Lake District

Things to Do in Penrith, Cumbria

Nestled between the beautiful fells and tarns of the Lake District National Park and the stunning upland hills of the Pennines, the market town of Penrith is a gateway to some of the most incredible landscapes in the UK. Close to home, its attractive red sandstone houses, cosy pubs, family-run shops, local eateries and attractions inspire all generations of visitors, while just outside this ancient market town’s borders are a huge range of activities and historical sites that encourage hours of exploration. 

Set within the beautiful Eden Valley, the county’s ancient capital provides the perfect base from which to enjoy a luxury holiday and explore incredible areas of outstanding natural beauty. Served by road and rail links and surrounded by a wealth of things to see and do, it’s somewhere that breeds excitement and adventure and inspires even the most seasoned travellers. To get you started on the most idyllic escape, we’ve put together a list of the top things to do in Penrith, including all the best activities and attractions nearby. 

Penrith’s Top Attractions 

From a giant’s grave to ancient stone circles to Medieval castles, Penrith market town and its surrounds flawlessly set the scene for jaw-dropping discovery.

Penrith Castle, Penrith

Construction of Penrith Castle began at the end of the 14th Century as part of a bid to defend the border against the Scots. In the late 1400s, it became the luxury residence of the future King Richard III, before falling into disrepair over the coming centuries. Today, its castle walls still cling to the present, surviving to their full height and revealing the outlines of this once grand home. 

Penrith Castle Park, Penrith

Set at the foot of Penrith Castle, Penrith Castle Park is a dog-friendly park and garden. Decorated with mature rose gardens, flower beds and trees and benefitting from large grassy areas, it’s ideal for picnics, strolls and games throughout the year. With something for all the family, the park is also home to a children's play area, crazy golf, tennis courts, a bowling green, café, bandstand and more.

Brougham Castle, Penrith 

The striking ruins of the 13th Century Brougham Castle reside in a picturesque setting next to the River Eamont. Inviting you to retrace the footsteps of time, a complex serious of passageways and staircases tease their way around the castle, tower and double gatehouse. Meanwhile, a viewing platform atop the keep beckons with panoramic views over the Eden Valley.

Penrith and Eden Museum, Penrith

The Penrith and Eden Museum sits within the old Robinson's School building, built in the 1600s as a girls’ school. Converted into a museum in 1883, it now houses the town’s tourist information centre as well as exhibitions on Penrith’s natural and human history. Spanning millions of years, these exhibits include a fossil footprint from the nearby Eden Valley of a reptile pre-dating the dinosaurs.

The Giants Grave, Penrith

A place of history and legend, the graveyard of St Andrews Church in Penrith is home to two ancient relics and will attract every storyteller and history buff. The most famous relic is known as the Giant’s Grave, and is believed to be the final resting place of Owen Cæsarius, the King of Cumbria between 900 and 937AD. The second, the Giant's Thumb, is a Saxon wheel cross dating from 920AD.

Mayburgh Henge, Eamont Bridge

Mayburgh is a large, circular Neolithic henge encompassed by steep grassy banks, at the centre of which is a large stone monolith. Other stones were once present, though these have since been removed. At about 4,500 years old, this henge makes for one of the most fascinating attractions in Penrith and is a must-visit for all history-lovers looking to throw their minds back in time. 

King Arthur’s Round Table, Eamont Bridge

King Arthur's Round Table is a Neolithic earthwork, surrounded by a wide ditch and steep earthen bank. Believed to have been built as long as 3,000 years ago, its stripped back remains bely a deeply complex history. Amongst its many chapters, it’s thought that it was once used as the jousting area of King Arthur. Four-legged historians are also welcome to visit this dog-friendly attraction.

The Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby

The National Trust-run Acorn Bank is a picturesque garden and dog-friendly visitor attraction, famous in spring for its sunshine-yellow Edwardian daffodils. Once an industrial hotspot, the estate now awaits with tranquil becks, a partially restored watermill, lily pond, woodland walks, bountiful herb collections and traditional fruit orchards.

