How To Spend A Weekend In The Lake District
There’s little mystery as to why the Lake District captures the hearts and minds of almost all who visit its national park. The clue is in the name! With 16 lakes under its belt, artists, novelists, and poets have found an affinity with the region, encapsulated perfectly by William Wordsworth, who claimed it to be “the loveliest spot that man hath found”. The fact that over 15 million tourists continue to descend upon them each year goes a long way to explaining the pull the lakes have over people. But for me, the Lake District is much more than this. It’s also the castles, charming villages, timeless cottages and houses, gardens, and children’s activities that might just get an adult’s inner child popping in to say hello! I’ve put together a guide to show you how to spend a weekend in the Lake District, complete with my suggestions of the best accommodation and places to visit.
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Lake District Attractions
Attraction is what convinces travellers to visit the Lake District in the first place, whether that’s from the area’s natural beauty or man-made wonders. I’ve found several attractions that have stayed with me ever since my first encounter with them, and they’ll surely enrich your weekend break in the Lake District.
Levens Hall is an exquisite privately-owned Elizabethan manor house that was built around a 13th-century Pele tower. Today, it’s the residence of the Bagot family. Unlike most stately homes, Levens Hall conveys an intimate, warm, and welcoming atmosphere. As guests explore the drawing room, great hall, dining room, and kitchen, they’ll feel – as I did – that they’ve been given an exclusive glimpse into the Bagot family’s life.
Each room has tokens from every generation, showing how they left an indelible mark on the building’s tapestry. Beyond this, the ornate plasterwork, period furniture, massive paintings and clocks, and oak panelling are a sight to behold. Unfortunately you are unable to take photos inside the house as it is still a family home so I am unable to show you the interior, but if you book yourself onto a tour of the house you’ll be able to see how stunning it is for yourself. You’ll also find tons of pieces belonging to Napoleon such as his riding saddle and cloak clasp as well as much more. This is because the family are related to the Duke of Wellington who let the British army into the battle of Waterloo against Napoleon and his French army.
The fully-licensed kitchen serves local produce, while the garden dates from 1694 and includes magnificent topiaries. The topiary section is the oldest of its kind, and should be visited during your weekend break in the Lake District. There is parking available, but it’s limited. It’s best for you to reserve parking space when you buy your tickets which are £10 for adults and £6 for children.
Not far from Levens Hall is the Grade-I-listed Sizergh Castle. Under the careful care of the National Trust, this majestic medieval manor house oozes history, from its crenelated rooftops to its lofty windows that make it look like the perfect setting for a Jane Eyre movie. With a timeline of over 800 years, history lovers will marvel at the thousands of items gathered by 26 generations of the family, the descendants of which still live there today.
Make sure to check out the Inlaid Chamber. This is where you’ll find wood panelling that’s considered the best example of Elizabethan artistry in the world, making it one of the best Lake District attractions. There’s also 1,600 acres of woodland, wetlands, and orchards where you might just spot deer, fritillary butterflies, and hawfinches. Tickets are £12.50 for a family, £2.50 for children and £5.00 for adults. Parking is 250 yards from the entrance and free for members of the National Trust.
For more details on opening times visit their website here.
Hill Top – Beatrix Potter’s House
A weekend in the Lake District wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Beatrix Potter’s 17th-century farmhouse. There’s nowhere better to discover the genius behind the likes of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. Almost every child in Britain grows up with Beatrix Potter’s stories, and this house is a real gem for its magical ability to transport you into her ‘little books’.
Here, you’ll find the rhubarb patch where Jemima Puddle-Duck laid her egg, and the garden Tom Kitten played in with his sisters. Like most traditional cottages, the garden at Hill Top is a jumble of vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, which is overwhelmingly abundant during the summer! The house is also an enchanting time capsule, and has the appearance of being left as Miss Potter would have had it, as though she had just popped out and would be back at any moment. There is a very small National Trust car park which closes at 5:30 pm, and family tickets are £32.50, whereas an adult ticket is £13.00 and its only £6.50 for children. If you plan on visiting a number of the National Trust properties it is well worth getting a years membership as it will save you quite a bit of money! A family membership is £126 so if you visit just two properties this will already have paid for itself. You can find more details on membership here.
