The Lake District in Cumbria derives its name from the 16 glacial lakes that are nestled among its fells, moors and green valleys.
The area boasts some of the UK’s best and most dramatic scenery and is widely regarded as one of the country’s most beautiful destinations.
Anyone who loves to explore the great outdoors has dreamed of trekking in the Lake District and there is nowhere better to lose oneself and be inspired by nature’s majesty.
1. Days Inn Kendal – Best On A Budget
Best for: Anyone on a tight budget
- No frills accommodation
- Nearby eateries and lake view
- Standard in-room amenities
- Free parking
Days Inn Kendal is a bargain pitstop that is located just off the M6, looking out over Killington Lake.
Although it’s not exactly The Ritz, room rates are incredibly cheap given the impressive outlook. They have comfortable beds, hot water and there is (surprisingly) no deafening noise from the M6.
Days Inn is a short drive to many Lake District attractions, under 20 minutes to the National Park and only 10 minutes from the Cumbrian market town of Kendal.
This gives visitors access to all of the highlights of the area without suffering the costs of park-based hotels.
All rooms come with flatscreen TVs, tea and coffee-making facilities and en-suite bathrooms. There are family rooms available and dogs are very welcome for a one-off £10 fee.
Parking and wi-fi are free and many of the rooms offer scenic Lakeland views. Take a stroll around Killington lake or head to one of the nearby trails.
There is no restaurant onsite and catering options are a little underwhelming, coming in the form of a McDonalds and Costa Coffee in the main service station building.
However, driving to nearby Kendal will open up a realm of eating, drinking and exploration opportunities.
For anyone that is on a strict budget that still wants easy access for the National Park, this is a great option. With Lake Windermere a 30-minute drive away, as long as you have a car then you’re all set.
Best for: An affordable hotel with character
- On-site coffee house/restaurant/bar
- Children’s playground
- Packed lunches available
Another great option for those who are working with a budget, the Bower House Inn is a home away from home where everyone is welcome.
Nestled in the Eskdale Valley, the traditional, whitewashed inn has 20 rooms, all with TVs and free wi-fi and a gorgeous large garden.
The rooms are small but very comfortable and what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm.
All rooms are en-suite and dog-friendly (as is the restaurant) and the owners host hikers and cyclists from across the country.
The Bower’s cosy bar serves up local ales and good pub grub, served around an open fire in winter.
The food in the restaurant is served by friendly hosts, is piping hot and uses the finest of local ingredients and locally-sourced produce.
A real bonus is the sizeable slap-up breakfast that comes included in the room rate.
Unlike the Days Inn, Bower House Inn is set in the quiet countryside and the low-beamed ceilings and leafy grounds give it character.
A great base for countryside walks, Scarfell, Great Gable and Wastwater are all within easy reach. Coniston Water is also less than 20 minutes’ drive away.
3. Eltermere Inn – Best for Walkers
Best for: Walking & trekking
- Outstanding location with easy access to walks
- Traditional feel
- On-site restaurant and free parking
- Access to Langdale Spa
If you’re heading to the Lake District there is a very good chance it’s because you want to take in the great outdoors or hit the trails.
For anyone that wants to go for a short amble or a more serious hill climb, there aren’t many better locations.
The word ‘inn’ is incredibly misleading as the Eltermere is an elegant Georgian country house turned 12-room hotel.
It is a small, family-run operation with bread made from scratch and a varied but smart menu with locally-sourced ingredients.
Set on the edge of pretty Elterwater village it’s ideally placed for hiking the Langdales.
Guests can choose to book a day with Mike Wood, the hotel’s recommended guide, or go it alone.
Surrounded by gardens, and a stone’s throw from the mighty fells of Langdale, it’s hard to believe it’s only 10 minutes from the buzz of Ambleside.
The Wordsworth Museum, Beatrix Potter’s house, Ruskin’s house are all close by, as is Lake Windermere for anyone that wants to try their hand at various watersports.
Originally a farmhouse, it is a relaxing, comfortably elegant hotel that has traditional decor, high ceilings and roll top baths.
Take a pew in one of the fireside sofas or window-seats that enjoy views over meadows and tiny Elterwater.
Bedrooms are light and roomy but the pièce de résistance is either the afternoon tea or the obligatory tea and cake on arrival.
Guests also get complimentary entry to the Lansdale Spa.
