Due to all its outdoor glory, Cumbria is known as the go-to place for adventure sports: the list of activities on offer in and around the Lake District seems endless. Fancy a ride on a Clydesdale or Shire horse? Look no further than Cumbrian Heavy Horses, which offers rides around their equestrian centre in the scenic Whicham Valley. For smaller explorers, or just those who want something low-key, Lakeland Pack Pony Holidays offer take you around the Lake District on ponies, as you camp along the way. Family picnic day trips are also available.
If you’re up for doing the legwork yourself, Highpoint Mountain Guides can provide mountain climbing tours throughout the district, as well as navigation skills courses, rock climbing tours and guided mountain walks for the somewhat less adventurous.
Over in Ulverston, you can do your best impression of Robin Hood by taking archery lessons (wrong part of the country, we know, but name me another famous archer). At the River Deep Mountain High activity centre, visitors are instructed in the art of archery and can then participate in competitions against each other.
For a more relaxing look at the area, Ullswater Steamers offers cruises around Ullswater Lake in classic 19th century vessels. The oldest of these vessels is The Lady of the Lake, which was launched in 1877 and, according to Ullswater Steamers, is believed to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world.
More chilled out travellers might also enjoy a hot air balloon ride over the lakes and peaks of this area and Cumbria Balloons, based in Bowness-on-Windermere, can take you from 500 to 5,000 feet over this beautiful part of England.
To learn about the creatures within this district’s lakes, don’t miss a visit to The Lake District Coast Aquarium in Maryport. The site features fresh and saltwater animals, with displays explaining their lives and habitats.
As if the lakes and mountains weren’t enough, Cumbria has more to offer visitors throughout the county. A historic highlight is Carlisle Cathedral. Founded as an Augustinian monastery in 1122, the church became a cathedral in 1133. It is England’s second smallest ancient cathedral, after Oxford. Partially ruined, the cathedral’s Norman architectural roots can be seen in its solid masonry, large round piers, round arches and small, round headed windows.
Another great stop in Carlisle is the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, housed within a Grade I listed, converted Jacobean mansion. When the house was first converted, it contained the museum and also a library, an art school and a technical school. Now, it is a museum only, housing antiquities associated with Hadrian’s Wall and the two Roman forts established in Carlisle. It also displays zoological, botanical and geological material, as well as fine and decorative arts collections.
In Hawkshead, little ones and nostalgic adults might enjoy The Beatrix Potter Gallery. Run by the National Trust, this gallery features the work of the beloved children’s book author. The gallery is housed within a 17th century Lake District townhouse. Visitors can view some of Potter’s original sketches and watercolours, as well as artefacts and information relating to her life and work.
You can continue your literary tour of Cumbria with a visit to Wordsworth House, the Georgian birthplace of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. The building is presented as the home of the Wordsworth family as it was in the 1770s and offers displays about the poet’s life and hands-on activities, including the opportunity to try on some period costumes.
Another impressive historic home can be found in Penrith. Hutton-in-the-Forest is the historic home of Lord and Lady Inglewood. Surrounded by the medieval forest of Inglewood, legend has it that this building is the Green Knight's castle in the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Generation after generation has added to the house, so the construction shows a variety of architectural and decorative styles dating from the 17th century to present day.
Penrith is also home to the Penrith Museum, which covers the history, geology and archaeology of the Penrith area. Exhibits include Roman artefacts from the Roman Fort near Plumpton and a temporary exhibition gallery featuring changing displays of local interest.
Animal and history lovers alike can’t miss a trip to Muncaster Castle, overlooking the Esk River. Currently owned by the Pennington family, the 14th century castle is home to the World Owl Trust, which has nearly 50 species and subspecies of birds, ranging from the large European Eagle Owl to the small and incredibly cute Pigmy and Scoop Owls. Visitors can view the birds in natural habitats and watch falconry shows and other displays regularly put on by staff.
As you can see, you’re pretty spoiled for choice in Cumbria. A week? Two weeks…? We dare you to fill them.