Lake District villages are a great base to explore the region, which entices visitors from across the world, drawn by the promise of pretty lakes backed by brooding fells.
Nestled among them are some delightful places well worth checking out. If you’re tempted, here are our picks for the 20 best villages in the Lake District.
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20 Great Lake District Villages
Grasmere is one of the Lake District’s prettiest villages. Poet William Wordsworth fell in love with the place and it’s possible to visit Dove Cottage, his former home, as well as his grave at St Oswald’s Church. Another Grasmere must-see is Sarah Nelson’s gingerbread shop. You won’t need to ask for directions, just follow your nose.
Though technically a town, with a population of little more than 8000 people, Ambleside has the feel of a large village. Located beside Lake Windermere, it’s best known for the Bridge House, a 17th century structure spanning Stone Beck that has been a home, a counting house for the Rattle Ghyll mills, a cobbler’s, a weaver’s shop, a tearoom and a chair maker’s.
An attractive village boasting cobbled streets and painted cottages, Dent dates from the 10th century. Check out the fountain hewn from pink granite. It was erected in honour of Adam Sedgwick. He was a geologist whose research led to the definition of the Cambrian and Devonian periods of history.
Foodies will be pleased to learn that this is the spiritual home of the sticky toffee pudding – from here, this yummy dessert is sent all over the world. For a pilgrimage of a different kind, you’ll also find the Cartmel Priory, which has provided refuge and a place of serenity since the 12th century.
To the south west, the Lake District tumbles down to the sea and it’s there you’ll find the seaside village of Ravenglass. Quaint cobbled streets lead to the water, but Ravenglass is also well known for its railway, the oldest narrow gauge line in the country, originally used to transport iron ore, copper and granite from the mines.
Originally owned by the monks of Furness Abbey, centuries ago, Hawkshead was an important market centre for the wool trade. More recently the village has been associated with Beatrix Potter. Original illustrations by the popular children’s author can be seen at the Hawkshead Gallery.
Fewer than a hundred residents call Kentmere home, but visitors are attracted to the place thanks to the surrounding landscape. The Kentmere Horseshoe walk rewards hikers with views over the Kentmere Reservoir. A stroll past the church takes you to the picturesque Kentmere Tarn.
Nether Wasdale is located at the southern end of Wastwater, not far from the River Irt. It clusters around a village green. The village is dominated by the church of St Michael & All Angels and also has a maypole, erected to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.
Climbers flock to Seatoller to commence their ascent of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. Fells, woodland and pasture surround the village. Farming and mining have long been employers in the area, and the Honister Slate Mine, dating from 1643, is now a popular visitor attraction.
Cold Beck once provided water for corn mills, woollen mills, bobbin mills, a paper mill and a brewery. It gives its name to Caldbeck, the village that grew up around it. This charming fell village boasts a church dating from the 12th century. Behind it you’ll find St Mungo’s well, a holy spring.
Pooley Bridge takes its name from a large pool in the River Eamont and was originally known as ”The Hill by the Pool”. Before 1800, the village was just known as Pooley. These days, due to its accessible location beside Ullswater, it’s a popular stop-off for tourists visiting the Lake District National Park.
Sleepy Bassenthwaite is a tiny place with no shops, and just a single pub. Situated close to Bassenthwaite Lake and overlooked by the Skiddaw massif, there are two farms within the village. Tourism is another big employer thanks to the beauty of the surrounding countryside.
Located along the road which links Windermere to Penrith, Troutbeck is famous as being the place where Beatrix Potter used to rear her beloved Herdwick sheep at Troutbeck Park Farm. You’ll also see some curious drinking troughs, named after saints, and the beautiful Jesus Church, built in 1736.
Coniston is dominated by The Old Man of Coniston, not a person, but the hill that rises behind the village. It perches on the shore of Coniston Water, where Donald Campbell broke the water speed record in 1955. He died attempting to break it again in 1967, and in the village there’s a slate memorial and a bench to honour his bravery.
The English poet William Wordsworth lived at Rydal Mount in the first half of the 19th century and the building now houses a museum dedicated to his work. You’ll find Rydal, a small group of houses, with a church and hotel on the way to Ambleside from Grasmere.
At Near Sawrey you’ll find Hill Top, home to Beatrix Potter. She bought the home with the proceeds of her story Peter Rabbit. She would go on to write many more tales in this 17th century house, which is now a museum managed by the National Trust.
For such a small place, you might be surpirsed to learn that Far Sawrey has a huge church, capable of seating 400 people. Why so? Well, back in the day, families living in the large houses of the area would have come to church accompanied by their sizeable staff, so they needed the space.
Newby Bridge is a stop off on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. It’s a small village tucked away at the southern end of Lake Windermere and is now a convenient base for exploring the southern Lakeland area. It gets its name from the stone bridge whose five arches were constructed in 1651.
Grange in Borrowdale
Grange village sits in what’s termed the “Jaws of Borrowdale”. Here, the valley pushes its way through a narrow gap between Grange Fell and Castle Crag. Visitors delight in the village’s double arched bridge which spans the River Derwent. Built in 1675, it’s old, but Grange is even older, once an outlying farm for Furness Abbey.
Threlkeld, near Keswick, has an 800 year history. The name derives from the Norse and means “The well of the thrall”. In mediaeval times, a thrall was a man bound in service to a lord, but mysteriously, there’s no record of a lord in these parts. A century ago, the village boomed thanks to rich deposits of zinc and lead nearby, though today the industry is gone and tourism has taken its place.