Though it may have been an isolated backwater in the days when poet William Wordsworth wandered lonely as a cloud around here, Cumbria’s Lake District is now one of the UK’s most-visited national parks. It’s the spectacular scenery that pulls in the tourists – and the region’s glassy lakes, soaring mountains and green valleys are well worth the long car journey up to this remote corner of northwest England.
Bring your kids here and they’ll have to put up with a bit of arduous walking – there’d be little point in making the journey otherwise – but, luckily, the Lake District allows you to compensate toddlers and children adequately.
Toddlers and young children will adore The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction at Bowness-on-Windermere, where they can have tea with a Peter Rabbit picnic basket, pop into Mrs Tiggy-winkle’s kitchen and interact with all manner of characters created by the famous Cumbrian children’s author and illustrator. Potter’s 17th-century Hill Top cottage – now owned by the National Trust – is situated in nearby Ambleside and it, too, is something of a shrine to her fictional subjects.
The Lake District is also the backdrop to Arthur Ransome’s 1930s Swallows and Amazons novels, and those tales of children taking to the water to get up to all kinds of wholesome adventures can easily be re-enacted with a little help from the many local boat-hire companies. Coniston Water even has its own boating centre from which you can rent boats and canoes.
The Discover Cumbria website suggests a range of walks that are tailored specifically to children, including a one-mile sculpture trail through Grizedale Forest and a stroll through Serpentine Wood in which kids have to search for alphabetical clues. With inspiration such as this, you’ll have them climbing up Scafell Pike in no time.
We also suggest these locations in The Lake District perfect for buggy walks.
How to get there: The M6 motorway (from London to Glasgow) travels north through the centre of Cumbria. Take junction 36 near Kendal, junction 40 at Penrith and junctions 42-44 at Carlisle.
Top tip: Some of the roads in the Lake District are quite narrow, winding and steep, so plan you route carefully if you're travelling with a caravan. See visitcumbria.com for more route info.
Travel time: 5 hours and 30 minutes drive from London.
Where to stay: The Swan Hotel & Spa (01539 531681), at the southern end of Windermere is a 17th-century lakeside inn with a boutique feel. It even has a heated swimming pool. Families can opt for modern British cuisine in the River Room or more informal dining in the Swan Inn. Junior suites; from £209 per night, including breakfast.
If you would rather stay in a cottage, try searching on cottages4u for the perfect accommodation for you and your family.