18 Things to do in the Lake District on a Rainy Day

A rainy day in the lakes?  It happens now and then…. As my dad always says, ‘Where do you think the Lakes come from?’

Weather in Cumbria certainly isn’t boring. The phrase ‘all four seasons in one day’ applies here much of the time.

Rainy days can blow through in hours, leaving clear, gorgeous light shows, gushing waterfalls and rainbows with amazing skies.  But sometimes they do stay a while longer…

If you’re in one of our lodges with a hot tub though, a rainy day in a steamy tub can be like a natural spa experience…

Don’t be downhearted if you wake up to a rainy day.

Just get your wet weather gear on and head out..

1. Windermere, Bowness, Ambleside and Kendal are great for a mooch or shopping: All these buzzing town centres have lots of interesting, independent shops and cafes, where you could easily spend a few hours shopping, and enjoying the café culture. Lots of places to explore and shelter from the rain.  And maybe buy a new anorak?!

2. A bit further north, Keswick and Penrith are lovely interesting towns with lots to see and enjoy, all surrounded by the beauty of the fells. There’s also the Rheged Centre near Penrith just off the M6.  An indoor haven of shops, and cafes, serving and selling local food, a huge IMAX cinema and art galleries with changing displays; talks and exhibitions.

3. Ambleside Waterfall Walk, to Stock Ghyll Falls, is an easy 2 mile walk from the town centre, up under the woodland, to the waterfalls, which of course get better on a rainy day!  So is Aira Force with lots of lovely paths up toward Dockray, and gives fantastic views of the beautiful Ullswater.

Stock Ghyll by Graham Bell

4. Get yourself down to Lakeside, near Newby Bridge, and enjoy a trip on a full-size steam train – on the Haverthwaite Railway to Windermere. It’s a short but sweet journey, taking you back to the wonderful steam age, nice and slow to enjoy the scenery.

5. Once you’re at Lakeside, the Aquarium of the Lakes is fascinating, with more than 30 naturally themed habitats, telling the story of the natural history of the Lake District, and hundreds of different species to look at. The wonderful otters have feeding time at 10.30 and 3pm.  There’s also the rather lovely Lakeside Hotel, if you fancied an afternoon tea or drink in the conservatory.

Otters at feeding time, courtesy of Aquarium of the Lakes.

6. Windermere Lake Cruises & Ullswater Steamers get out on the Lake in most weathers – rain doesn’t bother our boats – its usually just wind that stops the sailings. There are sailings every day from Bowness; or Glenridding piers. Check their websites for details.

Steamer on the Lake, courtesy of Ullswater Steamers.

7. Lakeland Motor Museum at Backbarrow is a fascinating day out, with a collection of over 30,000 exhibits, tracing road transport history through the 20th century. So if you’re interested in vintage vehicles, or finding out more about the fascinating story of Donald Campbell’s Bluebird, you’ll be absorbed for hours here. You can get a joint ticket for Windermere Lake Cruises and the Motor Museum and other attractions.

8. Rheged at Penrith is an award winning indoor family day out, with an Imax / 3D cinema screen, and lots of shops and places to eat. You’ll find some great cinema experiences, and they do live streamings of theatre and ballet too. The food halls are crammed full of local produce, as this place is run by the Westmorland Family who also manage the world famous Tebay Services. So great food is a given. It does get busy on a wet day. Free parking.

9. Zeffirellis Cinema and Jazz Cafe Bar – Ambleside Tel: 015394 33845
This award-winning vegetarian restaurant also has 5 multi-screen cinemas showing the latest films of the moment. Chill out in the cafe bar before or afterwards. They also have Jazz evenings and special meal/ticket deals. Don’t be put off if you’re not a veggie – the food is so good you ‘forget’!

10. The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction – Bowness. Its just a hop, skip and a jump to see Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, Mrs. Tiggy-winkle and all their friends at the World of Beatrix Potter. Here you’ll also find the Peter Rabbit Naturally Better Garden , where you can jump into the scene of one of Potter’s famous stories. Shelter in the green house and potting shed if it’s too wet, then have a wander around the lovely garden.  This summer also sees the return of ‘Where is Peter Rabbit’?  Live, fabulous show with music and characters. There’s also a nice cafe and shop for all things Peter Rabbit and Potter.

The World of Beatrix Potter by Dave Willis.

10. The Armitt Museum – Ambleside Tel: 015394 31212
The Armitt has a superb collection of books and manuscripts, drawings and paintings, memorabilia and archaeological objects telling a fascinating story of famous Lake District characters, including Beatrix Potter.

11. Honister Slate Mines – Honister Tel: 017687 77230
A great day out. A fully guided underground tour into the mine itself is available several times a day, detailing the history and spectacular features of the mine.

If you’re brave and have a head for heights, get out on the fellside and experience the Via Ferrata.  Quite literally, breathtaking!

On the Via Ferrata courtesy of Honister Slate Mines

.12. The Lakeland Shop – Windermere
Visit the now world-famous Lakeland shop for a spot of retail therapy where you’ll discover kitchen gadgets that you never even knew existed! Excellent café which is always a good way to spend a few hours out of the rain.  Next to Windermere train station.

13. Hill Top, Sawrey. Head over the ferry or drive through Ambleside and see the house that made Beatrix Potter famous. Owned by the National Trust, and open to the public for 70 years, on the wishes of Beatrix,  it contains hundreds of items of furniture and collectibles by Beatrix Potter herself and is very much how she left it.

You’ll also be able to have a peek into Mr McGregor’s garden.

Painting in the rain at Hill Top Garden. Picture @NationalTrust/Steve Barber

14. Wray Castle, Ambleside; A real family friendly big turreted castle, with great views out to the Lake; space to run around and explore; and a small café. There are also beautiful lakeside walks from here should the weather brighten up. Its right next to the fabulous Low Wray Campsite too. National Trust owned property.

15. Hayes Garden World – Ambleside:
More than just a garden centre, more like a small town, Hayes Garden World attracts in excess of a million visitors a year, with exciting new ideas and imaginative displays to enthuse the keenest gardener and shopping enthusiast alike.

16. Indoor Climbing Walls: The Ambleside, Kendal and Keswick Climbing Wall and Activity centres has covered activities that mean you can get your climbing fix, and burn off some energy on those days when the weather means you don’t want to be outside.  Cafes in all of them too.

17. The Lake District Coast AquariumMaryport. The lovely coastal town of Maryport has a new-look Lake District Coast Aquarium, has opened a new extension, the Wild Solway Centre, which is currently housing a shark exhibition and film.

18. Theatre by the Lake – Lakeside, Keswick
This stunning theatre, with views over Derwentwater, Borrowdale and the Western Fells, is celebrating 18 years putting on an array of inspiring productions. The Theatre is also a charity which relies on public support to continue to develop new artistic activity and delivers a strong education and outreach programme.

19. The Brewery Arts Centre  is a gem in the heart of Kendal, has cinemas showing the latest movies, and a great choice of live music, theatre and arts every day. Also has a great food and drink – snuggle down in the Vats bar, or a choice of cafes, and the Grainstore Restaurant.

So, above all else though, just get yourself wrapped up in wet weather gear and get out and about – the Lakes are beautiful whatever the weather!