Located in the North West of England the Lake District is famous for its still waters and rolling hills. By late March only the tallest peaks are iced in snow, as the bracken pushes through after a long winter, transforming the breath-taking landscape from shades of grey to vibrant colours that roll out over the hills for miles.
It is no wonder that Beatrix Potter made this stunning location her home, it’s magical quality draws you in; an uninterrupted ruggedness that perfectly counters the lack of freedom city life forces upon you.
Although there are many bodies of water in the Lake District there is only one real lake; Lake Bassenthwaite, the others form a collection of meres and tarns (somewhere between a lake and a pond).
Where to stay:
If you are anything like me it will be a spur of the moment decision to go on a road trip, but unless it is a bank holiday weekend there is no need to book accommodation in advance. In fact I didn’t start looking until we were only an hour away.
The Lake District is littered with quaint cottages, and traditional farmhouses, most of which seem to offer the hosts northern generosity in bounds. Airbnb is a great place to start if you are looking for that olde world feel.
However, if you prefer a little more luxury most towns host at least a couple of traditional B&B’s or local inns (with dog lazing by a roaring fire) then do check out the usual hotel sites for options to suit every budget. There really is no excuse to stay in one of the bland cheap hotel chains when visiting this part of the world, you want to soak up as much of the local charm as possible.
What to do:
To the west of Lake Windermere sits Hill Top Farm, the first of many properties in the area which Beatrix Potter bought with the profits from her childrens stories, which were often based on the wildlife she saw roaming around in this area. On her death Hill Top Farm was passed to the National Trust, where it remains open to the public as a memorial to her life, her books and her work with the local rare-breed sheep.
Only a few miles away in Bowness-on-Windermere is The World of Beatrix Potter; a family friendly attraction dedicated to captivating everyone with her enthralling tales. Look up in advance to see whether they have any special events on, at Easter this is a fantastic place to take the children as Peter Rabbit leads the hunt for chocolate eggs.
Whilst in the area, why not take a picturesque boat trip from the south of Lake Windermere to the northern town that sits at its edge. Ambleside is a hikers haven, and acts as the gateway for many hikers to make their way across the Lake District National Park. For non-hikers this town is a beautiful place to wander around in the sunshine, sup on fine English cream tea and pick up a beautiful sheepskin rug from Ambleside Sheepskins.
For an adult end to the evening, head further north and try a tasting tour of The Lakes Distillery, the largest whisky distillery in England.
After a late night and a tot of whisky or two there is no better way to revive yourself after a late night than jumping in cool water, and that is just as well as you are surrounded by it! Though just a warning, even with a wetsuit on I came out like an ice cube!
If you still have some energy left from all the hiking the day before then why not discover the wildlife that lives around the edges of these great lakes by kayak, or take a boat or windsurf out for the morning. There are several water sports centres that will provide instructors and guides as well as equipment. I would personally recommend Glenridding Sailing School on Ullswater lake.
If you are in the Ullswater area, don’t miss out on Aira Force waterfall. There is a paid National Trust car park here but if you pass by the entrance and park in the layby just further north there are a number of free to park laybys that are a quick scramble up to the falls. An easy trek with a trail full of things to look out for, aimed at children but great for big kids too. At the top of the waterfall is a bridge dedicated to Cecil Spring Rice who has a very interesting involvement in politics and poetry.
Where to eat:
Whilst waiting for the ferry back to Bowness you are bound to be tempted by the little ice cream and cream tea cabin on the shore edge; Ambleside Waterhead. The soft serve ice creams are dipped in molten chocolate (hardening the chocolate instantaneously) and the giant scones are so delicious you will wander whether to buy more to take home.
If you fancy a bit of luxury then you have to head to L’Enclume. The stark white walls and simple furniture create a blank stage for the food to shine through. Run by two Michelin starred chef Simon Rogan, this is the epicentre of his creative genius and is often compared to Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck due to his innovative approach to cooking.
For those who aren’t up for a fine dining experience, but like the sound of Simon Rogan’s food then you are in luck as he also runs a bistro and traditional style pub in the Lake District.
For wholesome traditional favourites that will fill your belly after a brisk walk or a long swim then try the Drunken Duck Inn where you will find pig check, pork belly and faggots on the menu. Let’s face it you will be ravenous after all that fresh air, hiking and water sports!
You may also like: