Here’s your bucket list for 2020 taken care of, with 20 amazing things to experience in the Lake District. We’re looking forward to kick-starting the decade.
Download our 2020 guide here.
12 January marks 125 years of the National Trust, of which they now manage almost a quarter of the Lake District, protecting it from development for future generations to enjoy.
1902 marked the first purchase by the National Trust in the Lake District and marks the birth of the Trust in the Lakes. The momentous occasion was celebrated by the planting of four oak trees, in a ceremony by H.R.H Princess Louise, daughter to Queen Victoria. The iconic oaks can be found, along with a memorial stone, at Brandelhow Wood, alongside Derwentwater. The Octavia Hill walk at Brandelhow Park, Derwent Water, is a gentle lakeside trail, starting at Hawes End jetty, which can be reached on a lovely boat trip with Keswick Launch.
Join members of a local astronomy society to observe the night sky through a range of telescopes and see celestial wonders never seen before. Take a hot flask of tea with you, a white-light torch, hats and gloves and prepare to be amazed. The Lake District is home to some of the darkest skies in Europe and hoping to gain official Dark Sky status in 2020.
This annual festival celebrates its 21st year in 2020 and gives visitors the chance to experience some of the best UK and international independent films. Yes, this is our very own Sundance festival here in the Lake District. Choose from over 25 films from the world’s leading independent film directors alongside emerging new talent. Booking is via Theatre by the Lake with the festival taking place at the gloriously restored Alhambra Cinema in the heart of Keswick, in the north Lakes. Travel from Europe, across Asia, South America and the USA, laughing, crying and challenging all that you thought as you go, as a good film ought to.
2019 was a celebratory year for this little-known museum and gardens, winning Small Visitor Attraction of the Year 2019. Over 140,000 visitors a year flock to the final resting place of our most-famous nature poet, William Wordsworth, in the churchyard in Grasmere. However, 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Wordsworth’s birth and what better time to make a visit to Wordsworth House and Garden, his birthplace. A special anniversary exhibition, ‘The Child is Father of the Man’ exhibition opens in March 2020 where visitors discover how William was influenced by his wild outdoor upbringing. ‘Reimagining Wordsworth’ is a special anniversary exhibition at the Wordsworth Museum and Dove Cottage, his former home in Grasmere.
Enjoy a healthy kick-start to the decade with the Spring Series from Lakelands Trail Races. This is England’s best alternative to an Alpine running festival.
There’s a carnival atmosphere with spectators, live music and post-run food and drink to keep runner spirits as high as these mountain trails are. There’s also something for all running abilities, 5k, 10k and 15ks and of course the Ultra series in July, culminating in the 100k challenge with its iconic midnight start! Covering some of the best trails in the Lake District, which will you pick? Running in the shadow of Skiddaw along the Derwentwater Trail, the marathon that takes in a full circuit of Coniston Water or up onto the foothills of Helvellyn?
Brand new for 2020 is this contemporary music, literature and performance festival celebrates the ‘sounds and words of the Lake District’. Hosted in various, more unusual, locations around Ambleside and Windermere, Aerial Festival is as much a celebration of unique spaces in the Lake District as it is about the up and coming artists. This festival is about seeing places and experiences for the first time, as churches, manor houses and even a steamboat on Windermere are transformed for this unique festival. The ambitious programme is the work of Luke Bainbridge (former Deputy Editor of Observer Music Monthly), and Sam Hunt (Creative Director of London Borough of Culture 2019), and celebrates a contemporary vision of how the inspiring Lake District. The festival advises guests to ‘galvanize your body and your mind with wild swims and leafy hikes before you join us for performances of a lifetime.’
