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Full guide to the Lake District holiday cottages

Full guide to the Lake District

What better place to holiday than the inspiration behind many of Beatrix Potter’s animal tales? Having bought her first house in the Lake District with the proceeds of her most famous character, Peter Rabbit, Potter went on to live in many houses in the area, even leaving some to the National Trust when she died. Her influence lives on in many parts of this area, as does the influence of the romantic Lakeland poets who came to the Lakes in the 19th century.

An introduction to the Lake District

Not only connected to some of England’s most famous literary artists, the spectacular lakes and rugged mountains of Cumbria are amongst the most beautiful in the country. With over 200 square kilometres of stunning landscape, the Lake District National Park is famous for its glacial ribbon lakes, rugged fell mountains and coniferous and deciduous forests, which has made it a top travel destination for tourists for decades.

As the most visited national park in the UK with an average of 15.8 million annual visitors, the Lake District makes a wonderful holiday destination whether with a loved one (human or canine) or with all the family. Great for walking and active holidays, there is also a sense of tranquility just sitting watching the lakes and mountains – this is nature therapy at its very best. The glistening waters of the lakes, shadowed by rust and moss coloured mountains play host to pretty market towns and villages dotted with traditional Lakeland cottages. The Lakes can only be described as a real delight for weary city eyes.

The Lake District coast

The beach and coastline at Ravenglass, in the Lake District in CumbriaThe coastline at Ravenglass

Don’t think however that the Lake District is just lakes and mountains! It also hosts twenty six miles of coastline and estuaries; reaching from Seascale to Millom, this area is quite different to the rest of the park. You will experience dramatic views into the high fells, mountain ranges, moor-covered hills and out to the Irish Sea. This area is rich with dunes and estuaries and its nature reserves are full of interesting sea life and birds. For our canine friends, head to Drigg beach, a perfect stretch of golden sands to walk your dog – just remember to keep him on a lead when near livestock.

Wildlife in the Lake District

Red squirrel

Wildlife known to inhabit the Lakes include the red squirrel, the red deer, the Fell pony, countless other insects and birds such as the magnificent osprey, who feeds from the waters of the lakes. Since Potter’s famous bright-eyed and bushy-tailed critter, Squirrel Nutkin, came into our consciousness, the red squirrel has had a great affiliation with the Lake District; sadly due to the success of the non-native grey squirrel, they are under real threat and programmes have been set up in the area to reintroduce this endangered species.

Wordsworth’s most famous work, inspired by an April walk in 1802 amongst the daffodils, will be on your mind as you experience the Lake District for yourself.

Our favourite Lake District towns and villages

If you’re looking for the best places to visit in the Lake District, we have some great ideas on where to go, including the best villages, towns and lakes.

Hawkshead

Described as the prettiest village in the Lakes and set in the heart of the Vale of Esthwaite, Hawkshead is the perfect base for exploring the Southern Lakes. With gorgeous little towns, lakes and mountains all within easy reach, you can also hop on the ferry to the bustling centres of Windermere and Bowness. From Hawkshead there are also many lovely walks straight out of the village, winding through the captivating landscape that inspired, amongst others, Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter to put pen to paper.

Streets of Hawkshead village in the Lake District, Cumbria

A once prosperous medieval wool town, its links with this literary pair make it an interesting visit, and each have a museum dedicated to them, both well worth visiting. Take the time to have a stroll around this delightful village with its cluster of whitewashed houses and pretty courtyards full of flowers, and be sure to stop for a cream tea in one of the little tearooms. There are also four family and dog-friendly pubs to choose from if you prefer something a little stronger after a bracing walk in the mountains!

Find out more about Hawkshead with our guide to Hawkshead, packed with everything you need to know about this charming village.

If you’ve already been convinced to spend your next holiday in Hawkshead, check out our full collection of Hawkshead holiday cottages, set in the heart of the village.

Near and Far Sawrey

Perfectly placed just off the banks of Esthwaite Water and shadowed by the woods and deep freshwater tarns of Claife Heights, Sawrey’s two hamlets are a delight of picturesque cottages, tea rooms and country inns.

The village of Near Sawrey in the Lake District, Cumbria

In Near Sawrey you will find the famous Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s 17th century farmhouse, bought with the proceeds of the first of her wonderful tales – the mischievous Peter Rabbit. Slightly further away in Far Sawrey is the beautiful St. Peters Church, just as lovely in the spring when surrounded by frolicking lambs as in wintertime with its steeple covered in fallen snow. Keep following the road out of Near and Far Sawrey and you will find yourself on the banks of the glorious Lake Windermere.

Find your perfect base in Near or Far Sawrey with our collection of accommodation in the area.

Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows is one of the most visited and beautiful spots in all of the Lake District. A small mountain lake surrounded by an abundance of spruce, larch and pine conifers, it is the perfect place for a day out by the water. Its paths, accessible to all, are dotted with grassy picnic spots where you can throw a blanket down and enjoy a well-deserved rest. The land in which Tarn Hows lies was donated to the National Trust in 1930 by Beatrix Potter and since then the location has been carefully maintained by the trust.

Tarn Hows near Hawkshead, in the Lake District in Cumbria

It is often said that it is impossible to improve on the designs of nature, however Tarn Hows may be the one exception to that rule as the current tarn is mostly artificial. At the turn of the last century the landowner dammed the stream at the southern end of the existing pond, Low Tarn, flooding the valley and creating the stunning Tarn Hows that delights visitors today.

Wake up to amazing views of Tarn Hows each morning with our delightful Tarn Hows holiday cottages.

Coniston

Shadowed by one of the most dramatic and spectacular mountains in the area, The Old Man of Coniston, this village is an excellent base for walkers and climbers as well as those who have come to investigate the Tilberthwaite slate quarries.

Coniston Water lake in the Lake District, Cumbria

For a real Lake District experience, head to the Monk Coniston estate, also bequeathed to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter on her death. Stretching all the way from Coniston to Skelwith Bridge, it also takes in the famous beauty spot of Tarn Hows, mentioned above, and the Trust publishes some great walking and biking trails of the area.

You will need another full day to enjoy Coniston Water. This magnificent lake is home to three small islands, all owned by the National Trust, and it is a haven for watersport fanatics. You can also take a ride on the Steam Yacht Gondola between March and November, passing through spectacular Lake District farm and woodland, including the walled garden and tree collection of Monk Coniston Hall. Children will have great fun looking out for the locations from the book ‘Swallows and Amazons’ which was partly based on Coniston Water – just make sure they have read it before going!

There’s so much to explore in Coniston – take a look at our cottages there to base yourself at the heart of the action.

Lake Windermere

One of England’s largest and most popular lakes, and surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and villages, the romantic Lake Windermere is known for its spectacular scenery as well as being a fabulous watersport hotspot. With over ten miles of beautiful shore to explore, you can walk or cycle for miles and miles without seeing a soul. No need to worry if you are more a spectator than walker however, as Windermere Lake Cruises offer a range of scenic cruises that allow you to see the whole of the lake in comfort from their inner and outer viewing decks.

Boats on Lake Windermere in the Lake District, Cumbria

Try to pay a visit to Bowness-on-Windermere to visit The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. The lake is also an excellent centre for boating activities where you can hire a motor or rowing boat to explore the eighteen islands dotted around. If you prefer a slower pace of life, there are also riding centres where you can be taken out to see the sights on horseback – a lovely way to experience the lake from a higher vantage point!

Enjoy the mesmerising views, attractions and activities that Lake Windermere has to offer from our gorgeous lakeside cottages.

Grizedale and Satterthwaite

Grizedale Forest Park offers the perfect day out, with an extensive range of paths, picnic areas, forest roads and tracks, as well as a great adventure playground for children. The sculpture trails are great fun and encourage children to explore the woodland and even gives them a chance to play on one of nature’s own instruments, the forest xylophone. The Ridding Wood trail is brilliant for any budding Bear Grylls who make balancing on a suspension bridge over a woodland gill look easy – join them at your peril! The Go Ape! attraction in the forest also offers hours of treetop fun for all the family.

The village of Satterthwaite in Grizedale Forest, Lake District, Cumbria

The park has simply stunning views of both Coniston Water and Lake Windermere, as well as the enchanting Grizedale Valley. If you are up to it, hike up to the highest point at Carron Crag and enjoy the panoramic view from there. Afterwards, head to The Eagles Head in Satterthwaite, the only village in the forest, for a well-deserved bite to eat – you will need to replenish your reserves after that climb! Force Forge is further south and is great for those wanting to escape from it all and enjoy the wildlife and river which cascades past this quaint little hamlet.

Stay in the midst of this amazing forest park with our Grizedale and Satterthwaite cottages.

Lake Bassenthwaite

One of the largest water bodies in the Lake District, Lake Bassenthwaite doesn’t have any settlements on its shores but it does have a plethora of sailing boats dotted all about the water. It is known as the only ‘true’ lake in the Lake District, as all of the others are actually meres or waters. Home at the northern end to the Lake District’s first ever wetland nature reserve, you might be lucky enough to sight grasshopper warblers, curlews, geese and meadow pipits from designated viewing points.

