36 hours in Lake District: Best things to see and do

lake district
A couple with a dog admire the view over Ullswater in the Bank Holiday summer sunshine near Glenridding in the Lake District in north west England. Source: Oli Scarf/AFP

Are you thinking of visiting Lake District? That’s great — it’s one of the most beautiful locations in England, thanks to its majestic lakes, lush forests and mountainous regions. 

Amidst its natural beauty, the district houses quaint towns rich in history and beautiful farms with homestays

Here, people of all ages hike, explore, eat, drink and relax. They immerse themselves in nature, spending their free time exploring the 30 lakes in the district and discovering new trails and hikes. They join local communities, grow their produce and dig into local delicacies. Little wonder why the district is dubbed as one of the World Heritage sites and welcomes nearly 16 million visitors every year. 

Whether you’re a wanderlust at heart or are looking to go on a road trip with your uni mates, you can never go wrong with visiting this tourist hotspot. There are many things to see, do, eat and appreciate here. 

We’ve compiled a list of the top things you shouldn’t miss out on during your time in Lake District if you have just 36 hours to spare. You’re about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime!

lake district

People walk through gardens in Keswick in the Lake District. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

Top things to do in Lake District


Make your mark in Ambleside town 

The journey to Ambleside town will take your breath away — you’ll pass by gorgeous plain fields, beautiful lakes, farms and hilly sites. 

Upon reaching the town — which many have described as the “true Lake District” — you’ll be greeted by old buildings by the coastline of the vast Windermere Lake, England’s largest natural lake. 

For hearty breakfast meals, good coffee and freshly-baked scones, look no further than The Pier Cafe & Bar. It sits right on Waterhead Pier, which overlooks Windermere Lake. 

Once you’re done, stroll around Ambleside town, which boasts plenty of shops and things to see. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are many bars to chill and enjoy a glass of draught beer. 

And here’s the highlight of Ambleside town — head to Waterhead Pier for some fun boating activities. Whether you’re looking for a cruise, private electric motorboat or a rowing boat for hire, boating company Windermere Lake Cruises has it all. 

If you prefer to explore the lake at your own pace, the private electric motorboat — which does not require any boating experience — is a great option. You get to explore every nook and cranny of the lake while taking in the scenic views. 

The boat rent is cheap too — an hour’s rent costs 38 British pounds for two people. An additional charge of £6 per person applies if the number exceeds two. Do note that the boat can only accommodate up to six people. 

Once you’re done exploring the lake, you’ll love what’s next on the list — a visit to Hill Top, which houses the late English writer Beatrix Potter’s farmhouse

Potter is best known for her illustrated children’s books. This includes “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny”. In Hilltop, her home has been turned into a time capsule, showcasing her works, furniture and paintings. The entrance fee is £14 per person. 

Outside her house, there’s an orchard and a pop-up cafe where you can sit, relax and munch on some afternoon snacks. 

lake district

A kayaker paddles on Ullswater in the sunshine near Glenridding in Lake District. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

Visit Rydel village 

Just a short drive from Ambleside is Rydel village, a small but incredibly popular village for good reasons: it encases historic homes belonging to literary giants such as William Wordsworth, Thomas de Quincy and Hartley Coleridge. 

Don’t be deceived by the village’s size — there are more than enough things to keep you occupied, from hiking Rydal Mount (fun fact: there’s a cave!) to visiting St. Mary’s Church and crossing the scenic Pelter Bridge. 

Stay the night in Keswick 

Once you’re done, head over to Keswick town, a 30-minute drive away. 

Throughout the drive, you’ll, once again, be greeted by mesmerising views of more lakes and hilly sites. In fact, the road — known as the A591 road that leads to Keswick — is dubbed as England’s best driving road. 

Do note, however, that driving between towns in Lake District at night isn’t recommended as there are no street lights. If you must drive in the dark, don’t speed and drive carefully! 

Upon arriving in Keswick, you’ll be surprised by how different the town is compared to Ambleside and Rydal. That’s the unique thing about Lake District: every town and village — despite being in the same county — has a distinct architecture and style. 

If you’re not sure where to stay in Keswick, there are numerous bed and breakfasts and Airbnbs available in town. 

If you’re getting hungry, you might want to visit Old Keswickian for some good ol’ fish and chips. 

lake district

People look out over Ullswater in the summer sunshine in Pooley Bridge in the Lake District. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP


Walk up to Castlerigg Stone Circle 

If you’re not exploring Lake District’s fantastic trails, you’ve not seen the best of Lake District. 

There are numerous hiking and walking trails in Keswick, with some leading you to the highest peaks in England. You can check out the trails here

If you’re not sure which one to go for, a popular trail is a walk to Castlerigg Stone Circle, one of England’s earliest stone circles. 

Explore Keswick town 

Famished after the walk? There are many popular brunch spots in Keswick, including 18/20 Cellar Bar, Dining & Rooms, The Filling Station, Laura In The Lakes and more. 

Plus, the town organises a trader’s market every Saturday (and Thursdays from February to December), so don’t miss this out!