England’s largest national park is a beautiful place to visit, with stunning scenery and plenty of delicious vegan restaurants to discover. Our vegan Lake District guide will help you discover the best places to eat and stay.
There is never a bad time to visit the Lake District, England’s largest national park and home to the nation’s longest lake, Windermere, deepest lake, Wastwater, and highest mountain, Scafell Pike. It’s famous for a stunning landscape comprising forests, lakes and fells of all shapes and sizes.
Over 15 million people visit annually, enticed by the staggering scenery, and it isn’t hard to see why such literary greats as Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth drew inspiration from the boundless natural beauty.
For vegans like us, there are plenty of places to dine out as well, as Richard Webber discovers as he takes us on a vegan tour of the Lake District.
1. Blue Smoke on the Bay
For the ultimate dining experience, head for this exquisite restaurant at Low Wood Bay Resort. With its stylish décor, the restaurant overlooking Lake Windermere offers international dishes prepared on a wood-fired grill within its open kitchen.
Although the vegan options are limited, those that are available are delicious. I enjoyed spicy pinto beans glazed with vegan cheese and grilled sourdough (£15).
Open: Lunch 11am-4pm, all week; dinner 6-9.45pm (Tues-Sat); Ambleside Road, Windermere; englishlakes.co.uk
Known locally as Zeffs, this award-winning vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Ambleside has been a favourite haunt for locals and tourists for more than 40 years. It’s busy from the moment it opens its doors to serve breakfast.
The dough balls with pomodoro sauce (£4.25), followed by a margherita pizza (£14.50) and finished off with ginger/ pear sticky toffee pudding (£6.50) were divine! We also tried Zeff’s Chilli and the pecan and cashew nut Wellington.
Open: 10am-10pm, all week; Compston Road, Ambleside; zeffirellis.com
3. Café Bar 26
Open since 2003, this café/bar with accommodation (four contemporary guest rooms situated above the caff) in Keswick is 100% plant-based. Recently refurbished, it’s just off the town centre on a tiny pedestrianised street minutes from Derwentwater.
The main food focus is street food-style small plates (£5-7) with desserts costing from £3-5. George, the owner, hopes to expand by offering a breakfast menu, take-out and a small store selling vegan products.
Open: Wed-Sun 2.30-10pm; 26 Lake Road, Keswick
4. Lucy’s On A Plate
A long-established Ambleside restaurant with a large, loyal following. Candlelit tables in the evening complement the relaxed atmosphere.
Currently running on a three-sitting basis, Lucy, the owner, aims to serve “interesting and different food to guests in an arena which feels like home” – and she and her staff achieve that. We enjoyed a vegetable tagine with rice and a delicious blackberry and apple crumble.
Open: 5pm daily + Sunday lunch; Church Street, Ambleside; lucysofambleside.co.uk
5. Kat’s Kitchen
Since opening in 2016, Kat’s has earned a reputation for tasty vegan dishes, served from a tiny building edging the River Greta in Keswick. There is seating inside and out where everyone is made welcome by Australian-born Kat.
The menu when we visited included burgers (Moving Mountains pattie) with various toppings served in a brioche bun (£7.50-£8), bagels (avocado and salad – £5.25), wraps, salads and dairy-free ice cream (£2.50).
Open: check the FB page: 135 Main Street, Keswick; @katskitchenkeswick
Found in the pretty village of Grasmere, this licensed café/bistro has plenty of vegan options – and tasty, too. The menu includes vegan shepherd’s pie (£12), chilli non carne (£12) and Buddha Bowl (£10). Situated opposite the village green, it’s wellrespected and frequented by locals and tourists.
Open: check website or FB; College Street, Grasmere; greensgrasmere.com
7. The Belsfield
A quintessentially English experience is a scrummy Afternoon Tea overlooking Lake Windermere at the The Belsfield. The Vegan Afternoon Tea (£22.95) includes hummus and red pepper finger sandwiches, vegan sausage roll, Roly’s fudge, scones, tofu spread, jam and much more!
