Penrith is a Northern English town rich in history and beauty with attractive medieval ruins, dramatic outdoor settings and ancient homes that attract visitors from everywhere. Step into a Jane Austen novel as you explore the wild peaks surrounding Aira Force, stroll through the gardens of Acorn Bank or inspect the architecture of Hutton-in-the-Forest.

    Walk through a history lesson as you explore the medieval ruins of Brougham or Penrith Castles. Check out the 10 best things to do in Penrith.

    1

    Penrith Castle

    Breathe in the air surrounding generations of noble history

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Penrith Castle, now a medieval ruin, can be reached by a simple wooden footbridge that allows you to cross what was once the surrounding moat. Steeped in history, the remains offer a picturesque backdrop for visitors' picnics or family photos in Castle Park, just a 5 minute walk from Penrith's town centre. The castle is believed to have been built by William Strickland, later Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Generation after generation of family ownership is highlighted by its endowment to the later King Richard III. Hence, the castle is sometimes referred to as The King's Castle. Today it is only the ruins that remain, but that is still a draw for visitors to enjoy its ancient corbels and open vaults.

    Location: Castle Terrace, Penrith CA11 7EA, UK

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1912 691200

    Map
    2

    Aira Force

    Relish the cool air coming off a crashing waterfall

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    • Photo

    Aira Force is a waterfall that crashes down nearly 22 metres and is fed by Aira Beck. This breathtaking site is one of Cumbria County's top attractions, located 20 minutes south of Penrith. In an area renowned for its beauty, Aira Force is the masterpiece. Aira Force is on land now owned by The National Trust, which installed graded paths, a car park, restrooms and viewing platforms to make the site accessible.

    On the way to see the waterfall, visitors will pass a Wish Tree. This is a large fallen trunk that guests hammer coins onto to make a wish come true. Just maybe the wish to come true is seeing the spectacular falls.

    Location: Matterdale, Penrith CA11 0JY, UK

    Open: 24/7

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    3

    Brougham Castle

    Investigate medieval architecture

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Brougham Castle is a fine example of fairytale castle architecture that sits on rolling green hills beside the gently flowing River Eamont. The castle was built in the 13th century by Robert de Vieuxpont, landowner and military servant to the crown. Sitting just 2 miles to the southeast of Penrith, the ruins once featured a stone keep, wooden palisade and towers, and it was encircled by an actual moat.

    Through the years, the castle housed many stories of noblemen, wars, ladies, traitors and royal visits but eventually fell into disrepair. Various attempts to restore it were made, but today it is a beautiful stone shell, allowing its visitors to use their imaginations to picture it in its glory.

    Location: Moor Ln, Penrith CA10 2AA, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)3703 331181

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    4

    Whinfell Forest

    Spot an endangered red squirrel

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Whinfell Forest is home to over 162 hectares of picturesque woodlands, houses Centre Parcs holiday village and is a reserve for endangered red squirrels. Whinfell Forest offers a holiday paradise for everyone – from outdoor activities such as water sports, archery, tree trekking adventures and geocaching to indoor spas, dining opportunities and shopping experiences.

    Growing beside a lake in the historical Lake District and 10 minutes east of Penrith, the forest has notable entries in the diaries of its former noblemen owners and is found in medieval court documents. This forest of many trees has 2 to note, one that has a stag's horn embedded in it and one that is the remaining of 3 unusually large oak trees.

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    5

    Lowther Castle and Gardens

    Stroll through the many gardens of a castle

    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    Lowther Castle and Gardens is the site to a ruin like no other – the remaining walls of a 19th-century castle surrounded by gardens offer something for everyone. Here, you can also see The Lost Castle, a castle built of wood up in the trees where the kids can play and live out their own royal adventures. Lowther Castle was voted Large Visitor Attraction of the Year 2018 in the Cumbria Tourism Awards and is 15 minutes south of Penrith.

    Once upon a time, the gardens turned neighbours green with envy and the castle welcomed guests to explore its hall of sculptures. Now, it's as awing as ever, with only the standing walls to let you relive its fascinating past.