Lake Bassenthwaite in the Lake District, Cumbria

Whinlatter Forest, just above the lake, is known to be the nesting place of ospreys which come down to the lake to catch fish – here you may just catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures. There is a shore path all along the western side that you can walk along but there is no access there to the east side, only at Mirehouse. At this lovely country house and gardens, there is a tiny open-air theatre, built in 1974 for the reading of ‘Morte d’Arthur’ to the Tennyson Society. It is thought that Tennyson composed much of the poem here. For the more adventurous, Go Ape Whinlatter Forest offers both thrilling treetop adventures and fun segway rides.

Stay by the shores of Lake Bassenthwaite with our cottages nearby.

Ambleside

The bustling and welcoming town of Ambleside at the north of Lake Windermere may be small but it has a big heart! With lots of little specialist shops, pubs and restaurants, this largely Victorian town is the perfect place to stop off for a wander, pre or post walk. William Wordsworth had his own office here, not as a poet but as ‘Collector of Stamps’ for Westmorland (everyone has to have a day job!) and no doubt this handsome town stirred his imagination.

The town of Ambleside in the Lake District, Cumbria

Be sure to visit one of the most photographed Lakeland buildings, the 17th century National Trust property Bridge House. Poised over Stock Ghyll – a spectacular 70-foot waterfall – it is carpeted by a bed of golden daffodils in the spring. Remember your camera for this beautiful scene and, before putting it away, head over to Ambleside Waterhead for breathtaking views of Lake Windermere.

Explore this charming town from the comfort of our Ambleside accommodation.

Keswick

This beautiful market town, nestled in the shadow of the mountains, is a haven of sweet Monopoly-style houses on the shores of Lake Derwentwater. Reminiscent of a magical land with cloud-capped mountains and far-reaching hills, the town sits quietly, refusing to taint the surrounding countryside with its presence.

Keswick town centre in the Lake District, Cumbria

Sadly a victim of the 2015 floods, Keswick is doing its best to get back to normal and still holds a traditional Saturday market where you can peruse a variety of goods as well as an annual Christmas Victorian market. The Museum and Art Gallery, which holds the original manuscripts of the Lake poets, and The Theatre by the Lake are both worth a visit while here. The spectacular Castlerigg Stone Circle, dating from the megalithic era, can also be found nearby, with amazing views over to peaks such as Helvellyn and Blencathra.

Fall in love with Keswick and the northern lakes with a stay at our Keswick cottages.

A place like no other

The Lake District is unique, not only thanks to its scenery but also thanks to its way of life – you’ll find some events and things to do here that you just can’t experience anywhere else. From fell running to Cumberland wrestling, there’s all sorts of weird and wonderful things to try, while year-round Cumbria also boasts a fabulous events calendar, featuring music festivals, county shows and more.

Hound trailing event in the Lake District, Cumbria

Find the full list of the Lake District’s top events here.

Our favourite Lake District walks

Whatever type of walking you enjoy, you will find a place to do it in the Lake District. Fell walking and climbing has become very popular over the last years with lots of television programmes and books dedicated to the subject, and what better place to experience this than the Lakes?

Our favourite walks from Hawkshead

A great place to have as a base is the pretty village of Hawkshead in the Southern Lakes. Set off from here to explore the stunning mountain ranges, and return later in the day for a scrumptious cream tea at one of the village’s tearooms. Recommended climbs are the Fairfield Range above Ambleside and the Coniston and Langdale Fells.

The view from the summit of Coniston Old Man

Low level and short walks

For lower level walks, there are so many that we don’t know where to begin! Claife Heights and Tarn Hows both offer exceptional views and Grizedale Forest offers the added attraction of hidden sculptures which delights both children and adults alike. We all know that little ones can’t walk for hours, so this is a brilliant place to stop and encourage them to explore. The famous Lake Windermere offers lots of opportunities on a sunny day to stop and paddle while you are walking, and the other lakes are also wonderful for short or longer walks.

Tarn Hows in the Lake District, CumbriaTarn Hows

You can find even more of our favourite short walks here.

Guided walks

The best way to get to know the area is to look for guided walks. Alfred Wainwright, the famous fell walker and author, has written some lovely guides with stunning hand-drawn illustrations of the walks – these are well worth a read if you want to enhance your trip with some beautiful literature. There are also guided walks run by the National Park Authority, and they also produce informative leaflets for walks in each area.

Dogs

Dogs are welcome in most areas of the Lake District, but be aware of wildlife and livestock, keeping them on leads where necessary. Remember not all dogs can cope with rugged mountain walking or may not be water aware – always check routes and times before you go.

Dog walking in the Lake District, Cumbria

Dogs are welcome not only outdoors but also at our pet-friendly cottages – check out the full collection here.

Our Lake District walking guide also has several more ideas for great walks of all kinds in the region.

