The Lake District in Cumbria is without doubt my favourite place to escape to in the U.K. Every year, around this time, I get an itching to go – a need to go. For me, visiting the Lakes is like stepping into another world because it’s the opposite of everyday life. My life is dominated by man and their makings because I live on the outskirts of a major city. By contrast, due to its national park status, in the Lakes nature and its beauty is appreciated and cherished, and thus man live on a smaller scale. Shopping malls? Never heard of them. Towns? Don’t you mean villages? It’s a haven that enables you to forget about the outside world and enjoy the spectacular scenery; safe in the knowledge that there won’t be a motorway or a single bar of signal in sight 🙂
So this year was my fourth visit. I always go with my best friend’s family and it is they I have to thank for introducing me to the Lakes and allowing me to continuously crash their family holidays. Three out of our four visits and including this year, we stayed at the Langdale estate. The establishment offers either hotel or lodge accommodation in a central location to many of the popular sights that the national park has to offer.
Now, I must point out that hotels and lodges are definitely not the cheapest options when considering accommodation in the Lake District. If you are looking for more affordable lodging, there are many beautiful cottages available to rent in a multitude of locations across the park. Camp sites, caravan parks and youth hostels are also popular options, many of the sites located so as to provide spectacular views and all for pennies! However, after experiencing chilly temperatures and the odd rain shower on a few occasions, I prefer to splash out a bit on accommodation so as to have a warm bath and comfy bed to return to! Not only this but when the weather is truly dismal (only occasional) it’s better to stay at a resort such as the Langdales because it offers facilities such as a swimming pool, fitness classes, spa, and games room, as well as a restaurant/bar to keep you amused. Follow this link to check it out 🙂
Things to see/places to visit
The family I latch onto are like me – very adventurous and as a result, I have seen a fair portion of the national park. Some of my favourite places to visit are as follows:
Chesters By The River
Yes, you guessed it, this is a cafe (I love food). Chesters is always our first port of call when we arrive because it’s so close to the Langdales – only a 30 minute flat walk along the river. It’s an easy and picturesque walk that allows us to stretch our legs after the long drive and ‘baa’ at a few sheep on the way. Chesters is located at Skelwith Bridge and is extremely popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s situated right on the river and has a wonderful wooden balcony that hangs above it between the trees. On a sunny day, it is the best place to be.
FYI, Chesters has recently become a vegetarian establishment. I am not vegetarian and thus was disappointed to hear that my favourite bacon and maple syrup pancakes would be available no more! The menu has also been cut down dramatically regarding the quantity of food that is offered so if you are thinking about visiting, look up the menu first! However, I must emphasize that the food served is extremely good and all I believe, is home-made. The staff are lovely and well-behaved dogs are welcome. Furthermore, the cakes are yummy and they offer a takeaway bread and cake service attached to the shop next door. Overall, still a great place to grab something to eat. 🙂
Another eatery! Again, this inn is only a stones-throw away from the Langdale estate (approx 5-10 minute walk) and is very popular with the locals. It’s rustic and cosy, filled with wobbly wooden tables and chairs. For me, it is exactly what I would expect/like to find in the Lake District. It is not a posh place and thus you can role up wearing leggings and a raincoat and fit right in 🙂
Wainwrights is just a really great place to have a nice evening relaxing with good company after a long day of walking. It offers a typical pub menu serving meals like fish & chips, ravioli, curry and hot dogs. It’s not huge however and unfortunately you are not able to book a table in advance. Quiz nights (Tuesdays) are particularly busy so arrive early if you are looking to eat on that day.
Coniston is a great place to spend a summers day – particularly if you love the water. I have a wonderful memory of sitting in a canoe in the middle of the lake on a glorious sunny day staring at the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Truly it’s amazing.
It is a quaint village situated next to a giant lake, which is certainly the main attraction. The lake is ideal if you are looking to hire out equipment and get on the water because you can go kayaking, canoeing and rowing, among other things. There are also boat trips that take you around the lake whilst a guide provides you with interesting information and general Coniston history. Furthermore in the summer, kids can do water zorbing which I know from previous experience is both challenging and hilarious at the same time!
If water isn’t your thing though, never fear because you can also hire bikes and explore the village and the perimeter of the lake on wheels – or on foot of course. And if you feel like doing nothing at all, this is also an option because there’s a pebbly beach on which you can sit and marvel at the views. There’s also a nice restaurant/cafe situated there.
Moreover, some will know Coniston due to the Donald Campbell tragedy in 1967. In the village you can find the Ruskin Museum which will tell you more about this, and other Coniston history. I personally have not been but I’ve heard that it’s quite interesting and worth dropping by for a quick visit as it’s only small.
