A Local’s Guide to the Lake District
The Lake District, UK is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Loved for its breath-taking views, beautiful beaches, exquisite art and history and spectacular food, it’s no wonder that visitors from the UK and elsewhere flock to the Lakes time and time again.
Whilst the Lakes’ many tourist spots provide fantastic pleasure and enjoyment – think Beatrix Potter’s house; the Wordsworth Museum, Lakeland Motor Museum, etc. – there are plenty of hidden gems that only the locals know. These little off-path attractions can often add a whole new dimension to your trip and enable you to enjoy the Lakes in a way you never have before.
Here’s a little guide to things to do in the Lake District over a typical weekend, from the perspective of the locals. Why not consider adding one or two of these to the itinerary of your next trip?
For your accommodation, we recommend the Wild Boar – easily one of the finest and oldest Lake Windermere hotels.
A warm welcome awaits you in the Hotel reception and bar, where roaring log fires and the rustic interiors make you feel like you’re part of a countryside fairy-tale. Kick back with a drink before enjoying a slap-up meal in the Boar’s Grill & Smokehouse restaurant, where classic hearty dishes are cooked up in the magnificent open kitchen.
Afterwards, you may even wish to take an evening walk in the hotel’s 72-acre woodland. The forest is home to a plethora of nature, wildlife, military history and art, and will provide countless routes for you to explore for as long as you like.
Following a restful night’s sleep in one of the Wild Boar’s cosy 4-star bedrooms, why not head for Saturday brunch at Graze – an adorable Bowness-on-Windermere restaurant that’s loved by locals and tourists alike.
Warm, cosy and homely, Graze mixes smart and contemporary design with a traditional rustic charm. Let its owners welcome you in before sitting down to its fabulously unique menu – all at reasonable prices. Enjoy classics like freshly made porridge; a Cumbrian sausage and egg breakfast roll or pancakes, alongside more unusual items like Venezuelan hot chocolate and a range of exquisite loose leaf teas. Brunch is served all day long – so no need to rush! Just get comfy in one of the plush armchairs and get ready to watch the world go by. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets are also catered for.
For those up for a challenge after breakfast, many locals recommend climbing a Wainwright. The collection of 214 hills and mountains as described in Alfred Wainwright’s ‘Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells’ has won favour with hikers, outdoor lovers and artists around the world, mostly for their physical challenge that rewards with beautiful views!
Though you absolutely don’t need any special hiking gear for climbing a Wainwright – and don’t need to even be an experienced climber – there are some things you should do before you go. The BMC’s Beginner’s Guide to Climbing a Wainwright has plenty of useful information, but the basics include: plan your route, and consider the terrain along the way; check the weather to make sure you don’t end up in hazardous conditions, and alert your accommodation or hotel before you go, so somebody else knows where you are.
You’ll also want to pack at least the general essentials, such as a map, compass, walking boots, torch, whistle, watch and first aid kit. You might also want to take some additional creative tools that you fancy – there is so much to draw, photograph and write about; the Wainwrights are a creative soul’s paradise! Be sure to take your time, and enjoy soaking up the scenery.
After your tough physical exertion, a meal at The Kirkstile Inn will be more than deserved. It rests just at the foot of Melbreak – one of the more famous Wainwrights – this well-loved restaurant does a marvellous sticky toffee pudding, the Lake District’s classic!
If you’re travelling the Lakes with children, however, then hiking up a mountain may not be on your to-do list. In that case, a visit to Mire House is the thing for you.
Mire House is a beautiful stately home with plenty to do for both adults and children. As well as a collection of fascinating furniture, Mire House also holds numerous historic manuscripts, such as James Spedding’s collection of Francis Bacon’s works and letters from Wordsworth, Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle and John Constable, all friends of the Mire family.
For children there’s the Adventure Playground – a great outdoor experience with plenty to keep them stimulated, from the giant maze and poetry walk, to the snuff garden and Family Nature Trail. Older children (12-16 years old) will also love trying the Forest Hazard Course, where they’ll be challenged to cross the beck in a variety of creative ways.
If you’ve still got energy after dinner, why not take a relaxing Derwentwater Twilight Cruise? Launching from Keswick, the cruise takes you on a beautiful tour of the lake in the evening, making various stops along the way.
The lake is bathed in pastel colours and surrounded by sunlit fells, making it the perfect way to relax at the end of a long day! Tickets are available for the full round trip or just single journeys partway around, with the full round trip taking around 50 minutes.
If the weather is good, then you should absolutely head to Castlerigg Stone Circle with a gourmet picnic in hand.
Castlerigg Stone Circle rests just outside Keswick and holds the most magnificent ‘surprise views’ (to say any more would ruin the surprise!). Grab your exquisite picnic from Merienda, Keswick’s classiest Artisan cafe where you’ll find large fresh baguettes stuffed with mouth-watering fillings; fresh colourful salads and excellent wine that won’t break the budget.
A walk around Holker Hall would also go down a treat on a chilled Sunday. Situated in Grange-over-sands, it is the present-day home of Lord and Lady Cavendish and their family, boasting 25 acres of award-winning gardens.
One of the Lake District’s most loved stately homes, Holker Hall is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of texture and colours, containing a wealth of history, warm atmosphere, and a fascinating glimpse into Victorian style and craftsmanship.
If you have time before heading home, why not treat yourself to an afternoon tea at The Hazelmere, also in Grange-over-Sands. Known for its exceptional sandwiches and scones, the warm and brightly lit café is an ideal place to sit and watch the world go by, all over a platter of cakes and pots of various loose leaf teas.
If you don’t fancy a full afternoon tea however, then delectable treats can be purchased for your journey home from The Hazelmere’s adjoining deli and bakery.
What are some of your favourite hidden spots when visiting the Lake District? Let us know in the comments below!
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