Scottish Festivals

Celebrating traditions and championing ground-breaking arts, Scotland’s eclectic festival scene continues to attract people the world over. From the Edinburgh International Festival to the Fringe and the instantly recognisable Highland Games, Scotland has a proud and unique take on tradition, comedy, film and music, not to mention its own food and drink.

MUSIC

Hebridean Celtic Festival  

Proudly presenting Gaelic culture and heritage in the shadow of Lews Castle, The Hebridean Celtic Festival in July is a celebration of all things traditionally Scottish. Located in the Outer Hebrides, off the north-west coast of Scotland, this festival celebrates Celtic music, both traditional and contemporary. Day tickets are available for £46 and a weekend ticket costs £95.

When? 17-20 July 2019

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

World premieres, fresh new names and exciting collaborations will pop-up in various and interesting locations across Edinburgh for the biggest jazz festival in Scotland between 12-21 July 2019. Venues for the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival range from plush Victorian auditoriums, cosy jazz bars and atmospheric churches, while highlights include a performance from Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, the Melissa Aldana Quartet and the Soweto Kinch Quartet. Tickets for performances range in price.

When? 12-21 July 2019

Celtic Connections Glasgow

A joyous celebration of Celtic music, both its roots and its connections to modern genres, the Celtic Connections festival is the largest winter festival of its kind. Having welcomed individuals to Glasgow each January since 1994, including Sinéad O’Connor, Shane MacGowan and Bob Geldof, the calibre of acts is high and the range of genres is wide. Each year sees over 300 events around the city, including ceilidhs, talks, art shows, workshops and concerts. The programme for 2020 is yet to be announced.

When? 16 January – 2 February 2020

Orkney Folk Festival

Started in the early 1980s and located on the archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland, the Orkney Folk Festival has gone from strength to strength. Known for bringing together unique and never-to-be-seen-again collaborations, the festival is a must-see for lovers of authentic folk music. The programme for 2020 is yet to be announced.

When? 21-24 May 2020

 

FILM

Scottish Queer International Film Festival

Raising awareness and discussion surrounding LGBTQ+ film in Scotland, the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) in Glasgow is a non-profit event, showing material that otherwise may not be available to audiences.  Although centred around an annual film festival in Glasgow, the organisation also offers one-off showings throughout the year.

When? 2-6 October 2019

Glasgow Film Festival

Showcasing new blockbusters, avant-garde arthouse, live talks and rare cult classics, Glasgow Film Festival is rapidly gaining a strong reputation as one of the most exciting international film festivals in Britain. Alongside local and international film, the festival includes filmmaker appearances, as well as an array of interactive workshops and discussion sessions. The programme for 2020 is yet to be announced.

When? 26 February – 8 March 2020

 

CULTURE

Edinburgh Art Festival

Bringing together Edinburgh’s leading galleries, museums and artist-run spaces in a city-wide celebration of the very best in visual art, the Edinburgh Art Festival is an annual highlight. Showcasing more than 300 international and British artists, alongside the best new talent across 140 events, July and August sees the EAF adding a weighty pull to Scotland for art-lovers. Highlights for 2019 include world premieres of work from artists such as Samson Young, Joana Vasconcelos, Hanna Tuulikki and Caroline Achaintre. The exhibitions are mostly free, although some talks or workshops are ticketed and range in price.

When? 25 July – 25 August 2019

Edinburgh International Festival

For three weeks each August, the Scottish capital transforms into an internationally renowned hub for performing arts, with cutting-edge theatre, talks, workshops, music and dance. The 2019 Edinburgh International Festival year includes highlights such as ‘Ian McKellen on Stage’, The Crucible by the Scottish Ballet, renditions of West Side Story, a modernisation of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt and a trilogy performed by Stephen Fry, adapted from his best-selling novel on Greek Mythology. Live music performances include Jarvis Cocker presenting JARV IS, Kate Tempest and Sharon von Etter. Hosted in 17 venues across the city, tickets are available online and are priced individually.

When? 2-26 August 2019

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Established in 1947, when some acts were refused a spot at Edinburgh’s main festival and instead took to the streets, the Fringe is now internationally known and aims each year to push the limits of creative freedom. Bursting at the seams with new and boundary-pushing theatre, comedy, dance, music and cabaret, it attracts every type of act imaginable. Among the thousands of acts performing in 2019, a few highlights include shows from Eddie Izzard, Phil Wang and Rosie Jones.

