As well as sheep-clad mountains, clear-water rivers, fertile valleys and its many lakes, the Lake District in Cumbria has exciting adventure parks, fascinating museums, great pubs, top quality restaurants and some of the best tea shops in the country. It’s England’s most beautiful National Park, so come and discover why.
The ‘auld grey town’ of Kendal is the gateway to the South Lakes. The Brewery Arts Centre has lots of live performances, a popular bar and an excellent restaurant. Abbot Hall Art Gallery has a wide collection of contemporary and traditional art and the Museum of Lakeland Life has intriguing exhibits on local history and crafts. There’s a handy Travelodge on the outskirts of town, en route to Windermere and the heart of the lakes.
Bustling Bowness-on-Windermere is the Lake District’s ‘hotspot’. Take a ferry around England’s longest lake and stop off at the end for the Aquarium of the Lakes and steam train to Haverthwaite. Try the local ice cream and get a bag of duck food to feed the ever-hungry swans. See if you can find the ‘Hole in the Wall’ pub in the back lanes.
Ambleside is a walker’s heaven – every other shop sells hiking equipment and all-weather gear. There’s an excellent little cinema called Zeffirelli’s if it rains; they have jazz nights and an award-winning Pizzeria. The nearby chip shop’s pretty good too. You can go up ‘The Struggle’ to Kirkstone Inn and from there into enchanting Patterdale to see Ullswater and Aira Force.
The Langdale Valley has soaring fells that tower over you and tiny hamlets sheltering in their shadow. Stop off at mountaineer’s pub the ‘Old Dungeon Ghyll’ for slate floors, basic food and excellent beer.
Coniston Water is where Donald Campbell flipped Bluebird whilst trying to break the water speed record. He’s buried in the local churchyard. Sail on Victorian steamboat ‘Gondola’ and visit Brantwood, John Ruskin’s home. A hearty hike up the Old Man of Coniston works up an appetite for a hearty meal in the Bull Inn. If you prefer walking on the flat, nearby Tarn Hows has a path suitable for prams and wheelchairs.
Stop off in picturesque Grasmere. Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage is a popular tourist destination. Treat yourself to delicious Grasmere Gingerbread from the old-fashioned shop by the church and grab a cuppa at charming Baldry’s Tea Shop; if you’re lucky they’ll have some scrumptious lemon meringue pie left.
To escape the crowds head for the Western Lakes. Stay at the Travelodge in Barrow and find out about its maritime history at the free Dock Museum. Up the coast is the Ravenglass and Eskdale steam train that goes up to Dalegarth station not far from Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. Through pretty Duddon Valley you cross barren hill tops to eerily haunting Wast Water.
For the North Lakes base yourself at our Travelodge Cockermouth with its colourful Georgian houses and contemporary arts scene. If you’re lucky you might see ospreys fishing in Bassenthwaite Lake. Elegant Keswick has a good shopping centre and a quirky Pencil Museum. Friar’s of Keswick on the main street sells scrumptious chocolates and has a busy tea shop. The ancient Moot Hall is now the Tourist Information Centre. The Theatre by the Lake is next to tranquil Derwentwater and an easy walk takes you to a splendid viewpoint at Friar’s Crag.
Head up through Borrowdale and stop off at Honister Slate Mine for a tour of the old mining tunnels or try the Via Ferrata for a walk on the wild side. Have a picnic on the shores of Buttermere or lunch at the Bridge Hotel. G off the beaten track and explore attractive Newlands Valley – quintessential Lakeland scenery. Wherever you go, the Lake District will surprise and delight you and you’ll have to return to see more another time.
For more information about the Lake District take a look at our Get Up & Go Guide