Celebrated for its craggy fells, snow-capped mountains and crystal-clear lakes, the Lake District has been inspiring visitors for centuries and has been the home of many acclaimed artists, poets and authors including William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Many of the properties, gardens and walks most cherished by these iconic figures are now in the care of the National Trust. These special places have been beautifully conserved to offer visitors a unique insight into their fascinating past.
Did you know that the National Trust in the Lake District and Cumbria own around one-quarter of the Lake District National Park including Buttermere, Crummock Water, Loweswater, and large sections of Derwent Water, Ullswater and Rydal? Whether you’re enjoying a challenging hike on the fells, discovering stories of the past in a historic house or delighting in a delicious treat in one of their cafes, the landscapes and attractions owned by the Trust offer something for everyone year-round.
We have chosen a few of our favourite National Trust properties in the Lake District to explore, whether you visit in spring, summer, autumn or winter. And best of all, they are all located near to our Lake District holiday cottages, some within walking distance.
Spring in the Lake District
One of the most iconic of all the Lake District’s National Trust properties, Hill Top in the village of Near Sawrey, was once the beloved home of the much-loved children’s author Beatrix Potter. Bought in 1905 with the royalties from her first few books, this little 17th century stone house provided the inspiration for many of her famous stories. Inside, the house is much as Beatrix left it when she died, with original illustrations laid out on her furniture, almost as if she had just stepped out for a walk.
Wander outside into the garden of Hill Top and follow in the footsteps, paws and claws of Beatrix’s favourite characters, such as Tom Kitten, Samuel Whiskers and Jemima Puddle-Duck. Meticulously maintained by the National Trust’s real-life Mr McGregor (Pete), the warmer days of spring bring an explosion of colour and fragrance to the garden. Flower beds offer dazzling displays of honeysuckle, foxgloves, sweet cicely, lupins, peonies and lavender, white roses, Japanese quince, wild primroses and wisterias grow around the front door. The apple trees in the paddock are full of blossom and the vegetable garden is bursting into life with Jemima Puddle-Duck’s rhubarb unfurling its crinkly leaves.
Facilities: Bar lunches and evening meals can be obtained from the NT-owned Tower Bank Arms next door during licensing hours. Dogs are allowed in the welcome area only, not the house or garden. A shop specialises in Beatrix Potter-related items.
Car parking: There is limited parking at the National Trust car park about 100 yards north of the Tower Bank Arms. A timed ticket entry operates for the house.
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Near and Far Sawrey.
Perched on a rocky hillside above Grasmere village, Allan Bank isn’t a typical Lake District National Trust experience. This gem of a Georgian building and its grounds inspired William Wordsworth who lived here for three years. Today, the building is only partially decorated but there is all manner of secret hideaways, nooks and crannies to discover. If visiting as a family, children will delight in playing the piano in the hall, painting in the art room or playing board games, while parents can relax in front of the warm open fire with a cup of tea.
Outside, there is even more to see. On a sunny spring day, roll out a picnic blanket on the lawn or laze in one of the deckchairs and soak up the breathtaking views over Grasmere. Pick up a pair of binoculars and a bird identification guide from the house and see what birdlife you can spot in the woodland, keeping your eyes peeled for red squirrels. Kids are sure to love Billie Buzzard’s wild garden trail, the wild play areas and the selection of traditional lawn games available.
Facilities: Tea and coffee are available on donation, but if you would like a bite to eat, you are welcome to bring a picnic or there are many village cafes and shops in Grasmere. Dogs are welcome in the house and on the grounds on a lead.
Car parking: There is a small car park on-site reserved for blue badge holders only and there are three pay and display car parks in Grasmere village (not National Trust).
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Grasmere.
And there’s more…
Acorn Bank in Temple Sowerby – admire the traditional fruit orchards and herb collection before sampling the flavours for yourself in the tearoom.
Dora’s Field in Rydal – once owned by William Wordsworth, this semi-open woodland is carpeted in bluebells and daffodils during the spring.
Aira Force in Ullswater – look out for native red squirrels who are busy looking after their kittens, as well as dippers who are nesting behind the waterfall.
If you need somewhere to stay in the Lake District this spring, have a browse of our cottages for Easter or May half term.
Summer in the Lake District
Perfect for a sunny day, experience the charm of luxury travel once enjoyed by wealthy Victorians, within a rebuilt Victorian steam-powered yacht on Coniston Water. This unique opportunity allows visitors to take in the magnificent scenery surrounding the glistening lake with the rugged Coniston Fells on one side and dense woodland on the other. Listen to the crew’s informative commentary as you glide across the water in style in the Gondola’s opulent saloons or relax in the open air from the spacious seating areas above.
