By Rachael Parkin
Heading to the Lakes this summer? Wondering how to keep the whole family busy whilst keeping at least some hold on the purse strings? Keeping the kids occupied and entertained all summer can be an expensive business. If you’re on a budget or simply looking to alternate paid for activities with cheaper days out then here are a few of our ideas for keeping the whole family busy in the glorious Lake District this summer.
Whilst Grizedale has some fantastic, paid for activities on offer such as Go Ape Tree Top Adventure and Forest Segway, there are also heaps of things to do with are completely free of charge – all you have to pay for is parking. There are miles upon miles of forest tracks and trails to explore for a wide variety of abilities, with hidden artworks and sculptures to discover along the way, plentiful spots for peaceful picnics and a large adventure playground, just in case the kids weren’t tired out enough!
Entrance: Free (fee for parking) Additional paid for activities are available.
2.Coniston Boating Centre
Create your very own Swallows and Amazons day by hiring a boat from Coniston Boating Centre. Prices start from £20 for a rowing boat for up to four people, with motorboats and canoes also available. Picnic on Peel Island (aka Wild Cat Island), take a swim around its coves and if you can persuade someone else to row, sit back, relax and enjoy the magnificent views of the Coniston Fells from the water.
3.Free Guided Walks
If you would love to go out walking in the Lake District, but aren’t sure quite where to start then attending a free guided walk can be the perfect introduction to getting out and about within the National Park. The walks are run by dedicated volunteers and local experts and many of the family-friendly walks are free of charge (although donations are welcome). Check the official National Park Website for specific dates and routes.
4.Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway
If you’re travelling to the Lakes with children then a visit on the La’al Ratty is a must. Taking in seven miles of magnificent mountain and coastal scenery it is one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England. Booking online beforehand is a great way to make savings on ticket prices. You also can make further savings still by combining a ride on the railway with a walk with prices starting from as little as £1.20 per one-way ticket. The delightful riverside walk from Eskdale Green Station to Dalegarth Station and return by train makes for a perfect family day out. The walk takes in the stunning scenery of the Eskdale valley and there are refreshments available at arrival at Dalegarth station. The walk can also be lengthened slightly to include the spectacular Stanley Ghyll Force waterfalls - a detour well worth making!
If you’re looking for a day out in the Lakes with a difference then consider a visit to the charming Piel Island. This fascinating island, just fifty acres in size, is outside of the Lake District National Park but well worthy of investigation nevertheless. Located on the under-explored Cumbrian Coast, around 45 minutes away from Coniston, Piel Island is accessed by a local boat service which ferries visitors to and from the island during weekends and school holidays. The island is dominated by the red sandstone built Piel Castle, the ruins of which are ripe for exploration. There is also a pub, the aptly named Ship Inn, which serves hot food and the landlord of which holds the impressive title of “King of Piel” - it even has its own throne! Ferry to Piel Island from Roa Island (postcode for sat nav: LA13 0QN) £5 return per adult £3 return per child (under 5’s free).
Explore the ruins of the historic castle, picnic in its sprawling grounds and lose the children for hours at a time in the huge castle-themed adventure playground. There are ample open spaces to roam, hidden gardens to discover, trails to walk and places simply to sit, relax and soak up the atmosphere of this unique and intriguing gem. Booking online beforehand saves 10% with a pre-booked family ticket costing £30.60 for two adults and up to three children, making this a particularly good value option for larger families.
7. Fell Foot Park
Perfect for a sunny summer’s day Fell Foot Park, on the southern shores of Windermere, has stunning mountain views, sweeping open spaces and access to the lake for paddling and swimming. Watch as the Windermere Steamers come and go from Lakeside across the water, bring a picnic, a deckchair and spend the day in this beautiful spot. There is also a children’s play park, shop and café on-site for when you’ve finished your relaxing.
Entrance: Free (fee for parking – National Trust members can park for free).
A visit to Brockhole on the southern shores of Windermere makes for a pleasant day out – where you can do as much, or as little, as you choose. There is a fantastic, and free, adventure playground, a small indoor soft play area for younger children, grounds and lakeshore to explore, free exhibitions in the historic house, a café with a stunning terrace and a shop. There are ample benches and picnic tables dotted around where you can soak up the magnificent views of the lake and across to the fells and mountains beyond. There are also a whole host of additional, priced activities on offer should your adventurous side demand more than a quiet stroll and a coffee including; Treetop Nets, Treetop Trek, archery, caving experience and lots more.
Entrance: Free (fee for parking) Additional paid for activities available.
9.Lakeland Maize Maze
With a newly designed (and huge) maze grown from maize each summer along with ample other activities, there is plenty here to occupy families for an entire day, with the aim of the day being to get as lost as possible. And once you’ve (hopefully) found your way out there’s plenty of other things on offer including tractor rides and chances to meet and feed the animals in the pet barn and out on the farm. There’s also an indoor soft play area and climbing wall, an indoor straw bale maze, karting track and trampolines, all of which are included in the entrance fee.
Children 2-15 and students: £7.95
Family of 4: £32.00
10.Old Hall Farm, Bouth
This historic farm is still worked using traditional, 19th-century methods. Here you can see the farm and its vintage steam machinery and magnificent shire horses in action. There are also opportunities to meet and feed the baby animals in the barn, try your hand at milking at cow and visit the tea room or ice-cream parlour which serves delicious ice-cream made from milk from the farm’s own herd of Jersey cows.
Family tickets for two adults and up to three children are £28.00 (under 3’s free).