A little something extra for any avid fans of Beatrix Potter – why not take a half day tour with an expert guide around more of the houses and places associated with her? Check it out here.
A Western Lakes Tour
The Get Your Guide Western Lakes Tour is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the beauty of the region during your weekend in the Lake District. It prides itself on taking guests off the beaten path, to staggering mountains and dramatic lakes. You’ll start your day at the steepest passes in all of England, Hardknott and Wrynose. While here, you’ll be taken to see what’s left of the Hardknott Roman Fort.
Your guide will then take you to a traditional inn for lunch – we stopped at Brook House Inn which serves fantastic food! – before heading to Wastwater, which is considered Britain’s favourite view. It’s also England’s deepest lake! Next you’ll drive to Muncaster Castle, Coniston Fells, and Coniston Water. Tickets for this tour start from £57 per person. Check it out here.
You can see a short video and read more about my time on the tour here.
There are few things that look more impressive than the mountains in the Lake District, but Muncaster Castle’s enormous floorplan might just top it all. This may be because it looks like a smaller version of Hogwarts, with its fortified Pele towers, or because its sumptuous rooms and artwork span centuries.
The apparent age of Muncaster Castle gives off a ghostly vibe, and the fact that the castle is apparently on of the most haunted castles in England makes the visit even more tantalising. As far as Lake District attractions go, this one is unique because of its 77 acres blended with play areas, the Enchanted Trail, Meadowvole Maze, and the Hawk & Owl Centre with its bird-of-prey-flying displays. You can even stay in the castle’s grounds in their glamping bell tent or coachman’s quarters. Winter ticket prices are £12.60 for adults and £6.30 for children. Both allow access to the castle and gardens. It is advised that visitors should park at the second entrance by the accommodation and church.
Check their website for opening hours and for all accommodation offered if you fancies a stay.
As the fifth largest lake in the Lake District, Coniston Water is the ultimate destination for serenity, as its five miles of length ripple out into the horizon. Historically, this was an important lake for the monks of Furness Abbey for their source of fish. As you look out at the jigsaw of mountains, you’ll be seeing the landscape that these monks owned in the 13th and 14th Centuries. In recent times, the lake was utilised for transporting slate and ore from the nearby copper mines. Today, there are three islands, which are owned by the National Trust. To explore the waters, travellers can hire boats from the nearby village of Coniston, and there are plenty of water sport activities to try here. There are several places to park around Coniston Water, including Brown Howe which is a pay and display car park. An all-day ticket costs only £5.50.
Holker Hall and Gardens
Located between Morecambe Bay and Grange-over-Sands, Holker Hall and Gardens has some exceptional countryside views. It’s a property for those who adore the great outdoors! Under the direction of the Cavendish family, the 23 acres of grounds now include a set of formal gardens, meadows, clusters of trees, and shrubs.
The house is also a sight for sore eyes; and looking at it, you won’t be surprised to find out the house has never been sold or bought, but instead passed down to new generations of three families: the Prestons, the Lowthers, and the Cavendishes. Inside is a labyrinth of exquisite period-designed rooms, from the intimate space of the duke’s bedroom to the ostentatious main hall. For children under 16, the hall and gardens are free to enter whereas its £13.50 for everyone else. Dogs are also welcome provided they remain on their lead, and there’s free parking.
Take A Tour Of Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge Locations
Any fans of Romantic poetry should add this tour to their weekend in the Lake District! The Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge tour takes guests on a journey around places associated with these poets, starting with the area where Coleridge and Southey lived. Then, you’ll visit to the churchyard where Southey is buried. I found it fascinating to learn how these three famous poets all knew each other and to discover how their families were all connected!
