Explore Cumbria beyond the Lake District


The Lake District is a magnet for visitors at any time of year but spring is particularly attractive.  People from all over the world come to see its stunning scenery and in spring get a glimpse of Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ on the shores of Ullswater.  However, the Lake District can get very busy so I recommend getting off the beaten track when you have seen the main sights and explore lesser-known parts of Cumbria.  Unspoilt, rich in natural beauty and ancient history, you’ll find charming villages, friendly pubs and plenty to see and do.  Here are four of my favourite places in the north, east, west and south of the county.


Overlooking the Solway Firth and the lowlands of Scotland, about 20 miles from Carlisle, Silloth was once a thriving Victorian seaside.  With stunning views across the water, excellent fishing and invigorating air, it attracts visitors who take pleasure in nature and the great outdoors. Also popular with walkers and cyclists, this out-of-the-way little town is at the end of Hadrian’s Wall Path; there’s a small viewing  hut with a mosaic celebrating not only its Roman history but also the plentiful bird-life to be seen all year round.  The town’s largest annual event is Solfest The Solway Music Festival, Cumbria’s biggest four day live music festival.  There’s a micro-brewery, a popular golf course and other holiday attractions but its main appeal is a faded gentility and other-worldly atmosphere, far from the tourist hordes.


Appleby Horse Fair - by Zoë Dawes

Appleby Horse Fair – by Zoë Dawes

A perfect combination of scenic and historic attraction, Appleby appeals all year round.  The River Eden flows through the town, providing the focal point for one of Cumbria’s most spectacular events – the Appleby Horse Fair.  Since 1685 Romany families have travelled from all over Britain to meet up with old friends, trade horses and provide a unique spectacle as they wash their ponies in the river.  Appleby Castle dominates this pretty market town and was home to a very remarkable woman. Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676), builder of castles and benefactor to many local people, is buried here and the town is on the route of Lady Anne’s Way.  Stock up on scrumptious picnic fare at Appleby Bakery and take time to explore the idyllic Eden Valley.



River Estuary at Ravenglass by Zoe Dawes

Estuary at Ravenglass – by Zoë Dawes

This sleepy little village on Cumbria’s west coast was known as Glannaventa in Roman times. The harbour served as a supply post in the 1st century AD and you can still see the remains of the old Roman Bathhouse nearby.  Three rivers, the Esk, Mite and Irt, flow into the estuary so take time out to enjoy the view and listen to the clanking of the halyards on the yachts dotted around the water.  The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway (15” gauge) takes just 40 minutes to trundle up into the impressive Cumbrian fells in Eskdale.   Ravenglass Station Café serves tasty snacks and you can get a decent pint at the Ratty Arms. Quirky Muncaster Castle, home to the original Tom Fool, is not far and if you’re there mid-afternoon you may see the herons flocking into the estate trees for their daily feeding session.


View from Arnside Knott - by Zoë Dawes

View from Arnside Knott – by Zoë Dawes

This little town in the south of Cumbria has a peaceful air about it where time seems to stand slow down and all is right with the world. Avocet, oystercatchers, the shoveler duck are a few of the birds you may spot as you wander along the busy shoreline overlooking the tidal waters of Morecambe Bay.  A relatively short walk takes you up to the National Trust’s ‘Arnside Knott’, with superb views over to the Lake District fells and out across Bay to the Irish Sea. There’s a viaduct across River Kent taking rail passengers over to Grange and up the west coast. Listen out for the siren warning of the incoming tide which swooshes across the sands at great speed.  Nearby places of interest include RSPB Leighton Moss, historic Levens Hall and the grounds of Dallam Tower with its ancient deer park.   In the evening treat yourself to excellent fish and chips from Arnside Chip Shop, grab waterfront seat and watch the sun setting over this tranquil scene.

There are many more fascinating places to explore in Cumbria so get a map and start exploring – you’ll be amazed at the treasures you’ll uncover.

Zoë Dawes aka The Quirky TravellerYou can read Zoë Dawes‘ entertaining articles on her travels around the UK and abroad in her award-winning blog Quirky Traveller’s Tales where she shares secret places off-the beaten track and travels in mind, body and spirit. Follow her on Twitter @quirkytraveller and ‘like’ her page on Face Book.

More Visit Britain articles by Zoë Dawes

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11 Responses to “Explore Cumbria beyond the Lake District”

  1. Zoe Dawes
    March 29, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    There are so many lovely places to discover in Cumbria it really is worth taking time to get explore – even the locals don’t know all the secrets of this big county!

  2. Nikki HF
    April 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    The Arnside area has to be one of the UK’s best hidden gems, and I’m very lucky to live less than an hour away. I’ve yet to venture up to Appleby but it’s been on the ‘to-do’ list for years – you’ve inspired me to try and set a date to finally go!

    Loved your article and photos :)

    • Zoe Dawes
      July 30, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

      Good to hear that Nikki – there really are so many fascinating places to see round here.

  3. Dave
    April 2, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

    Visit the Upper Eden Valley for The Yomp Mountain Challenge on June 2nd, over the fells above Kirkby Stephen, run, race or walk, a choice of three courses to raise money for charity whilst enjoying the views and the fells

    • Zoe Dawes
      July 30, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

      Sounds very energetic Dave and for a good cause. Hope it went well!

  4. Kendal Holiday Cottages
    April 3, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    Just to clarify, Zoe, but Ravenglass – despite being out towards the west coast – actually lies *in* the Lake District National Park, rather than “beyond the Lake District”… :-)

    Afternoons at Muncaster are also good for the owl talk/display (2.30pm each day, during the season).

    • Zoe Dawes
      July 30, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

      Oh thanks for that. I hadn’t realised it was in the National Park, tho must admit I hadn’t got a real boundary in mind, just avoiding the crowded honeypots :-)

  5. Sally B
    April 3, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    Hurrah! Delighted to see more coastal areas of fabulous Cumbria being showcased, well done Zoe for doing this so brilliantly

    • Zoe Dawes
      July 30, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      Thanks Sally – love finding places to get away from those crowds!

  6. John
    April 20, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    I’m really inspired to visit some of these places in Cumbria. I’ve never been to the Appleby fair but its something I’ve always wanted to do, it definitely looks worth making the trip for.

    • Zoe Dawes
      April 30, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

      It’s well worth getting off the beaten track John. If you can get to the fair it’s a unique weekend.

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