Cycling

Whether you are a mountain biker or road cyclist, you will be spoilt for choice at the Lakes. There are cycleways, bridleways and lots of beautiful country lanes for every level – all you have to do is pedal! Some lovely areas to park up, get out the bikes and just ride for miles are Grizedale Forest and Claife. They offer marked mountain bike routes and there are graded routes for all levels. You may have seen the North Face mountain bike route in the press – this is your time to give it a try!

Cycling in the Lake District, Cumbria

You can hire bikes from various places across the Lakes – normal bikes, electric bikes, tagalongs and bike trailers - and you can also take part in the free guided Skyrides in the area.

Check out our top picks for cycle routes here.

Watersports

There’s nothing better than messing about on the water, and of all the places to do it, the Lake District is one of the best. With more than sixteen lakes and tarns and a stretch of coastline, there are masses of things to do; windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, rowing, as well as alternative watersports or just splashing about having fun! Rowing boats can be hired from Windermere and Coniston and the Low Wood Watersports Centre near Ambleside offers waterskiing, wakesurfing and sailing as well as kayaking, canoeing and boat hire if the first three sound too strenuous.

Boats on Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria

For something really relaxing, an excellent way to experience the Lakes without getting your hands wet is to take a trip on the Steam Gondola which ambles its way along the banks of Coniston Water. Here you can sit back and put your feet up, only pausing to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. Windermere Cruises also offers short and longer routes along its famous shores.

You can find all of our favourite things to do on the water here.

Fun for all the family

If you are taking little ones with you, or even bigger ones, there are lots of other things to do besides watersports. Even if you don’t want to actually go out on the water, Brockhole, the National Park Visitor Centre, located between Ambleside and Windermere has a great playground and lots of events over the school holidays. It is also excellent for walks around the gardens and the shore of the lake.

Girl feeding a llamaLlama feeding at the Lakeland Maze Farm Park

With something for everyone, you’ll be spoilt for choice with family days out in the Lake District. Check out our favourite places to go here.

Beatrix Potter

The World of Beatrix Potter is a must for older children or for those of us who have grown up with the Tales of Peter Rabbit and friends as bedtime reading. There you are treated to scenes from the stories and there is a lovely video about Potter’s life at the Lakes.

Squirrel Nutkin at the World of Beatrix Potter, Bowness-on-Windermere, CumbriaSquirrel Nutkin at the World of Beatrix Potter

There are a whole host of attractions celebrating Beatrix Potter in the Lake District, which are sure to thrill children and adults alike – find them all here.

Active days out

If you are after an action-packed holiday, why not give Activities in Lakeland a call; they will organise fun-packed family days without you having to do a thing – you can try your hand at archery and rockclimbing or even give falconry a go. Go Ape is a great tree top assault course for older children situated in Grizedale Forest and has sculpture trails, bike hire and a playground for little ones. Lakeland Climbing is also great for outdoor climbing tuition for adults and children over eight.

Go Ape! treetop course in Grizedale Forest, CumbriaGo Ape! treetop course in Grizedale Forest

For even more thrilling activities, our ultimate Lake District activities guide has you covered.

Fun for the grown-ups

Not all trips to the Lakes involve children – sometimes you just want to get away on your own or with your loved one. As well as all the romantic walking and snuggling up back at one of our cottages, there are lots of other pampering treats to enjoy in this beautiful area. Pop in for afternoon tea at Lakeside Hotel, Lindeth Howe or Linthwaite House Hotel, enjoy a spot of luxury at the Michelin starred Samling, or stroll around the lovely gardens at Rothay Manor.

For fine dining, try the Holbeck Ghyll which has a wonderful terrace on which to eat under the summer stars or L’Enclume, an innovative experience which tests your taste buds by using unusual flavour combinations – both have been awarded coveted Michelin stars. For a spot of pampering, book a Lake District spa day at Langdale or have a much-needed massage to while away the stresses of life at the Daffodil Hotel in Grasmere.

Local delicacies

The Lake District is one of the UK’s foodie hotspots – not only is it home to a number of award-winning restaurants, as previously mentioned, but it’s also home to some rather tasty local delicacies. Try some hearty Cumberland sausages, sticky toffee pudding, Kendal mint cake or freshly baked Grasmere gingerbread, each made according to the traditional recipe, in their location of origin.

Sticky toffee puddingSticky toffee pudding

You’ll find the Lake District’s tastiest treats, as well as where to find them, here.

Stay in the Lake District

We have some truly stunning properties in the Lake District, from those perfect for paws to romantic boltholes to family-friendly cottages. You're bound to find the ideal place to stay on your retreat to the Lakes.

Sunnyside Cottage in Hawkshead, Lake District

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