Next on the tour is Grasmere, a beautiful little village, where you’ll see the Wordsworth family graves, Dove Cottage (where Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy), and then finish at the Wordsworth Museum. Rydal Mount and Dora’s Field follow this, and the latter is where Wordsworth – in memory of his daughter – potted hundreds of daffodils. Tickets for this tour start from £85 per person. Check it out here.
The Prettiest Villages In The Lake District
You know me, I’m a sucker for a picturesque village and the Lake District has some real gems to explore. Here are a couple of my favourites to add to your trip to the Lake District.
If anyone is looking for a timeless village abundant in charm and with lots of history, then make sure to add Rydal to your Lake District itinerary! Here, you’ll see Rydal Water, where William Wordsworth came frequently, and Rydal Mount – the historic home of said poet for over 30 years, and which his family still own – overlooks this lake. To have a tour of the house and gardens tickets range from £7.50 to £45, and there’s a minimum age of 6 years to attend the tour.
Just down the road you will also find St Mary’s Church where William Wordsworth was Churchwarden for over a decade. If you pop inside the church you can see his family pew. It was Lady le Fleming from Rydal Hall who was responsible for building St Mary’s Church and today, travellers can stay at the Rydal Hall Estate, which has 30 en-suite bedrooms, several self-catering cottages, and three eco pods within the property’s woodland campsite. Lastly, head to The Grot and enjoy the magnificent Rydal Falls. Wordsworth wrote his poem ‘An Evening Walk’ about this grotto! There is no cost to visit the waterfalls, but you will need to pay for parking if you aren’t staying at Rydal Hall which is £5 for the day.
The charming town located at the tip of Lake Windermere has had settlements dating back to the pre-Roman times but most of what you see today dates back to the Victorian period. An afternoon in Ambleside is definitely a must for those visiting the Lake District. Wander its charming streets, lined with brilliant cafes and other small independents. Take a walk to Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in the Lake District where you can simply enjoy a stroll or a picnic or you can take part in plenty of watersports or a Windermere lake cruise. If you want to make for an extra special trip you could even book yourself a private sailing experience on the lake.
Make sure not to miss The Bridge House, a teensy tiny house that straddles Stock Beck River in the centre of Ambleside. The house dates back to the 1600’s and has been everything from an apple store, a toll house and even home to a family of 8! The house is in the care of the National Trust and is usually open for you to take a peek inside this one up one down house.
From my many experiences of Ambleside, parking fills up fast as it is a popular place to begin walks from. There is a large all day car park on the north side of the town as well as numerous smaller ones throughout the town itself and on the outskirts to the south as you drive in. I would advise you get there early to ensure a parking space during the busier summer months!
This little village is as pretty as a picture! Narrow, winding lanes lined with a mix of whitewashed and traditional slate built cottages all laden with hanging baskets of flowers. You’ll find the village to the west of lake Windermere and I like to tie in a visit with Wray Castle and Beatrix Potter’s home at Hill Top. There is a largish car park on the outskirts of the village and from there you walk into the village which allows it to be traffic free! This gives such an old world feel to it and makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. There are an abundance of pubs and cafes to sit and enjoy a meal but I would HIGHLY advise booking in advance.
Once home to William Wordsworth and his family, Grasmere is a village or charm and character, as it was back when Wordsworth called it home before moving to Rydal. This is where you’ll find the family buried in the village churchyard. There are some lovely art galleries and shops here and of course, the world famous Grasmere Gingberbread Shop. No visit to Grasmere is complete without a visit to this quaint little shop where you can buy some gingerbread from the amazingly friendly staff who are all adorned in traditional Victorian attire – it’s fabulous!
Accommodation in the Lake District
From cottages to large manor houses, there’s plenty of accommodation in the Lake District for all types of travellers with varied budgets.
Budget Accommodation In The Lake District
All of these places have rooms available for under £100 per night.
