Why the Lake District?
The Lake District is one of the most popular destinations for a staycation in the UK, and with its stunning mountainous backdrop, its vast mesmerising lakes and quaint traditional villages, it’s easy to see why. The national park is perfect for everyone from hardened mountaineers to dog walkers, and from couples to families with young children. There’s so much to do you could spend weeks here without getting bored.
Whether you’re into fell walking and canoeing, or prefer to explore archaeological sites and sample all the tea shops, there’s plenty to discover. Most visitors tend to come for a 3-day weekend or a week, but longer road trips visiting multiple spots are possible too. There is a huge range of places to stay in the Lake District, including 5* hotels, guest houses and self-catering cottages, as well as lots of camping and glamping sites for those who prefer to sleep a little closer to nature. Just make sure you book ahead in the summer months as it is a popular spot!
The Lake District can be visited at any time of year, although we recommend the Spring or Autumn to avoid the crowds. The weather is usually better at these times too, although if you don’t mind the cold, the winter can be a stunning time to visit, with crisp frosty mornings, clear blue skies, and not a tourist in sight.
Travel Advice for the Lake District
Of course before visiting anywhere in the UK or abroad, you should always check the current government guidance about travel, and act accordingly. If travel restrictions are in place, do the sensible thing and stay at home. If travel is possible but with some limitations then make yourself familiar with the rules before you arrive.
Sometimes activities may be affected, so check with the provider to make sure you’ll be adhering to advised protocol. Make yourself aware of any safety precautions at your destination to ensure your trip runs as smoothly as possible, and check the transport situation ahead of time. It always helps to have a Plan ‘B’ too just in case things change whilst you’re away. By following these simple guidelines and keeping abreast of government advice you’ll be sure to have an incredible trip.
Why You Should Visit the Lake District
There are 1000’s of reasons why the Lake District should be your number one choice for a UK staycation, but here are just a few to get you started:
1. Peace and Quiet
Okay, so if you go somewhere like Bowness-on-Windermere you’ll struggle to find even a small pocket of tranquillity, but head away from the honeypot centres with all the crowds and it’s really not difficult to discover your own slice of wilderness.
Our favourite place is Ullswater, the second largest body of water in the Lake District, and one that has plenty of places to explore around its shores. Enjoy a ride on the lake steamer, scramble up to the impressive Aira Force waterfalls (which are always better after a bit of rain), or enjoy a laid back lunch on the lawns at the Inn on the Lake. You can also hire rowing boats or canoes to explore the tiny islands dotted around the south of the lake, or have a go at sailing with the friendly folk at the sailing club in Glenridding.
Alternatively consider Bassenthwaite up in the north Lakes, which is a beautiful lake surrounded by forested hills and far less visited by tourists than places like Derwentwater and Windermere. As well as hiking, there’s a wildlife park which is popular with families, the gorgeous Armathwaite Hall where you can enjoy afternoon tea overlooking the lake, and an osprey viewing point up in woods.
Another quieter spot is Coniston, where you can sail on the lake in the famous gondola yacht, explore the copper mines valley, and visit the Ruskin Museum to learn about how the area has changed since the Stone Age. Coniston was the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows and Amazons’ books, and intrepid visitors can hire a rowing boat and visit ‘Wild Cat Island’ (which is really called ‘Peel Island’) for a picnic with a view.
2. Beautiful Walks
There’s nowhere better that the Lake District if you’re looking for a staycation that involves lots of walking. In the Lakes there’s everything from multi-day hikes to short lakeside strolls, perfect for all ages and abilities. You do need to be a bit flexible with your plans as the weather here is rather notorious for changing at the last minute, but bring your waterproofs and you’ll be fine.
For an easy walk without the hordes, make your way over to the peaceful valley of Kentmere, near to Staveley and Kendal in the South Lakes. This area is little-visited by tourists and generally you’ll only ever encounter a handful of other people up here. Enjoy a relatively flat walk up the valley to the reservoir, before returning and rewarding yourself with lunch at Wilf’s Cafe beside the watermill in Staveley.
A longer and slightly undulating hike which is also fairly easy is the trail along the eastern edge of Ullswater. This is one of the most beautiful walks in the Lake District with lake views and mountainous surroundings the entire way. The most popular way to do this hike is to take the steamer from Glenridding and alight at Howtown before taking the path back along Ullswater towards Patterdale, and then back to Glenridding.
