As a travel blogger I’m ashamed to say that until last summer (July 2019) I had never been to the Lake District. The Lakes are consistently voted one of the must see places in the UK (and in the world!) and for obvious reasons…it’s England’s largest national park and absolutely gorgeous! Something had to be done about this. Keen to use our tent again we settled on a 4 night camping trip…..
As members of the camping and caravan club (yes shock horror!) we chose their Windermere site – principally because of it’s proximity to Windermere (the name sort of gives that away!) and Beatrix potter world!
Check in was easy and the staff were very friendly…couldn’t have been more welcoming. We were quickly taken around to pick a pitch. Whilst it was sunny at this point it had clearly rained lots in the days running up to our arrival. Many of the pitches were water logged (bodes well I thought!). We settled on a dry looking pitch (we’re certainly no experts but my school camp days came in handy!!) near the wash block and in easy reach of the lovely new wooden play area. The facilities on the site were clean and well maintained. The little shop was well stocked (but only accepted cash – cue counting out loose change for two ice-cream bribes) and whilst the pub on site was tired and dated it was a welcome stop for an evening drink.
Regulars to the blog will know that I’m partial to a camping holiday abroad, not just because of the more reliable weather (although this really helps!) but because of the almost guaranteed croissants (a must have on any holiday!). Fear not because a little bit of pre-holiday googling led me to the wonderful More Artisan bakery. It was an easy 10 minute drive (just over 4 miles) from the site and well worth the trip. Truly delicious croissants, bread and picnic goodies. Get there early though – they sell out! So fuelled for the day and with a picnic in hand we set off for Beatrix Potter World.
We had booked in advance (definitely worth doing this to save queuing). We opted for the first timed slot. You start with a little introductory video (a great general introduction to the Lakes) and then have a self-directed tour around the magical displays that represent all the classic Beatrix Potter tails. We booked into the Old Laundry Theatre for the Peter Rabbit musicial. It was probably the most impressive production I/we have ever seen! Truly spectacular puppets and high quality singing and acting.
Anyway, having spent a blissful morning re-living my own childhood memories whilst introducing my children to the magical world of Beatrix Potter (and also dodging the blazing sun!) we took a stroll down to the lake and enjoyed our picnic overlooking the lake. A quick ice cream stop (apple crumble flavour for me!) and we dashed to the car to avoid the rain clouds….. how bizarre is English weather!?!
We drove back towards Winderemere and popped to Booths (the Waitrose of the North of England). We picked up some bits and bobs (including some highly recommend Lakes Gin). The weather was back to being gorgeous so we chose to walk up Orrest Head. It’s the perfect walk for little people – a relatively easy 2.5 miles walk which we completed in a little over an hour (even spotting the Gruffalo on route!). You start from the Windermere Hotel and follow the route which winds its way to the summit through lush, meadows. When you emerge at the viewpoint the views of Windermere will take your breath away! No need for special shoes….trainers are fine (in fact, as awful as it sounds my youngest ended up walking it in his crocs!).
Exhausted we returned to the campsite for a holiday bbq and a good night’s sleep.
Another trip to the More Artisan cafe called. Again, armed with delicious picnic goodies we drove to Windermere to take the car ferry to Coniston (an easy 10 minute car jouney that costs £5). This was a big hit with the little people – such a novelty. From here we drove to Wray Castle, possibly the most child-friendly and the most incredible National Trust property we have (or ever will) visit. When the National Trust took this wonderfully imposing building over it had been stripped of its furniture, paintings etc. For whatever reason the Trust decided to convert each and every room into a different themed space with many of these being for children. To give you a flavour there was a table tennis room, a night-time camping room, a castle soft play room, a Peter rabbit themed garden room, a boat knot tying room – the list goes on….
We managed a picnic outside but if the weather prevents this there is a wonderful cafe (I can vouch for the chocolate cake!). There is also a picnic room for your use inside the castle. They really have thought of everything.
There were some great seasonal activities on offer. Whilst we were there they were offering children’s sailing lessons on the lake for a very minimal cost. It’s worth checking their website before you go.
Wray Castle also had a great outdoor play area – den making, rope swings etc and there is a lovely gravel path down to the lake (you can also get there by boat!) where you can paddle and skim stones.
* Top Tip – the National trust properties are free for members. It’s well worth investing in a membership if you plan on visiting a few properties. Parking is also free. We have a Scottish National trust membership (which also gives you access to the English properties). It’s cheaper!
Having spent the most idyllic day at Wray castle we stopped off at the Hawkshead Brewery on route back to the campsite (family holidays are all about compromise!). This small-scale micro brewery is based in Staveley. It has great looking food and a range of delicious beers.
Holidaying in the UK means keeping a close eye on the ever changing weather forecast. With heavy rain forecast for our last day we booked into the Rheged Centre (regulars to my blog will know that I am a HUGE fan of service stations that are also part of this family chain!). The morning was spent at the Lego Science Exhibition (a hands on and interactive space for children to learn about science through the medium of Lego bricks!). We had a spot of lunch (those with cinema tickets booked get a discount on food) – as we’ve come to expect of this chain, the food was delicious, home-cooked and nourishing. We picked up some treats in the gorgeous on-site shop and settled down to watch the latest blockbuster hit, the Lion King, on the largest screen we’ve ever seen.
When rain inevitably hits during a break to the Lakes I highly recommend this place – it also boasts a pottery painting place, both an indoor and outdoor play area and a whole range of seasonal children’s activities. Advance booking is highly recommended as it gets busy!
We spent our last evening in a traditional pub, the Watermill inn and Windermere Brewing Company. Friendly service and decent home-cooked food. Far better than cooking in a soggy tent!
A wonderful holiday in the Lakes. I can’t imagine why we haven’t visited before. We’ll most certainly be back.