Some of the entertainment industry’s biggest names first gained attention through past festivals, such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag), Hugh Laurie, Billy Connelly, Emma Thompson and J. K. Rowling. Happening at various venues across Edinburgh, many shows will be free, while others vary in price.

When? 2-26 August 2019

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Part of August’s cultural explosion in Edinburgh, the city’s International Book Festival (EIBF) brings together writers and book-lovers for events based around discussion and learning. Each year, 900 authors from 60 countries participate in over 800 thought-provoking events, including Nobel and Booker prize-winners. The themes for the EIBF include homelessness, equality in race and a hard look at the word ‘citizen’. The range of events are aimed towards both adults and children, with tickets varying in price and venue. Visitors to the festival can enjoy literary cabaret each night in the Spiegeltent with ‘Unbound with Edinburgh Gin’, a free event in Charlotte Square.

When? 10-26 August 2019

Scottish International Storytelling Festival

This year will see the 31st Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF), this year explores how music and dance can explain experiences ‘beyond words’, alongside an international exchange with Canada. Celebrating the art of storytelling in all its forms, the SISF will comprise performances in multiple venues across Edinburgh, including the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the National Library of Scotland and Scottish Storytelling Centre. Tickets for the paid performances go on sale on 7 September, while other events are free.

When? 19-31 October 2019

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Set against the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a series of 100-minute performances – a unique blend of music, ceremony and entertainment, featuring over 1,200 military and civilian performers every night. Performing under a theme inspired by the kaleidoscope, a Scottish invention dating back to 1816, the British Army core – along with pipers, drummers and dancers – will perform with a focus on ‘glorious symmetries’.  Performances take place on Monday to Friday at 9:00pm and on Saturday at 7:15pm and 10:30pm. Tickets start from £27 but there are also exclusive dining and unique experience packages which range in price.

When? 2-24 August 2019

Manchester International Festival 2019

Manchester will be filled with world premieres, exclusive art performances, theatre, music and film for the Manchester International Festival in July. Performance spaces across the city will welcome a diverse range of renowned artists including Yoko Ono, David Lynch, Ivo van Hoe, Abida Parveen, Janelle Monáe, Maxine Peake, Idris Elba and Skepta.

Events will be held in various venues around Manchester from 4 – 21 July, with Albert Square set to become ‘Festival Square’ for the duration. Acting as a hub for the festival, there will be free live music, DJs, food and drink. Festival Square is also inviting foodies to enjoy a Michelin-star quality four course ‘Lazy Lunch’ in their intimate Glass House. Tickets cost £50 for a two-and-a-half-hour sitting.

Bells for Peace

Both a world premiere and the artist’s first commissioned work for the city of Manchester, the festival’s opening night will see Yoko Ono’s Bells for Peace. Meeting in the Cathedral Gardens, audiences will experience a sea of singing and bell ringing to amplify a message of peace. Many bells will be handmade locally, but attendees of this free event are also encouraged to bring their own bells and become part of the performance.

David Lynch

For the duration of the festival, iconic director, David Lynch will be taking over HOME, a venue known for championing multi-cultural and independent arts. Featuring the UK’s first major exhibition of Lynch’s paintings, drawings and sculptures, My Head Is Disconnected will be complemented by evenings of curated music and film viewings. Other highlights include a showing of the The Elephant Man, and a discussion on transcendental meditation. While the art exhibition is free admission, other events are ticketed and prices vary.

Inspired music evenings

One of the David Lynch-inspired evenings of music includes a performance arranged especially for the festival. Two exceptional musicians will join long-term Lynch musical associate Chrysta Bell on-stage at HOME’s Theatre 1 on 14 July. Cellist Oliver Coates, who has worked with Radiohead and Karl Lagerfeld, will be joined by unique Japanese vocalist Hatis Noit for a one-off musical experience. Tickets cost £16, but are discounted for Manchester residents on lower wage.

The Fountainhead

Acclaimed theatre director of the recent sold-out West End show All About Eve, Ivo van Hove, premiers his adaptation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead to the UK at MIF19. Taking to the stage of The Lowry Theatre, this controversial story of unrelenting individualism and capitalism will be presented in Dutch, with English surtitles. With performances from 10 – 13 July, tickets start from just £18.

