Having lived in the region for almost four years, I have tried a fair few of the cafes in the Lake District – from early morning breakfasts pouring over an OS map to plan the day’s adventures to long, lazy lunches with friends and happy post-hike coffee and cafe treats.
These are the 12 cafes I return to repeatedly, with all of them consistently brilliant in food and service; these are the ones I frequently recommend to friends.
So let’s dive in; here are my recommendations for the 12 best cafes in the Lake District….
1. Windermere Jetty Museaum
If I only had to recommend one cafe in the Lakes, this one would be. It’s a bit of a hidden gem too, so I find it never gets too crazy busy.
The cafe is attached to the beautiful Windermere Jetty Museum but has separate access if you don’t fancy checking out the museum (although I highly recommend it – it has a great range of exhibitions). The building was opened in 2019 (and was nominated for a RIBA architecture prize) and has a light airy feel, plus the most incredible views over to Windermere and the surrounding fells.
On a dry day, you can enjoy the wide range of seating outside, including some cute upturned boat shelters. The majority of the menu and cakes are made on-site and change seasonally with a great mix from classic sandwiches and wraps to more creative small and large plates such as beetroot gnocchi and lamb koftas, plus vegan options such as a tofu salad wrap and brunch menu with classics such as smashed avocado and poached eggs served until 11.30 am.
An absolute must for any Lake District trip!
Location Windermere Jetty Museum, Rayrigg Rd, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 1BN
2. Homeground, Windermere
On the edge of Windermere village, Homeground has it all – laid-back vibes, excellent coffee, good tunes, a selection of insane cakes (the blondies 👌🏻) and a creative, seasonally changing menu with a twist on brunch classics such as eggs benedict with smoked ham hock and damson compote and eggs royale with beetroot ketchup and crispy capers.
It can get crazy busy here at weekends and during the holidays – a queuing system is often in operation, but I can assure you it’s worth the wait!
Location Homeground Coffee & Kitchen Main Rd, Windermere LA23 1DX
3. Lake Road Brunch (LRB), Keswick
If you are looking for a spot on brunch in Keswick, LRB has covered you. Super light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes with a variety of toppings, big hearty fry ups and more unusual options such as masala dosa and salt beef hash will leave you feeling fuelled up for your day of adventure. Plus a cheeky cocktail menu if you feel like a little indulgence.
The options extend into lunchtime, with additional separate gluten-free and vegan menus.
Location Lake Road Brunch, 32 Lake Rd, Keswick CA12 5DQ
4. Mathelide’s, Grasmere
Set in an art gallery in the heart of the village and named after the love of Alfred Heaton Cooper’s life, a Norwegian girl named Matheliedes, this cafe has true Nordic roots with a light, airy deco and a Scandinavian-inspired menu to match – think Danish Smorrebrod (open sandwiches) and Swedish hot dogs with blackberry ketchup and sweet Finnish mustard.
The menu changes seasonally, and there is also a great selection of tasty cakes, tray bakes and scones to enjoy with a hot drink.
Location Mathelides, Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere, Ambleside LA22 9SX
5. Method, Kendal
Ok, so this is technically not in the Lake District; it’s just outside the park’s boundaries in the market town of Kendal. But if you travel from the south either by road or rail, you are likely to pass through the town – and it’s worth a detour for a Method breakfast or lunch!
Method blends brunch classics (hearty bacon sourdough ciabattas) with more seasonal, creative options such as pumpkin fritters or dark chocolate and plum rice pudding. There are only six tables, and it’s incredibly popular, but there is an option to join a virtual queue. If you don’t fancy waiting around, grab a coffee and one of the morish cakes or doughnuts to take away.
Location Method Cafe, 37 Stramongate, Kendal LA9 4BH
6. Skye Farm, Buttermere
In the tiny hamlet of Buttermere in the far northwest, Skye Farm is the perfect place to start or end your adventure in this wild and rugged corner of the Lake District. The options include hearty breakfasts (with vegan and gluten-free options), or try one of the classic pies with mash and lashings of gravy, or lighter options such as soups and toasties. Tempting cakes might also mean you stay that little bit longer!
