10 of the Best Historic Sites in the Lake District | Historical Landmarks | History Hit

10 of the Best Historic Sites in the Lake District

Explore the very best the Lake District has to offer with these historic sites.

Teet Ottin

17 Aug 2022

The Lake District may be one of the most beautiful corners of the United Kingdom. The National Park is famous for its numerous bodies of water, scenic mountains and dense forests, though one should not forget the major historic sites, which range from neolithic stone circle’s to ruins of the Industrial Revolution. For any lovers of ancient history, the Roman ruins will be a delight, while Dove Cottage will be a pleasant day out for poetry enthusiasts. The Lake District truly has something for everybody.

Take a look at 10 of the best historic sites in the Lake District.

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1. Castlerigg Stone Circle

Sitting atop a stunning natural plateau just outside Keswick in Cumbria, Castlerigg Stone is a late Neolithic Stone Age/early Bronze Age monument ranking among the earliest stone circles in Britain and possibly Europe. It is believed that the Stone Circle was constructed around 3,200 BC, and although its original purpose remains largely unknown, possible uses include a trading post, meeting place, a religious site or an astronomical observatory.

Today the site is run by English Heritage and is open to visitors, its scenic hilltop setting providing pretty views of the surrounding area including High Seat, Helvellyn and the Thirlmere Valley.

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Image Credit: Andrew Roland / Shutterstock.com

2. Dove Cottage

The scenic 17th century cottage was the home of poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy Wordsworth. During the eight years living there, William wrote some of his most famous works including ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’, ‘Ode to Duty’ and ‘My Heart Leaps Up’. Following his marriage and further enlargement of the family, the Wordsworth’s moved out of the cottage in 1808. In 1891 the it was opened up as a museum dedicated to the poet’s life and work.

Dove Cottage is to this day open to the public who are interested in exploring the world of William Wordsworth. The gardens have largely been restored to how they looked like 200 years ago.

Image Credit: Michael Conrad / Shutterstock.com

3. Hardknott Roman Fort

A rare survivor from ancient times, Hardknott Roman Fort are ruins of an Empire that span almost all of England. The foundations clearly show the bath house, the headquarters and the commandants building. The fort was founded in the early 2nd century AD, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. Between the 130s and 160s AD it was abandoned, though under Emperor Marcus Aurelius it again played an important role in the defence of the Roman lands in Britain. It would eventually be left to decay in the late 4th century.

The fort, which is owned by National Trust, can be found on the western side of the Hardknott Pass.

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4. Hadrian’s Wall

Built under the rule of Roman Emperor Hadrian between 122 and 130 AD, it took six legions to complete this once 73 mile wall – 80 miles by Roman measurements. At the time of its completion, Hadrian’s Wall would have been between 13 and 15 feet high, made of stone and turf and would have stretched east to west from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth.

Despite the significant undertaking in its construction, Hadrian’s successor as Roman head of state, Antoninus Pius, abandoned the wall following the former’s death in 138 AD. Under Antoninus’ orders, Roman soldiers began building a new wall some 100 miles to the north, in what is now southern Scotland. This became known as the Antonine Wall.

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Image Credit: Kevin Eaves / Shutterstock.com

5. Muncaster Castle

The former fortification has been the home of the Pennington family since the early 13th century. The oldest parts of the building are the Great Hall and the 14th century pele tower, but most what can be seen today was constructed between 1860 to 1866. The most famous visitor of Muncaster Castle is King Henry VI, who fled to the now gone medieval fortification during the Wars of the Roses.

The estate is open to the public, who can explore the interiors of the main building with an audio tour narrated by the current owner. The grounds and gardens offer an magnificent view, making it a little paradise in the Lake District. For any hungry guests there is Creeping Kate’s Kitchen, which serves warm meals and snacks.

Image Credit: August Schwerdfeger, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

6. Ravenglass Roman Bathhouse

The ruins of the bathhouse were part of a Roman military fort founded in 130 AD. It is among the tallest structures to survive from the Roman period in Britain. The fort could have been used to protect a nearby harbour, with some evidence suggesting the solders stationed there served in Hadrian’s fleet. The barracks of the fort were in use until the late 4th century AD. Archeological excavations started in the 19th century, bringing us much knowledge about the ancient site. Thanks to the work of archeologists we know that the bath house must have been a substantial building.

You can find the Roman ruins in the coastal village of Ravenglass in Cumbria.

Image Credit: Naruwan Brock / Shutterstock.com

7. Coniston Copper Mines

Industrial mining is said to have started in the region during the reign of Elizabeth I, when she hired German workers to come in and bring their expertise. For the following centuries business would continue, with only the occasional calamity impacting the day to day activities (the English Civil War for example). The copper mines were active until the early 20th century, when it was abandoned in 1914.

The ruins of the former industrial site can be freely explored by adventurous visitors. For people brave enough, the quarries and caves left from the mining are also safe and open.

Image Credit: Zoltan Fabian / Shutterstock.com

8. Swinside Stone Circle

Swinside Stone Circle can be found in the southern Lake District. Constructed some 5,000 years ago the Circle was constructed on a platform specially created for it. Some 55 of the original stones remain standing, making it one of the most intact circles in Britain.

The discovery of stone axe heads within the ring suggests the circle may have been a centre for axe trading.

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9. Furness Abbey

Founded in 1124 by the future King Stephen, the construction of Furness Abbey began 3 years later and would be expanded over the following century. During this period Furness grew to become one of the most important and richest abbeys in the country, creating a number of off-shoot or ‘daughter’ abbeys in the region, including Byland, Calder, and Swineshead.

However, as with many monasteries of the time, it was during the reign of Henry VIII that Furness Abbey would fall into decline.

Today Furness Abbey is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public, with its picturesque remains a popular tourist attraction. The ruins include much of the ornately decorated chapter house, the east end and west tower of the church, elements of the infirmary and kitchen, and the cloister buildings.

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Image Credit: Kevin Eaves / Shutterstock.com

10. Shap Abbey

The now ruined abbey was founded in the 12th century by Thomas, son of Gospatric. The site would remain a relatively small religious complex, though a wealthy one. The abbey managed to weather the initial phase of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536, but it was closed in 1540. In the 17th century, the ruins were scavenged for building material. Shap Market Hall was constructed from stone gathered from the decaying crumbles of this once proud abbey. Many of the buildings were used by the local communities and were incorporated into a farmhouse and barns.

The site is open to visitors all year long for free. Shap Abbey is perfect for a relaxing walk with some fascinating history.