Rydal Hall is a 16th-century manor house built for the le Fleming family. The main hall has 30 bedrooms, with options from B&B to full-board stays. Each room has been designed to complement the surrounding hills and history of the hall: and, in keeping with the idea of a countryside retreat, the rooms don’t feature a TV or telephone. Rest assured there are both in the library, and each room does offer sumptuous bed linen, hospitality trays, en-suite bathrooms, and exquisite views. I’ve stayed here three times an although this accommodation is nothing lavish, it is comfortable, extremely quiet and what it lacks in luxury it more than makes up for in location!
For something a little more private, guests can hire the Coach House; a cottage, bunkhouse, or eco pod; or pitch a tent at their campsite. On top of this, there’s a formal garden which is of particular interest to history lovers and if you can get a room overlooking the garden you will wake up to the best views in a morning overlooking the surrounding hills. The Grot is also in the grounds where you can retreat to watch the waterfalls! This is where William Wordsworth would come as he lived in Rydal and he would sit writing poetry. It’s magical!
Check their website for prices and availability. I’ve stayed here for as little as £64 for a night – such a bargain!
Premier Inn Kendal
For anyone wanting a weekend in the Lake District on a budget, then look no further than the Premier Inn in Kendal! We stayed here for three nights last October when I took Heidi away to the Lake District during half term. It’s really well located to get around the region as everywhere in this guide is all under an hours drive away which was ideal for us! As you’d expect from any Premier Inn, each room has a Hypnos bed, coffee and tea making facilities and WiFi. The Premier Plus double room also has an additional workspace, rainfall shower, and ironing equipment. I booked a basic family room for us which was comfortable and wonderfully quiet. Both breakfast and dinner are served here at the adjoining restaurant, with the former serving an all-you-can-eat cooked meal. The hotel is particularly well located to explore Grizedale Forest, Kendal Castle, Sizergh Castle, and the World of Beatrix Potter!
Pro Tip – Although parking is available at this Premier Inn, they do charge for parking unlike at most other Premier Inn’s. The car park is also fairly small and is on a first come first served basis and it gets filled up quite quickly. If you’re unable to get a parking space here, there are spaces along to the road across from the hotel or there is a larger pay and display car park a couple of minutes walk away.
The Coniston Inn
As the name suggests, the Coniston Inn is situated on the shores of Coniston Water – what a gorgeous place to wake to! Built in classic Lakeland slate, the inn is the place to be to escape daily life. Our furry, four-legged friends are also welcome here.
With 42 refurbished en-suite rooms, there’s something for everyone: some with views overlooking Old Man of Coniston while others present Grizedale Forest. All rooms have a natural, down-to-earth vibe with neutral and woody accents that only add to the surroundings. One can opt for a single room, or family rooms that feature a king-size bed and either a sofa bed or bunk beds. The accompanying pub serves local ales and ciders.
Prices start from £98 per night. Check prices and availability here.
Lake District Hostels
There are also plenty of hostels to choose from in a variety of locations, including Kendal, Ambleside, Keswick, Grasmere, and Penrith. Like most hostels, these have a variety of rooms, some of which are private with shared bathrooms or en-suites. Kendal Hostel can also hire the whole house out for private functions, and guests can make use of the kitchen, dining room, drying room, and living room. The other hostels also have these features, while YHA Ambleside has a bar serving food and a luggage room. My friend makes an annual Lake District trip with her family and swears by the hostels in this region!
Boutique Accommodation In The Lake District
Glen Rothay in Rydal
Glen Rothy is positioned at the heart of the Lake District National Park and is only 20 minutes from Windermere, a popular town for sailing. As a traditional B&B, Glen Rothay is one of those places that makes evenings a thrilling experience. Imagine washing your hands in their bathroom built into a cave, watching or participating in their sundown badger-feeding sessions, or sleeping in their palatial rooms. These rooms bear period features, rich tones, and deluxe bedding. There’s even a Badgercam for guests to watch the daily badger feeding online or whilst sat in the bar with a pint!