Open: afternoon tea daily between 12-5pm; Kendal Road, Bowness-on-Windermere; lauraashleyhotels.com/hotels/the-belsfield
8. The Garden Café
Situated outside the Quaker Tapestry Museum in Kendal. Bryan and Nikki’s vegan cafe offers a wide selection of food, plus display space for local artists. Popular choices are ‘egg’ and cress sandwiches, soup, burgers and salad. They also offer a few cakes, including a wonderful Victoria sponge (£3.50).
Open: Wed-Sat 11am-3pm; Quaker Tapestry Museum, Stramongate; @TheGarden Vegantakeaway.
9. Waterside Café
This café overlooks the River Kent in Kendal. An increasing number of dishes are vegan. A relaxing atmosphere permeates through this contemporary caff. Try the vegan hot dog with salad, chips and cheese (£8). Desserts include Guinness cake and chocolate and beetroot cake (£3.25 each).
Open: Mon-Fri 9.30am- 4pm, Sat 9am-4pm; Kent View, Kendal; @watersidekendal.
Other places to eat vegan food in the Lake District
Two other eateries worth visiting when in the Lakes are Gandhi’s Café in Ambleside – which sells the likes of all-day breakfasts, soups, sandwiches, cakes and meals – and Chesters by the River. A modern café with a riverside deck, it sells, among others, wood-fired pizzas and classic cakes.
* Depending on lockdowns and tier systems, these restaurants may be shut, serving only a takeaway service or restricted service. Please check the websites and social media pages before you visit. Plus only travel anywhere when it is safe and permitted to do so!
Best places to stay for vegans in the Lake District
Overlooking Lake Windermere, Low Wood Bay Resort’s newest addition, exclusive three-storey Winander Club, boasts 29 stylish, contemporary rooms and suites plus its own private breakfast room with a mesmerising lake view through the expansive floor-to-ceiling windows.
If you’re keen on three and four-star pubs with an easy-going atmosphere, modern ensuite rooms and restaurants offering a range of meals, including vegan options, then any of the Inn Collection’s four inns dotted around the Lake District will fit the bill.
We stayed at the Ambleside Inn and Coniston Inn. If you choose the latter, make sure you sample the delicious Beetroot Wellington.
Top four things to do in the Lake District
1. Walk the Fells
Don your walking boots and enjoy a mountain hike. With over 200 fell tops to choose from, there is a mountain to suit everyone, including 3,210-foot Scafell Pike. But you won’t find a more attractive mountain than mighty Helvellyn, the region’s third highest peak.
Several paths reach its summit, including the more straightforward route from Thirlmere, to the west, and the challenging climbs up Striding Edge and Swirrel Edge. Wonderful panoramic views await those reaching the top.
Stickle Tarn in Langdale, not far from Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain
2. Sailing around Ullswater
Ullswater, the Lake District’s second-largest lake, is a gracious beauty flanked by high-rising mountains. Truly appreciate its grandeur by jumping aboard a steamer for an hour or two gliding the lake’s 7.5 mile length. Contact Ullswater Steamers.
Cruises are available on other lakes, including Windermere, Coniston and Derwent Water.
Boats at Waterhead on the western side of Lake Windemere
3. Beatrix Potter Delights
A must for your itinerary is Hill Top, the 17th-century farmhouse the author bought in 1905 and where she wrote seven of her books. Like a time capsule of Potter’s life, Hill Top in the village of Near Sawrey is packed with many of her favourite items.
Note: Check the National Trust website because the house has been closed since the Covid outbreak, but will reopen at some point in the future.
4. Head to Buttermere
Everywhere you go in the Lake District you’re guaranteed beautiful scenery, but nothing beats Buttermere and Crummock Water in the region’s northwestern corner.
Surrounding the two stretches of water are some of the most commanding fells, including Grasmoor and Red Pike. This tranquil spot is one of our favourites within the entire UK.
Richard Webber writes for various national papers and magazines, including The Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph. A keen traveller, he’s also editor of the family-focused review site Travellowdown and he can be found tweeting on @Travellowdown.
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