Abida Parveen with Nahid Saddiqui

Internationally renowned spiritual singer, Abida Parveen, dubbed as ‘the Queen of Sufi music’, will join with legendary classical South Asian dancer, Nahid Siddiqui, for an exclusive and one-off performance. Echoing the sentiment of Yoko Ono’s opening artwork, a message of peace, love and harmony will be projected from the performers. Coming to the stage on July 5, tickets start at £18.

The Nico Project

Celebrating the strength of a genre-defining female artist in a male-dominated industry, Maxine Peake channels the enigmatic yet troubled Nico, in The Nico Project. Known for her contribution to 1960s counterculture and debut with The Velvet Underground, Nico’s music helped shape generations to come. Catch this production from 10-21 July at The Stoller Hall, tickets costing £35.

Pop-up brewery tours

A pop-up brewery, unconventionally inspired by the cholera epidemic of the 1800s when thousands survived due to their consumption of beer over water, comes to Manchester from 5 - 21 July. Underneath Victoria Station, audiences can explore the temporary brewery, designed by the Tokyo the art collective Chim?Pom, for a one hour tour and are able try to specially brewed beer, with tickets costing £10.

Manchester is city full of musical connections, interesting venues, culture and hidden gems, and this summer’s MIF19 makes the pull for audiences to plan a culture-focused trip to England all the stronger.

 

Where to drink in Manchester

Housed in a Grade II listed building, Cottonopolis Food & Liquor is a Japanese inspired bar and restaurant, nestled in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter. Serving innovative cocktails with Japanese inspired names such as ‘The frog in the well knows nothing of the sea’ and ‘Drunken life, dreamy death’, this stylish establishment will complement a day of international culture at MIF19.

With original 1920s glassware, dim lighting and entirely vintage décor, The Fitzgerald is a speak-easy style bar, offering delicious cocktails to an eclectic soundtrack. Just 15-minutes’ walk from Festival Square, it’s a spot known for playing disco, funk and soul and for holding weekly jazz nights every Thursday.

Salut Wines hails itself as a ‘no-nonsense’ approach to wine drinking. Offering a helping hand when it comes to picking precisely the right glass, each wine can be served in a 50ml ‘tasting’ size. Offering an impressive 42 wines to enjoy by the glass, many of which are hard to come by elsewhere, Salut go to every length to ensure every one tastes as good as it should.

 

Where to eat in Manchester

A modern and memorable take on Chinese cuisine, Tattu, in Manchester’s Spinningfields area is a great spot for an international meal. Presenting an exciting menu of steamed, fried and baked dishes, the main focal point of the restaurant is a four-metre high cherry blossom tree that sits in the middle of the restaurant floor.

Accommodating no more than 30-guests, Where The Light Gets In, in Stockport, offers an intimate and unique dining experience, set in an former coffee warehouse. Although a little out from the centre of Manchester, this creative, completely ‘sans-menu’ restaurant offers a brand-new way to dine. Customers are not given a choice, but rather receive the dishes deemed to be the best use of that day’s produce, with all root vegetables coming directly from their own farm.

Known for its signature six and nine-course tasting menus, The French at the Midland Hotel is less than a five-minute walk from the festival hub. Recently refurbished and now with Adam Reid, winner of the BBC’s Great British Menu competition, as Head Chef, The French serves high-quality British cuisine in the heart of Manchester.

 

Where to stay in Manchester

In the heart of the city’s Gay Village lies the four-star Velvet Hotel, an independent, extravagantly decorated place to stay in Manchester. Offering king rooms and luxe penthouse suites, its central location makes it a great base for enjoying MIF19.

Housed in a converted 19th century textile factory, ABode Manchester is a boutique hotel offering rooms and suites, each graded in their trademark categories. Starting with ‘comfortable’, their rooms go to ‘enviable’, and culminate at ‘fabulous’. Handily located in the centre of the city, this hotel also boasts its own restaurant and swanky bar.

Just a few minutes’ walk from the MIF hub, King Street Townhouse is a ‘baby grand hotel’, offering a range of stylish rooms. From snug and cosy, to spacious suites with roll-top baths and views of Manchester cathedral, this Italian renaissance building has a lot to offer. An infinity spa pool, cellar cinema room, mezzanine lounge and alfresco terrace all combine to create a great experience for a stay in Manchester.