In summer, Syke Farm also serves homemade ice cream made from the milk of their own Ayrshire cows.
Location Syke Farm Tea Room, Buttermere, Cockermouth CA13 9XA
7. More? The Artisan Bakery, Staveley
Situated a couple of miles outside Kendal in the south of the Lake District, the small village of Staveley is a bit of a foodie hidden gem off the main tourist trail of Windermere/Ambleside/Keswick with the Hawkshead Brewery sitting just next door and insane ice cream at Kimi’s just around the corner.
Perfect for sit-in and takeaway breakfast and lunches, all the bread, pastries and cakes are made from scratch on-site. Grab one of the hearty rolls and head up to nearby Potters Tarn for an off-the-beaten-track picnic.
Location More? The Artisan Bakery, Staveley Mill Yard, Back Ln, Staveley, Kendal LA8 9LR
8. Siskins Cafe, Whinlatter Forest Park
**Update – the cafe will be run by Cafe Ambio from Spring 2023**
Set in the heart of Whinlatter Forest, England’s only true mountain forest, Siskins is a delightful hidden gem. Choose from hearty sandwiches and paninis, a light bite option such as the Foresters Lunch (a ploughman’s with local meats and cheese), or a classic sweet or savoury cream tea.
The cafe also has a large sundeck and seating outside set next to giant bird feeders where you can also sit and watch the little yellow siskin birds feeding.
Location Siskins Cafe, Whinlatter Forest Park, Keswick CA12 5TW
9. The Old School Tearoom, Rydal
Located in what used to be the old school room next to the grand old Rydal Hall, this tearoom has a great selection of homemade cakes, soup and seasonal hot drinks such as pumpkin spiced latte in autumn and mulled wine in winter. The tables outside are set next to the Rydal Beck, and it’s worth having a stroll around the neighbouring Thomas Mawson-designed formal gardens and following the path in The Quiet Garden down to the Rydal Grotto and Waterfall.
Location The Old School Tearoom Shop, Rydal Hall, Rydal, Ambleside LA22 9LX
10. Apple Pie Cafe & Bakery, Ambleside
In the heart of the Lake District, this Ambleside institution has been around since 1975. It is consistently popular with locals and visitors who flock for the tempting array of sourdough bread, cakes and the famous apple pie, all baked on site by the skilled bakery team above the main shop. Rest your weary feet in the cafe, or pop into the takeaway shop next door and take your treats up into the neighbouring hills above Ambleside.
Location The Apple Pie Cafe and Bakery, Rydal Rd, Ambleside LA22 9AN
11. Sticklebarn, Langdale Valley
Set deep in the Langdale Valley, Sticklebarn is the perfect place to refuel (or fuel up) after a day in the Langdale Pikes, which provides a stunning backdrop to the cafe owned by the National Trust. A varied and enticing menu of brunch and lunch options such as buttermilk pancakes, loaded fries and spicy lamb burgers, there are also options for vegans such as the black bean burger. In summer, sit out and take in the views from the large outdoor seating area or in winter, cosy up next to the log fire.
Sticklebarn also has an upstairs function area, which occasionally hosts events such as the Family Film Adventure afternoons held in winter in conjunction with the local Kendal Mountain Festival.
Location Sticklebarn, Great Langdale, Ambleside LA22 9JU
12. Granny Dowbekin’s, Pooley Bridge
At the northern end of Ullswater is the small village of Pooley Bridge, where Granny Dowbekens is the perfect spot to relax before setting sail on a nearby steamer boat or heading into the hills for a hike.
Choose from all-day breakfasts, soups, sandwiches, hearty salads, homemade scones, and cakes. For special occasions, try one of the afternoon teas (advance booking required, gluten-free and vegan available). If the weather is good, there is plenty of seating outside, with views of the River Eamont flowing into Ullswater.
Location Granny Dowbeken’s, Pooley Bridge, Penrith CA10 2NP
More cafes that just missed out in my top 12….
Just outside of Keswick
- Joey’s – branches at National Trust Properties of Wray Castle, Claife Heights and Hilltop House
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