4. Moss Grove Organic – Best for the Environment
Best for: Environmentally-conscious individuals
- All-natural materials and organic produce
- Large rooms, all with jacuzzi baths
- No pets allowed
- Urban location with free parking
- Generous breakfasts but no restaurant on site
If you want to be amongst the hustle and bustle then it’s hard to get more central than this.
Just minutes away from St Oswald’s church (where Wordsworth’s grave lies), tea-shops, pubs and eateries, Moss Grove is in the thick of it in central Grasmere.
But what sets apart this five-star accommodation from its competitors is its luxurious and environmentally-friendly design.
This slate-built Victorian property has been given an eco-makeover, to make it an environmentally-principled haven.
As the name suggests, Moss Grove Organic uses organic produce, natural materials and lead-free paints for a comfortable and healthy stay.
The good news is that it doesn’t sacrifice any comfort or style, with huge beds and bathrooms with under-floor heating and organic toiletries.
The rooms offer flat-screen TVs, Bose Entertainment systems and free internet.
You’ll also be treated to generous Mediterranean-style buffet breakfasts each morning. The breakfast is all organic from the drinks through to the home-made bread.
Although there is no on-site restaurant, your morning feast will keep you going a while and there is a kitchen where you can make packed lunches, warm up food or put drinks in the fridge.
If you’re feeling peckish on return from hiking, between 3pm and 6pm guests can help themselves to teas, coffee and homemade organic cake.
Dogs are welcome (for a £20 clean-up fee per stay) and guests can use the washing/drying room, cycle storage and print-outs of local walks for free.
Ideally situated in the heart of the Lake District, Grasmere Lake is just 500 metres away, the Wordsworth Museum and Dove Cottage are a 10-minute stroll and Ambleside is a 10-minute drive.
There are also a handful of low- and mid-level walks from the doorstep or a local bus to take you around.
5. The Crown Inn Pooley Bridge – Best for Families
Best for: Best for families
- Terrace and garden
- Watersport facilities (on site)
- Restaurant and bar
- No parking available on site
Recently renovated, this scenic inn is located on a small river that flows into the Ullswater Lake at Pooley Bridge.
Its location on the lake makes it a perfect option for families with kids that need an array of entertainment and activities.
From the garden and on-site watersport facilities, to the spacious family rooms and kids menu, the Crown Inn ticks all the boxes.
The family room has a quirky triangle window that gives guests incredible views along Ullswater and the entire hotel has homely characterful touches.
The inn offers a continental or buffet breakfast to fuel you up before you take to the trails and also has a restaurant and bar on site.
The terrace decking has a relaxing vibe with great views, where kids can tuck into the inventive ‘Nibble Board’ of cheese, grapes, vegetable sticks, bread and butter, ham and chipolatas.
In fact the decking and lower area are one of best things about this place, with stunning views of the mountains and the lake and the new bridge that is being built. You will enjoy proper, fresh, excellent-quality food.
Just over half an hour’s drive away is Windermere and Keswick but you hardly need to leave your doorstep.
Take one of the easy trails along the lake or climb aboard one of the infamous Ullswater Steamers.
Nearby Brockhole’s Visitor Centre is a great excursion in itself, where kids can bounce in the tree top nets, or jump on a giant trampoline strapped between the trees – something that is as fun for adults as it is children.
With comfy beds, decent breakfasts, great views and the ability to bring your furry friends, The Crown Inn is a family winner.
Best for: A family-friendly hotel that caters for parents as much as kids
- Pool, spa and wellness centre
- Various family rooms and suites, as well as doubles/twins
- On-site restaurant, bar and terrace
- No pets
When you picture a family-friendly hotel, your mind jumps to water slides, play pens and rowdy children, but not here.
The North Lakes Hotel is luxury spa for parents combined with a welcoming and entertaining environment for kids.
They even have a hashtag #VILittleP – Very Important Little People – and a free teddy on arrival that can be taken adventuring with them.
Each room is stylishly furnished and family rooms feature bunk beds that are set up with VILittleP sets, milk, biscuits and their names written on the plates in chocolate.
The wellness centre includes a fully-equipped gym, functional studio, swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room. Spa treatments are also available by appointment.
A great base for exploring the North Lakes, just outside the Lake District park, the hotel is well-placed for serious walkers taking on the challenge of nearby Helvellyn.
Penrith centre is just a 15-minute walk away, Ullswater Lake is a 10-minute drive away, and the Rheged Activity Centre is less than five minutes’.
For those who want to explore the Lakes, Skiddaw mountain is 30 minutes’ drive away and the vibrant town of Keswick is a 25-minute drive.
