Do you love exploring new places and discovering hidden gems? Then Penrith is the perfect destination for you! This small market town in Cumbria is bursting with interesting activities, natural beauty, and fascinating history. Whether you’re a long-time local or passing through on holiday, there’s something here to capture your imagination. From outdoor adventures to strolling through picturesque villages, Penrith has it all! Read on to discover our favourite things to do in this beautiful part of England!
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Where is Penrith?
Penrith is situated just outside the Lake District National Park in the North West of England. The town isn’t the prettiest in the area however, its central location is a great place to base yourself especially if on a tight budget. There are lots to discover including many stately homes, ancient ruins, beautiful landscapes and adventure activities. It’s the perfect place for a short break in the Northwest of England!
15 Fabulous things to do in Penrith:
1. Penrith Castle
If you arrive in Penrith by train then it will be hard to miss Penrith Castle. These lovely ruins date back to the 14th century and sit proudly next to the train station.
The castle sits within the grounds of Castle Park and is maintained by English Heritage. Although small, it’s a lovely castle to wander around. The adjoining park is also worth exploring with different areas of interest with a bandstand and rose-covered verandah walkway. It’s a lovely place to enjoy a picnic and watch the world go by.
2. Aira Force
Aira Force is known as one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the whole of the Lake District. Made up of several waterfalls and woodland glades it definitely lives up to its reputation! It’s a fabulous place to enjoy a scenic walk and climb up to the various levels taking in all its power and beauty. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious cake and coffee in the Aira Force tea room!
There are various trails around the area. The biggest and most spectacular is the full circular route taking you uphill to the top of the falls. If short on time you can take the trail halfway up which takes you across the fabulous stone bridge. However, if able I recommend taking the time to climb to the top and see some of the other falls and rocky waterways.
You can get to Aira Force either by getting the 508 bus from Penrith. This bus stops conveniently outside the Aira Force tea room. If already at the lake you can also take one of the Ullswater Steamers to the Aira Force jetty.
3. Dalemain Mansion
Dalemain Mansion is situated halfway between Penrith and Pooley Bridge, however not easily accessible via bus. I personally visited whilst walking from Penrith to Pooley Bridge so that is an option if you enjoy a good walk. If not a taxi may be the only option if no access to your own transport. You can also reach the Dalemain Estate from Pooley Bridge by following the Dalemain loop walking trail.
The Estate itself is set in amazing gardens including a fabulous hedged dragon and the famous Himalayan Blue Poppy. Access to inside the house is only available in the summer months with general tickets for the house and gardens priced at £13.50. However specialist tours are also available to book giving you the chance to see behind the scenes.
Visiting the house gives you the chance to wander around and learn more about the history and life of the people who lived here over the years. Whilst wandering around keep an eye out for some little surprises such as the tiny mouse house under the stairs!
Today the house is famous in the area for its Marmalade Festival and awards. Every year hundreds of competitors showcase their homemade marmalades from around the world in the hope of being crowned the best in the world! The onsite shop and tea room also offer some of its tasty marmalade treats as well as selling many homemade treats to take home.
Before leaving Delemain be sure to check out the beautiful Red Deer grazing in the fields behind the estate. The estate is situated in the heart of the Red Deer Conservation Park, home to the oldest Red Deer herds in all of England.
Just a 20-minute ride on the 508 bus from Penrith you will find yourself in the quaint village of Pooley Bridge situated on the Northern shore of beautiful Ullswater.
You can if you fancy it walk the route like I did but it’s not the most accessible at times with no pathways and walking through fields with grazing sheep. If up for the challenge then the route takes around 2 hours and does offer some beautiful scenery along the way, just be prepared for muddy fields!
Ullswater itself is the Lake District’s 2nd largest lake and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the area. You can take one of the lake cruises to travel around the lake. Hop-on and off tickets are available at various jetties around the Lake.
5. Climb a mountain
Being within close proximity to the Lake District makes Penrith a great base for exploring the beautiful fells around Ullswater. There are various walking trails and hiking trails on offer. Some of which offer panoramic views around the lake and surrounding area.
Some of the more popular trails include the Ullswater Way, Lowther Castle loop or the Dalemain loop. For a more strenuous walk, why not head up one of the fells to catch some of the fabulous views?
For more information on the different routes on offer check out the Ullswater Way.
