Top Ten Things to do in Penrith

4 May 2021

If there’s one word that could be used to describe Penrith, it would be diverse. There’s a lot to see and do when you come to the town of Penrith, whether you’re visiting or living there. We’ve put together a list of things to do in Penrith that will give you an insight into what this place is all about.

We are going to explore the best, the coolest and the most amazing ways to have fun around Penrith. So, with no further ado, here’s our list of the top ten things to do in Penrith.

Historical Things To Do – Penrith Castle

Penrith Castle, historical things to do in Penrith

Penrith Castle is an interesting place to visit with loads of history behind it, making it one of main things to do in Penrith when you arrive. It offers excellent views, too.

Built in the 14th century to protect this region from Scottish attacks, it later became a grand fortified house. It was occupied by Richard, the Duke of Gloucester before he became King Richard III. During the English Civil War Penrith Castle was held by a Scottish garrison on behalf of Charles I, but it surrendered to Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces in 1648. Penrith castle suffered a similar fate to many Medieval strongholds in England, when it was sacked in the 17th century following the Civil War.

The castle is located very close to the centre of Penrith and is easily accessible by car, bus or train. There’s plenty of parking nearby and it’s a short walk from the train station.

Penrith Castle is open to visit in line with the surrounding parkland. You can visit 7.30am-9pm from 31 March to September, and 7.30am-4.30pm from October to 30 March. Entrance is free. Parking is available around the town, and there’s a few spaces at the park entrance. The castle ruins are in a public park and accessed via a footbridge across the moat.

Things To Do Near Penrith – Ullswater

Ullswater

Ullswater is seen by many as the most beautiful lake in England, possibly due to its elongated ribbon shape, the dominating Place Fell and Hallin Fell, and the panorama of mountains that make up the Helvellyn range. If you’re staying in or near Penrith, you must make Ullswater one of your top things to do near Penrith.

Ullswater was formed when a glacier scooped out the valley floor at the end of the last ice age, leaving behind a long, deep ribbon of water with surrounding fells and mountains rising steeply from its shores. The name Ullswater comes from an old Norse word ‘Ulfs Water’ – or Wolf Water!

At 8.5 miles (14km) long, half a mile wide and over 200 feet (60m) deep, it attracts plenty of outdoor enthusiasts looking for things to do near Penrith and who enjoy walking, climbing or kayaking. Rowing boats, sailing boats and motor cruisers can be hired at several locations around the lake – or you can take the Ullswater Steamers, which operate sightseeing cruises around the lake on two vintage steamers and one motor launch.

You can approach Ullswater from any direction by road but we suggest you first head to Pooley Bridge at its northern tip. From here you have good views across the lake towards Dunmallard. Pooley Bridge also offers one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Ullswater, via cruising on one of the majestic steamers that have been plying these waters for more than 150 years now. It’s a great way to view some of the Lake District’s prettiest cottages from the water, and you might even see an osprey or a red squirrel on your cruise.

You can get to Ullswater by car but it’s also easily accessible by public transport. From Penrith train station you can get buses directly to Glenridding, Pooley Bridge or Patterdale at the northern end of the lake or Windermere at the southern end. You can also cycle along the roads that run alongside the lake or take one of many walks that lead from surrounding areas into Glenridding and Pooley Bridge where you can pick up boats for trips across the lake.

Places To Visit Near Ullswater – Aira Force

Aira Force

Aira Force is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Lake District. Tumbling over 65ft down a rocky outcrop, Aira Force is a stunning sight whatever the weather conditions. Visitors can explore the ancient woodland by following the footpaths that run beside the beck, or they can take a stroll along the lake shore and enjoy magnificent views across Ullswater.

It is one of the most famous waterfalls in the Lake District thanks to its appearance in many paintings and photographs, as well as its inclusion in the poetry of William Wordsworth. In the 19th century the Howard family landscaped the area around Aria Beck. They planted an arboretum with cedars, spruces, pines and firs, among which is a majestic Sitka spruce now standing more than 35 metres high. The power of the Aira Force can be viewed from two stone bridges, one at the top and one at the foot.

Aira Force is owned by The National Trust and lies within the grounds of Aira Beck. The National Trust look after the grounds very well indeed to ensure visitors can enjoy this amazing place for many years to come. There is a large car park and an admission fee of £4 per car applies (free for National Trust members).

