Christmas Markets & Light Switch Ons in the Lake District

Christmas Market

Christmas Markets originated in Germany during the medieval period, and are usually associated with the start of advent. Today, most of Germany’s towns hold a Christmas market, and along with stalls selling a range of gifts, there is usually music, dancing, and children performing scenes from the nativity.

In the UK, Christmas markets have seen a rise in popularity in recent years. Originally limited to some of the larger cities, they are now popping up across the country in many smaller towns. Many import traditions from Germany, with some of the larger markets hosting traders from the continent. Others have developed their own style.

Where to Find Christmas Markets & Christmas Light Switch Ons in the Lake District

In Cumbria, there are a number of markets taking place across the county. Many coincide with other events, such as a town’s Christmas light switch on or a visit from Santa. With most stocking locally produced goods, they provide a fantastic boost for the local economy, and you can usually pick up some unique and interesting gifts for your loved ones.

What the towns offer will very much depend on funding and will certainly vary year-to-year, so please refer to the official websites and Facebook pages for the latest and most accurate information. 

Christmas EventWhereWebsiteFeatures2023
Ulverston Dickensian Festival Ulverston, LA12 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 25-26 Nov
Rydal Mount Christmas Fair Rydal Mount, LA22 Website Shopping, Food, Entertainment 2-3 Dec
Windermere Christmas Celebration Windermere, LA23 Website Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment Nothing Planned for 2023
Hawkshead Christmas Fair Hawkshead, LA22 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 2-3 Dec
Keswick Victorian Fayre Keswick, CA12 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 3 Dec
Taste Cumbria Christmas: Cockermouth Cockermouth, CA13 Website Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 10-11 Dec
Carlisle Christmas Market Carlisle, CA3 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 1-17 Dec
Penrith Winter Festival Penrith, CA11 Website Food, Lights, Entertainment 21-28 Oct
Askham Hall & Gardens Christmas Market Penrith, CA10 Website Shopping, Food, Entertainment TBD
Beetham Nurseries Christmas Market Weekend Beetham, LA7 Website Shopping, Food, Entertainment 30 Nov-3 Dec & 7 Dec-10 Dec
Holker Hall Christmas Fair Cark-in-Cartmel, LA11 Website Father Christmas Only From 2 Dec
Christmas at Tullie House Carlisle, CA3 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Entertainment 25 Nov (Market), From 2 Dec (Santa)
Christmas in Cartmel Cartmel, LA11 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 24 Nov
Ambleside Christmas Lights Ambleside, LA22 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 18 Nov
Kendal's Christmas Lights Switch-On Kendal, LA9 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 16 Nov
Cockermouth Christmas Lights Cockermouth, CA13 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 19 Nov
Keswick Christmas Lights Keswick, CA12 Website Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 17 Nov
Penrith Christmas Festival Penrith, CA11 Website Father Christmas, Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 18 Nov
Carlisle Christmas Lights Switch On Carlisle, CA3 Website Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment 19 Nov
Coniston Christmas Lights Coniston, LA21 Website Lights 24 Nov
Winter Lights in Windermere & Christmas Parade Windermere, LA23 Website Shopping, Food, Lights, Entertainment Not planned for 2023
Lindeth Howe Hotel Christmas Market Windermere, LA23 Website Father Christmas, Shopping 3 Dec
Grasmere Village Hall Christmas Market Grasmere, LA22 Website Father Christmas, Food, Shopping 3 Dec

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Ulverston Dickensian Christmas Festival

Charles Dickens’ tale, A Christmas Carol, is brought to life each year in Ulverston, though thankfully without the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. This ancient market town turns back the clocks to the Dickensian era with a Christmas market like no other. There is street entertainment, residents and workers dressed in Dickensian costume, horse drawn carriages, a Victorian Helter Skelter, and a selection of street food that wouldn’t have been amiss in a real Victorian market. The highlight is the grand parade, where those dressed in costume march through the town. There are usually a range of family-friendly activities to choose from, and of course, the market with its fabulous selection of gifts.


Rydal Mount Christmas Fair

Rydal Mount - the former home of William Wordsworth - often hosts a Christmas Fair. The event tends to involve live music, mulled wine, mince pies, and craft workshops in the garden gazebos. Tickets are typically quite reasonable and tend to include access to the house and all of the exhibits. There are also usually local trade stands with festive goods on sale.


