Why the Lake District has so much to offer for young families
It may be the UK’s most visited national park, but it’s easy to get away from it all in the Lake District.
Whether you’re climbing to the top of a mountain or relaxing on the shores of a lake, peace and tranquility abounds.
And opening our curtains to the sight of pheasants pecking at the grass as squirrels ran in a scene framed by some of England’s highest mountain ranges was the perfect start to our weekend in the Lakes.
We were staying at The Lingholm Estate near Keswick, set on the edge of Derwentwater, in the shadow of Skiddaw and Catbells.
Built by prolific Victorian architect Alfred Waterhouse in the 1870s, it was the holiday home of Beatrix Potter who spent many summers enjoying its lakeside location.
Beatrix credited the Lingholm kitchen garden as her original inspiration for Mr McGregor’s Garden in The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She also wrote The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and the first draft of The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle while staying at Lingholm.
Today, a new walled garden has been created and visitors are able to walk around an outside gallery dedicated to her work.
Lingholm, and 40 acres surrounding the main house, was bought five years ago by the Seymour family which has transformed it to create a family home and provide holiday accommodation.
The estate has 11 cottages and apartments, and will soon open a new boathouse providing accommodation right at the water’s edge.
We stayed in The Old Library, a spacious two-bedroom ground floor apartment in the main house. The well-equipped and extremely comfortable accommodation provided my family and I with the perfect surroundings from which to explore the Lakes.
Our first morning in the Old Library started with breakfast at the Lingholm Kitchen which serves a fantastic range of food throughout the day.
I opted for the delicious locally-sourced Lingholm Breakfast with bacon, Cumberland sausage, free range fried eggs, black pudding, grilled tomato, field mushroom, hash brown and sourdough. My wife chose eggy bread – made of Lingholm’s own baked brioche with bacon and maple syrup.
The Kitchen also offers a lunch menu ranging from snacks through to full meals; mouth-watering homemade cakes, bread, teas and coffees; and afternoon tea.
Breakfast set us up for the day and after a walk down to the Lake, we got back in the car for a 20-minute drive to the Lake District Wildlife Park. The 24-acre site at the northern tip of Bassenthwaite is home to more than 100 species of birds, reptiles and mammals.
We took a walk around the park to meet animals ranging from monkeys and zebras to snakes and meerkats. There’s the chance to experience feeding time and chat with the keepers as they do their rounds.
A range of presentations take place throughout the day – we met some of the park’s owls which came and perched on the benches beside us as park manager Richard Robinson shared their stories.
There is also the opportunity to pre-book an experience such as being an apprentice keeper, meeting the meerkats or encountering lemurs.
For those wanting a more adreneline-filled experience, further south on the shores of Lake Windermere is a more exhilarating family attraction.
Treetop Trek is based at the Brockhole visitor centre and has 32 aerial challenges to test the wits and skills of young and old alike.
Whether you opt for the mini or full trek, your task is to navigate the course, striding out or gingerly stepping from one obstacle to the next.
High in the treetops, balance beams and logs follow swinging nets and zig-zag planks before a 250m zip wire back down to the ground.
The encouraging expert Treetops team help those less confident and enable people of differing abilities and skills.
It was the highlight of the weekend for our family as all four of us took to the high ropes, conquered our fears and completed the challenge.
Finally, it was back to Lingholm for a more traditional form of Lake District exercise – a climb up Catbells, one of the most popular fells in the area.
You can walk from the estate along paths to the foot of the peak and follow the well-trodden route.
As our windswept family headed back down the slopes it was the end of a weekend offering new and old experiences of a favourite part of the British Isles.
- The Lingholm Kitchen is open from 9am until 4pm on weekdays and until 5pm at the weekend.
- Entry to the Lake District Wildlife Park costs £9.95 for adults and £7.95 for children; under threes get in free. - Tickets for the Treetop Trek at Brockhole are, age 16 and over, £32 (full trek) and £22 (mini trek) and age 12-15, £24 (full trek) and £18 (mini trek).