There are also various hills and castles (including Penrith and Brougham Castles and Long Meg and Her Daughters, as well as the Bronze age stone circle) that can rolled into a family day out.
The nearby Rock Shop in Ambleside is educational and creative, allowing children to climb into a giant gemstone pit with a small bag and choose up to 20 gemstones for keeping.
Convenient to drive to, the hotel is just off a roundabout on an A road. However, once you’re inside it feels like an isolated retreat.
Equally suited to couples, roaring fires, high oak-beamed roofs great food, and a spotlight pool create a high-end feel.
For those that don’t want to drive into town, FYR is the hotel’s AA Rosette-winning restaurant, serving seasonal and local produce from à la carte menus.
7. Lindeth Fell Country House – Best for Couples
Best for: Award-winning, luxury Edwardian B&B
- Sun terrace, garden and picnic area
- On-site mini golf, library and fishing
- Bar but no restaurant (excl. breakfast)
- Lake views
- No dogs
The ‘bed and breakfast’ label doesn’t do justice to Lindeth Fell Country House. This family-run luxury guest B&B is set in an elegant Edwardian house surrounded by lush gardens.
Although there is no on-site restaurant, platters can be arranged and a delicious breakfast is available every morning. Guests can also relax in a cosy lounge with log fires and a fully-licensed residents bar.
Board games and puzzles can be loaned out from reception, fishing can be arranged for a small fee and there is a golf course just a few kilometres down the road – so you’ll never get bored.
Overlooking Lake Windermere and seven acres of colourful flower gardens, this countryside escape has bright, airy rooms and serves quintessentially British tea and scones on arrival.
High ceilings and period features combined with a mirrored dining room and plush window seats give it a five-star hotel feel but much more personal.
Individually decorated rooms are finished with Egyptian cotton sheets, flat-screen TVs and coffee facilities and many offer lake views.
Special touches like fluffy bathrobes, slippers, bottled water and coffee machines make a stay here a unique experience.
Just a kilometer south of Bowness-on-Windermere, guests have easy access (either walking or driving) to an array of shops, restaurants and cafés without being bothered by the crowds.
Ambleside and Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage at Grasmere, Beatrix Potter’s house, Grizedale Forest and Hawkshead are all all within 30 minutes’ drive.
There are a number of low-level walks that can be started from the hotel but fell-walks are further afield (Langdale is around 45 minutes).
There are also cycling routes and bike storage, as well as picnic hampers and croquet sets. Guests have free access to a spa at a hotel two miles away and the staff’s local knowledge is incredibly useful.
8. The Samling Hotel – Best for Relaxation
Best for: Rooms (and all-day relaxing) with a view
- On-site restaurant and bar
- Hot tub/jacuzzi
- Sun terrace and gardens
- Games, books and DVDs for borrowing
- Array of on- and off-site activities can be arranged for a fee
- Pets allowed
The Samling Hotel has views as luxurious as its interiors. Individually-styled rooms are light and airy, deer roam the grounds, and with so much on offer you can be as active or lazy as you like.
If you can afford to splash out, you won’t be disappointed. Most of the rooms have mountain or lake views and there is a hot tub with views over Windermere that can be booked for private use.
Set above the eastern shores of Windermere in 70 acres of gardens, fields and woodland, this Georgian house was turned into a hotel in 2002 and further extended in 2017 to include a glass-walled dining-room.
Light, uncluttered and stylishly decorated, rooms and hallways feature sumptuous flowers, artworks of Matisse, Picasso and Chagall, and powder-soft carpets.
Opt for the three-course tasting menu and you’ll experience the sensation of dishes that look like works of art in themselves.
Food comes from head chef Robby Jenks, who trained with Michael Caines, and the 600-strong wine list has something for everyone.
Well-placed for exploring the central Lakes’ towns of Bowness, Ambleside and Grasmere, guests can frequent the shops and eateries there in under 20 minutes’ drive.
There are a handful of short walks that start from the hotel but a car is essential for anything more.
Walking guides are available and dogs are allowed for a £25 fee per stay. If the weather closes in you can even book a cocktail or wine-tasting masterclass.
9. Gilpin Hotel and Lake House – Best for Luxury
Best for: Unrivalled boutique, luxury hotel
- Terrace and 100-acre grounds
- Hot tub/jacuzzi and wellness centre
- Bar and restaurant on site
- Horse riding, bike rental and golf available for a fee
- Pets allowed in one specific room
If you want a once-in-a-lifetime luxurious experience then look no further than the Gilpin Hotel and Lake House.
