While for many discovering the UK is relatively new, the Lake District is somewhere I’ve been to multiple times a year throughout my whole life. Family half term holidays were spent there every year without fail, and that has turned into at least one or two trips a year for me as an adult. The occasional spa hotel stay, a camping or glamping trip, a getaway to the middle of nowhere and then last year a week in a luxury self catering cottage has been the type of thing in recent years. If there’s anything I feel like I could share with you for my first travel post of 2021 it’s what to consider with booking a holiday to the Lake District, especially if it’s somewhere new for you.
I have said this so many times but one of the best decisions we made in February 2020 was to book a UK holiday to the Lake District. We did it before Corona took over our lives, and it turned out to be fate, as abroad travel barely happened for anyone last year. This year I know a lot of people are going to do the same. Here’s the best advice I can give you to get the very best out of your holiday to the Lake District.
Book your Holiday To The Lake District early!
I can’t stress this enough. Even without Corona the Lake District has become hugely popular in the last few years since it became an official UK heritage site in 2017. It was already a National Park since the 1950’s, but this heritage site status immediately bumps it up all the must see, must travel and must visit lists for international tourists, rather than just Brits.
Visitors have certainly changed in recent years, and you do now see more bus trips and particularly Asian groups whereas historically this wasn’t the case. This isn’t a complaint at all, because of course tourism is great to bring to this part of our country to keep it and all the local businesses going. But it does mean that demand for hotels, cottages, and campsites is higher and more competitive than ever.
Combine this with the usual peak times such as any school holiday and any bank holiday, when most families look to visit and places book up very quickly in advance. We used to book our half term trips a year in advance, and it’s only increased in demand since way back then. If you have specific dates in mind, don’t mess about.
Expect a minimum of 2 night stays at weekends
It is pretty standard for most Lake District hotels to only accept 2 night stays at weekends, because most guests are walkers who make the most of full days to get up very early and out on the mountains, but also because of how remote it is and the distance people are travelling, you wouldn’t want to only be there for one night really.
What I have found however, is that although most websites don’t let you book for less than 2 nights at weekends, it is worth ringing up directly to see if they will accept a one night stay if you’re booking last minute. So although this goes against my advice of booking early, if you do fancy a last minute one night trip these aren’t unheard of, and a quick phone call is likely to see you get in if there is space.
Book Your Lake District Accommodation Direct
Although booking.com can be tempting, I always book direct and you get a better deal, extras thrown in, and if you’re a repeat visitor places really do remember you. It’s a more personal service and like I said above, it can be more flexible.
School holidays are a lot more expensive
This is also pretty standard for anywhere, but it seems to be even more so in the Lake District. I’ll be honest I hate visiting in school holidays. Being such a remote place, with tiny villages and towns it can be a nightmare on the windy narrow roads when traffic is busy, you have to wait ages to get a seat in pubs, and in general the place gets heaving. If you can visit outside of school holidays I absolutely would, as it will save you a good chunk of money if nothing else.
Don’t discount the B&Bs or rooms above the pub
Unless you are visiting the Lakes for a spa weekend, not many people go to stay inside the hotel the whole time. The entire point of a trip to the Lake District is to take in nature, and the incredible scenery you can experience through walks, mountain hiking and activities on the lakes themselves. It is very much a ‘great outdoors’ place, so if you are struggling for a room the cute little B&B’s and rooms above the bars in roadside pubs are a thing across there- especially for walkers.
Driving through some of the towns or villages it’s amazing how many have the ‘no vacancies’ signs up so they’re obviously more than adequate for a Lake District visit. I’ll come back to spa hotels in a bit.
Does your self catered place have a wet room or 2 bathrooms?
For any self catered cottage or Air BnB check to see if there is an extra bathroom, or a dedicated wet room. You will use it more than any other room in your place for convenience, for all your walking gear, waterproofs, muddy boots, wellies, towels and literally anything else that could get soaked or dirty in the typical Lakeland weather. You can go at any time of year, any season, and experience a total mix of weather sometimes within the same day.