The Best Fringe Festivals in 2019

Whether it’s a celebration of live theatre, dance, arts or comedy, fringe festivals can be found in nearly every corner of Britain. Laugh along with the nation’s finest comedians as they prepare for their major tours, take in the sounds of up-and-coming musicians and discover new takes on some of the finest theatrical works. Packed with live entertainment and clever improvisation, these are the best Fringe Festivals to enjoy in 2019.

Maidstone Fringe

Marking the diversity of new and original music in Kent and the South East of England, Maidstone Fringe returns for a 9th year in 2019. Spread across numerous venues in the town centre, including pubs, clubs and music venues, as well as in cafes and coffee shops, the majority of the musical performances are free to attend. Expect a wide array of music too, with everything from rock, indie and pop-punk to blues, acoustic, folk, dance and hip-hop on the bill for 2019.

When? 1-6 May

Brighton Fringe

England’s largest arts festival, featuring more than 4,500 performances and events, takes place across Brighton, embracing all forms of art and artistic impression. Running alongside the Brighton Festival, the Brighton Fringe includes cabaret, classical concerts, club nights, comedy, theatre shows and a host of exhibitions, as well as street performances and exciting pop-up venues. In 2019, the International Seasons programme is also set to welcome some of the best contemporary performances by artists from France, the Netherlands, Finland, Australia, Iceland, Korea and Sweden, among others, showcasing the event’s global appeal.

When? 3 May – 2 June

Bath Fringe

Incorporating 3 weekends and the weeks in between, the Bath Fringe is a celebration of all the arts, meaning there are few rules regarding what is on. Both the people of Bath and venues in the city have a big say over what is included, with a detailed events list usually published in April.

When? 24 May - 9 June

Plymouth Fringe

An annual celebration of theatre and live performance, Plymouth Fringe welcomes some of the best talent in the South West, as well as others from across Britain. With venues in the city centre and on the waterfront, expect a host of inspiring performances as the Fringe marks its 5th consecutive year.

When? 27 May – 1 June

Ludlow Fringe

Ludlow Fringe is an independent arts, community and culture festival with a focus on inclusivity. Many of its events are free to attend, while prices are capped at £15 on those that are not, to ensure that events are affordable and accessible. Be sure to check out the Annual Ludlow Fringe Art Trail too, a diverse collection of affordable art by local and national artists that is showcased in 25 different pop-up venues and galleries. Featuring paintings, sculpture, photography, textiles, print and jewellery, and much more besides, the quirky venues are all located a short distance from the town centre.

When? 15-30 June

Guildford Fringe

Now in its 7th year, the Guildford Fringe is a multi-arts festival that features comedy, poetry, theatre, music, visual arts, workshops, burlesque and an abundance of family-friendly shows. Gag House Comedy Superstars kicks-off proceedings on 28 June, featuring comedian and actor Hal Cruttenden, Paul Sinha from TV’s The Chase and Susan Murray. Around 125 events made up the 2018 Guildford Fringe, and its organisers are expecting even more for 2019.

When? 28 June – 28 July

Greater Manchester Fringe

A multi-venue arts festival packed with comedy stand up, dance, magic shows, orchestras, new writing and a wealth of other art forms, the Greater Manchester Fringe provides a stage for performers to showcase their skills. It often acts as a platform for productions too - many past shows have moved onto the region’s established theatres including the Lowry Theatre, the Royal Exchange and the Bolton Octagon, or have embarked on nationwide tours. Now in its 8th year, a full programme of events for 2019 will be released at the start of May.

When 1-31 July

The Great Yorkshire Fringe

As part of its 5th anniversary celebrations, the Great Yorkshire Fringe is set to expand across York in 2019 to feature even more cultural venues. The historic city’s well-known thoroughfare, Parliament Street, will be transformed into an exciting festival hub offering everything from comedy and cabaret to music, theatre and fun for all the family. Performances from comedian Henning Wehn and writer, broadcaster and actor Gyles Brandreth already feature on the bill for 2019, as well as Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel, an entirely improvised performance showcasing Jane Austen’s work in a new light.

When? 18-28 July (20 July, Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel; 21 July, Gyles Brandreth; 27 July, Henning Wehn)

Llangollen Fringe

Final details for the 2019 Llangollen Fringe are yet to be announced, but the celebration of music, dance, film and art will return to the small town of Llangollen, in North Wales, this year. With an eclectic mix of musical and artistic talents on its bill each year, the festival is town centre based, providing easy access to pubs, restaurants and car parks. Taking centre stage is the Victorian Llangollen Town Hall, which boasts its own 300-seat capacity theatre.