New for spring 2020 is a luxury first-class carriage on the longest narrow-gauge steam train journey in the UK, that exclusively seats up to 14 passengers on plush red seats with large glass windows offering panoramic views. The L’al Ratty, as the petite Ravenglass to Eskdale railway train, is affectionately known, has to be the most inspiring little-known experience in the Lakes. The little steamer travels as far as 8-miles from the Lake District’s only coastal town (another hidden gem of the Lakes), Ravenglass, deep into the wildest Lake District valley, Eskdale. New for 2002, experience the luxury golden age of steam in the new First Class Observation Carriage, the most deluxe 15in gauge heritage carriage ever made.
Make 2020 the year that you visit the native English daffodils ‘dancing on the breeze’ at Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater. On 15 April 1802 William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy came across the delightful daffodils hugging the shore of Ullswater and it inspired one of the most famous poems in English literature, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’. William Wordsworth was a keen walker, writing often as he walked and he often visited Ullswater on foot. Wander along the shore to Aira Force, where hopefully you’ll catch a rainbow above the falls following some April showers. The daffodil is now the emblem to the new 20-mile Ullswater Way trail – another to put on your 2020 bucket list.
This is the most uplifting native bluebell experience in the country. In the spirit of celebrating all things British in 2020, what better experience than the purple-blue haze carpeting Muncaster Castle woodland with their intoxicating fragrance filling the air. This is an enchanting walk through the woods high above the castle and promises to ‘lighten the soul and refresh the human spirit’ – a must for 2020!
Know your Swing from your New Orleans? Been trying to catch a Scott Hamilton concert and desperate to see Marla Dixon again? Well, you are in luck because once a year here in the Lake District, world-class jazz musicians come together in the UK’s largest celebration of jazz.
For four days, the hustle of market traders in the bustling town of Keswick in the north Lakes is taken over with the sounds and colour of Keswick Jazz and Blues Festival. There’s even a fun umbrella parade on Saturday to take part in!
An ice-cold dip in a lake features high on many top 10 bucket list things to do but takes a lot of nerve. Pinch some pluckiness from the 10,000 swimmers that take part in the impressive John West Great North Swim on Lake Windermere. A large, well-organised, event like this is a great way to try something, like open water swimming, that you’ve always wanted to, but not quite managed. There are distances for all levels, from 250 metres to 10k. Make 2020 the year that you pluck up the courage to brave the goosebumps!
A brand-new vessel is being launched by Windermere Lake Cruises in mid-2020, adding to its famous existing fleet. MV ‘Swift’ will be the largest craft to be ‘launched’ onto Windermere for more than 80 years and guests are lining up to be the first to experience the 21st century quality, comfort and accessibility, boasting three decks. Despite this impressive size, MV ‘Swift’ is designed to be able to access some of the smaller jetties on Windermere, allowing visitors to access some of the lake’s hidden gems. Ranked by Visit England as one of the top 10 ‘paid for’ visitor attractions in the country, this is an event not to miss!
Tucked away in the Lake District’s ‘hidden valley’ of Eskdale is this region’s number 1 micro-festival. It is run how festivals used to be, where they were all about letting go from everyday life. Therefore expect to leave cash cards and phone at home as there’s no mobile signal or ATMs and it’s a cash-only affair. There are Instagram opportunities aplenty so pack your phone for some content! Eskfest is for the young-uns with the time, energy and drive to put a bit of thought into getting out into the sticks – even if it is for the sake of Instagram! Enjoy 4 stages of live music, comedy, talks and a poetry as well as the usual bars and street food expected of any major music festival. All contained within just two fields and a woodland so less walking and more chilling.
There has never been a better time for British beer and a beer festival is the best way to celebrate as well as learn about the latest revolutions in brewing. 2019 was a big year for craft beer and many of the popular breweries are from the North of England. The Summer Beer Festival, hosted by the Lake District’s most established indie alehouse, Hawkshead Brewery, is the best of the best. Running now for 13 years, it’s a firm fixture on both local and visitor summer itineraries. You’ll find both cask and keg, and instead of end endless rows of hoppy delights, the breweries are asked to showcase only their best. They come along and Hawkshead Brewery is an impressive building designed to store and serve beer nice and chilled, so it is the perfect place to host a beer festival. If you can’t wait until summer 2020, they also host a spring festival in March, though the outdoor marquee and outdoor bar gets more use over the summer festival! No tickets needed and all the family welcome – the outdoor pizza oven is popular as is the beer tapas.
