The Lake District, Lakeland or just The Lakes, England’s largest national park is a fantastic playground for family holidays all year round. Over 2000km² of fells, mountains, lakes, rivers and forest invite you to explore as easily in winter as summer. Cute little villages and pretty towns are packed with museums, galleries, theatres, award-winning restaurants and delightful places to stay. And from mighty Lake Windermere and huge Scafell Pike to the stunning Falls of Lodore and 40km of coastline, nowhere else is better for biggest, highest, tallest and loveliest natural excitement.
16 million people visit the Lake District every year and a lot of them are families with kids. So you’ll find everything from 5-star spas and country house hotels to heritage self-catering, forest lodges and chalets, high-quality campsites, family friendly youth hostels and charming guesthouses and B&B here.
The liveliest town in Lakeland sits on the edge of Lake Windermere and makes a great holiday base with regular boat/bus shuttle services to other parts of the park.
On the northern end of Lake Windermere, Ambleside is famous for the magnificent Stock Ghyll Force waterfall and as the centre for hiking and walking in the Lake District. This historic little town gets crowded in summer, visit on foot or by bike and look at places to stay in the scenic countryside nearby.
Dove Cottage makes Grasmere a mecca for Wordsworth enthusiasts. It’s also home to Grasmere Gingerbread and, arguably, the prettiest village in the Lake District.
There’s no shortage of woodland in the Lake District but enormous Grizedale forest is a bit of a legend. This is Beatrix Potter country, where you’ll find cute Hawkshead village, the Grizedale Sculpture Trail, Hill Top (Potter’s house) and Esthwaite Water for sedate afternoon sailing.
This bustling market town is popular with families and close to legendary Coniston Water. Some say this is the best place for messing about in boats in the entire Lake District, it does have some fantastic sailing schools with great children’s courses in spring and summer.
A cruise on Lake Windermere is a classic holiday experience and safer than going it alone with kids on this immense stretch of water. Windermere Lake Cruises
The home of William Wordsworth has literary events all year round and an excellent kid’s activity programme during school holidays. Dove Cottage
Ravenglass is the Lake District’s only coastal town and where to catch the steam train for Eskdale. Visit at Christmas for Santa’s Express and the Ghost Train on Halloween. Ravenglass & Eskdale
Almost 50 well-marked walking trails across the Lake District designed for families, young children and buggies. Miles without Stiles
35 treetop challenges including a 250m zip line and giant suspended trampolines – age 5 and over. Treetop Trek
Lake District experts in everything from kayaking and power boating to raft building, paddle boarding and canoeing. Platty+
Hill Top is where Beatrix Potter lived from 1905 until 1943. Some of her best known works were written here. The house and garden are magical for kids. Can be very busy in summer so go early in the day. Hill Top
One of England’s oldest museums is big on involving kid’s in the prehistory and history of the fascinating Lake District. Kendal Museum
Swallows and Amazons’ author, Arthur Ransome, learned to sail on Lake Coniston, hire a boat for your own adventure or stay on dry land and bike the lake cycle routes instead. Coniston Boating Centre
This amazing sanctuary is home to over 150 birds of prey and has flying exhibitions and children’s events all year round. Lakeland Birds of Prey
Families should get about the Lake District on foot as much as possible. The entire area is wonderfully well-mapped with walks and trails and many are easy enough for young kids. Cycling is another great way to travel around and there are dedicated paths and routes round most of the Lakes. Local buses and trains cover some of the park. But to see everything, visit more remote areas and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenic journeys in England, a car is essential.