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Eat, stay, play - your guide to family holidays in the Lake District

Photo of Cathy ToogoodPhoto of Cathy Toogood
By Cathy Toogood

23 March 20215 min read

A view of boats moored on Lake Windermere with rolling green hills in the background

The Lake District is full of adventure opportunities for all of the family – think paddleboarding, rowing and cruising on the open water, hiking or cycling on dry land, and exploring the inspiring settings of Beatrix Potter’s classic tales and Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.

Our family guide to the Lake District will help you to plan your next trip to one of the UK’s best national parks.

Eat: The best places to eat with kids in the Lake District

From classic dishes, such as enormous Cumberland sausages with mash, to world-famous sweet treats, the Lake District’s local specialities will be a hit with younger diners and parents alike.

For fuel during a walk, plan a stop in Grasmere at Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread to stock up on the chewy biscuit/cake hybrid. Invented here in 1854, and still baked fresh every day, its recipe remains a closely guarded secret. There’s likely to be a queue outside – but it’s worth the wait.

Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding is another dessert that visitors travel to try. Pick some up from the Cartmel Village Shop, where the pudding was first baked more than 30 years ago, and enjoy a light meal in its café. Then explore the pretty village to pick up other goodies such as artisan cheeses.

For a cool kids’ menu, that includes dishes such as a maple bacon waffles, plus brunch done well for the grown-ups, head to Folk in Bowness-on-Windermere. Just around the corner from The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, its coffee and cakes are top notch too.

Heartier meals can be found in the Cuckoo Brow Inn, which is around half a mile from Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top. Nab a spot next to its wood-burner and enjoy tasty pub classics, such as fish and chips or Cumberland sausages, plus daily specials or the catch of the day.

Stay: Family-friendly hotels and self-catering accommodation in the Lake District

Whether your idea of the perfect place to stay as a family involves five-star service and luxury or you’d prefer to stretch out in your own self-catered pad, there are plenty of accommodation options in the Lake District.

As the inspiration for the fictional house, Holly Howe, in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons story, Bank Ground Farm is a top choice for a family stay. Four of its six B&B bedrooms are family rooms but we love its self-catering cottages for more space and fabulous lake views. More than just a place to sleep, Bank Ground Farm also has a private boating area where you can hire rowing boats or stand-up paddleboards, a Swallows and Amazons Café for meals, and resident animals to say hello to every morning.

Another spot for lake views and fun on the water, Another Place is a laidback but stylish hotel on the shores of Ullswater. There are family activities available such as kayaking and archery, a kids’ zone with supervised sessions and a pool with both adult-only and family swimming times.

Recently taken over by new owners, the Victorian House Hotel in Grasmere offers double sofa beds in family rooms and a two-room suite for more space. It has a small riverside garden to relax in and free homemade cake to enjoy when you’re back from a day exploring.

Alternatively, embrace the great outdoors and camp. The National Trust has a range of campsites, from simple pitches where you can bring your own tent to glamping experiences with more home comforts.

Play: The best family activities in the Lake District

Taking to the water is a must on a trip to the Lake District. Older children will enjoy hiring paddleboards and testing their balance, while younger families could hire a rowing boat or take a cruise. Windermere Lake Cruises are a popular way to take in the scenery and run daily. For something a little different, you could also book a steam yacht gondola cruise on Coniston Water.

You certainly won’t be short on walking opportunities in the Lake District’s handsome countryside, but more reluctant mini ramblers may need attractions to break up a stroll. A good option is a walk from Rydal Water to Grasmere with the promise of a gingerbread pick-me-up.

Or, walk along the west shore of Windermere from Harrowslack National Trust car park to Wray Castle. The Gothic-revival castle is straight out of a storybook with turrets and towers, and it’s the first place that Beatrix Potter stayed in the Lakes. The National Trust says that it’s a “work in progress” but its interiors are perfect for families with younger children as many of the informal rooms have been set up specifically for children, including a Peter Rabbit Adventure and some with dressing-up outfits. Outside there are dens to hide in and a play trail with obstacles.

Another way to step inside Beatrix Potter’s stories is by visiting her former home, Hill Top, which has been left as it was when she lived there. Keen fans will be able to spot the settings from her much-loved books, and little ones will enjoy looking for Peter in the garden and imagining Jemima Puddle-Duck waddling around looking to hide her eggs.

For a range of outdoor activities, head to Grizedale Forest. Younger children can test their map reading skills on a Gruffalo orienteering challenge and spot sculptures in the forest, while older children can tackle the mountain biking trails or squeal in terror on the Go Ape Treetop Challenge.

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