The Lake District is best known for its stunning natural scenery as well as its literary connections, often cited as the inspirational setting to classics by William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Part of the county of Cumbria, it combines countryside adventure and quaint village life with luxury accommodation and top-notch dining.
WHERE TO VISIT & WHAT TO DO
Along with hikes, cycling routes, boating and watersports, there’s a wide variety of family-friendly activities to add to the itinerary.
The heart of the Lake District, Windermere is a quaint town named after its ten mile long lake – the largest in the area. Thanks to its shoreside location, there’s a plethora of water based activities to take part in, from boat cruises, to paddle boarding, as well as fishing and row boat hire. It also marks the ideal start for those keen on hiking up Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. For families with young children, take the short trip to Bowness-on-Winderemere and visit The World of Beatrix Potter, which transports you into some of the author’s most loved works.
The market town of Keswick is the place to head for organic produce or handmade gifts, all of which are sold at the farmer’s market every Thursday and Saturday. Surrounded by famous natural sites such as the Cat Bells fell, Friar’s Crag and Borrowdale valley, Keswick’s Derwentwater lake is the ideal spot to drink in the breath-taking scenery. Embark on an eight mile walk around the water, or take a cruise on the town’s open deck boat, Keswick Launch. Watersports fans can also head to the marina, while those who prefer to keep their feet on dry land can visit Castlerigg Stone Circle, with its panoramic views and stunning mountain backdrop.
This town is bursting with National Trust protected properties, from Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top farmhouse, to the 17th century Bridge House and colourful Stagshaw Gardens. An Ambleside highlight is Stock Ghyll Force, a stunning 70 foot waterfall that, come spring time, is surrounded by meadow flowers and grassland. Head to Waterhead Pier if you plan to catch a steamer ferry to one of the other lakeside villages, or hire a motor or row boat if you want to travel at your own pace. If you’re planning a winter weekend away, make sure to stop by the Ambleside Christmas light display, which takes place in November, where fairy lights are strung across the town and Christmas themed cruises take place on the lake.
Ullswater is home to the second largest lake in the area, surrounded by mountains on one side and rolling hills on the other. Along with activities such as steamer boat cruises, kayak tours, guided walks and pony trekking, the biggest attraction here is Aira Force, one of the most famous waterfalls in the Lake District, which is said to have inspired Wordsworth’s poetry. There’s a one mile long walking route around the waterfall, where you can expect to spot a variety of flora and fauna, including ‘wishing trees’ which, legend has it, bring you luck. Ullswater is also home to Helvellyn, the third highest peak in England, which makes for a fantastic, all-day hike.
Grasmere is a pretty village popular with tourists thanks to its rows of 19th and 20th century stone houses, as well as traditional tea rooms and gift shops. A trip to Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage is a must. The picturesque property has now been turned into a museum honouring the poet and houses some of his original manuscripts. For an afternoon treat, head to Faeryland, a lakeside garden complete with row boats for hire and a charming tea room, or Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop, which has become a local treasure. Using Grasmere as their base, walkers can set out to climb Helm Crag, one of the most recognised fells in the area.
WHERE TO STAY
From private jetties to well-stocked libraries, contemporary interiors to vintage florals, there’s an ideal home away from home for everyone.
Linthwaite House Hotel, Windermere
This Edwardian style property looks out over Winderemere’s sparkling lake, with plenty of outside seating for guests wanting to drink in the countryside views and well-kept gardens. Inside, expect modern interiors with bold patterns that complement the owner’s personal art collection. The standard rooms are all well sized, but if you want something a bit more special, book into a suite, some of which come with private hot tubs. At dinnertime, the hotel’s restaurant, Henrock, offers a menu of small, sharing dishes with a focus on British ingredients, many of which are grown locally. Enjoy your after-dinner drinks in the relaxed, informal bar, which is home to an Italian inspired cocktail menu, as well as a range of locally brewed beers.
The Drunken Duck Inn, Ambleside
For stunning fell views in a cosy setting, opt to stay at the charming Drunken Duck Inn, near Ambleside. Originally a farmhouse, the inn now consists of five standard rooms, four superior rooms and four suites, all of which are decorated with a mixture of vintage prints and contemporary soft furnishings, as well as antique detailing to give them that traditional countryside feel. All guests are treated to a complementary afternoon tea during their stay, which is best taken on the veranda after enjoying one of the park’s many walks. The hotel is also considered one of the best gastropubs in the area, so be sure to book a table downstairs for dinner.
