CT Consults

Cumbria – Where landscape meets culture

Sustainable tourism in Cumbria. Sunset over a lake, with wooden jetty in the foreground and silhouetted hills in the background

The challenge

A world-renowned landscape with tourists flocking to the Lake District every summer, so why should they want or need more tourists? Of course tourists are primarily attracted by the beautiful landscape, but Cumbria is so much more than the Lake District. However, cultural players operate year-round and could really help to extend the tourist season beyond the traditional summer months. But it’s not that easy to either encourage existing tourists to venture into a museum when the sun is shining, or to visit the county when it’s cold and wet and many of the hotels, restaurants and bars have closed because it’s ‘out of season’. And how do you get tourists to explore different parts of the county outside the Lake District hotspots and shift their long-held views of a place they may feel they already know and love?

Mountains in distance with a forest and trees to foreground

Our response

We worked with the Cumbria Tourism’s fledgling cultural tourism partnership to look at how to talk about what the county has to offer beyond the obvious, pulling out some of the stories and people unique to the place, and especially how the county’s arts and heritage has always and continues to be inspired by the natural surroundings. Looking at gaps in the calendar we encouraged the partnership to develop new products to test out ideas with real cultural tourists.

Kickstarting a new approach

One example was Wray Castle’s Audio Weekend, which linked one lake, two attractions, two festivals, eight local arts organisations and numerous tourism partners in a single, family-focused experience. This went on to inspire The Cockermouth Weekender hosted by writer and broadcaster Stuart Maconie, that revealed the hidden stories of the town through an organised but tailored itinerary that also celebrated the quality of the local food and drink producers too. This helped to demonstrate the value of the wider wraparound and infrastructure that visitors are looking for, including the importance of chances to meet and chat with the locals.


Years later we were asked to facilitate a workshop with partners in the Cultural Destinations consortia to evaluate successes and identify future strategic priorities. Though we can’t claim credit for the fabulous workshop visualisation map below.

Graphic work, hand-drawn aesthetic including words, phrases and drawings of people.
Here we celebrate a living culture that incorporates the past but is rooted firmly in the present. There’s an impressive list of radical thinkers and artistic pioneers who found inspiration here – William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter, JMW Turner, John Ruskin, Kurt Schwitters, Josefina de Vasconcellos and Andy Goldsworthy. ”

Visit Lake District

Case-making for investment

The whole pilot programme paved the way for two successful Arts Council England Cultural Destinations bids totalling over 450k.

New partnerships established

Supporting and showcasing local talent, curating local experiences for visitors

Changing perceptions

Further investment in cultural events and festivals development targeting the visitor market

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