There are four daily cruises to choose from, with the option of disembarking at Brantwood House and Gardens or Monk Coniston Jetty for walks up to Tarn Hows. For an extra special experience, you can even pre-book afternoon tea. The National Trust’s Steam Yacht Gondola is on the water from 30th March until 31st October – a discount of 10% is available to National Trust members on all Head of Lake cruises, Full Lake cruises and Walkers' cruises.
Facilities: Local and fresh food is served at the Bluebird Café on Coniston Pier or you can pre-order afternoon tea for the cruise. There are public toilets at Coniston Pier (50 yards) and Monk Coniston Jetty (150 yards).
Car parking: There is a pay and display car park (not National Trust) 50 yards from Coniston Pier.
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Coniston.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Windermere, Wray Castle near Ambleside is one of the National Trust’s most unusual properties in the Lake District. This enormous gothic revival castle built in the 1830s features turrets, towers, arrow slits, mock ruins and a portcullis. Historically it was rented by Beatrix Potter’s family for their summer holidays and it is said that the library was one of the author’s favourite rooms. Although there are no original furnishings in the house, the building is fascinating, and photographs that were taken by Beatrix Potter’s father help you to imagine 19th-century life here.
Younger visitors will love the Peter Rabbit Adventure, or they can become kings and queens for the day, dressing up and building their own giant castles. Guided tours are also available which offer an interesting insight into the history of this National Trust castle. During summer, the extensive grounds outside provide an ideal spot for picnics with peaceful lake views. You can also follow a tree trail around the gardens and discover a mulberry tree, planted by William Wordsworth.
Facilities: There is a café serving ice cream, cakes, soup and sandwiches (NT approved concession). There is also a shop selling children’s games, gifts and souvenirs. Dogs are welcome in the grounds on leads; assistance dogs only inside. Daily talks and guided tours are available.
Car parking: There is a small pay and display car park on-site (NT members free), however during school holidays it is often full by 11am. The castle has its own jetty, so you could arrive by boat with Windermere Lake Cruises who have boats running from Ambleside to the castle and Brockhole regularly.
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Ambleside.
And there’s more…
Stagshaw Gardens in Ambleside - follow rambling paths through 8 acres of natural woodland, dotted with colourful rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas.
Derwent Water lake - amble through the tranquil parkland at Brandelhow, the birthplace of the National Trust in the Lake District. Make it extra special by taking the boat to the starting point.
Blea Tarn trail – bring your camera and enjoy a stroll around Blea Tarn where, during the summer, the shores are awash with alpine flowers. The views of Lingmoor and Pike of Blisco are mesmerising.
If you need somewhere to stay in the Lake District during the warmer months, have a browse of our cottages for summer.
Autumn in the Lake District
If it’s a little chilly outside, Wordsworth House in the Cumbrian town of Cockermouth is the perfect place to warm up and discover some fascinating history. The childhood home of the famous Lakeland poet, William Wordsworth; this Georgian townhouse is presented as it would have been in the 1770s when the Wordsworths and their servants lived there. Featuring hands-on activities and costumed living history, there is real food on the dining table, a warm fire burning in the kitchen grate and recipes to taste.
Families are sure to love the replica costumes to dress up in, as well as reproduction toys to play with, daily children’s trails and the opportunity to write with a quill. After all that fun, the discovery room offers a welcome rest where you can enjoy a hot drink with a homemade scone before heading to the National Trust gift shop next door for a souvenir.
Facilities: Free tea and coffee are served in the upstairs discovery room. Dogs are not accepted (except guide dogs). A shop sells local souvenirs and Wordsworth themed gifts.
Car parking: There is no on-site parking, but there are car parks in the town – the closest is 300 yards away on Wakefield Road.
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Cockermouth.
The atmospheric farmhouse of Townend in Troutbeck brings to life more than 400 years of extraordinary stories from the Browne family. Built in 1626 for George Browne, a ‘statesman’ (wealthy yeoman), the house has been kept as the Brownes had it throughout their long history here. On a breezy autumn day, you are welcomed into the farmhouse kitchen with a real fire – burning most afternoons – and a quirky collection of carved oak furniture which was made especially for the family. The library contains the family’s well-used collection of books, including 45 that are the only remaining copies in the world.
There are guided tours available or you can wander around the house at leisure, with information cards available in every room. Children will find Townend a fascinating place to visit, and a discovery sheet is available to guide them around the house. If you visit on a Thursday, you can watch a traditional cookery demonstration using recipes from Elizabeth Birkett's 17th-century hand-written recipe book. There is also an autumn trail through the beautiful garden where you will receive a plant pot to nurture and grow at home.