Windermere Christmas Market

Run entirely by a group of dedicated volunteers, the Windermere Christmas Market first took place in 2016, and work has since taken place following the success of this first market to ensure the growth and development of future events. Along with around 50 stalls selling a range of goods produced both locally and from Europe, you will find live music and other street performers. There is a shuttle bus in operation from car parks in the larger Bowness-On-Windermere, and plenty of stands selling hot food.


Hawkshead Christmas Fair

The small village of Hawkshead brims with festival cheer each year, usually during the first weekend of December when a Christmas Fair takes over the ancient streets. You will find both indoor and outdoor markets with over 50 stalls selling food, crafts, and other gifts. There is also a lantern parade, live music, and street performance from circus acts and other artists. Children can meet Santa in his grotto, whilst grown-ups can indulge in the mini beer festival that takes place in village’s pubs.


Keswick Victorian Fayre

This is a fantastic opportunity to combine some Christmas shopping with support for local charities. During this event, around 30 local and national charities have stalls where you can browse their goods that include a selection of homemade Christmas crafts and cakes. In addition, there is a nativity scene, and children will be delighted with the fun fair and the arrival of Father Christmas, complete with his live reindeer. There are also street performances throughout the day. Traders and other workers will be dressed in Victorian costume, and visitors are invited to do the same.


Taste Cumbria Christmas: Cockermouth

Taste Cumbria run a series of food festivals throughout the year at various locations across Cumbria, and the food markets are usually brimming with the very best that local producers have to offer. The Taste Cumbria Christmas festival takes the success of these food festivals and mixes it with some festive cheer, resulting in a popular event where you can pick up some delicious goods to accompany your traditional Christmas feast. Craft stalls offer a range of gifts, and there are fairground rides for children. A beer and fizz tent provides some winter warmth, and you will also find a number of hot food stands.


Carlisle Christmas Market

  • Location: English Street, Carlisle, CA3
  • Date: Late November to Early December
  • More Information:

A Christmas market is held each year in Carlisle City Centre, taking over much of the pedestrianised area. Along with a range of international goods, the market showcases gifts and edibles created here in Cumbria. The market is usually a five-day long event, and coincides with the arrival of late night shopping on Thursday evenings, giving shoppers more chance to buy gifts for their loved ones.


Penrith Winter Festival

The Penrith Winter Festival is a month-long extravaganza that aims to bring festive sparkle to the town and its surroundings. It begins at the end of November with a day of celebration that includes the town’s Christmas light switch on, and marks the commencement of a weeklong Christmas market. Here you can find a wonderful selection of goods. In addition, following the opening day, the town sees a range of Christmas festivities, including the arrival of Santa’s grotto, carol concerts, and Christmas plays.


Askham Hall & Gardens Christmas Market

  • Location: Askham Hall, Askham, Near Penrith, CA10 2PF
  • Date: Early December
  • More Information:

Askham Hall is a luxurious hotel and spa near Penrith. The hotel hosts a Christmas market each year with stalls located both in the gardens and the medieval hall, selling a range of goods, largely produced in Cumbria. On the day, Father Christmas makes a special appearance, and the cafe is open selling mince pies and mulled wine.


Beetham Nurseries Christmas Market Weekend

Beetham Nurseries not only sells freshly cut or potted Christmas trees, but they are also put on a Christmas market weekend in early December complete with loads of local vendors, festive food & drink, live music, including Christmas carols, a Christmas shop, activities for kids and more.


Holker Hall Christmas Fair

  • Location: Holker Estate, Cark-in-Cartmel, Nr Grange-over-Sands, LA11 7PL
  • Date: December
  • More Information:

Holker Hall puts on a Christmas fair with local vendors, selling handmade crafts - great for finding that perfect Christmas gifts. In previous years, they have offered mulled wine, food and live entertainment.


Christmas at Tullie House

  • Location: Tullie, Castle Street, Carlisle, CA3 8TP
  • Date: December
  • More Information:

At Tullie House, children will have the opportunity to meet Mr & Mrs Claus in December and receive a gift from them. In previous years, they also offered the opportunity to get your face painted and make your own reindeer food with other festive activities going on across the museum. A wonderfully festive day out for the whole family.


