Your Guide to Christmas in the Lake District

It’s hard to imagine a more magical place to be than the Lake District at Christmas time. With snow often to be seen on the higher peaks at this time of year, you can dream of a white Christmas while you’re here.

Book your luxury self-catering accommodation in the Lake District now and don’t miss a moment of the festive fun. There's so much to do in the run up to Christmas, from Christmas markets to craft workshops, and if you have little ones hoping for a chance to meet Santa, there are plenty of opportunities in the Lake District.

Winter Wonderland – Hayes Garden

If you want to soak up the festive atmosphere, you can’t beat the Winter Wonderland Hayes Garden World in Ambleside, which is open from early December up to the 23rd.

Explore the magical realm which is decorated with Christmas lights and artificial snow for a real festive feel. It leads to a grotto where younger visitors may be lucky enough to see Santa. Don't forget to fit in some festive shopping at the German-style Christmas market, which has a range of delightful seasonal produce and gifts.

Christmas Markets

The Windermere Christmas Market is a very popular event. This year it's being held on the 8th and 9th December, with over 50 stalls selling local and European products. A shuttle bus service operates from the major car parks in Bowness-on-Windermere to Victoria Street in Windermere where the Christmas market is located. 

Foodies shouldn’t miss the Cartmel Christmas Food Market on Friday, 16th December. Many local artisan food producers have stalls at the market, and Cartmel’s famous sticky toffee pudding is on sale at the local village shop. 

Just a few minutes from the centre of Penrith, Rheged is an entertainment centre with shops, cafes, indoor and outdoor play, theatre and cinema. Rheged is hosting a series of events and activities over the festive season, from gingerbread trails and decoration making to films and shows.

  • There’s a special show for younger children on 15th and 16th December. Book your seats for Santa’s Marvellous Magical Toy Shop to find out what happens when Father Christmas’ chief elf decides to retire.
  • On 22nd and 23rd December treat the children to a visit to see Santa combined with a double bill of The Gruffalo or The Snowman films.
  • Watch the live streaming of the Bolshoi Ballet’s Nutcracker on 23rd December. 
  • This year’s pantomime at Rheged is Cinderella, with performances from 28th – 30th December. 

Art Events

There are many arts events in the Lake District over the Christmas period. Here’s our pick of the ones that should not be missed:

  • Theatre by the Lake, Keswick - 10th- 15th December: The Scrooge Diaries
  • The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal - 17th-18th December: Christmas Cracker
  • The Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere - 21st December: A Christmas Carol

Festive Outdoors

Wrap up warm and you can enjoy fell-walking even in December, but be sure to keep safe and check that the weather forecast is suitable before you set off. If you can’t face exploring the beautiful scenery of the Lakes on foot at this time of year, there are other ways of getting about and taking in the view. 

A boat trip in the Lake District is a pleasure at any time of year, but at Christmas time it has an extra dimension, with sparkling Christmas lights on shore adding to the beauty of the scenery. Take a special festive trip on Derwentwater on 8th-9th December and 15th-16th December and you can enjoy a mince pie and sherry, while children receive a present.

Alternatively, get on board one of the Ullswater steamer trips for a festive afternoon tea during December, or on Sunday 16th December join one of the special Santa cruises. Departing from Glenridding, the Santa Cruise includes a magic show and a Christmas present for the children, with mince pies and refreshments for the grown-ups. 

The Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway is operating a series of Santa Specials, running along one of the most scenic lines in the country. Carols, seasonal drinks and a visit from Santa and his elves make for a very special festive train journey. 

Santa will also be making an appearance at the Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway, and there will be festive stalls at Ravenglass Station on December weekends leading up to Christmas. Don’t miss the Mince Pie trains running in December - pick up your mince pie token with your ticket and exchange it for a mince pie in the café at Ravenglass Station. 

World of Beatrix Potter

Young children will love a visit to the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere, and it’s even more magical in December with Father Christmas Tea Parties on 16th – 22nd. The price includes admission to the World of Beatrix Potter attraction. 

Muncaster Castle

For a very special festive afternoon tea, visit Muncaster Castle during the run up to Christmas. You will be greeted with a glass of mulled wine to warm you up when you arrive on a chilly December afternoon, and tea, sandwiches, scones and cakes are served in one of the specially decorated state rooms. The price also gives you admission to the gardens as well as the Hawk and Owl Centre. 

Sizergh Castle

Visit the National Trust’s Sizergh Castle for a range of seasonal activities. Kids can create a gingerbread Christmas decoration, while activities for grown-ups include a wreath-making workshop. There’s also a chance to see Santa at Sizergh Castle.

Holker Hall

Holker Hall has lots going on for Christmas this year, and the hall is beautifully decorated with traditional garlands, wreaths, table displays and elegant Christmas trees. You can tour the hall from 6th-9th December and on 13th-16th December. Additional festive activities include breakfast with Santa and a workshop where you can learn how to make a Christmas wreath. 

Lowther Castle and Gardens

Lowther Castle and Gardens, near Penrith has Santa visiting on weekends in December. Children receive a gift and can join in the Christmas activities. Various workshops are being held throughout December, from creating a decorative wooden reindeer to making a Christmas bird-feeder wreath. 

When it comes to luxury self-catering accommodation, Lake District visitors are spoilt for choice. With many properties decorated for Christmas, you will start to feel the festive spirit as soon as you arrive. Whatever you choose to do in the Lake District over the festive season, we wish all of our guests a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.


Man at christmas markets
Father Christmas presents
Family at Christmas