Windermere is a quaint town named after its ten-mile-long lake – the largest in the area. Thanks to its shoreside location, there are plenty of water-based activities to take part in, from boat cruises, to paddle boarding. Climbers can hike Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England, while those with kids in tow can take the short trip to Bowness-on-Windermere to visit The World of Beatrix Potter.
The market town of Keswick is where to head for the best organic produce and 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 mountain, Friar’s Crag and Borrowdale Valley, Keswick’s Derwentwater lake is the ideal spot to take 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. Water sports fans can also head to the marina, while those who prefer to keep their feet on dry land should visit Castlerigg Stone Circle, with its panoramic views and stunning mountain backdrop.
This town is bursting with National Trust 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 springtime, is surrounded by flowers and grassland. Head to Waterhead Pier to catch a steamer ferry to one of the other lakeside villages, or hire a row boat to travel at your own pace.
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 steamboat 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 mile-long walking route around the waterfall, where you can expect to spot a variety of flora and fauna, including ‘wishing trees’ which, as legend has it, bring you luck. Ullswater is also home to Helvellyn, the third highest peak in England, which makes for a fantastic, albeit challenging, 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 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 and a charming tea room, or Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop, which has become a local landmark.
Another Place, Ullswater
This Georgian hotel is a great choice for families. There are three types of room to choose from, as well as 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 – and has a designated, supervised kid’s club. When it comes to downtime, guests can chill out in the Living Space, and relax in the informal restaurant and terrace. The hotel also has a indoor pool with lakeside views, plus an outdoor hot tub.
Rothay Manor, Ambleside
Rothay Manor is a lovely country hotel in Ambleside. Having just reopened at the end of last year after an extensive renovation, the Grade II-listed property has 19 stylish bedrooms and an award-winning fine dining restaurant. Inside, the plush interiors feature Farrow & Ball colours, Pooky lampshades, and tweed furnishings that pay homage to the hotel’s location. For a special stay, book a room in the Fairfield Suite, complete with a double-ended cast iron bath. The property is dog-friendly with a ‘doggy washroom’ and plenty of canine treats, so don’t forget your four-legged friend.
Brimstone is a luxury spa hotel in the middle of Ambleside. The chalet-style retreat has everything you need for special stay, from a reading room with complimentary drinks to an impressive gym. Rooms and suites are cosy, featuring log fires, free-standing baths and generous bedrooms with stunning views – the Fireside Suite is particularly plush. For a romantic evening, head to Stove Restaurant & Bar for contemporary British dishes, or venture to Wainwight’s Inn up the road for pub classics. At Brimstone, the spa is the star of the show, which has an indoor-outdoor pool, a Finnish sauna, an ice fountain, a Himalayan salt steam room, a mineral steam bath, a laconicum and an ‘experience’ shower.
Linthwaite House Hotel, Windermere
This Edwardian property looks out over Windermere’s sparkling lake, with plenty of outside seating for guests wanting to take in the 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. 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 locally brewed beers.
The Drunken Duck Inn, Ambleside
For stunning views in a cosy setting, 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 a traditional country feel. Guests are treated to a complimentary afternoon tea during their stay, which is best taken on the veranda after enjoying one of the many walking routes nearby. The hotel is also considered one of the best gastropubs in the area, so be sure to book a table for dinner. The food is truly exceptional.
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 on a 21-acre estate, the hotel is comprised of two properties. The larger of the two, the main house, is a traditional countryside manor, while the smaller Lake House is ideal if you’re after something a little 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 can use the hotel’s hot tubs, saunas, indoor pool and a spa during their stay, and dine at the Michelin-starred HRiSHi restaurant.
The Ro Hotel, Windermere
Set to open on 1st July, The Ro Hotel is the new luxury property in the Lake District to know about. Overlooking Lake Windermere, the new 87-room property has undergone an impressive
refurbishment, with eight different types of room to choose from, including a stunning Ro Suite with lake views. Guests can enjoy casual dining at the on-site restaurant, Lacu, while the Ro Bar will serve a selection of locally sourced spirits. The hotel can also help organise bespoke trips in the area like lake tours and guided walks.
