Located in North West England, The Lake District National Park is one of the most stunning locations in the UK. Here, you will find vast lakes, quaint villages and mountainous scenery and with that there are plenty activities and delicious eateries suitable for all the family. Having lived here for over ten years, we were super excited to put this mini guide together which allows you to see the best of the Lakes in one long weekend.
The Lakes is great to visit all year round. With its stunning landscapes, it really is beautiful come snow, rain or sun. However, the best time to visit the Lakes is dependent on the activities you want to take part in. Of course, the sunny weather is never guaranteed and especially in the lakes which is famous for its yearly downpours and floods.
Nevertheless, if you would like to do plenty of outdoor activities without the rain, plan your trip between April and September. If you enjoy the snow, your looking at January to March. Any other cold weather one might wish for, visit between October to December. This year, the weather has begun to look up over the Easter break with the mini heat wave so perhaps this is a great time to plan your future visits earlier on in the year too!
Day 1: Arrive in Ambleside
There are many great places to stay around the lake district and South Lakes in particular. Ambleside is a great mid point where you can easily reach the main tourist areas including Grasmere, Keswick, Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere. There are many B&Bs, high-end hotels, budget hostels (e.g. YHA), static caravans, holiday homes and AirBnBs. If you fancy something a bit different, you can also find quirky accommodation such as sleeping pods and tipis, which can be a bit more affordable compared to the B&Bs and hotels depending on the time of year you visit.
Once you have settled into your accommodation, it’s time to boost your energy for the afternoon ahead. There are many great eateries around Ambleside including Zefferelis offering quality vegetarian cuisine at affordable prices. On the lunch menu, you can find filled jacket potatoes, goats cheese bruschetta, nut roast salad, sharing platters, sandwiches and a selection of other Mediterranean style dishes.
If you are not keen on vegetarian food, you can find tasty pub grub at The White Lion. You could even grab a take-out sandwich, salad box or pastry from The Picnic Box or try the best Fish and Chips in town from Walnut Fish and Chip Shop opposite Zeffirelli’s. During the summer time, you can enjoy your take-out food in Rothay Park on Vicarage Road or Boran’s Park on MacIver Lane. Both parks are reachable by foot from Ambleside Town.
After you have re-fuelled, it’s time for your first taste of the outdoors. From Ambleside town, head to Stockghyll force, which is just behind The Salutation Hotel & Spa, for a short and sweet walk around the waterfalls. The walk is suitable for most abilities and you can enjoy the 70 foot waterfall from the viewpoint. Once you arrive back in Ambleside, there are some lovely shops to explore such as the Rock Shop and Silver Moon on North Road.
Take a break to refresh at your hotel and get ready for dinner. There are some great spots around Ambleside including The Lily and Lucy’s on a Plate, which are perfect for couples. Ghandi’s Café has a good selection of vegetarian and vegan options and is great for all the family. Zefferelis offer dinner and movie deals, which is worth checking out if you want to make an evening of it.
The Log House offers fine dining and can be a bit more expensive. Towards the edge of town you will find one of the best spots, Wateredge Inn, offering delicious food from day to night at The Bar and Grill restaurant. Here, you can sit out in the garden which overlooks Lake Windermere, while indulging on locally sourced foods.
Day 2: Take a Road Trip to Grasmere and Keswick
From Ambleside you can easily reach Grasmere within 15 minutes. Grasmere is one of Cumbria’s most popular villages due to its link with William Wordsworth who lived in Dove Cottage with his sister Dorothy from 1799-1808. Having lived a stones throw away from the cottage for over five years, we can say it’s very popular with tourists to say the least! Many flock here throughout the year on coach tours to visit the place where Wordsworth composed some of his most famous and best-loved poems and Dorothy kept her famous Grasmere journals.
Dove cottage dates back to the early 17th century while many other buildings in Grasmere date back to the 19th or early 20th century except for the Church which is from the 13th century. Nowadays, gift shops and cafés are plentiful and the village provides the perfect location for a leisurely stroll around the shops. Here, you can grab a delicious lunch at Heidi’s Café or enjoy a hearty meal at Tweedies. Afterwards is the perfect time to enjoy a walk around Grasmere Lake.
From Grasmere, you can continue on the A591 to Keswick, which will take around 20 minutes. The drive to Keswick is one of the most stunning where you will be greeted with views of Thirlmere reservoir as you drop down the pass at Dunmail Raise. Before you arrive in the centre of Keswick, take a short detour to the stone circle at Castlerigg. Constructed as a part of the megalithic tradition, which lasted from 3,300 to 900 BC during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages, the stone circle is one of few stone circles in Britain. Here, you can enjoy the beautiful setting, which overlooks Thirlmere Valley with a backdrop of mountains including High Seat and Helvellyn.
Once you arrive in Keswick, you can wander around the quaint town and visit Keswick Museum and Art Gallery, which offers varied collections that feature Keswick’s landscape, history and culture. Located just a 15 minute leisurely stroll from Keswick town centre is Derwent Water, a 3 mile long, 1 mile wide, 72 feet deep water body known as “Keswicks Lake”. Here, you enjoy a scenic walk around the water on flat and easy paths. If you fancy a hike, Cat Bells is within three miles of the town of Keswick and is situated on the western shore of Derwent Water. At 451 metres high, Cat Bells is not for the faint hearted but will reward those who climb it with stunning views at the top. Once back in the village, re-fuel at one of the many eateries in Keswick town such as The Italian Casa Bella or the Wainwright Pub for local pub grub.
Day 3: Visit the Nearby Towns of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere
Windermere is just a short 15 minute drive from Ambleside and is a small town just over a mile from the lake shore. From here, you can reach Bowness-on-Windermere, which is one of the busiest towns along the shoreline where you will find the main jetties for cruise boats. Windermere Lake is 10.5 miles long, one mile wide, 220 feat deep and is the largest natural lake in both the Lake District and in England.
The lake cruises allow you to spend anywhere from 45 minutes to a full day on the water, which is for sure the best way to take in the stunning Lakeland views. The voyage will provide you with views of the mountainous scenery, secluded bays and woodland areas. You can even add on attractions such as the Lakes Aquarium, Steam Train or the Lakeland Motor Museum.
If you are feeling more adventurous, you can even hire your own row or motor boat or try your hand at kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding at Brockhole or Low Wood Bay, which are both located between Ambleside and Windermere. Low Wood Bay also features a café open to all with one of the best views in the Lakes. Alternatively, there are many places to hire a bike where you can explore the woodland areas or take to the road, or simply grab an ice-cream and take a stroll down the bay at Bowness while enjoying the scenery.
After a fun-packed day its time for some food and Windermere and Bowness do not disappoint when it comes to delicious eateries. Located in Windermere town, Bodega offers a lively atmosphere where you can enjoy cocktails and traditional Spanish tapas, which is perfect for couples and groups. Similarly, located in the heart of Windermere in one of the towns most historic buildings, Brown Sugar offers the perfect location for relaxed dining and drinks.
For local seasonal produce down in Bowness, head to The Angel Inn, a restaurant welcoming of all the family including the dog. Enjoy a variety of dishes from steak and lentil chilli to burgers, curry and pizza. Alternatively, The Flying Pig is a traditional pub situated a stones throw from Lake Windermere where you can enjoy high quality, fresh food at a good price while sipping on local ale. If you fancy a few drinks afterwards, The Fizzy Tarté cocktail bar serves some of the best cocktails in the Lakes.
The heart of the Lake District really does have something for everyone. Whether you are an adrenaline junkie or you simply want a weekend of relaxation, you will be sure to find it here in the beautiful Lakes.