When? 19-28 July

Reading Fringe

Designed to support emerging artists and to provide a platform for them ahead of the world famous Edinburgh Fringe, the Reading Fringe welcomes acts to the town from all over the globe. With venues spread across the town, the theme for 2019 is ‘Into the woods – and beyond’, an exploration of what it means to be part of an ecosystem and a consideration of what the future holds for Earth.

When? 20-28 July

Ventnor Fringe

A multi-award winning arts festival on the Isle of Wight, the Ventnor Fringe includes an array of exciting venues in the eclectic hillside town. Alongside cabaret, music, theatre and art, visitors can also expect to see pop-up cinemas, basement bars and mystery tours.

When? 23-28 July

Camden Fringe

From its origins in 2006 as an alternative to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Camden Fringe provides performers with a chance to try out new and untested material. Encompassing all forms of performing arts, the Fringe welcomes both ambitious newcomers and experienced performers as they deliver new writing, sketch comedy, poetry, improvisation and everything in between. A full programme of events is expected in spring 2019.

When? 29 July – 25 August

Edinburgh Fringe

Renowned around the globe as being a platform for creative freedom, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture in the world. Welcoming the finest performers to the Scottish capital, from the biggest names in show business to emerging stars, and covering all sorts of art forms, the festival features more than 50,000 performances each year. More than 300 venues provide the stages, alongside street events and market stalls, showcasing theatre, dance, comedy, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, exhibitions and speech – if it’s a form of art, it’s probably on the bill somewhere.

When? 2-26 August

How to celebrate Scottish Whisky month in May

Produced in Scotland for centuries, whisky is widely celebrated as the country’s national drink. It’s distinct and varied flavours are heavily influenced by the regions in which it is made, a fact that is celebrated as part of national whisky month in May.

Named uisge beatha in Gaelic, which translates to ‘water of life’, whisky is produced at more than 120 distilleries across Scotland, with each producing unique and stimulating tastes. These distilleries are divided up into 5 main whisky producing regions – Speyside, Islay, Campbeltown, Highland and Lowland – and a visit to any one of these represents a memorable way of celebrating Scottish whisky month in style. Alternatively, there are numerous whisky-themed events and festivals that can tickle the taste buds.

The Distilleries

The source of water or even the presence of peat in a region has a huge influence on the taste of the whisky produced. Each of the 5 whisky producing regions has numerous distilleries to explore – and to sample a dram – while also taking in the spectacular highlights of Scotland’s countryside.

  1. Speyside

Home to 50 distilleries – the most of any of the 5 regions – Speyside is renowned for its fine malt whiskies. As the driest and warmest part of Scotland, located between the Highlands in the west, the farmlands of Aberdeenshire to the east and the beauty of the Cairngorms National Park to the north. Conditions are perfect for growing barley, while the mountain water helps to produce some of the best-loved malt whiskies in existence. To celebrate Scottish Whisky month, don’t miss the world famous Malt Whisky Trail which includes 7 working distilleries, Britain’s only cooperage – the Speyside Cooperage – and the Dallas Dhu historic distillery.

  1. Islay

A small island in the Inner Hebrides, just off Scotland’s west coast, Islay has 9 distilleries that produce delightful single malt Scotch whisky. It’s also home to one of the country’s oldest distilleries, as Bowmore can trace its roots back to 1779. As the island is covered in peat, it is harvested and used in the distilling process to create whiskies with characteristic peaty, oily and smoky flavours.

  1. Lowland

Expect lighter and floral tones of whisky in the Lowland region that reflect the rolling countryside landscapes of southern Scotland. The most accessible of the whisky regions given its travel routes to both Edinburgh and Glasgow, it is also home to a number of newer distilleries, with the development of more in the pipeline.

  1. Campbeltown

Campbeltown might be Scotland’s smallest whisky producing region, but such is the quality of the single malts created at its 3 distilleries that it is considered a region in its own right. Aided by the region’s coastal location – the spectacular and remote Kintyre Peninsula in west Argyll – the Springbank, Glengyle and Glen Scotia distilleries all produce distinct flavours that have garnered a worldwide following.