Askham Hall, Askham
This hotel on the north-eastern edge of the Lake District is in the small village of Askham. The on-site restaurant has an elegant dinner menu which changes regularly with the seasons. Expect dishes like grilled Cornish turbot with Jersey royals, leeks and smoked fish roe; barbecued pork in a coffee and maple syrup glaze, served with turnips and wild garlic mixed grains; and geranium cream with rhubarb, ornage and Campari.
Cottage In The Wood, Keswick
When in Keswick, visiting this Michelin star restaurant is a must. Headed up by chef Ben Wilkinson, the restaurant creates food made with locally foraged and wild ingredients. The result is an extensive menu full of fresh, seasonal produce. Highlights include steamed trout with oyster cream, seared venison with fennel cabbage and pine nuts; champagne seabass; hazelnut and milk chocolate frangipane; and lemon and yogurt crumble. Enjoy your meal with an aperitif of English sparkling wine or enjoy one of their signature G&Ts.
Lake Road Kitchen, 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 well in advance.
The Punch Bowl, Windermere
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 ideal place for lunch after a morning exploring the park’s famous fells.
This is the place to go 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 excellent 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.
The Forest Side, Ambleside
Another great hotel option, if you don’t stay at The Forest Side, be sure to book a table at its Michelin-starred restaurant. 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’, 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.
If you’re after something a little more informal, head to Kysty in Ambleside. The seasonal menu features dishes made with local ingredients, like Cumbrian pork belly and apple, guinea fowl breast with aubergine and spiced carrots, and gingerbread cheesecake with poached rhubarb and sorbet. It has an impressive craft beer and cocktail selection, too – ideal if you’re stopping by just for drinks.
THINGS TO DO
Located between Ambleside and Grasmere, this beautiful estate has lovely views of Windermere, Rydal Water and the surrounding fells. Visitors can look around the 16th-century house, walk around the gardens, then stop for a bite to eat at the tearoom.
With artefacts and artwork from local artists over the centuries, Keswick Museum is a must if you’re in the area. Look out for the ancient Roman section and be sure to stop off for an al fresco coffee at the café.
Beatrix Potter Gallery, Hawkshead
Now a National Trust property, this gallery houses all things relating to Beatrix Potter, author of the famous Peter Rabbit series. The 17th-century house features original artwork and illustrations, and has lovely gardens, too. A great place to take kids, the gallery frequently puts on fun activities for children.
This tiny lakeside shop has been making gingerbread for over 400 years. Famed for its traditional Lake District gingerbread, rum butter, fudge and mint cake, there are plenty of sweet treats and baked goods to choose from.
Dove Cottage, Grasmere
Located on the edge of Lake Grasmere, Dove Cottage was once the home of romantic poet William Wordsworth, where he wrote many of his most famous works. Visitors can learn about the Wordsworth family, browse the collections and even attend poetry evenings and literary events. A must for history and literature buffs, you can easily spend several hours here.
This historical property in the pretty village of Coniston has over 250 acres of land to explore. Beautiful year-round, visitors can explore the unique gardens and visit the historical collections inside the house on the estate, which has regular exhibitions.
Grasmere To Helm’s Crag Walk
There are plenty of good walking routes in and around the Lake District, but this one is one of the prettiest. Easily completed in around three hours, it’s a well-trodden path with beautiful views over Grasmere. If you want more of a challenge, Helvellyn to Glenridding via Striding Edge is another excellent route popular with locals and dog walkers.
Lake District Balloon Ride
For a memorable day out, book a balloon ride to appreciate the beautiful views the Lake District has to offer. With flights over Windermere, Ullswater and Kirkby Lonsdale, experiences last between three and four hours and can be made extra special with a bottle of champagne.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information.