    Location: Lowther, Penrith CA10 2HH, UK

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1931 712192

    Map
    6

    Penrith and Eden Museum

    Find the answers for Lake District questions

    • Families
    • History

    Penrith and Eden Museum details the history and culture of the 2 towns, as well as displaying fine arts collections and a variety of exhibitions for all visitors. Rich with the history of Scottish wars and English noblemen and royalty, the museum answers the questions you have after touring the region. Additionally, the former school building hosts exhibits from Flemish painters to fossil dinosaur footprint to bronze coins dating from 340 A.D.

    Just a short walk from Penrith's town centre, the museum began its collections in the Mechanics Institute in 1830. Through years, collections have been housed in different venues, finding their way to their current home in 1985.

    Location: Robinson's School, 42 Middlegate, Penrith CA11 7PT, UK

    Open: Monday from 10 am to 4 pm, Thursday–Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm (closed Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday)

    Phone: +44 (0)1768 865105

    Map

    photo by Eden Cumbria (CC BY 4.0) modified

    7

    Beacon Hill

    Discover the ghost of 'Gallows Hill'

    • History
    • Unusual

    Beacon Hill's summit is just a short walk from Penrith's town centre and offers tales of history, beauty and lore. The short trek to the top offers stunning views of Eden Valley, the Lake District peaks and even the Scottish Mountains to the north. Penrith Beacon is a tall tower structure that sits atop the summit. It was built in 1719 and spent years in service signalling potential danger to the community.

    Stories of the ghost of Beacon Hill are a highlight for thrill-seeking visitors. The hill served as the site for 2 gruesome hangings, which led the locals to refer to the place as 'Gallows Hill'.

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    8

    Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre

    Learn about powerful birds of prey

    • Families
    • Photo

    Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre is a conservation facility housing over 150 hawks, falcons, vultures, eagles and owls from around the world. The Centre's goal is to protect and conserve birds of prey through education, research, rehabilitation of injured birds and breeding. Flying demonstrations occur daily, weather permitting. The demonstrations allow the birds the opportunity to practice their hunting behaviours.

    Only a short distance from the gates of Lowther Castle, there are additional opportunities for visitors after viewing the birds. Outside the walled garden of aviaries is a tearoom to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea with a homemade scone or a light lunch. The centre also features a gift shop, with the sales going to support the conservation efforts.

    Location: Lowther, Penrith, CA10 2HH, UK

    Open: Daily from noon to 5 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1931 712746

    Map
    9

    Hutton-in-the-Forest

    Take a journey through time in a 17th-century home

    • History
    • Photo

    Hutton-in-the-Forest is an extraordinary, historical home with the original structure dating back nearly 650 years. Located on the edge of the Lake District of Cumberland County, the interior rooms have been decorated according to the time period in which the room was added, leading to an eclectic journey through time as you tour the house.

    Styles range from the 17th century to the modern day. The gardens offer trees, bushes, flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs, topiaries, ponds, lakes, woods, statues, paths, terraces and nearly anything else you could imagine on display in an estate garden. From the walled garden to the woodlands walk, the outdoors is a sight to behold. Photographers delight in the bounty.

    Location: Hutton-in-the-Forest, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 9th, UK

    Open: Sunday–Friday from 1 pm to 4 pm (closed on Saturday)

    Phone: +44 (0)1768 484449

    Map

    photo by Mdbeckwith (CC BY 3.0) modified

    10

    Acorn Bank Garden and Watermill

    Smell the fresh fruits and herbs harvested from this estate

    • History
    • Photo

    Acorn Bank Garden and Watermill is a magnificent, historic property first owned by the Knights of Templar in 1228 but now owned by the National Trust. It is perhaps best known for its plentiful collection of herbs and its fruit orchards. The gardens grow more than 250 varieties of herbs. Located near Penrith in Cumbria County, the gardens are protected by high stone walls and very old oaks.

    In addition to the fascinating gardens, there is a partially restored watermill on the property that dates back to the 13th century. The red sandstone Tudor house on the property was closed to the public and was turned into holiday apartments. It contains a tea room and gift shop.

    Location: Temple Sowerby, Penrith CA10 1SP, UK

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 4.30 pm, (closed on Sunday)

    Phone: +44 (0)17683 61893

    Map

    photo by Marathon (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

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