The tradition of horse racing at Cartmel began by monks from Cartmel Priory in the 12th Century. For 2020 Cartmel Cup Day is set to be one of the most popular events on the Lake District calendar. The Cup Day opens the August bank holiday meeting, with 2019’s £140,000 prize pot going to James Moffatt stables for the second year.
This one is for the foodies amongst us. Holker Hall is an impressive family-owned manor house and gardens just outside the foodie capital of Cumbria, Cartmel. Here the gardens are a year-round spectacle, with spring blooms through to winter berries. From the summer all the way through to Christmas, a good chilli plant will produce lots of fiery chillies and for 2-days in September, the hellishly hot fruit is celebrated at Holker Hall in an outdoor festival like no-other. 2018’s Holker Chilli Festival saw the ‘world’s hottest pizza’ as well as a local distillery showcasing their limited edition chilli gin. Who will win the coveted 2020 chilli eating competition we wonder?
This is a biggie, attracting over 30,000 visitors a year and voted one of the UK’s favourite shows. If you’re booking a cottage holiday in 2020 over autumn, perhaps staying in and around Windermere, Ambleside or Grasmere, then you’ll see discrete signposts for Westmorland Country Show – take note as it really is the best country show in the UK. There’s a handy free shuttle bus running to and from Kendal if you fancy the beer tent too!
Every September for one week some of the most fascinating and private places in the UK throw open their doors as part of Heritage Open Days. 2020 is the 125th anniversary of the National Trust, which was founded in the Lake District and so lots not to miss in the Lake District wealth of trust-managed properties.
This bucket-list ‘to do’ is for people excited about the opportunity to see hidden places and try out new experiences and what’s more the events are free so you need not cap your nosiness. Heritage Open Days offers the chance to get inside some of the unique places that shape the Lake District landscape, such as delving down on a guided tour of Tilberthwaite and Greenburn that are an iconic part of Little Langdale or taking a behind-the scenes tour of Coniston’s heritage Steam Yacht Gondola.
It’s also a good opportunity for those that enjoy getting off the beaten track and discovering hidden gems of the Lake District, such as the Riverlands project at Crummock Water, Cockermouth Castle and Battlebarrow House, Appleby-in-Westmorland, where Beatrix Potter once holidayed. We wonder what will open for 2020?
Hosted by Eden Arts, this lantern parade is typical of the Lake District in that it is completely unique and truly spectacular. The Winter Droving is a regular on the award-ceremony stage, receiving recognition as a top tourist event and in its 9th year it attracts crowds of up to 20,000. Under the cover of the dark Lake District sky, paraders invite you to ‘turn back your clock four centuries’ and celebrate the driving of cattle inside for winter. 2020 is set to be an illuminating year like no-other, with new masks in the wings (they are truly speciation indeed) and the coveted Baghdaddies secured to lead the torchlight procession through Pooley Bridge on Friday 24 October.
For many, Christmas starts with advent and the Christingle service at Cartmel Priory, just outside the south Lake District border, is particularly atmospheric. The solid, monolithic walls of Cartmel Priory have witnessed over 800-years of tumultuous history and is a moving place to soak up some festive spirit.
Also in Cartmel over December 2020 is the fourth ‘Christmas in Cartmel’ market and festivities. From 3pm, just when darkness takes hold, the twinkling Christmas lights of this ancient village bring the community together as visitors eagerly await the arrival of Father Christmas on a carriage pulled by a jet-black Friesian horse, adorned in fairy lights. Bells on live reindeer fill the air along with Christmas carols from a local choir. The event is completed with a lantern parade, market stalls from this famous foodie village and then on to Cartmel Priory. This is the place to enjoy peace on earth for Christmas 2020.