The Gilpin, Windermere
From the homemade biscuits left in your room to the bespoke products in the spa, The Gilpin promises an indulgent stay. Set in 21 acres, there are actually two properties. The larger of the two, the main house, is a traditional countryside manor, while the smaller Lake House is more modern. Rooms are all decorated in a soft colour palette, with comfy armchairs and pops of colour, while private lodges have a Scandinavian feel, with floor to ceiling windows and wooden walls. Guests have the use of the hotel’s hot tubs, saunas, indoor pool and a spa during their stay, as well as the privilege of dining at the Michelin star restaurant.
Another Place, Ullswater
This Georgian hotel is the perfect place to stay as a family. Choose from ‘standard’, ‘better’ or ‘best’ rooms, along with suites and on-site cottages, all of which are warm and inviting. The hotel offers a range of activities for families, including kayaking, paddle boarding, archery, stargazing, sailing and pony trekking – not to mention a designated, supervised kid’s club. When it comes to downtime, guests can chill out in the aptly named Living Space, as well as the informal restaurant and terrace. Another Place also encourages BBQs and picnics, which the team can help organise on request.
Low Wood Bay Hotel, Windermere
This luxury hotel and spa can be found in the heart of the National Park, perched on the edge of Windermere lake. The ideal location for those looking to explore the surrounding area, there are over 130 rooms to choose from, some of which look out over the hotel’s very own marina, while others come with a view of the manicured gardens. Guests have access to the hotel’s spa and gym during their stay, as well as an array of first-class restaurants and bars, serving everything from indulgent cream teas to classic British dishes.
WHERE TO EAT
From Michelin starred restaurants to good pub grub, these are the eateries to book a table at.
This is the place to head to if you’re after a five star meal in a stunning setting. Headed up by chef Simon Rogan, the restaurant boasts two Michelin stars and frequent 10/10 reviews. The impressive tasting menu, inspired by Simon’s passion for foraging and local produce, is available for both lunch and dinner, with dishes such as dry aged pork, spinach in seawater butter and raw milk ice cream. For something extra special, pull up a seat at the ‘development table’, where chefs will prepare your meal right in front of you.
Lake Road Kitchen
Located in Ambleside, this simple, wood panelled restaurant lets the food take centre stage. Natural ingredients with a creative twist feature heavily on the eight and twelve course tasting menus, with dishes such as Cumbrian saddle pork, pine nut risotto and celeriac tacos. There’s also an impressive selection of European cheese available as an after dinner course, served alongside expert wine pairings. An intimate dining experience, there are only nine tables available, so be sure to book in advance.
The Punch Bowl
Serving up traditional pub food, The Punch Bowl features a menu of hearty British classics, with highlights including a Lancashire cheese soufflé and Sunday roast beef, accompanied by homemade Yorkshire puddings. Before tucking in, enjoy a locally brewed ale in the cosy bar, complete with comfy sofas and an open, roaring fire. Situated in a secluded spot near Windermere, with views that overlook the valleys, it’s the perfect place for some lunch after a morning exploring the park’s famous fells.
The Forest Side
The Forest Side is actually a hotel, but with a Michelin star restaurant, it’s not one to miss. A love of organic, wild ingredients inspires head chef Paul Leonard’s dishes, all of which feature locally sourced produce to ensure a completely sustainable food chain. Even the quirky cocktails have been created with quality ingredients, including the ‘Cumbrian Express’, which is made with meadow infused vodka and local coffee. Guests of the hotel get priority when it comes to booking tables, so it's advisable to make a reservation in advance.
WHEN TO GO
Like the majority of UK-based holiday destinations, the Lake District is busiest between June and September, with the summer holidays and warm weather bound to draw tourists. Head there in April or May to beat the crowds, or October for a cosy winter trip. Don’t forget, snow is extremely likely in the heart of winter, so bear it in mind if you plan to travel in December, January or February.
HOW TO GET THERE
Trains run regularly from London’s Euston to Oxenholme, the most central station in the Lake District. The journey takes just over three hours. Alternatively, by travelling to Preston or Manchester, you can hop on a connecting train to take you straight to Windermere. Car journeys from the capital take roughly four and a half hours, with many visitors advising driving yourself so you have your own car to explore the park.
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