For something more strenuous with magnificent panoramic views, get up early and head over to Borrowdale for a fabulous circular walk. Starting at the hamlet of Seathwaite, lace up those boots and head up the valley to Sty Head Pass where you’ find Sty Head tarn. Continuing along the route you’ll come across Sprinkling Tarn, which is a great spot for a picnic, before heading down Langstrath Valley and back to your car.
3. Diverse Activities
As well as a whole lot of hills to explore, there are countless other activities for those who don’t want to spend their days hiking, or who have young children with little legs!
Let’s start with the lakes, where you can have a go at a wide range of water sports, from sailing and canoeing to stand-up paddle boarding and even windsurfing. Windermere is one of the easiest lakes to reach, but is also one of the busiest, so we recommend you head to places like Coniston, Ullswater or Derwentwater instead.
Wild Swimming is becoming increasingly popular too, whether that’s in the larger lakes or at a hidden tarn where it’s just you and nature. Swimming outdoors is one of the most invigorating and empowering activities you can enjoy here, all surrounded by the most incredible scenery. Do take appropriate precautions like checking the depth and temperature before you begin, and never swim alone. It’s also advisable to wear a brightly coloured swim cap or wet suit so you aren’t invisible to boats, and don’t swim in areas where steamers sail. Guided wild swimming sessions are perhaps the best thing to do if it’s your first time, especially since you’ll get to enjoy all the insider swim spots that you wouldn’t normally have discovered by yourself.
Back on dry land there’s the Honister Slate Mines in Borrowdale where as well as exploring underground, you can brave the via ferrata course through the mountains, which includes a Burma bridge, cliff-edge ladders and vertical climbs. In a similar vein there’s Go Ape in the beautiful Grizedale Forest, where adventurers of all abilities can explore at treetop level. For something a little more sedate, there’s the Lakes Aquarium on the shores of Windermere, and plentiful historic houses to visit, including the famous Dove Cottage which is the former home of poet William Wordsworth. Kids will love visiting the Lakeland Maze Farm Park – it’s one of the best sunflower fields in England, and has a maze made out of maize, as well as lots of friendly animals to meet.
4. Tasty Treats
The Lake District isn’t all about hills and water, it’s about discovering a culinary culture quite unlike anywhere else in the UK. Food experiences in the Lakes are amongst the top reasons to visit, and combined with a hearty walk in the fells or a paddle on one of the lakes, it’s the perfect addition to any day in this stunning neck of the woods. Top of our recommendation list is the famous Grasmere Gingerbread, which is baked using a secret family recipe that dates back to 1854. The tiny shop beside the church sells all things gingerbread, and the smell wafting down the street as you approach is simply divine.
Head over to the quaint village of Cartmel to sample the equally illustrious Cartmel sticky toffee pudding, which is handmade at the local village shop and attracts visitors and locals from miles around. If you can’t travel to Cartmel, you might find it for sale in Booths, Waitrose and even Selfridges. Not far from Cartmel is the tranquil Lyth Valley, known for it’s annual damson day festival, where you can sample all things damson, with gin being a particular favourite with locals.
Finally, you can’t visit the Lakes without chowing down on a hearty piece of Cumberland sausage, especially for breakfast to fuel you up for a day in the hills. We suggest you check out Granny Dowbekin’s cafe at Pooley Bridge for this, they serve up delicious Cumbria breakfasts with a view overlooking the river near Ullswater. The perfect start to the day.
5. Easy Access
Although it’s undisputed that the best way to explore the Lake District is by car, simply because much of it is so remote, there are ways to explore without having your own set of wheels. Trains stop in Kendal, Windermere and Penrith, where there are buses and taxis to take you on to your destination.
The 555 bus is amazing, it runs right through the length of the Lakes on the A591 between Kendal and Keswick, and is a day trip in itself, stopping off in lots of scenic villages on the way. Try and grab a seat at the front of the top deck if you can!
It’s really easy to explore the lakes from a central base town such as Ambleside or Keswick, with lots of transport connections between the more popular sights. In many places you can just walk straight from the door too!