Whether you are a hardy hiker, a landscape photographer, a souvenir hunter, or an adventure junky, get your bearings in England’s most scenic area with our guide to the best places to stay in the Lake District.
The Lake District is a popular national park in northern England covering an area of 2,300 square kilometres. With spectacular ribbon lakes, rugged mountains and charming villages the range of activities on offer spans everything from afternoon scones to adventurous scrambles.
The various places to stay in the Lake District are scattered across different sections, each of which offers a very specific experience. Some have ample facilities (and the tourists to go with it), and others are remote landscapes abundant with natural beauty and rugged outdoor experiences.
We’ve been visiting this beautiful corner of England for years now. There are few mountains we haven’t climbed, or valleys we haven’t walked. We’ve had Scafell Pike views drenched in sun and more than a few days just plain drenched. We’ve tried many of the wild swimming spots and more than a few of the local pubs.
Here is our guide for the best places to stay in the Lake District to help you plan your perfect getaway. For more inspiration, read our guide to the best UK weekend breaks.
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IN THIS GUIDE
WHERE TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT (BY REGION)
MAP / WHERE TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
All the properties we’ve listed in this guide are on the map below so you can get a feel for each of the different areas in the Lake District. Before you decide where to stay, read our guide covering the best things to do in the Lake District.
This will help you understand what type of activities you might be interested in, so you’ll have a good idea where to base yourself.
1 – KESWICK & AROUND
Best place to stay in the Lake District for adventurous activities centred around a market town.
Nestled on the edge of Derwentwater in the north of the Lake District, Keswick is a lively market town with great facilities, nightlife and cafes. The pedestrianised main street has an excellent fresh-food market and there are museums for rainy days.
The waterfront is a lovely spot to stroll, surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains including the sloping back of Catbells, one of the classic walks in the Lake District.
Activities can be booked from Keswick including canyoning, paragliding, rock climbing and mountain biking. And if you are a hiker, many of the most craggy mountains and the best ridge walks are only a short drive away.
There’s a wide selection of hotels in and around Keswick catering to all budgets.
BUNGALOWS GUEST HOUSE
Just a few miles out of Keswick in Threlkeld, The Bungalows Guesthouse is an excellent budget option in the area. The location at the foot of Blencathra is superb.
Set in the centre of Keswick, Lakeside House is contemporary luxury accommodation with all the modern amenities you could ask for. Breakfast is served in front of a stunning view.
Located in the centre of town, the Royal Oak has a country house feel with stylish modern amenities. The food is excellent and dogs are cared for as well as regular human guests.
2 – BORROWDALE & BUTTERMERE
Best Lake District area for rugged scenery and dramatic craggy mountains
Borrowdale and Buttermere are a short 30-minute drive from Keswick. With two dark and moody valleys overlooked by high craggy mountains, this remote region has some of the most stunning views in the Lake District. There are no towns here, just a splattering of villages and the odd rustic, hiker’s hotel.
Borrowdale and Buttermere are the heart of hiking country. Many of the best walks in the Lake District leave from here such as Wainwright’s favourite Haystacks or the excellent ‘corridor route’ up Scafell Pike.
If getting away from it all, heading into the highest mountains and finishing in a rustic pub is what are you looking for, then Borrowdale and Buttermere are the areas for you.
This clean and spacious hostel is right on the coast-to-coast trail, making it an excellent choice for hikers. The communal areas are warm and comfy.
If you would like all the facilities of a business hotel in an excellent location, Glaramara is a good choice. The hearty breakfast is great.
3 – WINDERMERE & BOWNESS
Best Lake District stays for fancy hotels, lakeside strolls, tea shops & boat rides
Windermere has a gentler landscape than the craggy area around Keswick. Less steep rock has paved the way for larger towns with more facilities. Tourist boats provide cruises of the lake and a steam train chugs along the shore. The town is bursting with quaint tea shops.