The Badger Bar is over 400 years old, with exposed beams and open log fires, and serves four local ales, 40 whiskies, and classic pub grub. The service is delightfully speedy – the fastest I’ve ever had anywhere – and the staff are exceedingly friendly! Even if you don’t stay here it is well worth popping in for dinner, especially if you stay at Rydal Hall which is just a five minute walk away so I frequent here for an evening meal whenever I stay at Rydal Hall.
Prices from £120 per night for a double room or £80 for a single. Check it out here.
The Old Toffee Shop
Another great option for families is the Old Toffee Shop! With white-washed walls, slate tile flooring, exposed brick walls, wooden beams, and a rabbit-warren aesthetic, this accommodation in the Lake District is the definition of a timeless cottage. Wonderfully positioned in the heart of Ambleside, there’s two bedrooms with king-size beds and en-suite bathrooms, one of which includes a walk-in shower.
The cottage boasts sleek furnishings, and patterned bedding, pillows, and curtains, and there are vases of flowers dotted around to incorporate a bit of nature. The woody furniture also make it feel cosy and inviting. There’s a fully-equipped kitchen, an open-plan living space with a delightful woodburning stove, and an outdoor patio! Lake Windermere is within walking distance, Grasmere is also nearby, and there’s several pubs and restaurants for you to choose from.
Prices from £648 for 7 nights. At under £100 per night for a weeks stay out of season (my favourite time to travel), this place is a bargain! Check it out here.
A two-story, white-washed, semi-detached cottage surrounded by undulating hills with pockets of bushy trees makes Shepherds Nook the perfect countryside retreat. For adults only, the cottage is positioned in a peaceful area of the Kentmere valley and is only nine miles from Lake Windermere, meaning guests are within easy reach of some of the Lake District’s most famous sites. However, this romantic cottage and blissful scenery makes it hard to imagine leaving Shepherds Nook and its careful attention to detail means you won’t have to. The property has everything guests would need for a weekend in the Lake District, from a charming kitchen with an AGA oven and hob, to a small dining table meant for candle-lit dinners. Upstairs there’s a chic bedroom with a king-size bed and a shower room next door.
Prices from £210 per night. Check it out here.
Luxury Accommodation In The Lake District
If you’re looking to make this trip a once in a lifetime treat then there are two places I recommend splashing out on depending on if you’re going as a group with family and friends or looking for a really romantic spot for two.
Perhaps the most luxurious accommodation in the Lake District is Birkdale House, a traditional Victorian home with its own cinema and games rooms. Sleeping up to 10 guests, this property has five enormous bedrooms, three of which have a super-king-size bed. All have a light and airy colour scheme, with lots of windows and mirrors, a feature wall with elegant wallpaper, and a couple of the rooms are en-suite. The rest share a family bathroom with a double shower and roll-top bathtub.
Beyond the rooms, the house has a drawing room, dining room, snug, ground floor wet room, fully-equipped kitchen, large garden with a terrace, patio, and lawns. It really is the ideal rural escape for a group or large family holiday! As it’s situated on the Matson Ground Estate, there’s a woodland to explore, and Lake Windermere is nearby.
The Lingholm Boathouse is one of the sleekest accommodations in the Lake District. It is a contemporary boathouse perched on the shores of Derwentwater. The combination of wood and stone with large glass windows not only make it look like a celebrity’s home, but it helps the house to effortlessly blend in with the natural backdrops. The balcony likewise has glass railings, so as not to disrupt the view – a wonderful place to sit and enjoy a morning cuppa!
Inside the boathouse, there’s a fully-equipped kitchen that seamlessly flows into the dining and living space, the latter of which has neutral-coloured sofas where you can soak up the views through floor-to-ceiling windows. The bedroom sleeps two, and has a king-size bed and a free-standing bath in the bedroom. There’s also an en-suite bathroom with a waterfall shower! As part of the Lingholm Estate, you can walk to the main house to see the grounds that inspired Mr McGregor’s garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
This place is designed for a real romantic break away.