Facilities: Dogs are allowed in the garden only. There is a small selection of postcards and souvenirs on sale and you can buy a plant grown in the garden. Seasonal events are available.
Car parking: There is free parking 300 yards away.
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Troutbeck.
And there’s more…
Fell Foot Park in Windermere – this lakeshore park is particularly beautiful in the autumn when the leaves are changing colour, there’s a nip in the air and it’s quieter.
Sizergh near Kendal - delight in the colourful harvest of apples, quince and Westmoreland damsons, which visitors can taste.
Borrowdale – the most wooded valley in the Lake District looks spectacular dressed in auburn tones. Head over to Castle Cragg to marvel at the entire 7-mile valley.
If you need somewhere to stay in the Lake District this autumn, have a browse of our cottages for October half term.
Winter in the Lake District
Sizergh near Kendal is particularly enchanting during the winter, especially if the castle is dusted in a blanket of snow. Escape from the cold into the magnificent medieval house and take part in a guided tour of the decadent interiors. Marvel at the elaborate Elizabethan oak panelling, centuries-old portraits and fine furniture. Still lived in by the Strickland family, Sizergh has many captivating stories to tell. Towards Christmas, there is a selection of fun festive events such as gingerbread making and meeting Father Christmas, perfect for a family day out.
Outside, the frosty gardens and grounds make for a wonderful winter walk, a notable feature being the National Trust’s largest limestone rock garden, including part of the National Collection of Hardy Ferns. When you need to warm up, the tearoom offers a mouthwatering selection of seasonal food and steaming mugs of hot chocolate.
Facilities: Savour local, seasonal food in the licensed café and purchase souvenirs and plants from the on-site shop. Dogs are welcome on the wider estate at Sizergh, but not in the garden. Assistance dogs are welcome in all areas.
Car parking: Pay and display car parking is available 250 yards away (NT members free).
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Kendal.
One of the best things about winter in the Lake District is a crisp walk through the snow-capped hills and lakes followed by dinner at a traditional country pub with an open fire to cosy up by afterwards. Once you have tackled the Langdale Pikes or taken a windswept stroll around Blea Tarn, National Trust’s Sticklebarn pub is the perfect place to settle down with real ale and delicious wholesome food.
During the festive season, you can pick up a slab of rich Christmas cake and fill your flask before heading out onto the frosty fells. Then round off your hike with a mulled cider while wrapped up in a blanket and sat around the fire pit. If you’re stopping for a bite to eat, dishes are made with fresh, local produce celebrating Cumbria’s Food Heritage. You can look forward to the likes of slow roast hogget burger, Herdwick and damson hot pot and wild game casserole with dumplings.
Facilities: There is a great selection of drinks and food including a menu for children. There are also toys and board games for the kids to play with. Dogs are welcome in the pub.
Car Parking: Parking at Stickle Ghyll is pay and display (NT members free).
Where to stay: Browse our holiday cottages in Skelwith Bridge.
And there’s more…
The National Trust Shop in Keswick – perfect for picking up unique and thoughtful Christmas presents, this National Trust gift shop stocks everything from exclusive jewellery and fashion accessories to artisan home décor and garden essentials.
Tarn Hows near Coniston – this can be one of the busiest natural attractions in the Lake District in summer, so the colder months are the best time to explore. A 1.5km circular path around the water is great for all abilities.
Windermere Lake Cruises – daily winter sailings are a magical way to see the glittering scenery of the lakes, whether you prefer the cosy experience of sipping a hot chocolate from the heated cabin or sitting out on the open deck breathing in the clear winter air.
If you need somewhere to stay in the Lake District this winter, have a browse of our cottages for Christmas and New Year.
Map of National Trust attractions in the Lake District
National Trust car parks
If you are a member of the National Trust, all memberships (excluding junior members) include free parking at National Trust car parks. If you are interested in becoming a member and enjoying a wide range of benefits including free access to hundreds of unforgettable places across the country, just follow this link. Your membership will help to protect these wonderful places for years to come.
Where to stay in the Lake District
We offer a fine selection of holiday cottages near National Trust properties in the Lake District to make the most of every season. In the spring and summer choose one of our cottages with lake views and make the most of the flower-strewn landscapes or pick one of our hot tub cottages for an extra special treat. In the autumn and winter, you might prefer one of our holiday homes with an open fire to keep you warm and toasty.
From romantic getaways to family-friendly holidays and dog-friendly breaks, we have a cottage to suit every type of holidaymaker and they’re never far from an incredible day out at a National Trust attraction.
All images used in this blog are subject to copyright with the National Trust.