  1. Highlands

Covering a vast expanse of Scotland, the Highlands whisky region houses 47 distilleries, the oldest and most famous of which is Glenturret – home to the Famous Grouse Experience. Anticipate a diverse range of flavours across this region that reflect the rugged coastlines, changing landscapes, mountainous regions and variable weather conditions

May whisky festivals

On top of a visit to a distillery during Scottish whisky month, why not visit one of the many whisky festivals that take place throughout May? World Whisky Day is also on 18 May, and there’ll be an abundance of whisky-themed events taking place at Scotland’s many distilleries, as well as in bars and restaurants.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

Discover the rich history of whisky in Speyside during the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, packed full of behind-the-scenes distillery tours, sensory experiences, whisky-themed walks, music events and an array of arts and crafts. Embark on a whisky tour by train or 4x4, enjoy delightful food and whisky pairings, and explore many of the region’s most iconic distilleries.

When? 1-6 May

Stirling Whisky Festival

Welcoming distillers from all over Scotland to the Stirling Highland Hotel, the Stirling Whisky Festival returns for its 8th year in 2019. Whisky masterclasses come with certain tickets, enabling visitors to try drams of special and rare malts. An exclusive tasting evening at the Stirling Distillery on Friday 10 May will see the Scotch Malt Whisky Society showcase 6 of their unique single malts, with a different food plate for each to provide the perfect accompaniment.

When? 10-12 May

Highland Whisky Festival

Taste some incredible malt whisky from across the Highland region, as the Highland Whisky Festival showcases 8 of the best distilleries from along the North Coast 500 route. As well as exclusive tastings and tours, a range of events will also take place at the Balblair, Glenmorangie, Old Pulteney, Clynelish, The Dalmore, Wolfburn, Tomatin and The Singleton of Glen Ord distilleries.

When? 10-17 May

Edinburgh Whisky Stramash

Hosting numerous whisky experiences in the historic Surgeon’s Hall on Edinburgh’s Nicholson Street, the Edinburgh Whisky Stramash looks to showcase whisky from across Scotland and the rest of the world. Expect quirky tasting sessions and circa 200 whiskies from around the globe!

When? 18-19 May

Feis Ile, The Islay Festival of Music and Malt

Discover the island of Islay’s peaty flavours and take in its unique culture as part of Feis Ile, The Islay Festival of Music and Malt. With a programme packed with Gaelic and traditional music, ceilidhs and events relating to golf, history and natural heritage, among others, the festival is a chance to visit the island’s distilleries while uncovering its distinctive character.

When? 24 May – 1 June

Six Lake District locations to visit this autumn

Since being awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2017, the popularity of the Lake District National Park in north-west England has continued to soar. While the summer is, undoubtedly, a lovely time to visit, savvy travellers will find the Lakes and their towns and villages an equally beautiful destination in the autumn. The scenery is ablaze with colour, the summer crowds have thinned out and there’s plenty to see and do, no matter the weather.

Windermere and Bowness

Right at the heart of the Lake District, the towns of Windermere and Bowness boast picturesque scenery wherever you turn. Catch those bright autumn colours from the water itself and climb aboard Windermere Lake Cruises steamers. This cruise can also take you to the neo-gothic Wray Castle; looming over the shores of Windermere, it’s not your typical castle displaying family heirlooms and portraits… There’s something here for everyone, including the little ones – they’ll love the dressing up, castle building and adventure play area available. For a different class of architecture, head to Blackwell House, a brilliant example of the Arts & Crafts movement from the early 20th century, which retains many of its original features and holds fantastic permanent and visiting exhibitions. 

Children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter was one of the Lakes’ most famous residents and all ages can enjoy the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction – you’ll feel as if you’re stepping into one of her books.

 

Kendal

A smart, handsome market town, Kendal is the Lakes’ arts and culture centre and is packed with independent cafés and pubs. Catch a play, exhibition, comedy or music event at the town’s thriving cultural hub, the Brewery Arts Centre or get your fix of art at the hidden gem that is the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, set in the Grade I-listed 18th-century building of Abbot Hall. Alternatively, you can experience a dose of history at Kendal Castle, once the family home ofKatherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. Book onto a walking tour to hear more of its dynamic history and admire the excellent views from its hilltop vantage point.

