A few people have messaged me recently asking where to stay and ideas for things to do in the Lake District as they’ve never been before. There’s actually loads of things to do, and they don’t all revolve around walking or climbing mountains.
I love a Lake District break, to what I call the ‘proper’ Lakes, the middle of nowhere and very remote for at least one night to feel like you get away properly. Kieran and I went to The Bridge Hotel in Buttermere in November which is perfect for that, but it’s about 45 minutes away from Keswick and not the easiest to get to especially if you haven’t been before and don’t know the roads.
For first timers I would probably suggest staying in either Keswick or Ambleside, two of the main towns over there and both can be visit on a day trip easily as well. I enjoyed a day trip myself last weekend.
Here’s a list of 22 things to do in the Lake District if you want to make the most of the beautiful scenery and Lakeland life, but don’t quite want to take it as far as a ten mile hike over the mountain tops. Seasoned Lake District goers will definitely recognise all of these, but for first timers I hope it’s a good starting point!
George Fishers Tearoom – the famous mountain store with three floors of walking gear and good quality hiking, camping and skiing equipment. There’s some top of the range waterproofs, walking boots, fleeces, rucksacks literally everything. But it’s not the shop I like it’s the attic cafe.
Serving home made breakfasts, lunches and hot meals, and freshly baked cakes and shortbreads their food really is delicious. You can get some of their recipes in their cookbook available to buy. It gets busy at weekends so expect queue from 11am onwards but it’s worth the wait and the view through the window is painted above so you know which mountains you’re looking at.
The Wild Strawberry Tearoom – another famous cafe at the other end of Keswick, and you pass it on the drive in along the one way system.
Ye Olde Friars sweetshop – this old fashioned sweetshop is an absolute dream! They have everything from the chocolate counter, to a full range of jelly beans, bags of pre made jellies, mints, chocolates. Novelty boxed and sweet gifts depending on the time of year. I’d 100% recommend a visit especially at Christmas.
Market day – every Saturday in Keswick market place the market opens, selling locally made products and food. The cheese van is a big hit, but my favourite is the Greek stall selling all sorts of flavoured olive combinations and the best home made feta cheese I’ve ever tasted, literally to die for.
Boutique shops – you could pass away hours rummaging through the independent little boutiques dotted around Keswick. There’s some fabulous girly shops selling cushions, ‘clutter’, homeware, artwork etc.
Cafe Bar 26 – This wine/tapas bar in the centre of Keswick is probably the most modern one, and the food is really good. They also have four guest rooms above so it’s a great spot to stay and you just have to stagger upstairs at the end of the night.
Little house – it’s about a half hour drive from Keswick to Ambleside, alongside the beautiful lake and after the flood caused so much damage last year the road has been fully resurfaced and is a nice drive. The view across the lake makes it, but you know you’re in Ambleside when you spot the tiny house. It’s actually a shop, with a rickety stairway to the second level and fits about 2 people. It’s right opposite the giggling goose pub too.
Get a carriage to the lake – it used to be a horse and cart but is now just a carriage, and takes you from Ambleside town down to the lake at Waterhead. It’s a good idea to park up in Ambleside town and use the carriage which picks you up outside the White Lion pub, to avoid having to park down at the lake.
Hire a rowing boat – on a good weather day rent a rowing boat on the lake and enjoy being out on the water with the beautiful backdrop.
Get a choc dip ice cream – The cafe by the lake sells the best ice creams dipped in chocolate. They do a range of cakes and hot chocolates but leave room for an ice cream because they’re worth it!
Feed the ducks – You can also buy duck food from the cafe, so feed the ducks on the furthest beach of the lake. They’re very friendly and so are the swans! It’s a beautiful spot when the sun sets.
Visit Skelwith Bridge – A few minutes drive from the centre of Ambleside is Skelwith Bridge , with a cafe and shop. The shop sells some quite expensive homeware, including some lovely candles I’ve got my eye on next time I go, and some healthy recipe books. The cafe is really popular and has an outdoor terrace overlooking the Forrest and stream. The food was really good and catered for allergies/vegan/gluten free.
Do one of the nature or bike trails – They’re easy, there’s kids ones to get involved in (the rabbit run and the fox trot), as well as some harder ones but all low level and not too strenuous. They take you through the beautiful forest reserve.
Spot the Ospreys – Whinlatter is home to a pair of nesting ospreys, and the centre is dedicated to protecting the. A walk to the viewing point at the right time of year should hopefully get you a sighting of the impressive birds of prey. If you don’t spot them there’s a life size statue and reconstructed nest at the Whinlatter customer centre on display for you to get the idea how big they are!
Enjoy Whinlatter terrace – The visitor centre also has a cafe, and in summer you can simply enjoy lunch out on the terrace with a fabulous view over the forest and mountains seeing what wildlife you can spot.
One of the smallest little villages that I mentioned earlier, and you can get a lot more information here. Things to do there include:
Spot the lambs – A walk through the local farm as you head to the lake should lead you to a little field full of lambs in Spring.
Play pooh sticks – at the bridge crossing the stream at the corner of the lake. It is signposted from the village.
Enjoy some unbelievable pub food – the Bridge hotel does some of the nicest food and the menu is always big as well as additional specials, or on a nice day spend the afternoon drinking in the garden!
Disconnect – Enjoy no signal and no wifi! Play cards or speak to each other.
Go for a walk around the lake – it’s low level, easy and gives some beautiful views down the valley.
There are hotel rooms at the Bridge itself but there’s also a row of self catering cottages perfect for families.
I’ve stayed in both Langdale hotel and the luxury lodges but not for a while.
Enjoy a spa break – I remember the beautiful spa facilities and pool area which are definitely worth a visit.
Complete a trail – The Langdale area has a number of walks and bike trails within the estate, again they don’t require any specialist gear.
These are my go to areas of the Lake District and ones I would always recommend or go back to again and again. Hotels in the Lake District aren’t cheap and you often have to book a minimum of two nights at weekends, but it’s definitely worth it. As kids we used to go a few times a year and we’ve got some of the best childhood memories there, especially in the cottages at Buttermere and staying in the Salutation at Ambleside.
Nowadays I prefer visiting Keswick and Ambleside but staying elsewhere. I’ve got my eye on some beautiful looking spa hotels down there that I hope to get to this year. Watch this space.
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