There are also plenty of short walks with great views (Orest Head and Gummer’s How) and Beatrix Potter’s cottage is only a short ferry ride away.
Many of the best hotels in the Lake District are perched along the banks of the lake, offering all sorts of luxury. But beware, being easily accessible and with the most facilities in the Lake District, Windermere and Bowness can get packed in summer. The traffic on the lake’s east side can be oppressive.
CRAGWOOD COUNTRY HOUSE
This imposing manor house on the banks of the lake set among landscaped gardens is full of guest-friendly facilities. It’s a 5-minute drive from the centre of town.
THE SAMLING HOTEL
If you love the idea of being looked after in luxury, the Sampling Hotel is for you. The beautifully appointed rooms have lake or mountain views.
This classic Victorian property just a few minutes from the centre of Windermere is an adults-only stay with all the right attention to detail.
4 – CONISTON, AMBLESIDE & GRASMERE
Best places to stay in the Lake District for beautifully set villages in a central location
These three charming small towns in the centre of the Lake District are a perfect base for those looking to explore the whole area. Within a forty-minute drive, you can be hiking up majestic Helvellyn, canyoning in Coniston, hiring a mountain bike in Keswick or encouraging your car up Wrynose Pass.
Grasmere is a small town set back from the main road. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, it’s one of the most beautiful villages in the Lake District. It has good hotels and independent restaurants (try the Jumble Room). Coniston is little more than a village, but it retains a local and lived-in feel with pubs spilling onto the street and handy village stores.
Ambleside is a larger town that is busier and has a wider selection of restaurants and independent shops. Despite its facilities and location, it has maintained a charm that Windermere and Bowness have lost.
AMBLESIDE LAKE HOUSE
The freshly cooked breakfast is just what you need after enjoying the hiking trails near the Ambleside Lake House. There’s free parking and it’s just a 10-minute walk to the town centre.
This 3 bedroom home in the centre of Coniston has been renovated to a high standard, making it a great self-contained stay in the lakes. The view from the garden is lovely.
FOREST SIDE HOTEL
This traditional home in a wooded estate in Grasmere still exudes the elegant style of its heyday. The restaurant is quality fine dining and the staff are extremely attentive.
This 6 bedroom, 5 bathroom house near Coniston has everything you need for a quality family stay, complete with a games room and panoramic views.
5 – ELTERWATER & LANGDALE
Best Lake District getaway for dramatic and atmospheric landscapes
With a combination of great views and atmospheric misty lakes, Elterwater and Langdale get our pick for the best places in the Lake District for photographers. Snap the mountain reflections on Coniston Water, the striking Langdale Pikes from Blea Tarn. Alternatively, capture the misty waters of the River Brathay as it meanders along the valley.
The Langdale Valley has excellent short walks, several longer ones and some of the most memorable drives in the Lake District. Elterwater village itself is a charming hamlet with a couple of great pubs. All in all, it’s rather lovely.
Read all about this rugged and remote area in the Lake District in our guide to visiting the Langdale Pikes.
THE BRITANNIA INN
This traditional Inn has all the right trimmings: oak beams, open fires, real ales and home-cooked food. Guests also get access to the pool and spa next door.
LANGDALE HOTEL & SPA
Indulge in luxury at the Langdale Hotel & Spa, set in 4 acres of lovely woodland. With top service inside and stunning surroundings outside, it’s a perfect stay.
This great value cottage sleeps 4 in the heart of the Langdale Valley. It has all the amenities you need for a Lakeland stay and it’s very dog friendly.
6 – WASDALE & ESKDALE
Best area to stay in the Lake District for great walks in remote valleys
Wasdale and Eskdale are the most remote valleys in the Lake District. Yet, they offer some of the most magnificent scenery in the area.
Desolate (except for a stream of day-trippers hiking up Scafell Pike) they are the perfect spot for getting away from it all, having a wild swim and a lonely hike. There are no towns, just the odd village, a few country pubs and some of the finest scenery in the Lake District.
