“You have to escape the city every few weeks”. That's my new mantra. We have chaotic crazy lives (like many of you reading this!) and having quality family time together is ultra important.
So when Heart of the Lakes wanted us to take a review trip on behalf of Away with the Kids we leapt at the chance. Eldest just off the coach from his first school residential… of course, bundle him into the car and drive out the city!
We absolutely adore the Lake District (don’t panic…we’re not a family of fell runners). The sheer beauty and peaceful indulgence of the place drags us back time after time. If there is anywhere in the UK which is an eclectic mix of art, sport and history with the most picturesque background, it's the Lakes.
We stayed this time at Crowmire Cottage, a beautifully presented 3-bed cottage on the edge of Troutbeck, a small village just outside Ambleside. Set at the foot of Troutbeck Valley, the cottage was a perfect tranquil base for our weekend of exploring. The property was fantastically equipped for our family trip (we were even able to wash and dry the residential trip kit!). The beautiful garden, pond and outdoor dining/seating area was a bonus, and waking up to lakeland deer in the garden delighted our already extremely giddy and excited children.
Once we'd got over the excitement of garden deer, we headed out to Allan Bank and Grasmere, and after a bit of searching we found a spot in the village in which to park up. On-site at Allan Bank it's disabled parking only, but it is well worth the short stroll from the village up the track to the main house with plenty of grassy banks and rocks to climb tempting the children along the way.
Allan Bank has been rejuvenated by the National Trust in the most beautiful way. We absolutely loved it here, hands down the most relaxed and welcoming National Trust site we have ever visited with the children. Their tea room is casual and relaxed - donations and help yourself! Soon after arriving we could see why the striped deckchairs billowing in the breeze would be the perfect place to unwind with a picnic for a few hours – plenty for the children to do (painting, crafting, exploring and outdoor games) and simply stunning views. Allan Bank is a rare gem of a place, where several generations could visit together, and make so many happy memories. I wish we could bottle the pure joy of every moment we spent there.
When we finally managed to entice the children away from Allan Bank, we moved onto to Rydal Mount, William Wordsworth’s most loved family home. The car park is small but with adequate parking and a small path leads you to house, tea room and onto the five acre garden that Wordsworth treasured so much. The gardens are exactly as Wordsworth intended them to be, naturalistic and simple and well-tended by curators Marian and Peter Elkington… who we met doing a spot of gardening. A perfect place to take a quiet stroll with a sleeping baby! We weren’t so lucky to have a sleeper with us but the children thoroughly enjoyed exploring the lawns, fellside terraces and rock pools, with Lake Windermere and Rydal Water as a perfect backdrop.
The house at Rydal Mount is full of precious possessions and steeped in history. Not somewhere where small hands can roam freely, but more suited to adults and inquisitive older children who can appreciate the sense of history and breathtaking views from the house. What better way to end our visit than with one of Marian’s scones… THE best scone I have ever tasted (and coming from a Welsh girl that's some achievement).
After the epic scone at Rydal Mount we were so ready for dinner at the Mortal Man and we weren’t disappointed. The staff were really welcoming and attentive, offering an excellent range of beer, ales and ciders. A popular traditional, dog-friendly, pub set high up in Troutbeck with breathtaking views from the large beer garden. Games for the kids to play and plenty of room to stretch their legs and burn off some energy in the beer garden, peering into the well and playing hide and seek in the evening sun whilst we could sit down, relax and enjoy the view for a while. Service was great, portions were huge (which greatly pleased a hungry daddy) and the food perfectly cooked and full of flavour. Fantastic end to another great day in the Lakes.
You can’t visit the Lake District and not get out on the water. The real gem of nearby Ambleside with the kids in tow (apart form the tennis courts, crazy, golf and boutique cinema...as if that’s not enough!) is the pier and access to Lake Windermere. We had hired self-drive boats several times before but the team at Ambleside Lakeside cruises were outstanding. Their 6 berth boats were exceptionally clean and well kept.
The water at Ambleside was much quieter than at Bowness which meant we could explore more of the lake on our trip. Our nine year old loves boating and a self-drive boat hire on the lake for a couple of hours in unfeasibly strong Cumbrian sun was his idea of absolute heaven… and surprisingly relaxing even with a two year old in tow! A waterfront pit stop at the Waterhead coffee shop for cake, ice cream and drinks when we were back on dry land was the perfect end to our latest escape to the Lakes. We will definitely be back...