What to see and do in Lancashire and the Lake District
PUBLISHED: 06:09 15 May 2020
With an abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants, top class hotels, fascinating history books and world-famous scenery all on offer, we’re dreaming of a weekend away in Lancashire and the Lake District once lockdown is over
We may be mostly stuck in our homes for the time being, but we’re using this as the perfect opportunity to start planning some much-needed weekends away with friends, family and loved ones once we can travel again. If Lancashire and the Lake District aren’t already on your radar as some of the best places to visit, then they definitely need to be. These parts of the UK truly have it all, catering for everyone from the history lover to the adrenaline junkie, and best of all, Lancashire’s less than an hour’s drive up the M6 - and if you carry on for another 45 minutes you’ll be in the heart of the Lakes.
For an insight into Lancashire’s history books, Lancaster needs to take pride of place on your ‘must visit’ list. This ancient city is instantly recognisable thanks to its cobbled streets and castle, which dates back to Roman times and is today owned by The Duchy of Lancaster. The castle’s chequered past includes incidents of religious persecution, the infamous trials of the Lancashire Witches and 200 executions. Up until 2011 it was a fully functioning prison, but it’s now one of the county’s favourite visitor attractions. It’s also well worth paying a visit to the City Museum, discovering Lancaster’s creative scene at The Storey, and exploring the scenic canal on foot or by boat.
There are plenty of smaller market towns to visit too, which also come with their own intriguing histories. Head to Clitheroe in the heart of the glorious Ribble Valley and marvel at what remains of the castle, and if you happen to be here on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday, set aside some time to browse the market stalls. There are plenty of independent shops here too – Valley Living is the perfect place to pick up a gift, whilst Roost will satisfy your interior design needs.
If getting the adrenaline levels going is more your thing, a trip to the bright lights of Blackpool is a must. ‘Blackpool definitely has it all,’ reflects Councillor Gillian Campbell, who is also Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council (visitblackpool.com). Test your nerve at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, spot some famous faces at Madame Tussauds or meet some new ones at Sea Life and Blackpool Zoo. ‘The must-do is definitely visiting the Blackpool Tower and heading right to the top to see the amazing architecture of this building, which is over 125 years old and gives you amazing views of the North West,’ adds Gillian. ‘Don’t forget to grab some fish and chips for a walk along the three Victorian piers and some fresh air along the promenade and beach.’ Visit other coastal destinations such as Lytham St Anne’s, Morecambe Bay and Cleveleys if you need further convincing about why this part of the world is so special.
Further inland, Pendle Hill is a fantastic walking spot, a site that was made famous because of its spooky associations with the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612. The vast expanse of the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, also offers plenty of opportunities for making the most of the great outdoors. During lockdown, the team there are bringing the Forest of Bowland to you, with a range of home-based activities covering everything from star-gazing and history to family quizzes (see more at forestofbowland.com).
When it comes to food and drink, Lancashire is a bit of an over-achiever; there are a number of excellent restaurants here, including the double Michelin-starred restaurant at Moor Hall. The restaurant at Northcote and The White Swan at Fence also both hold a prestigious Michelin star, or you could sample the cuisine at Hipping Hall, which was named as Lancashire Life’s Restaurant of the Year in 2019. The hotel offering is just as impressive: Stanley House Hotel and Spa and Mitton Hall are ideal if you want a retreat in the heart of the Ribble Valley, or the famous Art Deco hotel, The Midland in Morecambe Bay, is perfect if you want to be near the coast.
That’s all without even venturing into the Lake District National Park. Bowness-on-Windermere is often seen as the tourism capital of the Lakes, sitting perched on the banks of Windermere. Here you’ll find an eclectic selection of fashion boutiques, art galleries, outdoors shops and gift shops, as well as enough cafes to keep even the greatest of coffee addicts happy. Windermere is a hotspot for water sports too, or for something a little quieter you could board a Lake Cruise from here or the nearby town of Ambleside.
Keswick has a slightly quirkier offering of attractions, including Derwent Pencil Museum and The Puzzling Place, which showcases the weirdest and wackiest optical illusions. Use Keswick as a base to embark on an idyllic stroll around Derwentwater, or take to the water on one of the Keswick Launch Co. cruises. Grasmere was the home of William Wordsworth, so it goes without saying that this is a haven for the literature lovers amongst us; visit his former home, Dove Cottage, to see a collection of his own manuscripts. The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere also pays homage to another of the Lake District’s most famous residents.
Don’t forget to bring your walking boots, since a visit to the Lake District wouldn’t be complete without a good old leg stretch. Honister Pass is one of the best-loved routes, linking Seatoller in the valley of Borrowdale to Gatesgarth at the southern end of Buttermere. There is a lovely circular walk around Gummer’s How, which is perfect if you’re in search of breath-taking views without having to journey too far.
The Lake District is also one of the country’s culinary capitals, with not one but seven Michelin-starred restaurants based here. L’Enclume was named as the UK’s number one restaurant by The Good Food Guide in 2020, but just down the road you’ll find the more relaxed Rogan and Co, which specialises in ‘comfort food’. If you’re in the mood for a cosy pub, there are plenty of those too – try The Drunken Duck in Ambleside. The hotels here are enough to send our weekend-away dreams into overdrive; Brimstone is one of the best known, with a top-class spa and rooms with emperor sized beds and wood burning stoves. Gilpin Hotel and Lake House offers stunning views, and is also home to the famous HRiSHi restaurant, whilst The Daffodil Hotel and Spa is a winner if you’re looking for somewhere in the heart of the Lake District countryside.
Lancashire and the Lake District may only be an hour or so up the road from the urban sprawl of Manchester, but they feel a million miles away – and we’re certainly yearning for peaceful strolls around the lakes and hours spent browsing through the shops, art galleries and museums once lockdown is over.