15 Hidden Gem Attractions in the Lake District

Welcome to England’s Lake District, a breathtaking realm where nature’s splendour intersects with cultural richness and historical intrigue.

While this region is undeniably famous for its stunning lakes, picturesque fells and towering mountains, such as Scafell Pike, there’s another side to the beloved Lake District that’s waiting to be discovered.

So read on!


Situated in the Lake District’s Northwest portion, Buttermere showcases an unspoiled panorama of organic splendour.

Its idyllic landscapes are tapestries of lush meadows, age-old forests and photogenic stone houses.

These are beautifully framed by the calm surface of Buttermere Lake and the striking outlines of nearby mountains, including the well-known Haystacks and Fleetwith Pike.

The term “Buttermere” principally designates the tranquil lake spanning around 1.5 miles, bounded by a smoothly meandering footpath.

Still, it is also used to identify the small hamlet huddled on the lake’s western side, serving as an inviting rural hub in this concealed pocket of the Lake District.

Buttermere is an enchanting sanctuary for ramblers looking for hidden hiking trails in the Lake District as well as nature enthusiasts and anyone seeking solitude and outdoor adventure.

Whether it’s a relaxed walk around the lake, a vigorous ascent up the fells, or simply marvelling at the magnificent panoramas, Buttermere is one of those lesser-known attractions that often escape the attentions of tourists.

Duddon Valley

Duddon Valley

Duddon Valley is often referred to as the hidden gem of the Lake District.

The valley unfurls around the River Duddon, a charmingly serene waterway that meanders gracefully from its mountain origins to the Irish Sea.

The verdant landscape, crisscrossed by age-old stone walls, comes to life with blooming wildflowers in spring,

The allure of Duddon Valley lies not just in its natural beauty but also its rich cultural heritage.

Its picturesque hamlets, quaint stone cottages, and historic chapels exude an enchanting charm.

The valley also inspired William Wordsworth, one of England’s most revered poets, who penned a series of sonnets in its honour.

Whether it’s strolling by the river, hiking the fells, or soaking up the local history, Duddon Valley provides a peaceful sanctuary and a unique retreat for those seeking a quieter Lake District exploration.

Eskdale Mill, Eskdale Valley

Eskdale Mill stands as an enduring symbol of the region’s rich past and is one of the oldest operational water-powered corn mills in England,

Tucked away in the serene Eskdale Valley, the mill represents the vital role of agriculture and industry in shaping the Lake District’s social and economic fabric.

Its operational machinery, restored carefully over the years, provides an immersive window into past milling practices.

The Mill, housed in a characteristic stone structure with a charming cottage-like appearance, offers an insightful experience for visitors.

Surrounding the mill, the lush landscape of the valley and the gentle whispers of the Whillan Beck stream add to its allure.

Eskdale Mill offers a step back into history and is a celebration of the enduring traditions that shaped the Lake District.

A fascinating attraction for those exploring the lesser-known areas of the Lake District.

Grizedale Forest, Hawkshead

Situated between Coniston Water and Windermere, Grizedale Forest presents a blend of natural splendour and artistic expression.

The forest offers an array of walking and biking trails that meander through its diverse tree population which includes ancient oaks.
It’s home to a variety of wildlife including several bird species and roe deer. Uniquely, Grizedale Forest houses an intriguing collection of outdoor sculptures.
Created by international artists, these pieces add a distinct touch to the landscape, promoting a deeper interaction with nature.

In essence, Grizedale Forest merges outdoor exploration with cultural enrichment and is one of the region’s most underrated beauty spots.

A must visit if you’re looking to go off the beaten path in the Lake District that should appeal to nature enthusiasts, art lovers and adventurers alike.

Long Meg and Her Daughters, Penrith

Those looking for unusual things to do in the Lake District should direct their attention to Long Meg and Her Daughters – an intriguing Neolithic stone circle found in the Eden Valley.

