a handful of places to stay here, making it one of the more off the beaten path settlements in the Lake District.
Seatoller is a popular destination for hikers, as it is situated at the foot of several well-known peaks, including Great Gable and Scafell Pike. Visitors can enjoy scenic walks along the valley floor or challenge themselves with a climb to the summit of one of the nearby mountains.
Located on the western edge of the Lake District in northwest England, Ravenglass is a quaint coastal village boasting a picturesque setting. Nestled at the mouth of the River Esk and surrounded by rugged hills, the village is steeped in history dating back to Roman times.
Its well-preserved Roman ruins, including a bathhouse and fort, are fascinating to explore. Ravenglass is a popular destination for those in search of a peaceful retreat, with its serene beaches and charming cafes and restaurants.
A ride on the Ravenglass and Eskdale historic steam railway is a must-do activity for all the family, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Cartmel is a charming village located in the southern part of the Lake District. Cartmel is perhaps best known for its impressive 12th-century Priory, which dominates the village skyline and now functions as the parish church.
The village is also famous for its delicious sticky toffee pudding, which is served in many of its cafes and restaurants. Visitors can explore the village’s quaint shops, many of which sell Lake District souvenirs, and art galleries.
Yet another speck of a settlement that is more hamlet than village is Dent, which should not be confused with the Dent of the Yorkshire Dales. Dent exudes an old-world charm, with its cobbled main street and charming color-washed cottages.
Visitors can enjoy homemade afternoon tea or savor a pint of locally brewed Dent Bitter in one of its cozy pubs. Of particular note is the Dent railway station, which holds the accolade of being the highest mainline station in England and a stop on the breathtaking Settle to Carlisle railway line.
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.
Friday 2nd of October 2020
A great guide! I actually grew up in Coniston but some of these places I have never been !
Sunday 16th of September 2018
Great recommendations Sophie, I like that you included a little of the history in these places. Lovely pictures too, especially the Instagram snap of you on the rock- what a shot!
Monday 17th of September 2018
Mike from TravelAndDestinations
Tuesday 22nd of August 2017
I've had the the pleasure of hiking in the Lake District once before and it was a lovely experience although very rainy. I didn't get to explore many of the villages though as I was on a group hiking tour. The places you suggested all sound and look lovely though so I will have to try and head back again soon. Thanks for sharing this.
Tanja (the Red phone box travels)
Wednesday 26th of July 2017
indeed very cute:) I'd love to visit them
Tuesday 25th of July 2017
Great photos and blog, Sophie. These blogs help me find locations myself.
Thank you and keep up the great photos.