It was slightly by default, as a lovely place about the right distance between home and Will’s sabbatical location, that the Lake District ended up being our first family holiday destination. I’m very glad it was though as we spent a happy five days there in glorious June weather.
We had to slow our normal holiday pace down significantly with a little person. Not that we never used to relax on holiday, we most definitely did. It’s just when we headed out we did tend to cram a lot in and I think we tried to replicate that initially. We’re up and about early these days so Will was bouncing to get out the front door and start exploring from about 8am. It meant we hadn’t got quite as organised with packing all the stuff the Little Bear needed for a day out and we ended up setting off at an odd time for her nap, which created a bit of baby boredom and grumpiness later in the day. We took it slower on the following days, soon learning that it was ideal if we headed where we going during her morning nap (or arrived for her morning nap if she could drift off in the sling or the buggy), did activity, made sure we could get her lunch at a sensible time and easily and basically repeat in the afternoon. She loved it though – I was rather dreading going home as she loves anywhere with people to nose at. She is in her element in cafes and tourist attractions and has learnt if she stares at people very intently they then generally smile, and if she then waves and smiles at them they smile more. Peak Little Bear making friends on holiday was reached in Scotland by her grinning at a Norwegian man so much that he ended up feeding her a bit of her lunch (with my permission!) Here’s a little guide of what we got up to during the Lake District bit of our June trip.
See & do
Walking – Usually on this length of holiday somewhere outdoorsy like the Lakes we would probably spend a couple of days sightseeing, and at least a day or so going on long walks/hikes. We were a bit worried we wouldn’t really be able get out into the National Park at all with a baby. Thanks to a combination of the sling and a great scheme called Miles without Stiles, a collection of routes with access for those in wheelchairs and buggies, we did manage to see some countryside. Such a great initiative!
The sling walks we did were all fairly niche wildlife related so I won’t share them here, Will has over on his blog though if you’re interested. If we visit again I’d be keen to try and get up to the fells as that was the only thing the walks we did were missing this time.
Some of the Miles without Stiles routes are very short for those with limited mobility, but there are a couple of longer ones too. All are fairly flat by Lake District standards. We got the buggy round fine on all of the walks we tried and the shorter routes we did in Grasmere and Staveley helped us discover some quieter off-the-beaten-tourist-track places, especially in busy Grasmere.
The longest walk we did was up to Wray Castle on the western banks of Windermere. I didn’t quite twig that the mileage listed on the walks is the round trip total, so was a bit surprised at how quickly we got to the castle on the journey out!
Wray Castle – This definitely wins the competition for weirdest National Trust property I’ve ever been in. It is a nineteenth century replica of a castle, set just up from the shores of Lake Windermere. It is not a stately home as such so it has been given over to various children’s activities, including a soft play/build your own castle room that our Little Bear very much enjoyed. I don’t think I’d necessarily bother paying to go in with a baby if we weren’t members anyway as most of it is designed for slightly older children – with things like ping pong, colouring and a hands on Peter Rabbit play garden. It would be good for a rainy day though, and on any day the cafe is reasonable and there are stunning views to take in.
Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top – Another National Trust property that I was keen to visit as I missed it on a previous trip to the Lakes. This was Beatrix Potter’s home and an inspiration for her children’s illustrations and stories. We didn’t spend long here as it was very crowded (even just after opening at 10am). It was fascinating to see the inspiration for her illustrations though and some bits were so obviously the model for her books it was almost surreal. It’s quite a small site for the number of visitors and there was no lawn or anything in the garden where we could put the Bear down for a crawl and to let off some steam so we retreated to the hotel next door for a coffee instead.
Boat trip on Windermere – It was so hot one day the idea of sitting on a boat with a breeze blowing was heaven so we hopped on the 45 minute island cruise from Bowness. We weren’t sure if these would be suitable with a baby but we were assured they were. The only thing we were requested was to fold up the pram before boarding, for obvious reasons. We were a bit worried that with the design of our buggy (the seat unit has to come off to fold), we were going to lose the seat over the side of the deck where buggies had to be left, as the railings weren’t that close together. It survived though – phew. I would definitely consider getting an umbrella style buggy for future trips. As ever, the Little Bear took the boat trip in her stride and I don’t think realised there was anything different going on!
Lakeland shop – I’m a bit obsessed with Lakeland generally, any kind of innovative homeware is the sort of thing I love looking at, and Lakeland is the ultimate home and kitchen shop. As the name suggests, the shop originates in the Lake District and their flagship shop is right next the train station in Windermere. I managed to convince Will to pay a visit one rainy afternoon with the lure of their excellent cafe, and we were so glad we did as not only were the coffee and cake amazing there was also a free and pretty much deserted small soft play area for kids. Little Bear had never been to soft play before this trip as everyone I know usually mentions it in the same breath as the scream emoticon. She loved it though and it was certainly a very civilised introduction to the seemingly inevitable soft play visits for us. We ended up going back a few times whenever we were in need of cake or Little Bear was in need of a bit of crawl.
We rented cottages for the whole trip as it’s just so much more relaxed being able to watch TV or read after bedtime rather than sitting in a hotel room in the dark when our daughter had gone to bed. We did initially look at AirBnB but there doesn’t seem to be much availability in rural places as yet so going through traditional holiday cottage companies worked out cheaper. We booked with Lakes Cottage Holidays for this part of the trip, who I would thoroughly recommend as they allow flexible bookings and shorter breaks, not just Saturday-Saturday whole week stays.
We were based in the lovely village of Staveley, just a few miles from Windermere – which is why most of the things we did above were based in the South Lakes area. There was plenty to do around where we were staying rather than dragging a baby further afield. Staveley was a great place to be based, not as crowded and touristy as Windermere or Bowness, but with a lovely pub and some other amazing food and drink options (see below), and a little playground for kids as well.
Food and Drink
Eagle and Child Inn, Staveley – Lovely pub food, but the main thing we liked about this pub were the most fantastically beautiful beer garden views I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. They were also lovely with little ones, a high chair appeared before I’d even got the Little Bear out of her buggy as soon as Will went in to order drinks and mentioned we had a baby.
Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall * – We couldn’t resist stopping in here on an afternoon walk, me to buy a present for my real ale obsessed Dad, and Will to sample some local ales. It was a lovely atmosphere on a sunny afternoon and I’m told the beer was good and the honey and chilli roasted nuts were definitely very good.
The Sourdough Pizza Co. – we had decided to get a takeaway on the last night as a treat, but didn’t realise where we intended to order from didn’t deliver. Due to sampling at the brewery earlier in the day Will couldn’t drive and I had to put the Bear to bed. So even though we’d already had a pizza night earlier in the week we decided to try this company. I am so glad we did, sourdough pizza is officially amazing, I’m still fantasising about this pizza. In fact I might have to go back to the Lakes just to have more.
More? Artisan Bakery – Located right next to the Brewery, we didn’t realise this was here until the last day, so only sampled some of the cakes we bought to share with some friends we stopped in with on the way up to Scotland. They were delicious though so I’d really recommend this place, looked like they did a lovely breakfast menu too.
Booths – I always take an opportunity to visit these lovely supermarkets whenever I’m near one. I really want them to come down South rather than just being a Northern England thing. We got all our food here for meals at the cottage. Also they were doing these amazing pun based resuable bags for three pounds which I couldn’t resist. Other options included ‘The Cake District’, no comment on how well that summed up our holiday…
*No babies were fed beer in the making of this blog post.
This blog post previously appeared on my blog Home Make Be