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A Family Trip to the Lake District




The Lake District is considered by many to be the most beautiful part of Great Britain. Personally I think there a number of other contenders for that title, but certainly the Lakes are one of the most dramatic and impressive regions.

Sixteen major lakes are neatly organised within an area just thirty miles across, but the most popular – principally because of its easy access from the M6 motorway – has to be Windermere. First let me clarify one point. It should not be referred to as Lake Windermere, because ‘mere’ means lake. It’s derived from ‘Winders Mere’, and therefore should be known simply as Windermere.

Niceties sorted, let me take you on a brief tour around my favourite of all the lakes. Like most of the waters in the Lake District, Windermere is long & thin, with hills rising steeply from its shores for most of its length. It’s also very deep, giving the characteristic dark blue hue to its glistening waters, and is surrounded by some dense forests that throw a menacing black reflection near the banks.

It’s possible to travel around the lake quite extensively using public transport. Busses are quite frequent between most towns, and there is also the very appealing option of using the lake itself. Ferries and cruisers link across & along Windermere, and I like to combine these and busses to travel about. Of course, this is also superb and immensely popular walking country, and again you can use a mixture of public transport to get you to and from the beginning and end of many of the best walks.

Just to the north of the town of Windermere, where most visitors first arrive, there is an excellent visitor centre. Alongside the various displays that highlight all aspects of the Lake District, there is a wide choice of information sheets giving different walks – both guided and independent.

I like to base myself either in Bowness, or Ambleside, as both offer good links to all the places I enjoy visiting in the area. My favourite is the Belsfield Hotel, a large Victorian building overlooking the pretty harbour, with gardens & its own swimming pool. Its just a few minutes walk into the picturesque town centre, where there are plenty of good restaurants including the town’s oldest; the ‘Hole in the Wall’.

Bowness is a very appealing place to wander around, and the small but excellent Beatrix Potter museum brings to life the famous tales that were written just across the lake. I know it’s for children, but even I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The town also has a steamboat museum, and is the starting point for a variety of lake cruises.

There are two particular water-borne trips worth taking from here. Firstly to cruise to the southern end of the lake, where the boats link with the old steam railway taking you on to Haverthwaite. If you’re looking for a relaxing day out, where the scenery drifts past and nothing seems to rush, it’s ideal. It’s easy to imagine how little has changed in the last hundred years.

The second route takes the ferry over the lake, leaving early in the day, leaving me free to walk up winding roads lined with unending dry stone walls. On top of the hill is Sawry, where you can visit Beatrix Potter’s house.

Then, continue past the shimmering Ethswaite Water, to the small picture-postcard village of Hawkshead. Amid a maze of tiny lanes there are more links to the authoress, with her husbands’ offices now laid out as a museum to the work of Beatrix Potter. The village can get saturated with tourists, but its still worthy of some time. If you’re fit, then is quite possible to carry on and reach Ambleside, before getting a bus back to Bowness.

Ambleside rivals Bowness as the main tourist town on the lake. Equally pretty, and with a few more shops and restaurants, it also has a better choice of walks up to the high peaks of the Kirkstone Pass. However, there is one point to note if you arriving by boat. It’s quite a distance from the quayside to the town centre. I cleverly decided to walk, and half an hour later, as the rain started, it was apparent I had not made the best choice. The weather in the Lake District can change very quickly, so I recommend you always keep some wet weather gear close at hand.

The Lakes are not an area I visit for the weather, of course. But though they can’t offer guaranteed sunshine, they bring an unrivalled choice of stunning scenery, invigorating walks, varied wildlife, relaxing cruises, and a wonderful friendly welcome. And that’s just in the area you can see from your hotel room window!

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The Belsfield Hotel, Bowness.   

0844 736 8604      

Set in the perfect position, looking out over across the small, pretty Bowness harbour. It’s an impressive hotel with large rooms and grand public areas, but without it being too expensive.

There’s a small but pleasant indoor pool, and a games room with cards, domino’s, table-tennis, etc.  

The restaurant offers a good selection of dishes, well cooked and presented, and has fine views over the gardens and the lake. Breakfast is buffet style, but with a wide choice of both cooked items, and a cool display.

For families, there are spacious three and four bedded rooms, which can be separated into two parts, and are more akin to a small suite. Excellent.

It’s a good place to base yourself for exploring, leave your car in the hotel car park, and avoid all the congestion and parking problems around the lakes by using public transport.


The multi-award winning editor of Pro Traveller, Trevor Claringbold is a journalist, broadcaster, and TV  producer.

His passion for travel has seen him travel extensively, and he has over 30 years experience in the media, including 15 years as a presenter and producer with the BBC.

The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction

01539 488444

Excellent experience for all the family, with some beautifully constructed displays everywhere you look. The more you look, the more you see, with tiny displays secreted below drain gratings, in the walls, etc., as well as large walk in scenes for children to have their photos taken.

Windermere Lake Cruises   

01539 443360  

Operating a mixed fleet of lake cruisers between a number of locations around Windermere, they offer a convenient way to travel about, or just experience a cruise to take in the delightful scenes.