Long Meg & Her Daughters Stone Circle, Hunsonby

Long Meg and Her Daughters is the second biggest stone circle in the country, heralded by William Wordsworth as “next to Stonehenge… the most notable relic that this or probably any other country contains”. The circle probably dates to 1500BC and of its 69 ancient stones, the largest, Long Meg, is 12ft high – the only stone made of local red sandstone, not granite.

Clifton Hall Pele Tower, Clifton

Clifton Hall is a 15th Century pele tower, or fortified keep, and one of many built along the English and Scottish borders between the 1400 and 1600s. Once part of a larger estate, the remains of the tower provide an interesting insight into the workings of a Medieval fortified house. Even today, the fireplaces and intricate timber rafter ceiling of the keep are still in place.

Dalemain House and Gardens, Dalemain

Beginning life as a pele tower in the 12th Century, this historic house and its 5-acre gardens and parkland today make for a fantastic family day out. Home of the Hasell family for over 300 years, the house itself is open for guided tours, while the house’s grounds coax with flower-peppered gardens perfect for leisurely exploration. There’s also a tearoom onsite serving home-made food. 

Things to Do in Penrith

Whether you’re most at home seeking adventure or leisure, there is a huge range of things to do near Penrith, from fast-paced hikes to relaxed lake cruises. 

Explore Ullswater 

Only 5 miles from Penrith, Ullswater – the second largest lake in the Lake District – is a must-visit during a holiday in the area. Activities include everything from scenic boat cruises on one of the lake’s heritage steamers to invigorating hikes along the Ullswater Way. Of course, skimming stones, reading books and picnicking by the shore also make for worthy pastimes that will be enjoyed by all. 

Kayak the River Eden

The River Eden was originally known as Iouna by the Romans, which translates as “water” or “rushing”. It comes as no surprise, then, that this particular river is well-known for its fast-flowing water and white-water rapids that draw experienced kayakers from near and far. For guided river runs, get in touch with local operators including Eden Outdoor Adventures and Keswick Canoe. 

Walk the Pennines

Just beyond Penrith and the Eden Valley lies the North Pennines AONB, an upland area forming part of the ‘backbone of England’. The area is home to countless walks of varying difficulty and length that cater to walkers of all abilities – great for hikers and ramblers staying in Penrith. It’s also home to Britain's oldest long-distance footpath, the 268-mile Pennine Way. 

Visit the Rheged Centre

Situated in Britain’s largest grass-covered building, the Rheged Centre in Redhills, Penrith, is one of Cumbria’s most intriguing visitor attractions. Home to a cinema (including the biggest 3D cinema screen in the northwest), gallery, children’s indoor play and creative space, café and deli and more, it is a versatile work and play space that all the family can enjoy together.

Cycle Lowther Estate’s Trails

Lowther Castle & Gardens in Lowther, Penrith, take pride of place in the heart of an enormous estate. Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, Lowther’s expansive grounds, including a 3,000-acre Medieval deer park, are woven with a vast web of foot and cycle paths. Running through ancient woodland and open pastures, these trails cater to all abilities and are clearly signposted for ease.

Complete a Penrith Town Walking Trail

Though it could be tempting to spend an afternoon in Penrith simply popping in out of shops and cafés, there’s much more to see and do. A historical melting pot, the town has a rich heritage woven into its fabric. Making this history more accessible are seven official town walking trails, covering the Beacon, Cornmarket, Castle, Town Hall, St Andrews, Musgrave and Wordsworth

Ride the Settle and Carlisle Railway

The Settle & Carlisle railway line is one of England's most famous routes, running through the Yorkshire Dales National Park and skirting the edge of the Lake District National Park. Stopping close to Penrith at nearby Lazonby & Kirkoswald station, this scenic railway journey provides a thoroughly relaxing day out and rewards voyagers with incredible views over the UK’s most striking landscapes. 

Hike Beacon Hill and Penrith Beacon

High above the town of Penrith atop Beacon Hill is Penrith Beacon, one of the area’s most recognisable features. Dating from the early 18th Century, it was built in the place of earlier beacons that had stood there since the 1200s – used to forewarn locals of impending attack. Today, the monument is a popular destination for walks and provides glorious views over the countryside.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in the Lake District and Cumbria.

 

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