This ancient site, also known as Maughanby Circle, is steeped in historical significance and enveloped in captivating folklore, making it a magnet for both history enthusiasts and those fascinated by local legends.

The stone circle is one of the largest in the country, comprised of nearly 70 stones with the tallest, known as ‘Long Meg’, standing proudly at around 12 feet high.

This monolith, made from local red sandstone, is set apart from the circle and is distinct due to its curious spiral and cup-and-ring carvings.

These hint at the ancient and mysterious rituals that may have taken place there.

According to local legend, Long Meg was a witch who, along with her daughters, was turned to stone for desecrating the Sabbath.

A visit to Long Meg and Her Daughters is a journey back in time, a chance to experience ancient history and ponder the customs and beliefs of those who erected these stones over 4000 years ago.

Loughrigg Fell, Ambleside

Loughrigg Fell, Ambleside

Situated close to the vibrant town of Ambleside in England’s Lake District is Loughrigg Fell.

Although it may not boast the highest elevation, at 335 meters (1,099 feet), its commanding position and the sharp incline of its slopes make it ideal for hiking enthusiasts as well as visitors seeking tranquil locations in which to escape.

From the summit of Loughrigg Fell, you are gifted with a sweeping vista that encapsulates several of the Lake District’s distinctive fells, including the Fairfield Horseshoe and Langdale Pikes.

Additionally, it unveils breathtaking views over a host of lakes, including the scenic Grasmere, Rydal Water and Lake Windermere.

The hill’s terrain is a delightful fusion of bracken, rock formations and dense woodlands, crisscrossed by a diverse array of footpaths awaiting exploration.

A highlight on the fell is Loughrigg Tarn, a picturesque body of water that’s perfect for walkers and those seeking the ideal picnic spot.

In essence, Loughrigg Fell, despite its modest size, delivers a uniquely rewarding outdoor experience, characterized by its accessible hiking trails and unparalleled panoramas.

It’s a hidden attraction within the Lake District, offering a microcosm of the area’s broader beauty.

Lowther Castle, Penrith

Perched amidst the lush landscapes of Cumbria in England’s Lake District, Lowther Castle embodies a striking confluence of historical grandeur and organic beauty.

The castle’s arresting ruins stand as silent narrators of a vibrant past, with their presence adding a layer of historical depth to the region.

Constructed in the 1800s, Lowther Castle was the successor to two previous edifices, serving as a palatial abode for the Lowther lineage.

Despite its earlier splendour, the castle was abandoned in the mid-20th century and its once grand interiors now exist as an intriguing, somewhat melancholic shell.

Lowther Castle’s defining feature is its revitalized gardens. Once overlooked, these gardens have experienced a renaissance in recent years, blossoming into a breathtaking display of diverse plants and flowers.

Visitors can admire the kaleidoscope of seasonal blooms, traverse the enchanting woodlands, and explore the ‘Garden in the Ruins’, an exquisite garden thriving amidst the castle’s skeletal structure.

Though the castle’s interior echoes the grandeur of its past, the exterior and surrounding gardens narrate a tale of regeneration and resilience.

Thus, a trip to Lowther Castle is not merely a visit to a Lake District historical site but an immersive journey that intertwines the richness of the past with the vigor of nature’s resilience.

Rydal Cave, Ambleside

Rydal Cave, often referred to as Loughrigg Quarry, is a man-made cavern located on Loughrigg Fell near the village of Rydal.

Originally, it was a quarry site, with workers extracting high-quality slate for many local buildings during the 19th century.

Over time, as quarrying activities ceased, the site evolved into the unique Lake District attraction we see today.

The cave itself is a large, imposing opening in the hillside. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a vast, cathedral-like space filled with echoes.

Its floor is often flooded, creating a shallow internal lake that adds to the cave’s dramatic atmosphere.

The cave’s damp conditions are perfect for ferns and mosses that cling to the rock walls. It’s also an occasional dwelling for the region’s elusive herdwicks, who seek shelter there.