Prices from £227-490 per night with a minimum of 3 nights stay. Check it out here!
Truly Special, One Of A Kind Accommodation
Yew Tree Cottage
If you want to give yourself the ultimate Lake District experience, you can book yourself a stay at Yew Tree Cottage, one of the cottages owned by Beatrix Potter herself. The house still contains a number of original pieces of furniture belonging to Beatrix and in the mornings you can wander outside and pick your own eggs from the chickens. It’s a really special place. This gorgeous cottage was used in the movie Miss Potter in place of her home at Hill Top due to it being larger and easier to get to. Staying at this gem is on my bucket list!
Lake District Children’s Activities
As I’m sure you’ll know already, when I travel, I’m always on the lookout for great children’s activities to keep little Heidi entertained. These Lake District attractions should be on every parent’s list.
Unlike most National Trust properties, Wray Castle is completely devoid of art, tapestries, and period furniture. Instead, the rooms are known as the Peter Rabbit Adventure Rooms, where children can play in Peter’s burrow, climb into the secret tree house, rest in Old Brown’s nest, and explore Mr McGregor’s garden. In addition, there are period dressing facilities, a castle building room, and a boat that comes directly from Ambleside to the castle’s private dock. But for us – especially Heidi – the nature playground in the woods was by far the best part of this castle! There’s 71 car parking spaces (which get filled up quickly so best to visit early morning or late afternoon) and your ticket for these will provide full access to the grounds which includes the lake, gardens, and woodland.
The World of Beatrix Potter
The World of Beatrix Potter brings to life all the author’s stories in an enchanting recreation of the Lake District’s countryside. Here, you’ll find an exhibition that includes some of her best-known characters like Peter Rabbit and Mrs Tiggy-winkle; and children are given a free activity sheet to keep them occupied. But this isn’t just for children, as adults can immerse themselves in Miss Potter’s history in the interactive area and virtual world. After all this fun, head to the character-themed café! It is free to visit for anyone under the age of 3. It is £4.20 for children between 3-16 and £8.20 for adults. The nearest parking is a public pay and display car park on Rayrigg Road.
The World of Beatrix Potter is currently closed until February 5th 2022 for maintenance but will be back open again after that. Check their website for full opening times.
National Trust Steam Yacht
One of the best things to do during your weekend break in the Lake District is to take the National Trust Steam Yacht on Coniston Water. It’s a pleasure to see children enjoy sailing on the Coniston cruises, and adults will appreciate how the experience was once a form of luxury travel for wealthy Victorians. Imagine yourself as one of them in the open-air decks or lavish saloons. For adults it’s £23 for a full lake cruise and £11.50 for children. You can find cruise timings here. There is a large pay and display car park at Coniston Pier.
Go Ape Grizedale
As far as the Lake District attractions go, Go Ape Grizedale is one for children who love to be active in the outdoors and enjoy challenging obstacles. The Tree Top Adventure is 1km in height and has children zooming down two zip wires and crossing steppingstones. If there are any adults not afraid of heights, then try flying 200 metres above the Grizedale Beck. The Zip Trekking Adventure also runs for 3km. However, if heights aren’t your cup of tea, opt for one of the 10 walking trails, ranging from one to 10 miles, or hire bikes or segways to discover the forests. Prices vary according to the activity you’d like to try but the Treetop Adventure for kids is £19. You also have to pay for parking here.
Go Ape Grizedale is closed for winter but will reopen in Spring ready for all the new adventurers! Check their website for opening times.
A weekend in the Lake District is a trip that’ll remain with you and your folks long after the bags are unpacked. From staying in cosy and welcoming accommodation to learning about the region’s natural beauty and magnificent history, there’s something for everyone to get their teeth into. The area won’t fail to leave you speechless, and I guarantee you’ll be begging for another holiday very soon! I visited three times last year alone! Once you get the Lake District bug, you won’t fail to want to return to this spectacular corner of the UK.
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