Grizedale Forest Go-ape
Have I mentioned that I don’t like heights?? We did this go-ape during our 2015 trip and it was such great fun – albeit a little challenging! After a quick tutorial and safety check, you’re on your own a measly 19 metres in the air. I’d never done go-ape before so naturally I decided to do one of the highest and most physically demanding in the country…!
The obstacles were good fun and the long 275 metre zip wire even better – the zip wires are the real selling point there. Screaming through the lush green trees at 10mph was fantastic! I won’t lie though, as someone who isn’t great with heights, it was scary in places and my legs did wobble but overall it was ok and I was so proud of what I accomplished. The only obstacle that really terrified me and seriously had me contemplating the alternative route was the giant cargo net you had to drop and swing yourself into. It took 10 minutes of persuasion and ‘almost’ swings to shuffle my bottom off the podium – I screamed the whole way down.
All in all a great few hours and well worth the money! Follow this link to check out their website. If you don’t fancy swinging in the trees, other activities such as segway trips through the forest are available; and there’s also a cafe for a bite to eat after 🙂
Ambleside is a wonderful ‘town’ and one of the largest in the area. Full of quaint slate buildings made up of mainly tea rooms, restaurants, family run inns and the odd clothes shop. However you can also find a garden centre, rock climbing wall and pavilion with a nice bowling green but a truly terrible crazy golf (but hey that’s what you do on holiday isn’t it?!) One of the busier settlements in the Lake District meaning it’s likely you’ll find something to do, even if it’s sitting by lake Windermere and gazing at the wondrous views!
Probably my favourite village. We always walk to Grasmere from the Langdales because it’s not too far but is still a heart pumping walk (over the mountain!) Grasmere is of course home to the famous Sarah Nelson gingerbread shop 🙂 now, word of warning before you purchase bags of the stuff, this gingerbread is not like the gingerbread men you buy in your local bakery or supermarket back at home – which is what I expected! It is very different – a special and very secret family recipe keeps it alive for many the tourist to enjoy. Also it’s important to mention that this shop is extremely cute and when I say cute, that also means
small TINY. Literally. In peak season it is common to see a long queue out the door and down the street!
Grasmere is also full of cosy tearooms, quirky gift shops and delicious eateries! One year we ventured there for dinner to a restaurant recommended to us by a friend. The restaurant was very quirky and definitely lived up to its name: ‘The Jumble Room’. As you can imagine, it was an explosion of different types of seats, cushions, tables and pictures everywhere you looked, nothing matched and it was quite literally a jumble room. The bathroom was rather different too as it had records hung on its walls! (See below – of course I had to take pictures!) A great place to eat if you’ve got a spare evening, although be sure to make a bit more effort with clothing than just your raincoat and walking boots!
- The weather is at all times, no matter the season, unpredictable. It seems that despite living in the 21st century in a world that sees humans in space and scientists grow organs, we can’t predict the weather to save our lives?! What I would say is that when it rains in the lakes, it really rains so you’ll need good solid walking boots and be sure to always carry waterproof trousers and two raincoats (my preference).
- Don’t expect to find signal on your mobile, this way, if you happen to stumble across a bar in a remote valley, you can be pleasantly surprised! Bars of signal are definitely few and far between but for me, this is part of the beauty of the lakes. Finding 4G too is not common, but the chances are better than getting bars of service. Rest assured that if you are a Wi-Fi addict, many of the restaurants and cafes across the national park offer free and surprisingly fast Wi-Fi.
- Be prepared before you set off, with regards to researching and jotting down what you would like to see and do on your trip. With Wi-Fi not available all the time, you’re not able to search for nearby attractions at the click of a button (something that we have all become so accustomed to doing in this technology dependent world). Thus, planning in advance and printing off maps is a real life-saver. Due to the chance of rain at least once during your stay, it’s also helpful to split what you want to do into 2 columns: Dry days/Rainy days, to ensure that you’ll always be amused!
- There is basically (that I know of) only one major supermarket chain in the Lake District; and it’s called ‘Booths‘. I love this. Booths has got a similar vibe to Waitrose in that they are not huge stores, often have a cafe attached, and are very community based as most of the fresh produce is sourced locally. In one store I felt a huge sense of nostalgia as I saw a pin-board full of little handwritten advertisements, just like I used to see in post-offices and newsagents when I was younger.
- Wherever you are in the Lakes, particularly if you are in a vehicle, be aware of sheep crossing the roads! Also if you’re visiting in spring time, when the fields are littered with sheep and their lambs, don’t get too close because ewes (like most mothers) are very protective of their young. (I was charged at by a ewe and just about lived to tell the tale!)