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5 Great Things to do with Kids in the Lake District

Looking for some interesting ideas for family outings with small children in the Lake District? Then look no further than these great suggestions.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Lake District Muncaster Castle view
Last week we went on a family vacation to the Lake District, taking in a packed schedule of attractions during our short five day trip. I love being outdoors and walking in particular but have resigned myself to a different style of holiday whilst I have young children (a three year old and another on the way) so it was brilliant to visit so many wonderful places that are family friendly in this gorgeous area of the UK. Here’s some great ideas for things to do with kids on your next visit to Cumbria.

Lake District Windermere Swan boat
Lake district Lake Windermere Swan family
Lake District Windermere row boats
Lake district Lake Windermere Swan
Windermere Lake Cruises
We spent a whole day on Windermere; a wonderful way to experience the drama of the Lake District landscape, even in overcast weather. Our first trip aboard the Swan (a lovely old boat) took place whilst it was still relatively windless and we were able to take in beautiful views from the open top deck, which is a great way to marvel at the extravagant private homes that line the idyllic eastern shore. From Bowness (after a delightful lunch in the quaint St Martin’s Tea Room & Grill) we took a trip around the islands, discovering that the smallest is but a tree stump clinging on above water level. Then we ventured to Ambleside at the northern end of the lake, where we ate ice cream in the wind, before returning all the way home aboard the Swan once more. This was Snarf’s first experience of being on boats and he especially loved watching the skippers turning their huge wooden wheels on the smaller boats.

Lake District Lakeland Motor Museum tableaux
Lake district Lakeland Motor Museum
Lake district Lakeland Motor Museum mannequin
Lake district Lakeland Motor Museum lady mannequinLake district Lakeland Motor Museum lady mannequin
Lakeland Motor Museum
The Lakeland Motor Museum is billed as the perfect rainy day attraction for Lake District visitors and it’s not hard to see why: whilst the Lakes are always stunning the weather can be difficult, and not everyone is happy outside in the wind and the drizzle. The museum is situated a short drive from the Southernmost end of Windermere, and boasts a large selection of vehicles from every era, including a rare DeLorean (the car from Back to the Future), the tiny Peel P50 car and some beautiful iconic bluebird blue examples of the cars and boats driven by speed racing driver and local legends Martin and Donald Campbell. Snarf is a great lover of all things wheel based and greatly enjoyed this packed space. I liked the slightly surreal tableaux with spooky mannequins arranged throughout the museum: so most of my photos appear to be of these!

Lake Distric South Lakes Safari Zoo Rhino
Lake district South Lakes safari park family
Lake District South Lakes Safari Zoo peacock
Lake District South Lakes Safari Lemur
South Lakes Safari Zoo tiger - tim adey
Lake District South Lakes Safari Zoo Tiger
Lake district South Lakes safari park peacock
Lake district South Lakes safari park giraffe
South Lakes Safari Zoo
This small but well stocked zoo is only a few decades old, the dream of an eccentric individual called David Gill, and when we visited it was relatively empty, giving us an excellent opportunity to view the animals up close. Our first stop was the interactive enclosure which houses a variety of exotic birds, lemurs and wallabies – making for quite a surreal experience. We particularly loved feeding grapes to the ring tailed lemurs, which have the most endearing personalities, sitting upright with bellies to the sun, or curled into groups with their young. We ate lunch at the Maki Restaurant, then visited some cheeky penguins, watched the tiger being fed from a prime position and helped to feed an elegant giraffe. Aren’t they gorgeous creatures? The extraordinarily strong winds on this exposed site finally got the better of us by late afternoon.

Lake District Ravenglass railway driver
lake district ravenglass railway
Lake District Ravenglass railway view
Lake District Ravenglass railway coal
Lake District Ravenglass railway river irt
Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway
It took us a long time to drive over to the coastal village of Ravenglass in the Western Lakes, but fortunately the route was one of the most scenic I have ever driven, taking in delightful villages aplenty and stunning views of the peaks on our sunniest day in the Lake District. The Ravenglass narrow gauge railway was first used to transport iron ore, then granite, but has also ferried passengers seven miles through scenic landscapes to Dalegarth for Boot for over 100 years. We were pulled by the gleaming River Irt steam locomotive which is the oldest in residence. At the far end we watched the train on the miniature turntable before hastily grabbing lunch at the station cafe (which sold a great selection of cakes – cakes are taken so much more seriously in the North). By luck we managed to nab a prime position right behind the driver for the downhill return journey, so our train obsessed little boy was able to mimic the driver as he shovelled coal into the engine and pulled the cord to make that inimitable steam engine noise. What a treat!

Lake District Muncaster Castle hawk experience
Muncaster Castle interior
Muncaster Castle haunted room fireplace
Lake District Muncaster Castle rhododendrons
Muncaster Castle Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington
Muncaster Castle red rhododendron
Muncaster Castle rhododendron
Muncaster Castle
It’s not often that you unexpectedly meet the owner of a huge castle but that is exactly what happened when the charismatic Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington blustered into the castle cafe outdoor seating area whilst we enjoyed some ice cream and started talking to us: about rhododendrons (beautiful and many at Muncaster) and the struggles he has had with the authorities on matters rural. The vast landscaped gardens perched on the hillside are an undoubted highlight of any visit to Muncaster Castle, (which is just up the road from Ravenglass), but sadly we were unable to explore as much as we would like with a small and increasingly tired boy in tow. Instead we took the zip wire in the playground and watched a half hour show on the castle lawns from the new Hawk Experience, featuring low flying birds of prey. Then we admired the staggering views across the valley (see the opening image) and took in a short tour of the un-lived in castle rooms, which retain such treasures as Jacobean embroideries and amazing carved fireplaces (particularly spectacular in the ‘haunted’ bedroom). I love the many colours and shapes of the dramatic rhododendron and would love to return to Muncaster Castle in future years.

With many thanks to Cumbria Tourism for arranging our tickets to these attractions. We stayed at the Holgates Silverdale Holiday Park and you can read more about our stay (and further ideas for places to visit in the area) here.

All photography by Amelia Gregory and Tim Adey.


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