Nothing can refresh the spirit and revive the soul better than a break in the spectacular Lake District, where the English countryside is truly at its best
When is the best time to visit the Lakes?
Firstly, ignore the type of weather you would like to experience on a UK break – July can be the wettest month of them all in the Lake District National Park! Focus instead on the type of flora and fauna you’d like to see. So, if you’d like to check out the myriad daffodils that inspired one of the world’s most famous poems (Wordsworth lived – and famously “wandered lonely as a cloud” – here) then spring is just spectacular. From March to October, you can also be confident that all the boats and outdoor activities will be running, as some of these do shut for the winter.
Summer can be glorious, with a picnic by Windermere – England’s largest lake – a perfect alternative to anywhere beachy in the sun. But early autumn, in September you will be guaranteed the most stunning vistas of leafy colour and beautiful evening light. If you don’t have to plan around school holidays, this time will also guarantee you nice, quiet visits to the popular indoor attractions of the Lakes, such as the Wordsworth Museum, Cumberland Pencil Museum (genuinely a must-visit!) and Beatrix Potter’s home.
What should families do in the Lake District?
Everything in the Lakes is suitable for children – after all, the best thing to do here is simply wallow in the great outdoors. It is easy to settle into a pattern of taking boat trips, enjoying long walks and picnicking in fields of wildflowers. Sports enthusiasts can try windsurfing on Derwentwater, while little Thomas the Tank Engine fans will embrace the chance to travel on the Ravenglass and Eskdale steam railway.
This isn’t the place for theme parks and the like, but you may well find that, confronted by such natural beauty all around and with stunning walking routes on offer, your children are easier than you thought possible to separate from their electronic devices – and happy to run and jump about in England’s most stunning countryside. An obvious port of call is Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s home, where anyone who has read and loved her books will recognise many of the features of the little cottage from her distinctive illustrations. Take a moment, too, to thank the writer for the Lake District itself – it was Potter who preserved and then left much of the National Park to the nation in her will.
How do you get to the Lake District?
The Lake District’s attractions are spread all around the fabulous countryside so if you can drive, do so. If not, the train is your best bet. Direct services run all the way to Windermere in the heart of the Lakes, from Oxenholme, which is where you can change to the Lakes Line from your London or Glasgow service. The nearest flights arrive at Manchester Airport, which is a good hour-and-a-half’s drive. There is a fine bus service between the larger towns in the National Park itself, while between March and October there’s also a touristy transport service called the Cross Lakes Experience, incorporating boats as well as minibuses to get you around the best sights.
What do you do when it’s raining in the Lake District?
It would be foolish to miss the best bits of the Lake District because of the risk of getting wet – try to pack your impermeables and head out anyway; the sky may not be blue, but the Lakes won’t be any less breathtaking. If you’re soaked to the skin and in need of a break, head to the Wordsworth Museum, Beatrix Potter’s House or Ruskin’s home – these three writers each left their homes for posterity and they’re a fascinating window into the souls of their former owners. Yes, you can read about Wordsworth’s love for daffodils in his sister’s journals, but you can also see his ice-skates – he kept them ready for when the ponds froze over in winter. Beatrix Potter’s home, Hill Top, was bought with the proceeds of her first Peter Rabbit book and features a carpet that was modelled on the one in her Samuel Whiskers illustrations. And John Ruskin’s home, Brantwood, has a fantastic 250-acre garden that retains the critic’s innovative and groundbreaking forays into horticultural planning.
The Lake District is also very well served for pubs and restaurants – the produce on offer here is excellent, with fish freshly caught in the lakes and lamb reared in sight of them. The fare is often described as comforting, being focused on these terrific traditional ingredients and often served up in the glow of a crackling log fire. The Cuckoo Brow Inn in Far Sawrey, within easy reach of Windermere, is a restaurant/hotel that aims to offer food only supplied from a 20-mile radius – as well as equally local beers, of which there are many. If ale is your priority, you should also try The Beer Hall attached to the historic Hawkshead Brewery in Staveley, which offers tours as well as excellent cask and bottled beers. These make a great souvenir of the area to wash down your Kendal Mint Cake – the famous Lakes confectionary is, of course, another must-buy.
Does this beautiful destination sound like the perfect weekend getaway? If so, why not take a look at our affordable hotels in the Lake District.