The Lake District is the wettest corner of England. It gets an average rainfall of around 2,000mm, though this varies significantly from a paltry 870mm in Penrith to an ark worthy 5,000mm in Sprinkling Tarn near Seathwaite. There’s no need to complain about it, however, because the rain only adds to the beauty of the area. Majestic mountains have waterfalls cascading down them and are wreathed in soft misty greys when it is wet, providing the perfect contrast to emerald green forests when it is sunny. As gorgeous as it is, not everyone likes spending their holidays in wet weather gear so here are the best indoor and outdoor wet weather activities to brighten up a holiday in the Lake District.
Outdoor rainy day activities
Some of the most gorgeous Lake District attractions are improved in the rain, like Aira Force near Ullswater. The 65 foot waterfall is even more impressive during and after rain and is easily reached via a woodland walk. Be sure to keep your eye open for red squirrels. Aira Force is a National Trust managed property with a shop, café and car park nearby. You can also park at Glencoyne Bay and take the 2km path through Glencoyne Deer Park to get to the falls. There are mobility toilets and parking spaces at Aira Force, however neither walk is buggy or wheelchair friendly.
Holme Force Falls
It’s almost worth saving the Corpse Road walk to Holme Force Falls for a rainy day. The somewhat morbid name of the walk refers to the ancient burial mounds along the route, as you walk past the falls, Holme Beck with its pretty stone bridge, and Loweswater Lake. The National Trust has a handy map of the Corpse Road circuit which starts at Maggie’s Bridge and covers around 3.5 miles. Half a mile from the car park is the Kirkstile Inn – a good choice for a pub meal.
Grizedale Forest and Sculpture Trail
Grizedale Forest near Hawkshead is an all-weather attraction with the right outdoor gear (if you don’t have it, pay Hawkshead outdoor clothing shop a visit!) and a must-see for keen walkers and hikers. Forty sculptures have been specially commissioned for the environment, providing even more interest to your walk. You’ll stay relatively dry in all but torrential rain as the dense leaf coverage provides ample shelter for you and the red squirrels which inhabit the forest. There is also a mountain bike trail, a visitor centre with café and an exciting calendar of events.
The award winning Ullswater Steamers have been cruising the lakes for more than 150 years and they’re not about to let a little rain put them off schedule. Sail from Glenridding or Pooley Bridge to Howtown, or choose the Round the Lake Pass and spend the day getting on and off as you like, seeing sights like the impressive house and gardens of Dalemain.
Indoor rainy day activities
The World of Beatrix Potter
There are lots of indoor activities in the Lake District where you can enjoy your holiday without getting wet. One of the most popular is The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere. The recently refurbished venue is bursting with character, perfectly showcasing the beauty of the surroundings which inspired classic children’s characters like Peter Rabbit.
Keswick with its many attractions
Keswick is a great place to head if the clouds come over. It’s streets are packed with cafes, pubs and interesting shops selling anything from gifts to local produce tempting you in out of the rain. Bustling at any time of the year, Keswick has more than its share of outdoor clothing retailers (for those who forgot waterproofs!) as well as a number of excellent wet weather attractions. Stop at the Puzzling Place with its quirky array of visual tricks and wonders to delight and entertain. Whilst this may be a free attraction, you will find it hard to leave without parting with some money at the shop, crammed with fun and intriguing puzzles and gadgets. The Theatre by the Lake has a calendar full of productions and events throughout the year, and you can still have an ‘outdoor’ adventure indoors at the Keswick Climbing Wall.
Conveniently located off the A66 in Penrith, the Rheged Centre has something for the whole family, including a cinema, indoor and outdoor soft play areas, pottery painting, cafes and gift shops. They have a regular programme of events throughout the school holidays so look at their website in advance if you have kids.
Brantwood and Blackwell
It’s hard to find a more beautiful spot than Brantwood. Overlooking the lake at Coniston, John Ruskin, one of Britain’s most creative minds, spent nearly three decades enjoying the solitude of the sublime surroundings, using it as inspiration for painting and writing. There are 250 acres of gardens to explore if the weather lets up but if not, the treasures, exhibitions, and activities in the house will keep you pleasantly occupied. If hand-crafted beauty is your thing, be sure to visit Blackwell in Bowness – possibly one the finest Arts and Crafts houses in Britain.
Honister Slate Mine and Nenthead Mines
It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing when you’re underground! Take a tour of Honister Slate Mine and get an entirely different perspective of the Lake District. Adventurous souls may want to climb the walls as well as explore the history of the last working slate mine in the UK, which has been giving up its treasures since 1728. If you are blessed with sun and full of adrenaline, you may also want to take on the challenge of the Via Ferrata! If subterranean is your thing, there is also Nenthead Mines in Alston.
Sometimes, a rainy day calls for nothing more than an amiable atmosphere, tasty food and local ales, and the Lake District offers plenty of places to satisfy the largest of appetites.
The General Burgoyne in Great Urswick delivers all of these, with chef and landlord Craig Sherrington winning awards for his menus which feature local produce. Other pubs worth visiting include the Cuckoo Brow in Far Sawrey, the Hare and Hounds in Bowland Bridge near Kendal, and the Drunken Duck, the original gastro pub in the Lakes set high on a hill between Coniston and Hawkshead. And for those wanting to experience Lakeland fine dining, head to L’enclumes in Cartmel (home of the sticky toffee pudding!) and sample some of Simon Rogan’s cooking or Holbeck Ghyll with its longstanding reputation, fine views over Lake Windermere and Michelin Star.
There is no shortage of good quality shops in the Lake District. K Village in Kendal is where outlet stores offer the chance to snap up a bargain at any time of year. Kendal is also home to Westmorland Shopping Centre. Keswick has a variety of boutiques selling locally produced goods, while Cockermouth is a thriving market town with galleries and specialty shops.
While wet weather may ruin a beach holiday, there’s no way it will rain on your parade in the Lake District. Pack your wellies and your waterproofs and enjoy your holiday.