Check in to one of the suites and enjoy a room with its own hydrotherapy hot tub and private treatment area, a choice of Michelin-starred or relaxed pan-Asian food and the on-site champagne bar.
This tranquil setting is perfect for honeymooners as well as high-end weekend escapes.
Six rooms are set in stunning, secluded grounds with plenty of space indoors and outside to unwind. The staff are attentive but not overbearing and you genuinely get the feeling that nothing is too much trouble.
It is a family operation with plenty of luxury and zero pretentiousness – even the croquet lawn is a friendly hangout.
The shores of Lake Windermere are just over 3.2 kilometres away but at these prices, you’ll want to get your money’s worth by spending the day on-site.
There are rooms and options to suit all tastes. For the buzz of the restaurants and private spa lodges try the Gilpin Hotel, or book in to Gilpin Lake House if you want country-house elegance and uninterrupted lake views.
The single-storey junior suites are roomy, light-washed rooms with a patio, spa bath and walk-in shower.
Splash out on a garden suite to get a feature fireplace, decked gardens and a hot tub, or really splurge on one of the detached cedar-clad spa lodges with a treatment area, steam room, outdoor sauna, hydrotherapy tub and walled garden.
The dining experience doesn’t lag behind with its HRiSHi restaurant run by Michelin-starred Desai cooking modern British dishes and the cheaper, upbeat Gilpin Spice serves tapas-style Asian food.
And if you won’t take our word for it, the Gilpin has featured on all of the following award lists: BBC Good Food’s Best Vegetarian Hotels, Evening Standard’s Six Best Lake District Hotels, the Independent’s 10 Best Hotels for a Romantic British break, and the National Golfer’s Best Hotels for Golf in the UK and Ireland.
10. Drunken Duck Inn
Best for: Contemporary-country vibe and local’s choice
- Bar and restaurant on site
- Mountain views
- Books, DVDs, music for children
- Board games/puzzles to borrow
- No dogs
The Drunken Duck Inn is a locally cherished pub, dining room and hotel with good food and a range of exceptional beers.
The only thing that outdoes the delicious menu is the surrounding scenery and the knowledge that your pint has only travelled a few feet from the Barnsgate Brewery next door.
Set in Ambleside, the Duck (as it’s fondly known by locals) is isolated in open country on the quieter side of Windermere.
A mid-priced but high-quality accommodation option, it welcomes all and sundry – boots, mud and everything else.
Originally a farmhouse, this gastropub and attached micro-brewery retain a sense of country inn with leather tub chairs, wood-burning stoves and period photographs.
All of the 12 rooms come with sizeable wardrobes, flat-screen TVs and a private bathroom.
Finishing touches like a big claw-foot bathtub and underfloor heating really set it apart from other B&Bs in the area.
The food is serious but not pretentious, service is impeccable and the bar is a locals’ favourite. Don’t even get us started on the continental breakfast.
The hardest part of staying here will be trying to decide what your favourite meal was – out of the outstanding breakfasts, fresh scones served for afternoon tea or exquisite dinners.
The glorious fell views are a bonus of almost all of the rooms and just a few kilometres away is bustling Ambleside, with its shops, tearooms and cruises on Windermere.
Without even climbing in the car guests can take a 15-minute walk to low-level strolls around the lake.
Whether you’re climbing England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike), visiting the house of Beatrix Potter, indulging in a cream tea or riding an old steamboat on the lake, you’ll need a hotel nearby.
The main bases are Keswick in the north, Windermere and Bowness in the south but there are plenty of retreats nestled amongst the countryside.
The perennially popular Lake District isn’t limited to hostels and bunkhouses for hikers, nor is it full of eye-wateringly expensive hotels.
There is something for everyone and accommodation ranges from simple and rustic to luxurious and boutique.
With hundreds of hotels spread across the National Park and surrounding area, booking can be an overwhelming affair.
To help out, we’ve pulled together our pick of the best hotels in the Lake District – ranging from basic to extravagant.
Whether you want to be with your family in the thick of things, tucked away in a natural retreat or converse with fellow hikers in a gracious waterside inn, we’ve covered it all.
The last thing we’d add is that things book up quickly in peak season, so try and plan ahead to ensure you’re able to secure your first choice.
Charlotte walks anywhere and everywhere she can. Although she hasn’t ticked off as many official routes as she’d like, she has walked her way around large parts of Latin America, Southeast Asia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
Bucket list routes: