Is the Lake District a good place to take toddlers? I was a bit sceptical at first, yet, we enjoyed a wonderful five days in our favourite National Park recently – filled with activities great for our toddler, Sophia, but also for us adults so I wanted to feedback on our travels in case you were thinking of making a trip too…
It’s the first time we’ve visited the Lakes since having Sophia, and I was worried she would get a bit bored – she’s an active child and loves to be entertained. Before Sophia, our typical day in the Lakes would consist of a big walk, followed by drinks in a cosy pub and a lavish meal at night. We would probably have a nap after the long walk too… not much chance of that happening with a toddler now. So, I ensured to do some research before we went for things to do that we would ALL love. I can honestly say we did not fit everything in we wanted to do, so all the more reasons to go back again…
WHERE TO STAY?
Self-catering is the way forward for families isn’t it – somewhere with lots of space for the kids to play in the morning, but also for the adults to relax when they’re in bed from 8pm….
Windermere Marina Village
Windermere Marina Village is great for everyone. I’ve stayed here twice before – once with nine friends, and once for our ‘babymoon’. The complex offers a multitude of different sized self-catering accommodation – it’s a bit like Center Parcs where you can only stay Monday – Friday or Friday – Monday. Very clean, with simple cosy decor and views out onto the marina. It’s so refreshing waking up to the views of all the boats on a misty morning, there’s something so relaxing about it. Our accommodation was perfect as we stayed with Steven’s family also – everyone had a good sized room and our own bathrooms, and one big open-plan space for cooking, dining and relaxing. My only complaint this year was that our wifi wasn’t very good… but I haven’t had this in previous years. This actually helped me to have some ‘social media free time’ anyway!
Some more things to know about Windermere Marina Village:
- There’s a lovely pub on site for food and drinks with nice views of the marina. You also get 10% off the bill when staying on site
- You’re 10-minutes walk away from Bowness-on-Windermere and a 2-minute walk away from the ferry to get across the lake
- You also get free access to Choices Gym and Leisure facilities
- There’s a little park on site for the kiddies (although it was too old for Sophia)
- They accept dogs in some properties – so it really is great for everyone
- They have a ‘last minute deals’ section on the website.
TOP TIP: We got our Asda Groceries shop delivered to the apartment for when we were arriving. No need to carry all the bottles of wine or beer in the car, or worry about the milk going warm in the cool bag.
WHERE TO EAT/DRINK?
I found everywhere we ate family friendly – you are really spoilt for choice in all areas of the Lake District. From cosy pubs to ‘trendy’ restaurants in every village now.
We ate in Grasmere one day and enjoyed coffee and cake in Emma’s Deli. I also really like Tweedies Bar in this area for a big pub tea and relaxed drinks. I always forget to visit the famous Grasmere Gingerbread shop – it’s been on my list for years and always forget to go argh!
Closer to where we stayed in Bowness-on-Windermere, it’s quite the ‘tourist area’ so as you can imagine, a lot of choice for places to eat and drink. The Albert and The Angel are popular choices for pub teas – we had a lovely meal at The Angel and the kids menu was impressive. Villa Positano, a quaint Italian up a tiny side street is probably my favourite restaurant for a date night, but we didn’t get to go this time. Baha is the new trendy restaurant in Bowness serving pacific street food – it’s also a good bar for later on too. You have to have fish ‘n’ chips when in Windermere – we got a takeaway one night from Vinegar Jones. It was delightful – plus they do gluten free! Drinks-wise… all the pubs mentioned above are great, but Windermere can now offer you a new trendy garden bar with a view – Lake View Garden Bar – not bad at all!
WHAT TO DO? (WHEN THE WEATHER IS GOOD)
When the weather is at it’s best – there’s nothing like experiencing the great outdoors in the most beautiful of sceneries. We walked up Helm Crag from Grasmere – we had Sophia in the backpack carrier and it was just the right amount of time before she got too bored. The whole route took around 2 hours – it’s a lot of steps so quite steep but you’re not scrambling. There’s suitable areas at the top for a picnic with views to the surrounding hills and Grasmere village – we kept a sharp eye on Sophia so she didn’t get close to the edge. There’s a hotel/pub at the end of the route which had a play area for Sophia to play in – Lancrigg it was called. I thought that was a bonus for her after her being in the backpack for an hour or so – she could have a nice play while we had a drink to recover.
Another route I recommend for families is the ‘Walkers Ticket Walk‘ which involves a few boat trips, a look around Wray Castle (where they also do children activities) and a short walk along a quiet path along the lake. It would probably take around 2-3 hours and you can buy Walkers Tickets from Bowness or Ambleside to do the circular route. You can also just enjoy a boat to Ambleside if you don’t fancy the walk – or you can even hire boats… this scares me a bit with a toddler though!
There’s a new park in Windermere on Rayrigg Road. It’s brand new and is a part of the Windermere Outdoor Adventure Park. Obviously lots to do here for the older kids, but that was too advanced for Sophia – she was happy with the amazing swings and slides on offer instead. I’ve also heard great things about Brockhole for kids, but again, a bit too advanced for a toddler.
WHAT TO DO? (WHEN THE WEATHER IS BAD)
A rainy-day back-up-plan is needed when you head to the Lakes I’m afraid. We had a day where it just rained non-stop. Thankfully, I had done my research…
All the family will enjoy the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway – a traditional steam train trip to many indoor activities. I felt like I was on the set for Harry Potter – as we turned up to Haverthwaite Station (it was about 10 minutes by car), owls were being showcased in the old-fashioned station, all the staff were in old-fashioned uniforms, it was eclectic. Sophia loved getting her ticket and waiting for the train to arrive, and when we got on – wow, it felt like we were headed back in time. It was a magical experience, and it was only a 20-minute journey to our next destination…
The Lakes Aquarium
The steam train took us straight to the Lakes Aquarium front door, so obviously, on a rainy day that was very useful. We wondered around the variety of species on offer, being amazed by some of the creatures we saw and Sophia was just so excited – couldn’t wait to get to the next bit all the time – I was trying to slow her down as we were soon in the gift shop and out the door! It was busy however, due to the weather, I think everyone had the same idea.
The steam train also has links to a zoo, the motor museum and more boat trips – so you can really fill your day with activities. You can actually book all the activities with the railway here so your day is sorted from start to finish.
TOO MUCH TO DO
Unfortunately, there are still so many things we didn’t do in the Lakes – such as the Beatrix Potter Museum or visit Keswick – I love that area also and I remember a great walk we did there called Latrigg which is also suitable for families. So I know we’ll be back to try and cram it all in again one day – I think it’s a place we’ll treasure forever and I hope Sophia continues to enjoy the amazing things it has on offer as she gets older. I certainly proved myself wrong with thinking that the Lakes would be boring for a toddler!
As you know, I like to end a blog with a few snaps of reality…
I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip and my recommendations for visiting the Lakes with a toddler. This is also a good website that helped me in my holiday planning and might help you too…
Thanks again, love Sarah xoxo