For those of you looking for unusual things to do in the Lake District, a visit to Rydal Cave is a must, standing as one of the region’s most intriguing lesser-known attractions.

St. Olaf’s Church, Wasdale Head

Tucked away in the scenic setting of Wasdale Head, you’ll discover St. Olaf’s Church, a modest but endearing site that’s one of the most charming historical hidden gems in the Lake District. 

As one of the smallest churches in England, St. Olaf’s encapsulates a rich historical tapestry within its humble stone walls.

The church’s namesake, St. Olaf, is the patron saint of Norway, signalling the deep-rooted connection this little sanctuary has with a history spanning over a millennium.

Crafted from stones harvested from the local landscape, St. Olaf’s exudes a quiet dignity. The interior, as unpretentious as the exterior, resonates with the quiet devotion of those who have sought spiritual solace here over the centuries.
Encompassing the church is a small graveyard, the eternal home for generations of local residents and a few passionate mountaineers who fell in love with the neighbouring fells.

The serenity of its setting, ensconced within the tallest mountains of England, enhances the allure of this quaint house of worship.

A visit to St. Olaf’s Church is a foray into the enduring spiritual tradition of the Lake District’s inhabitants.

This pocket-sized sanctuary in one of England’s most picturesque regions, offers a soothing retreat and a fascinating slice of local history, making it an essential stop when exploring the lesser-known areas of the Lake District.

Stanley Ghyll Waterfall, Eskdale

Stanley Ghyll Waterfall, Eskdale

Photo: lakelovers.co.uk

Tucked away in the serene valley of Eskdale, Stanley Ghyll Waterfall is a natural spectacle that’s well off the beaten path in the Lake District.

Enclosed within a deep and narrow gorge, this 60-foot waterfall presents a breathtaking display of nature’s raw power and beauty.

Stanley Ghyll Waterfall’s charm lies not only in its impressive cascade but also in the journey to reach it.

The walk to the waterfall takes you through woodlands, rich with diverse flora and fauna.

The path, although somewhat steep at times, rewards you with increasingly compelling views of the waterfall as you ascend.

On reaching the viewpoint, you’re greeted by the sight of water cascading down the rocky ravine, often adorned with a rainbow if the sunlight hits just right.

This is one of those secret spots in the Lake District that exudes tranquility and calm showcasing the region’s natural beauty in its rawest form – a truly unforgettable experience.

Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Ulverston

Stott Park Bobbin Mill, situated near the town of Ulverston, is a fascinating testament to the region’s industrial past.

Established in the 19th century, this former bobbin mill is now a designated Grade II listed building and a conserved English Heritage site.

The mill was primarily built to supply the Lancashire spinning industry with bobbins, using coppiced woodland from the surrounding area.

At its peak, it produced a staggering quarter of a million bobbins each week, highlighting the critical role it played in the country’s textile industry.

Today, visitors to Stott Park Bobbin Mill can explore the preserved Victorian machinery and gain an insight into the life and work of the mill workers through guided tours.

A small onsite museum showcases the history of bobbin making and the mill’s significant contribution to the textile industry.

As one of the only working bobbin mills left in region, Stott Park Bobbin Mill offers a unique journey into the area’s industrial heritage.

It’s a captivating attraction that should be part of the itinerary of any traveller seeking unusual things to do in the Lake District.

Tarn Hows

If you’re wondering where to find tranquil locations in the Lake District, then we’d thoroughly recommend Tarn Hows.

This stunning body of water, nestled between Coniston and Hawkshead, is renowned for its extraordinary beauty and the tranquility it imbues in its visitors.

Tarn Hows is not a natural lake but a man-made one.

In the 19th century, three smaller tarns were joined together by a local landowner to create the picturesque body of water we see today.

The landscape that surrounds the tarn was also carefully designed, with trees carefully placed to enhance the scenic beauty.