Christmas in Cartmel

  • Location: Cartmel Town Centre, LA11
  • Date: End of November / Early December
  • More Information:

The celebration in Cartmel often sees a visit from Mr and Mrs Claus, as well as their reindeer. There are also market stalls for purchasing handmade goods and delicious food, along with live music and entertainment to help kick-start the festivities of the season.


Ambleside Christmas Lights

Far more than just a Christmas Market, this annual event in Ambleside combines a traditional shopping experience with a Christmas light switch on, cruises on the lake, a lantern parade, and a visit from the guest of honour – Santa Claus himself – complete with his sleigh. The day ends in spectacular style with a large fireworks display. There are family-friendly activities throughout the day, as well as live music and other street performances, whilst the market sells a range of culinary delights and other gifts.


Kendal Christmas Light Switch On & Market

At the end of November, a huge celebration is held in the town of Kendal, when the festive lights are turned on for the first time in the season. The event is a daylong affair, with a Christmas market taking place throughout the day, selling a range of locally produced goods. In addition, there is live music and entertainment and the day finishes with the grand switch on.


Cockermouth Christmas Lights

  • Location: Main Street, Cockermouth, CA13
  • Date: End of November
  • More Information:

The town of Cockermouth typically organises their Christmas Lights Switch On event for the last weekend of November with lights staying on until early January. The day normally includes family entertainment in the afternoon, market stalls, kiddie rides, with the lights switch on typically taking place around 5pm.


Keswick Christmas Lights

  • Location: Keswick, CA12
  • Date: Mid to Late November
  • More Information:

Keswick's Christmas Light Switch On normally happens mid to end of November - sometimes on a Friday. In previous years, they featured a Christmas gift market, as well as festive food stalls with activities beginning around 10am and the light switch on taking place around 7pm later that day. There is also a stage with entertainment, including live music and performances throughout the day.


Penrith Christmas Festival

The Penrith Christmas Festival / light switch on ceremony normally takes place in mid to late November. In previous years, the Town Band performed with the lights being turned around 4pm. Cafés and shops normally have special offers going and there is usually a Christmas window display contest that patrons may vote on.


Carlisle Christmas Lights Switch On

  • Location: Outside the Old Town Hall, Carlisle, CA3 8JE
  • Date: Mid to Late November
  • More Information:

Carlisle Christmas Lights Switch On features a stage with performers outside the Old Town Hall in the city centre of Carlisle. In previous years, the town's Mayor turned on the lights around 5pm with local school choirs, singers, and bands performing around the main event.


Coniston Christmas Lights

  • Location: Coniston, LA21
  • Date: Mid to Late November
  • More Information:

The Coniston Christmas Lights switch on is more of a local affair with locals doing their best to secure funding each year to fund their town's Christmas lights. They have not always planned an event around the lights due to funding issues, so it is best to keep an eye on their Facebook page for further information nearer the time.


Winter Lights in Windermere & Christmas Parade

The Winter Lights in Windermere is organised by local volunteers with the town council funding the cost. Due to funding issues, there may or may not be a Christmas parade in conjunction with the lights and it's unclear whether or not they will be holding an actual switch on event. Keep an eye on the town council site and Facebook pages for the latest information.


Lindeth Howe Hotel Christmas Market

The Lindeth How Hotel is putting on a Christmas market comprised of locally made crafts - a perfect opportunity to find some unique, handmade Christmas gifts. Additionally, Santa Claus will be making an appearance and, whilst he is free to visit, the hotel asks everyone to bring a donation of food for the Windermere Food Bank to help others enjoy the festive season. The hotel will have warm drinks and freshly made mince pies available to enjoy in their festive lounge.


Grasmere Village Hall Christmas Market

The Grasmere Village Hall puts on a Christmas market in early December, showcasing local arts and crafts stalls with handmade gifts available for purchase. There is also food and beverages to enjoy, along with a 'Grand Raffle' with prizes available to win. Additionally, for a small cost, they have a Santa's Grotto available for children to tell Father Christmas what they would like for Christmas and take a photo with him.