The Lake District and Windermere specifically has to be one of the best places in the UK to take a family holiday. Whether the sun is shining, or the rain is pouring (as to be fair it quite often does in the UK) the Lake District has something for everyone.
Some of my favourite family moments over the years have been on Windermere in the Lakes. We’ve done big group trips to Wray Castle and Ambleside, taken family walks around Windermere itself, been on boats trips large and small and also loved getting active at Brockhole.
Recently we were asked by Parkdean Resorts to spend the weekend in Windermere and make a video of all the fun things we got up to to celebrate their Best of Britain campaign. You can see that video here:
All of the activities in the video took place around the shores of Windermere Lake and you can even stay on Windermere itself when you stay at White Cross Bay Holiday Park with Parkdean. It’s set in a pretty woodland and the views from a lot of the lakeside lodges are spectacular.
Staying at White Cross Bay is a great base for getting around the area of Windermere, it is only a 5 minute drive down the road to Brockhole where you can catch a boat to go to Wray Castle, or 10 minutes in the opposite direction to Bowness.
Whilst you are in Windermere these are some of the things that you can get up to:
The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction
Taking around an hour, this family friendly attraction is very sweet. On arrival, you go into a small room to watch a short film about Beatrix Potter, containing lots of colourful illustrations from the world famous books and so it easily holds the attention of the little ones, and bigger ones.
After this, you enter the exhibition, where a winding path (suitable for push chairs – except the little garden outside…) that takes you through some of Beatrix Potter’s most well-known stories such as The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle. For each story, there are some beautiful models, interactive screens as well as lots of miniature scenes.
There is a Virtual Walk towards the end of the exhibition, where you can watch a short film, see 360 panoramas of the Lake District and complete interactive puzzles and challenges. You also get a chance to take a photo on a green screen at the end if that’s your kind of thing.
Windermere Lake Cruises
Windermere Lake Cruises offer a variety of options regarding cruises across Lake Windermere, you can head South on the Lake to go to Lakeside, or North on the Lake to head to Ambleside. There are also different stop off points, depending on the choice of cruise, for example, you can choose to get dropped off at Brockhole, which enables you to have a ‘car free’ day, something that I always try to achieve when heading off on holiday! There are also a number of packages you can choose from which incorporate the cruise along with other attractions such as the Lakeland Motor Museum, Lakes Aquarium and a trip on the local Steam Train.
We used our Freedom of the Lake ticket to travel around Windermere and left our car in Bowness.
Tree Top Nets at Brockhole
In collaboration with Cumbria Tourism, we had been lucky enough to be provided with tickets for some activities at Brockhole.
Located a few miles from Bowness and on the way to Ambleside, Brockhole is an absolute gem of a day out for families. There is a real mix of activities on offer for all ages and although you have to pay for parking, there are lots of activities that are free to take part in (although you will be tempted by the abundance of activities on offer that you do need to pay for so be prepared!).
Our first activity of the day was the Tree Top Trek. Set high among the trees, this high ropes course invites you to ‘swing, climb, balance and fly your way through 250 year old oak trees’ with ’35 exciting treetop challenges including aerial obstacles like rope bridges and wobby logs’ with the highlight being the final 250 metre triple zip which allows you to ‘race your friends to the finish line!’ No previous experience is needed, just a little bit of adventure and determination and little ones can take part in the Mini Trek from the age of 5 and children of 7 years and upwards able to participate in the Full Trek.
4 of us bravely embarked on the trek with Dad offering to hold all the coats and the bags and take some video footage of us from the ground.
There is no photographs of us on the actual trek as I’m ashamed to say I was fairly terrified and daren’t take my phone out of my pocket. There is some video evidence though so do check that out.
The highlight really was the zip line at the end where we were able to race together and fly over the site with a magnificent view across the whole of Brockhole.
Tree Top Nets at Brockhole
The Tree Top Nets are colossal multi-level nets which are suspended from the trees. More than 1,500 metres of giant trampolines, walkways, slides and tunnels, all made from bouncy netting are suspended up to 9 metres off the ground. This family friendly activity is accessible for anyone from the age of 3 years upwards so it is a great activity for everyone to enjoy (although be warned, it’s exhausting and I ran out of steam long before the children did!).
You can actually watch them from underneath as well so you don’t actually have to go on if you choose not to.
Mine particularly loved the huge balls that you can dive into, throw around and generally mess about with.
White Cross Bay is less than 5 minutes by car to Brockhole, where you can catch a boat to the other side of Lake Windermere to visit Wray Castle. On the way out you have to go to Ambleside first, get off the boat for 20 mins, re-board, and then set off for Wray Castle but on the trip back you go straight across to Brockhole.
The Woodland Nature Play Trail at Wray Castle is great. Plenty of climbing, balancing, swinging, and dens made out of sticks and branches. Most of the play area was made out of trees, logs and stumps with some huge pipes thrown in and they have made good use of the natural banks. We have visited with children aged between 3 and 16 and actually those between 35 and 45 too and all have found something fun to play on.
Wray Castle itself is free to get into if you’re a National Trust member and this is what they say about it
Wray Castle came to us without its contents so you will not see a ‘typical’ National Trust house full of paintings, furniture and antiques with an accompanying owner-family history through the ages. What you will see is a ‘tired’ but fascinating building with hints of its ‘grand’ past and plenty of signs of its varied history. Make sure you join one of our free tours to get its full life story.
The Lakes Aquarium
The Lakes Aquarium on the southern shore of Windermere is ‘home to hundreds of amazing creatures, showcasing wildlife from the Lake District as well as more exotic species from around the world’. Children can access a quiz as they explore and there are a variety of different attractions such as tanks at different levels, a tunnel to walk ‘under the lake’ and our personal favourite, the leaf cutter ants…here you were able to watch a colony of ants in action as they transported food and leaves from one end of their tank to the other. The aquarium (like with many aquariums) can be a quick visit if you have a small person who tears from exhibition to exhibition but you can easily keep wandering back too.
This is obviously only a handful of the things that you can do in the Lake District and at Windermere. You can easily spend a week or even two weeks on a family holiday in this area, easily making it the Best of Britain in my eyes.
If you’re having your own British adventure this summer, do share your photos with us on social media using #BestofBritian
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.