Must-visit Historical Sites in the Lake District

Amid the picturesque landscape of the Lake District are some remarkable historical sites that you must visit! There are a whole range of things to see from a variety of eras including prehistoric times, the Roman habitation, the Medieval period, and the more recent 18th and 19th centuries. Find yourself immersed in a past that highlights culture, and has had influence in literature, art, and modern industries.

1. Roman Remains

The Hardknott Roman Fort stands out for its remote and spectacular location, with magnificent views of Scafell and the Isle of Man. The origins can be traced back to the 2nd century, it is estimated around 117-138AD under the rule of Hadrian. Home to well-marked remains, you will find a headquarters building, commandant’s house and bathhouse. The main purpose of this fort was to monitor travel and enforce Roman law on an important road which linked the Cumbrian Coast with the heart of the Lake District. Pottery was discovered at this site which suggests the fort was in use for around 20 years.

Another notable site is the Ambleside Roman Fort, located on the shores of Lake Windermere. This fort, also dating back to the 2nd century, served as a vital supply base and guarded the Roman road from Brougham to Ravenglass. The success and strategic location of this fort meant that the Hardknott Roman Fort was soon abandoned. There is evidence of a large settlement which developed close by, discoveries such as leather shoes, pottery shards, coins and a brass colander highlight key information about how these settlers lived.

The Ravenglass Roman Bathhouse, situated at the mouth of the River Esk, reveals the daily life of a garrison of 500 soldiers thought to be from the First Cohort of the Aelia Classica. The bathhouse features well-preserved remains of four rooms with walls nearly 4 metres high and traced of original Roman mortar. Fragments of rare bronze military diploma found here provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the soldiers who once protected this thriving port. These sites collectively offer a captivating journey through the Lake District’s Roman heritage. Bathing was not only regarded as important for one’s health, but for Romans it was integral to social life and their cultural identity. It consisted of moving through a series of rooms in the following pattern: unheated room, to the warm room, to the hot room, back to the unheated before entering the cold plunge pool.

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2. Lowther Castle & Gardens

Lowther Castle & Gardens is a must-see historical site in the Lake District, offering a captivating blend of history and nature. Built at the turn of the 19th century, the castle’s grandeur was short-lived, as it was demolished in 1957, leaving only its striking façade and outer walls. Over the years, the original gardens fell into wilderness.

Today, Lowther Castle has been revitalised and now hosts an impressive historical exhibition, alongside a rich array of wildlife including beavers, wildflowers, and honeybees. Visitors can explore the beautiful gardens and one of the UK’s largest adventure playgrounds, making it a perfect destination for families. The site also features a charming café and shop where you can buy their home-made Lake District Honey, ensuring a delightful visit for all ages.

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3. Muncaster Castle

Muncaster Castle, a fascinating historical site in the Lake District, is steeped in rich history. Believed to be built on Roman remains after the discovery of a coin which dates to the time of Emperor Theodosius (circa AD 380) hints at the castle’s origins. The castle itself was constructed in the later 13th century and expanded into the 14th, with further renovations adding to its grandeur. Renowned for its ghostly resident, Tom Fool, the castle offers an intriguing glimpse into the supernatural. Beyond its historic walls, Muncaster boasts stunning gardens and a diverse array of events. Visitors can explore the owlery, weapons hall, and enjoy themed events such as Medieval Muncaster, Halloween festivities, and captivating theatre performances. Muncaster Castle promises a unique blend of history, legend, and entertainment for all who visit.

4. Castlerigg Stone Circle

Castlerigg Stone Circle, dating back to 3000 BC, is a must-see historical site in the Lake District that offers a profound glimpse into prehistoric times. This ancient monument is one of the earliest to be recommended for state preservation, underscoring its cultural importance. The circle spans 30 metres in diameter and features a distinctive entrance marked by two large upright stones. Adding to its intrigue is an unusual rectangle of standing stones within the circle, a rare feature among such sites. Castlerigg’s enigmatic presence and scenic surroundings make it an essential destination for history enthusiasts and those seeking unique experiences alike.

Keswick is home to some great hotels within walking distance, you should try Inn on the Square, Kings Arms Hotel and Skiddaw Hotel.

5. Honister Slate Mine

Honister Slate Mine is a captivating historical site in the Lake District that offers both a glimpse into the past and thrilling modern adventures. While the exact date of the first slate extraction is uncertain, it is believed to have begun during the Roman occupation, as evidenced by slate found at Roman archaeological sites. Today, Honister Slate Mine is a vibrant tourist destination with a variety of activities for all ages. Visitors can enjoy refreshments at the Bait Cabin Café, experience the exhilarating Via Ferrata, take informative mine tours, or cross the dramatic Infinity Bridge. For the more adventurous, options include climbing the mine, canyoning, and even cliff jumping. Honister Slate Mine beautifully combines historical significance with outdoor excitement, making it a must-visit spot in the Lake District.

Need accommodation? Check out the nearby Borrowdale Hotel & Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa.

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6. Wordsworth House & Gardens

William Wordsworth House & Gardens in Cockermouth is a must-see historical site in the Lake District, offering an intimate look into the early life of the famous poet William Wordworth. This beautifully preserved home is presented as it would have been when Wordsworth lived there with his family, providing a rich historical context. The riverside garden, meticulously maintained with 18th-century varieties of vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, reflects the horticultural practices of the time. Visitors can also explore the bookshop, which is stocked with a diverse collection of pre-loved books, the genres range from crime novels, children’s books, biographies, and cookbooks – you are sure to find something to suit all. This is a delightful destination for the whole family.

7. Derwent Pencil Museum

The Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick is a fascinating historical site in the Lake District, renowned as the home of the first pencil. The unique museum takes visitors on an engaging journey through the history of graphite and pencil production, from its humble beginnings as a cottage industry to its modern-day advancements. Highlights include the secret WWII pencils with hidden maps, one of the largest colour pencils in the world, the Queen’s diamond jubilee pencil, and the intricate miniature pencil sculptures. In addition to the captivating exhibits, the museum features a well-stocked gift shop and a cosy coffee shop, making it a perfect destination for both art enthusiasts and casual visitors.

Looking for accommodation? Check out these Keswick hotels located within walking distance…Inn on the Square, Kings Arms Hotel, Skiddaw Hotel.

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8. Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s Farmhouse Home

Hill Top, the beloved farmhouse home of Beatrix Potter, is a must-see historical site in the Lake District that offers an enchanting glimpse into the life and work of the renowned author. This charming house and its picturesque garden provided the inspiration for many of Potter’s beloved books, making it a nostalgic site for fans of her children’s stories, the Tales of Peter Rabbit. Visitors can explore the quaint second-hand book nook, enjoy delightful refreshments at JOEYs Café, and browse a variety of unique gifts and memorabilia in the shop. Hill Top seamlessly blends literary history with a warm, welcoming atmosphere, making it a perfect destination for book lovers and history enthusiasts alike.

Looking for accommodation?

Check out our latest offers at Lake District Hotels for memorable overnight stays that are WORTH the price!

Our six award-winning hotels are family owned and run, in each you will find the upmost dedication to perfecting customer experience with opulent interiors, luxurious facilities, and delectable dining options. The group is known for the warmth of our welcome, unrivalled personal attention and excellent service – so you can feel perfectly at home, away from home!

Keswick: Inn on the Square, Skiddaw Hotel, Kings Arms Hotel

Borrowdale: Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa, the Borrowdale Hotel

Glenridding: Inn on the Lake