An extra bathroom or wet room means you can dump stuff in there to dry out without it getting in anyone’s way, and keeps your main bathroom free for use. It’s a little thing but makes a big difference.
The cottages I’ve stayed at personally have all had this and it’s so useful, I think most places factor this in as it’s part and parcel of the Lake District self catering experience.
Invest in good quality clothing for all weathers
For seasoned visitors to the Lake District this will be so obvious, but if you’ve never been before don’t just wing it with ‘shower proof’ coats instead of real waterproofs, or trainers if you’re planning to walk properly. These are just two examples but any form of clothing needs to be decent, from your thermals to your rucksack (ditch the handbag), your wellies to your waterproofs.
You will need to take enough for all weathers, so don’t forget your suncream and sunglasses as well as everything you need for the cold and rain. You’re probably going to get it all.
Take a look at my ultimate list of what to pack for a UK staycation here for more info. It’s been written with the Lake District in mind. If you don’t feel prepared then make a stop in Keswick on your way to your accommodation – all the shops you’ll find there will tell you all you need to know.
Make sure you have a confident driver
You’re likely to be doing a lot of driving, especially if you want to see different parts of the Lake District. Some of the towns and villages are remote, and while there is a bus network, it’s just so much more practical and efficient to have your own transport. I can’t imagine a holiday to the Lakes without one. The roads are kept well, but they can be very narrow and you’ll often be in the middle of nowhere with no signal.
I think it does take a confident driver to navigate the different roads, but also make sure your car has everything you might need in it. Best to do a full health check before you go.
Be Prepared to Drive Everywhere
If you’re visiting purely to pull up at your hotel and not leave, or only explore the area you are staying then this won’t matter, but it seems such a shame not to visit a good few of the villages and towns, visitor centres, popular walking routes and the various lakes while you are there.
Parking can be expensive in the Lake District again because of the demand for it, but there are good car parks almost everywhere you go. Research the postcode of where you’re going first though, as some pub or hotel car parks are for guests only.
Here are some of the postcodes for main car parks in popular spots:
Keswick centre: CA12 5DN
Keswick lakeside: CA12 5DG
Ambleside town centre: LA22 9AN
Ambleside Waterhead: LA22 0ES
Grasmere: LA22 9PU
Whinlatter: CA12 5TW
Windermere: LA23 1AH
Consider the Walking distance from where you’re staying to the nearest pub
A pint after a walk, a pub lunch or a hearty Cumbrian dinner are what you should be looking for during your stay, to get a real Lake District experience. Consider this when you are choosing where to stay, as some remote places may not have one within walking distance. There are so many good pubs all across the Lake District though, so there’s never one too far away.
Is it dog friendly?
Given that the Lake District is hugely dog friendly, almost all of the hotels offer dog friendly options. Some of the spa hotels don’t, and as much as I love Langdale they also don’t offer dog friendly accommodation. So be aware that although most do, just check to make sure your pets are welcome.
Pre book boat trips or any museums
In the past you could always book things on the day, or just turn up, but that seems to be a thing of the past no thanks to Covid. Even little rowing boats at the lake in Ambleside need to be pre booked now, so consider this in the future to make sure you don’t miss out.
This should give you some insight in what to consider when booking a holiday to the Lake District. If it’s your first ever visit chances are you’ll be looking to stay somewhere like Keswick, Ambleside or Windermere, and out of all of them Ambleside is my favourite. I’ll be sharing a full guide to the town very soon! For luxury lodges take a look at Langdale, or Mirefoot Cottages where we stayed last September.
If you’re looking for a luxury spa stay then have a look at Armathwaite Hotel & Spa, Lodore Falls, or any of these on this list I shared last year – be aware though that the offers mentioned will have expired now.
Happy planning for your holiday to the Lake District!
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