And getting to these valleys is half the fun. Most routes involve driving over the high passes of Wrynose, Hardknott and Whinlatter. Hardknott is the most challenging. Open only to smaller vehicles, it has 30% gradients and a series of hairpins. Whichever route you choose, you are rewarded with excellent views of the high mountains and deep valleys.
The Eskdale hostel is located in a picturesque setting, ideal for exploring the valley. The shared kitchen is well set up for self-catering.
WINDSOR COTTAGES SCAFELL
With a private garden, excellent views and access to a fully equipped kitchen, Windsor Cottages Scafell is a great option in Wasdale.
The stylish contemporary design of the 1692 Wasdale, blends in with the rugged remote surroundings. A number of great walks leave from the hotel.
SCAFELL VIEW APARTMENT
A recently renovated property overlooking the Scafell Range, this 2-bedroom apartment sleeps 4. It’s perfectly located for great walks and great pubs.
7 – CARTMEL & HAWKSHEAD
Best place to stay in the Lake District for great food and craft beer
Wedged between the sea and the Lake District National Park, Cartmel has become home to many of the finer things in the Lake District life. The quaint village boasts artisan bakeries, village shops brimming with local produce and two Michelin starred restaurants (L’Enclume and Rogan & Company). The star of Cartmel however is sticky toffee pudding, which originated from the small village store before becoming the ubiquitous menu item is it today.
Hawkshead is a beautiful little village that has retained its local charm while remaining somewhat overlooked by tourists. The beer selection at Kittchen Bar & Beershop is fantastic.
A short drive brings you to the grand country houses of Holker Hall or Levens Hall and a plethora of easy walks spread out from the waters of Coniston. So if you fancy gentle drives into beautiful scenery and world-class dining in the evening then Cartmel or Hawkshead is for you.
SWAN HOTEL & SPA
The quirky colourful interiors of the Swan Hotel will brighten up any gloomy Lake District weekend. Their self-contained cottages, The Nests, are like mini resorts.
Luxury accommodation in the heart of Cartmel with 4 good sized bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a well-appointed kitchen for entertaining.
8 – ULLSWATER & PATTERDALE
Best area to stay in the Lake District for adventurous ridge walks and lakeside activities
While the northwest of the Lake District is a craggy tower of rocks and the south is lower-lying sheep-strewn green hills punctuated with lakes, Ullswater and Patterdale are a mix of the two.
High mountains combine with grassy hills to form many of the finest ridge walks in the country. Some are razor-sharp and only for the adventurous like Sharp Edge and Striding Edge, while others are rounded tops upon which you could stroll for days.
Not only is the walking excellent but there are also family-focused activities on the lake. Rent a canoe or motorboat, take a ride on a steamer, enjoy a long swim from the shore or leap into chilly waters from Kailpot Crag. The best waterfall in the region, Aira Force, is here making as well it a microcosm of all that’s good about the Lake District.
OLD WATER VIEWS
The Old Water View is a comfy, basic guesthouse with charm & character. The continental breakfast will put you in good stead for hiking Hellvelyn.
THE CROWN INN
Well-appointed pub on the shores of Ullswater with a well-positioned deck. The hearty breakfast will set you up for the day.
MORE LAKE DISTRICT READING
We’ve been to the Lake District many times and never run out of fantastic things to do. From adventurous scrambles to relaxing wild swimming, here are more of our guides from the lakes.
LAKE DISTRICT WALKS
Our pick of the finest walks in the Lake District
Try these heart-pumping grade 1 Lake District scrambles
Conquer knife-edge ridges on this exhilarating walk up Blencathra
Walk Scafell Pike via the corridor route
15 great things to do in the Lake District
Our favourite Lake District views
Explore the rugged & remote Langdale Pikes
The best wild swimming locations in the Lake District
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