6. Penrith Beacon
Penrith’s stone-built beacon is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the Penrith area. It crowns the summit of Beacon Hill. The fell rises behind the town to the northeast, and marks the spot where countless beacons were lit over the centuries to warn the population of potential raids.
The monument was built in 1719 and replaced an earlier structure on the same site. It is likely that a beacon in some form or other has been sited here since 1296.
If staying in the centre of Penrith then it’s worth while taking a walk up to Penrith Beacon for some fabulous panoramic views across the Eden Vally.
7. Lowther Castle and Gardens
Lowther Castle is one of the most magnificent ruined castles in England. Built-in the beginning of the 19th century. The castle was a grand affair boasting a room for every day of the year. Its gardens were the envy of the north. But in 1957 the castle was demolished. Just the façade and outer walls remained standing and for over half a century, the place was empty, home only to chickens, pigs and the odd bat.
Although the castle remains in ruins, the vast gardens have been brought back to life and offer a peaceful and scenic place to spend an afternoon. The castle also has many walking trails and cycle paths that lead you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Lake District.
The castle also offers a scrumptious afternoon tea in the beautiful surroundings of the Sculpture Gallery, so booking are essential thought.
8. Mayburgh Henge
Just a short walk from Penrith close to Eamont Bridge. Here you will find the ancient Mayburgh Henge as well as the adjacent King Arthurs’s Round Table.
Mayburgh henge is a large Neolithic henge surrounded by banks up to three metres high. In the centre stands a single-standing stone. Old drawings suggest others once stood nearby but they have since been removed.
Down the road, you will also find King Arthur Round Table which is a Neolithic earthwork henge, dating from about 2000 BC, but much later believed to be King Arthur’s jousting arena.
Both sites are only small and you will only need a few minutes to visit each site but those who are interested in history will find these places fascinating.
Both sites are maintained by English Heritage and are free to enter.
9. Carlisle Castle
Just a 20-minute train journey from Penrith you will be in the cathedral city of Carlisle. The city itself is a great place for shopping or finding some great restaurants but it’s also home to some historical sites such as the beautiful cathedral and the fabulous Carlisle Castle.
Carlisle Castle has a rich history and dates back to 72 AD when the first Roman fort in the city was established. The Castle once played a major part in the border defence of the English against the Scotts. It also held ‘Mary Queen of Scotts” in the castle tower after she was detained by order of Queen Elisabeth I, her own cousin in 1568.
The castle itself is situated close to Hadrian’s wall. Although most of the wall and forts alongside it are now long gone, the castle once provided garrison support for many of these outposts to help defend against the Scotts.
The castle is maintained by English Heritage and is £11.50 for adults, however, English Heritage members can access the site for free. If travelling around England and visiting many sites I recommend becoming a member for a small fee of £6 a month.
10. Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall stretches 73 miles from Wallsend near Newcastle, across the neck of England to Bowness-on-Solway in North West Cumbria. It was built in 120 AD and housed a fort at 7-mile intervals and lookout stations every mile.
From Penrith, there are various parts of Hadrian’s Wall to visit such as Birdoswald Fort, the longest remaining stretch of the wall.
Most parts of the wall can be accessed easily with public transport by travelling up to Carlise first and then taking a local bus to the sites. For local bus information see down below.
Whilst I was there last September I ventured further afield and visited Vindolanda, one of the largest excavated forts that have been found close to Hadrian’s Wall. It was a bit of a trip from Penrith but it was very worthwhile and would definitely recommend a trip if interested in Roman History and have plenty of time to spare.
Rheged is a grass-roofed Lakeland Heritage Centre situated on the outskirts of Penrith and is easily accessed via public transport. The complex houses a 3D cinema, theatre, and exhibition space as well as numerous food outlets, children’s indoor and outdoor play areas, shops and a spa.
The centre holds various activities and events throughout the year with plenty of offerings both for adults and children alike.
12. Hutton in the Forest
This historic Cumbrian house is situated on the edge of the Lake District National Park only a short drive from Penrith.
Inside the house, you will be taken on a wonderful journey through time. As you make your way Into the house you will pass through the remarkable Stone Hall, a dungeon-like room with immensely thick walls that contains a display of weaponry and a fearsome mantrap.
As you travel through the house you will visit many other beautiful rooms such as the Cupid Room, Lady Darlington’s Room and the Cupid Staircase. Throughout you will also find many historic items such as pottery, furniture and even early William Morris wallpapers.