Kendal is also a festival hotspot; in November it welcomes the Kendal Mountain Festival, an award-winning adventure film and speaker festival and a must-visit gathering for outdoor enthusiasts. This September will also see the return of Lakes Alive, which will bring contemporary art, activities and performances to Kendal and the wider Lake District National Park. Also in September is the Kendal Torchlight Carnival, followed by the only comic art festival in the UK, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, which takes over the whole of the town in October. Another way to experience the rich heritage and culture in the Lakes are the Lakes Culture Signature Experiences; four different routes that celebrate the region's art, music and literature in a variety of ways.

 

Keswick and Ullswater

Keswick is close to the lakes of Ullswater, Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, as well as the mountains of Grizedale Pike, Skiddaw and Catbells, yet it’s not just a walkers’ paradise. Head out onto Ullswater Lake on board Ullswater Steamers for a relaxed view of the beautiful scenery or, if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (and also England’s last working slate mine). Climb the original miners’ route (the Via Ferrata Classic), an exposed adventure climbing course created from cargo nets and wire bridges strung 366 metres above the valley floor. If you’re feeling particularly brave, take the bigger challenge by climbing the Via Ferrata Extreme!

Keswick is also one of the Lakes’ cultural highlights. Professional producing theatre, Theatre on the Lake, close to Derwentwater on the edge of Keswick, is in one of the prettiest theatre settings imaginable and you can catch a play here throughout the year. Travel a little further out to The Lakes Distillery and join an interactive tour to see how its whisky, gin, and vodka are made, which also make an excellent gift to take home. And we mustn’t forget the most niche of museums; the Pencil Museum! It’s more than just pencils (although the collection does include gems such as secret Second World War pencils complete with hidden maps); it also runs art workshops.

 

Coniston

Coniston, nestled between Coniston Water and the Coniston Fells, has a copper mining and slate quarrying history and the village’s proximity to dramatic landscapes – lakes, mountains, waterfalls, tarns and woods – means walking, sightseeing, water sports, mountaineering and horse riding are all prevalent here.

The most notable feature of Coniston Village is The Old Man of Coniston, an 803-metre-high fell. For a slightly easier walk with incredible views, head to Tarn Hows, set more than 183 metres up in the hills above Coniston. A lovely, easy, 1.5-mile pathway shows off the best of the gorgeous Langdale Pikes.

Another lovely way to see Coniston Water and the Fells is by the steam yacht gondola; the trip takes you past Coniston Hall and then on to Brantwood, the home of celebrated Victorian art critic and artist John Ruskin. You can alight here to explore the house, which is filled with many fine paintings, beautiful furniture and Ruskin’s personal treasures. 

 

Ambleside

Ambleside is surrounded by magnificent Lakeland fells and is a town with an energetic vibe. Yet it’s also home to one of the oldest standing buildings in the Lakes, the quirky, picturesque Bridge House, which dates back to the 17th century.

A visit to Ambleside also means you’re very close to Hill Top House, the 17th-century farmhouse where Beatrix Potter lived, wrote and based many of her much-loved stories. When she left the house to the National Trust she left instructions about how it should be shown, so it stands exactly as she knew it and lived in it.

Some of Potter’s works can also be viewed at the Armitt Museum, Gallery and Library – she was one of its earliest supporters – which features the history of life, photography and the fine art of the Lake District. Or for a slice of contemporary art, head to the Old Courthouse Gallery, showcasing glassworks, jewellery, wall art and ceramics, which you can also buy. A great way to spend an evening in Ambleside is at the Jazz Bar of Zeffirellis, which hosts modern jazz and world music performances throughout the week. Want to sample local ale? Try the wares created by Ambleside’s Barngates Brewery, served in the Drunken Duck Inn and Restaurant – although the brewery isn’t open for tours, visitors to the Drunken Duck can request to see inside the adjacent brewery buildings.

 

Ravenglass

Ravenglass is the Lake District’s only coastal village and history emanates from every corner, from its Bronze Age settlements, Roman forts and Anglian crosses to its Viking remains, Norman churches and medieval mills. You can even go back to the Victorian era of steam and experience the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway, which takes you on a stunning seven-mile journey through the National Park.

A must-visit in the area is Muncaster Castle. Still lived in by the same family after nine centuries, Muncaster is said to be haunted and, this November, will hold a Scientific Ghost Vigil. If that doesn’t sound quite your thing, the castle itself is fascinating to explore and you can enjoy bird of prey displays at its Hawk and Owl Centre throughout the year.