There are two main routes to reach Aira Force – from Ullswater, near Pooley Bridge or from Glenridding at the southern end of Ullswater. Both routes are well signposted from these villages. Follow signs from the Ullswater Steamer pier at Glenridding and Pooley Bridge. From the A66 turn off at Bampton and follow signs to Kirkstone Pass and on through Patterdale. Access is also possible with a short walk from Glenridding via Greenside Road (suitable for wheelchair users).

The traditional approach to Aira Force is via a path on the south side of Ullswater, starting at the National Park car park. However, if you don’t like steep steps and lots of people, then why not try another way?

Aira Force can be approached from the north side of Ullswater, through a wooded glade beside Aira Beck. From here it is a gentle stroll down to the rocky outcrops above the falls.

Activities Near Penrith – Hike Up Hallin Fell

Hallin Fell

On the opposite shore from Aria Force, you can’t miss Hallin Fell, which is surrounded by the lake on three sides. Hallin Fell is a hill above Ullswater, 9 km from the town of Penrith. It reaches a height of 386 metres (1,266 ft). The fell is located at grid reference NY401226.

Hallin Fell is a great hike through woodland and up to the summit, and you should definitely consider it as one of your places to visit near Penrith. It’s well worth the effort for the views over Ullswater, where you can see all the way to the Helvellyn range of mountains.

The walk begins in the village of Hartsop, which has a free car park for visitors. From here, follow the signposts for Hallin Fell. There are several routes up to the summit, but we recommend taking the path that leads past Brotherswater and over Pasture Bottom. This route takes about 2 hours and is relatively easy.

You can also start off at the edge of Martindale, near Sandwick. You’ll need to park in one of the nearby lay-bys, as there is no parking at the fell entrance.

Hallin Fell summit is marked by a small cairn and has raggedy views south towards Helvellyn and Skiddaw, north over Ullswater towards The Nab, and east towards Bonscale Pike and Place Fell.

 

Brougham Castle – Places To Visit Near Penrith

Brougham Castle

Brougham Castle is one of the region’s most accessible castles and is also one of the best preserved, making it a prime candidate on your list of places to visit around Penrith. It’s a great place to visit with family, friends and groups. The castle hosts regular events and activities for all ages, including ghost tours, Easter egg hunts, talks and re-enactments.

Today, Brougham Castle is a romantic ruin that has become a haven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts.

The castle was built using stone from nearby Eamont Bridge Roman Fort and some of the stones are carved with Roman lettering. The walls of the castle are 6 metres thick in some places!

It was built by Robert de Vieuxpont, who had been granted the Barony of Brougham by King Henry II in 1158 and completed by his son between 1203 and 1210. The castle was besieged during the English Civil War but escaped demolition because it surrendered early to Parliamentary forces. It was then abandoned some 300 years ago. Explored by a young Wordsworth and sketched by Turner, Brougham Castle’s Tower of League, the Keep, and the Double Gatehouse survive to this day.

Brougham Castle, historical things to do near Penrith

The easiest way to get to Brougham Castle is to travel along A66 until you reach Junction 41 for Penrith. At the end of this slip road, turn left onto A6 and follow directions for Brougham until you reach a roundabout with a petrol station on your right. At this roundabout, take the second exit for Brougham Hall and follow signs for Brougham Castle from here.

The property is owned by English Heritage who run a visitor centre on site. You can book an advance ticket online up to 8.45am on the day you want to visit. Bear in mind that your booking is for the site/event only and does not guarantee a car parking space. You may to need to pay extra for that. From week commencing Monday 4th April 2022, the site is open between 10:00–17:00. Prices are £6.00 per adult, or £15.60 for two adults and up to three children.

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill, one of many things to do in Penrith

Beacon Hill is a small hill with a large history. It is currently one of the most popular viewpoints in Cumbria with panoramic views across the Eden Valley to the Pennines and Lakeland Fells.

This is a great place for families, a popular Penrith attraction, and one of the main things to do in Penrith. Explore the ancient woodlands and discover what’s hiding in the undergrowth. Learn about Beacon Hill’s fascinating past and take in stunning views over Penrith, Eden Valley and the mountains beyond.

Beacon Hill is named after a signal beacon since before 1360 when it was used as a place to light fires to warn people of the approach of enemy troops. During the English Civil War it was used as an observation point for soldiers guarding the route across Carlisle Bridge on the River Eamont. During World War I Beacon Hill was used as an early warning station.

Beacon Hill is a great place for walks or simply to take in the views of Penrith and the surrounding Lakeland Fells. It offers a range of trails, the nearest being Beacon Edge Trail which is a 1 mile walk from the centre of Penrith up to the monument. There are a number other trails which offer longer walks with different routes available.