A well-maintained footpath encircles the tarn, offering an accessible and pleasant walk, with benches placed thoughtfully along the route for visitors to sit and absorb the stunning vistas.

The view across the water, with its backdrop of rugged fells, is a breathtaking sight that encapsulates the iconic beauty of the Lake District.

With its serene waters, surrounded by enchanting woodland and impressive fells, this hidden gem in the Lake District offers a peaceful and tranquile escape.

The Rum Story, Whitehaven

In the coastal town of Whitehaven, you’ll find The Rum Story, a unique Lake District attraction that whisks you away on a journey through the intriguing history of the rum trade.

Housed in an original 1785 trading shop and warehouses, it’s a Grade II listed building and a significant part of the town’s rich heritage.

The Rum Story takes you back in time to the rum trade’s early days, narrating a tale that traverses continents and centuries.

As you walk through its exhibits, you’ll encounter the aromas of rum and spices, hear the sounds of the Caribbean and the bustle of the dockside, while uncovering the stories of the people involved in this fascinating trade.

The journey starts with the origins of rum production in the Caribbean and continues through the gruelling Atlantic crossing and the stories of the families who were pivotal in this business.

This lesser-known gem in Whitehaven offers a glimpse into a significant chapter of the region’s history and is perfect for visitors seeking unusual things to do in the Lake District.

The Via Ferrata at Honister Slate Mine, Keswick

The Via Ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in Keswick offers a unique outdoor adventure for visitors looking for unusual things to do in the Lake District.

A Via Ferrata, which translates to “Iron Way” from Italian, traditionally is a protected climbing route found in the Alps, but Honister has brought this exciting activity to the heart of the British countryside.

Situated on the pass between Borrowdale and Buttermere, Honister Slate Mine is the last working slate mine in England.

The mine’s Via Ferrata follows the miners’ original 19th-century footpath up the steep outer incline of Fleetwith Pike.

Visitors are secured to a steel cable as they traverse cliff-edge ladders, exposed bridges, and iron rungs embedded into the rock.

The route offers two options: the classic experience, suitable for beginners and families, and the Xtreme version, which involves additional cliff-edge scrambles and a cargo net crossing for the more adventurous.

Aside from the adrenaline-pumping action, the Via Ferrata offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding fells, valleys, and lakes.

For those who appreciate both natural beauty and a dash of adventure, Honister’s Via Ferrata promises an unforgettable Lake District experience.

The Winster and Lyth Valleys

If you’re wondering where to find tranquil locations in the Lake District, direct your attention to this beautiful region.

In the south-western periphery of the Lake District, you’ll find the tranquil landscapes of the Winster and Lyth Valleys.

Often overlooked by the crowds flocking to the more famous lakes and fells, they offer an idyllic retreat teeming with pastoral charm and scenic beauty.

The Winster Valley, with its gentle hills and quiet country lanes, is a tapestry of verdant fields, traditional stone-built farms and ancient woodland.

At its heart flows the meandering Winster River, where otters can sometimes be spotted frolicking in the tranquil waters.

A stone’s throw away is the Lyth Valley, known for its fertile soil and lush orchards. This valley is particularly enchanting in spring, when the damson trees burst into a riot of white blossoms.

The valley’s damsons, a type of small plum, are a local speciality and used in various food and drink products, from jams to gins.

Whether you’re walking along the quiet footpaths or simply soaking in the serene views, the Winster and Lyth Valleys provide a soothing escape from the bustling tourist hubs.

Without doubt, these valleys are among the most idyllic secret beauty spots in the Lake District.

Visit the Official Lake District National Park Website for more top attractions and unusual things to do in the Lake District.

Dale Shelabarger

Dale is the owner and founder of Cottages to Rent which he launched back in 2005. As well as promoting holiday cottages, Dale blogs regularly about top UK holiday destinations, visitor attractions and places of historical interest.