Discover the best things to do in Penrith!
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Discover 15 Fabulous Things To Do In Penrith!

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 exciting 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 just outside the Lake District National Park in North West England. The town isn’t the prettiest in the area. However, its central location is a great place to base yourself, especially if you are on a tight budget. There is much to discover, including 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, it will be hard to miss Penrith Castle. These lovely ruins date back to the 14th century and sit proudly beside 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, a bandstand, and a 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 one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Lake District. Made up of several waterfalls and woodland glades, it 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 you are short on time, you can take the trail halfway up, which takes you across the fabulous stone bridge. However, I recommend climbing to the top and seeing 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 halfway between Penrith and Pooley Bridge; however, it is not easily accessible via bus. I visited whilst walking from Penrith to Pooley Bridge, which is an option if you enjoy a good walk. If not, a taxi may be the only option if you don’t have access to your own transport. You can also reach the Dalemain Estate from Pooley Bridge by following the Dalemain loop walking trail.

The Estate is set in superb gardens, including a fabulous hedged dragon and the famous Himalayan Blue Poppy. Access to the house is only available in the summer, with general tickets for the house and gardens priced at £13.50. However, specialist tours are also available to book, allowing you to see behind the scenes.

Visiting the house allows you to wander around and learn more about the history and life of the people who lived here over the years. While walking around, watch 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, hoping to be crowned the best in the world! The onsite shop and tea room also offer some tasty marmalade treats and sell many homemade treats to take home.

Before leaving Delemain, check out the beautiful Red Deer grazing in the fields behind the estate. The estate is in the heart of the Red Deer Conservation Park, home to England’s oldest Red Deer herds.

4. Ullswater

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.

If you fancy it, you can 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 you’re up for the challenge, the route takes around 2 hours and offers some beautiful scenery along the way; just be prepared for muddy fields!

Ullswater 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 close to the Lake District makes Penrith an excellent base for exploring the beautiful falls 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 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, replacing an earlier structure on the same site. A beacon in some form or other has likely been cited here since 1296.

If staying in the centre of Penrith, it’s worth walking up to Penrith Beacon for fabulous panoramic views across the Eden Valley.

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, offering 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 delicious afternoon tea in the beautiful surroundings of the Sculpture Gallery.

8. Mayburgh Henge

Just a short walk from Penrith, close to Eamont Bridge. You will find the ancient Mayburgh Henge and 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, a Neolithic earthwork henge, dating from about 2000 BC but much later believed to be King Arthur’s jousting arena.

Both sites are small, and you will only need a few minutes to visit each one, but those interested in history will find these places fascinating.

English Heritage maintains both sites, and they are both free to enter.

9. Carlisle Castle

Just a 20-minute train journey from Penrith, you will be in the cathedral city of Carlisle. The town is an excellent place for shopping or finding great restaurants. However, it’s also home to 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 significant 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 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.

English Heritage maintains the castle and its entrance fee 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.

While 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 I would recommend a trip if you are interested in Roman History and have plenty of time to spare.

11. Rheged

Rheged is a grass-roofed Lakeland Heritage Centre situated on Penrith’s outskirts and easily accessed via public transport. The complex houses a 3D cinema, theatre, exhibition space, 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 for adults and children.

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 are the immaculate gardens, which showcase a unique walled garden, many terraces and topiaries, a low garden and pond, and 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 offers plenty of outdoor activities. Some of the most popular sports in Penrith are cycling, Kayaking or even Mountain Skills, with many others available from the area’s numerous activity centres and tour companies.

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 12 feet tall.

The circle dates back to 1500 BC and was once used as a meeting place or for a religious ritual. Long Meg is made of local red sandstone, whereas the daughters are granite.

Local legend claims that Long Meg, a witch 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 counting the same number of stones twice is impossible, but if you do, the spell 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 homemade treats.

How to get to Penrith:

Road:

Penrith can be easily reached via junction 40 of the M6. Using motorways from Manchester takes approximately 2 hours, while Penrith is around a 3-hour drive from the Midlands. The average journey time from London is about 5 1/2 hours.

Plane:

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.

Rail:

Penrith has its own station, which forms part of the West Coast Main Line. Check out the Trainline for route planning, tickets and timetables.

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Bus:

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 Dake District, I have visited the area countless times and believe the area is one of the most beautiful in England. On most occasions, I have travelled to the Lake District by train, only utilising public transport to get around. I can thoroughly recommend the area for those without their own transport, such as foreign travellers and backpackers.

For up-to-date information on routes around Penrith and the rest of the Lake District, download the Stagecoach app or check out the Stagecoach website.

If you want to visit parts of Hadrian’s Wall, check out the AD122 Bus, which runs a circular trip around some 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, I recommend staying with the town of Penrith to utilise the public transport network.

I always choose a local B&B within the town centre and close to all the local amenities.

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.

Final Thoughts

With all the exciting options that Penrith offers, it’s a great spot for locals and tourists to experience England’s cultural heritage and modern amenities. Whether you’re here for a short visit or an extended stay, you’ll find something that suits your tastes and budget. From exploring the historic castles to having a delicious meal at one of the many pubs, Penrith makes an excellent choice for a family getaway or city break. So what are you waiting for? Make plans today and explore this beautiful area!

Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up! 

Remember to follow our social media accounts for more travel inspiration and updates. 

Happy travels!

Discover the best things to do in Penrith!
Discover the best things to do in Penrith!

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