Cycling

Cycling

Penrith is Cumbria’s first cycling hub, partly because the town is right on the Coast-to-Coast Cycle route (C2C). This route extends 140 miles across the Lake District and North Pennines, between Whitehaven in Cumbria, and Tynemouth Castle on the North Sea Coast.

Almost half of the trail is on off-road tracks along disused railways and traffic-free cycle paths.

There are also several “do-in-a-day” circular rides ranging between 15 and 30 miles.

 

Long Meg and Her Daughters

Long Meg and Her Daughters, and incredible place to visit near Penrith

Long Meg and Her Daughters is a stone circle located at Little Salkeld near Penrith, off the A66, in Cumbria, England. If you’re visiting Penrith or nearby, you absolutely must add this stone circle to your Places To Visit Near Penrith list. It consists of 69 stones (of which 27 are visible) set in an oval shape measuring 340 ft by 280 ft and originally there were probably about 108 stones. This stone circle is the second largest in the UK.

The stone circle was built in about 3000 BC, around the same time as Stonehenge, although it is far less well-known. It was constructed using local red sandstone boulders, some of which weigh up to 20 tons! The largest monolith stands almost 4 metres tall and is known as ‘Long Meg’ herself. She has a spiral design carved into one side of her face and along with two smaller stones nearby this makes her unique amongst all other British stone circles.

The site may have been used for burials, ritualistic gatherings and for trade. Although local legend has it that Long Meg was a witch who along with her daughters was turned to stone for dancing on the moors on a Sabbath.

It is very easy to access Long Meg and her daughters from Penrith. Simply take the A686 towards Carlisle until you reach Lazonby. At Lazonby take the A6 east until you see signs for Little Salkeld.

The area around Long Meg and Her Daughters is a great place for a walk and offers some fantastic views over the Eden Valley. The site itself is free to visit. It’s best to park in Little Salkeld village and walk up to the stone circle, which takes about 15 minutes.

Penrith and Eden Museum

Things to do in Penrith, visit Penrith & Eden Museum

In the 17th-century Robinson’s School building there’s a museum documenting Penrith and the Eden Valley’s human and natural history. Penrith and Eden Museum is a great place to visit if you are interested in the history of Penrith and the surrounding area. It is also a great place to visit if you are just looking for something to do on your weekend, whether that’s enjoying some local history or participating in one of the events or activities that the museum hosts throughout the year.

The museum has been in operation since 1977, but it was not until 1984 that it was officially opened. Now, it is open all year round for visitors to enjoy, and it offers exhibitions and events on a regular basis. The museum itself is located on Middlegate Street in Penrith and is open from 10am to 6pm Monday through Friday and from 12pm to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.

The museum features several different areas for visitors to explore, including a Victorian room, which features Victorian-style furniture; an art gallery; a children’s play area; a dining room; and a gift shop. There are also several interactive exhibits that allow visitors to interact with various items from around the world, including a hoard of 600 late-Roman bronze coins found a few miles away in Newby.

Penrith and Eden Museum offer both adult and child admission prices, so everyone can enjoy their time at this wonderful museum.

 

Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre

Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre, a great day out for things to do near Penrith

In a walled garden by the entrance to Lowther Castle, the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre has more than 150 native and exotic hawks, owls, vultures, eagles, falcons and buzzards housed in thoughtfully designed aviaries.

The Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre is a great place to visit in Penrith. It used to be a dairy farm but now it has been transformed into a beautiful place where people can see birds and other animals up close.

Located in the heart of the Lake District, it’s easily accessible by train, car and even on foot. The nearest railway station is Penrith which has direct links from Glasgow, Edinburgh, London Euston and Manchester. If you are travelling by car there is ample free parking at the centre. As the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre is situated in the Lake District, it is also suitable for walkers as there are many walking routes that lead up to the centre.

It provides a great family day out and a chance to learn about birds of prey, especially eagles, hawks, falcons, buzzards, owls and vultures. Visitors can see flying demonstrations and even get to handle some of these amazing birds.

The centre also features a play area for children as well as an adventure trail that allows visitors to take in some of the best views in the area. A large walk-in aviary is also on site.

Go and explore

Penrith is a lovely town with many things to do, and has something for everyone. From walking, cycling and swimming to seeing the sights and shopping in Penrith. In this blog, we have outlined some of the best attractions as well as plenty of cheaper ideas that your pocket will not mind. We hope you have found it useful and at least discovered something new about the town and the surrounding area.

If you’d like to visit some of these fabulous attractions, why not book in at Lowther Park for a holiday in Penrith?