Surrounding the house is the immaculate gardens which showcase an amazing walled garden, many terraces and topiary, a low garden and pond as well as a woodland with several walking trails.
You will also find the Cloisters Tea Room serving delicious homemade treats, sandwiches and teas.
13. Adventure sports
Like most places around the Lake District, Penrith has plenty of outdoor activities on offer. Some of the most popular sports in Penrith are cycling, Kayaking or even Mountain Skills with many others available from the numerous activity centres and tour companies in the area.
Some companies of interest include:
14. Long Meg and her daughters
Just a short drive from Penrith you will find one of the best stone circles in England. Measuring 250 metres in diameter it’s also one of the biggest. Long Meg is the tallest of the 69 stones and stands at 12 feet tall.
It is thought the circle dates back to 1500 BC and was once used as a meeting place or for some form of religious ritual. Long Meg is made of local red sandstone, whereas the daughters are granite.
Local legend claims that Long Meg was a witch who with her daughters, was turned to stone for profaning the Sabbath, as they danced wildly on the moor. The circle is supposedly endowed with magic so that it is impossible to count the same number of stones twice, but if you do then the magic is broken.
15. Brougham Castle & Hall
In a picturesque setting beside the crossing of the River Eamont, Brougham Castle was founded in the early 13th century. The great keep largely survives, amid many later buildings including the unusual double gatehouse and impressive ‘Tower of League’.
Unlike most ruined castles in England, you can still climb up to the top of the keep and check out the lovely views of the surrounding area.
Once finished at the castle, take a short walk to Brougham Hall where you can relax in the cutest cafe and enjoy some homemade treats.
How to get to Penrith:
Penrith can be easily reached via junction 40 of the M6. Using motorways from Manchester takes approximately 2 hours, whilst from the Midlands Keswick is around a 3-hour drive. The average journey time from London is approximately 5 1/2 hours.
The recently opened Carlisle Airport now operates flights to Dublin, Belfast and London Southend. Flights can be booked on the Loganair website.
Penrith is within easy driving distance of several airports. All airports offer car hire and have easy access to the M6.
Newcastle Airport 1 3/4 hours
Manchester Airport 2 hours (There is a train station at the airport)
Edinburgh Airport 2 1/2 hours
Glasgow Airport 2 1/2 hours
Liverpool Airport 2 1/4 hours
Blackpool Airport 1 3/4 hours (Daily flights to the Isle of Man, Belfast and Dublin)
National Express offers cheap fares to Penrith from other major cities within the UK.
Getting around the local area:
With only living a few hours away from the lake district I have visited the area countless times and believe the area is one of the most beautiful in all of England. On most occasions, I have travelled to the Lake District by train therefore only utilising public transport to get around and can fully recommend the area for those without their own transport such as foreign travellers and backpackers.
If you want to visit parts of Hadrian’s Wall then check out the special AD122 Bus which runs a circular trip around some of the popular sites.
Where to stay in Penrith:
Penrith has accommodation for every budget and every type of traveller. Accommodation around the town generally comprises B&Bs and guest houses. Further afield you will find all sorts of options from campsites to luxury resorts. If relying on public transport then I recommend staying with the town of Penrith in order to utilise the public transport network.
I personally always choose a local B&B that’s situated within the town centre and close to all the local amenities.
On my last trip to Penrith, I stayed in the lovely Red Town House which had the loveliest rooms as well as one of the best-cooked English breakfasts I’ve ever had and fabulous hosts! At only £50 a night for a large double room, it was well worth it, I would definitely recommend it!
For booking accommodation I recommend using Booking.com. This website offers the best-priced accommodation catering for all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements and it will give you a list of available accommodation. Perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&B or even some luxury escapes.Booking.com
With all the exciting options that Penrith has to offer, it’s truly a great spot for locals and tourists alike to experience both the cultural heritage and modern amenities of England. Whether you’re here for a short visit or an extended stay, you’ll find something that suits your tastes and your budget. From exploring the historic castles to having a delicious meal at one of the many pubs, Penrith is sure to be the destination of choice for everyone in search of a memorable time. So what are you waiting for? Make plans today and come explore this beautiful area!
Thanks so much for stopping by, I appreciate every one of you who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content coming in the next few weeks so make sure you pop back to catch up!