A 5-Day Family Getaway in the Lake District of England 

Photo credit Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa
Photo credit Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa

While England’s history-rich cities and dramatic coastlines are enough to fill months of travel time, one of its most magical places is the Lake District. A family getaway to this region is one of the best ways to get outside into nature, enjoy a bit of adventure and explore the quaint towns of the area.  

Grasmere, Lake District England
Grasmere in the Lake District of England. Photo by Jonny Gios

Where is England’s Lake District?

Located in the northwest of England in Cumbria County, the Lake District is renowned for its rolling fells (mountains), forests and, of course, lakes.  

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area is steeped in literary romance, with poet William Wordsworth waxing on about the beloved region, and children’s author Beatrix Potter using her home surroundings as inspiration for her classic tales of Peter Rabbit.  

Why Book a Family Getaway

For families, the landscape is ripe for outdoor adventures — especially with England’s Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which allows public access to the countryside for recreational purposes, even if the land is privately owned. But no worry, much of the Lake District is part of a national park. 

There’s a lot to see and do in the Lake District, and to fully immerse yourselves in the area, plan to spend extra time here to relax and enjoy the surroundings together. 

Ambleside Lake District England- photo credit Ian Cylkowski
Ambleside. Photo by Ian Cylkowski

5-Day Lake District Itinerary  

Day 1: Ambleside

Start your Lake District tour in Ambleside, a charming town at the northern end of Windermere, England’s largest lake. Serving as the gateway to the Lakes District, Ambleside provides a village-like feel with a ton of character. Victorian-era houses with gingerbread patterns add to the charm.

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Bridge House in Ambleside- photo credit Jeff Buck
Bridge House in Ambleside. Photo by Jeff Buck

Pop into St. Mary’s Church to see the 1850s Gothic Revival style popular in England during that time, and check out the tiny Bridge House, built over Stock Ghyll stream. (Thus its name!) One of the most-photographed buildings in the Lake District, the house dates back to the 17th century and offers free entry. 

Spend the afternoon roaming the town’s narrow streets and make your way to the Armitt Museum and Library, which delves into notable local figures like Beatrix Potter. The collection includes many of the author’s original watercolors and drawings. The museum is free for children under 16. 

Looking inside of Rydal Cave in Lake District England United Kingdom
Rydal Cave. Photo by Jonny Gios

Day 2: Rydal and Grasmere

Start your morning at nearby Rydal Water, one of the smallest lakes in the region, and take a short hike to follow the trails that offer stunning views and a chance to spot local wildlife. On the edge of Loughrigg Fell, you can also explore the man-made Rydal Cave on a short and easy walk that is perfect for families. 

Dove Cottage in the Lake District of England
Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s former haunt. Photo by Likewinter

Dedicate the remainder of your day to exploring the quaint village of Grasmere, the home of Wordsworth, just five minutes from your morning hike. Grab lunch in the village and then beeline it to Dove Cottage, where the poet wrote much of his work, and the neighboring Wordsworth Museum. Kids will enjoy the interactive displays, craft workshops and dress-up play in period costumes.  

Be sure not to miss trying the famous Grasmere gingerbread while you’re here. This crumby yet chewy secret recipe dates back to 1854 and people would kill to uncover how to make it at home. 

Coniston in the Lake District- photo credit Jeff Buck
Coniston. Photo by Jeff Buck

Day 3: Coniston

Twenty minutes southwest of Ambleside, along one of the most beautiful of the area’s lakes, awaits another quaint village, Coniston.  

The village is located at the base of the Old Man of Coniston, a hiking fell with fabulous views from its summit. But this hike is strenuous, rising 2,635 feet above sea level, so skip it unless you’re traveling with energetic teens. 

Instead, visit Tarn Hows if you want to enjoy some family-friendly walking. A well-maintained path encircles the “tarn” (small hill); it’s a flat, 1.5-mile walk that is perfect with strollers. 

Next, visit the Ruskin Museum, where you can learn about Coniston and its “celebrity” residents, John Ruskin and Donald Campbell. The former was a Victorian-era poet and artist while the second was a speed racer who used Coniston Water to set seven world water speed records. His final attempt, in excess of 300 miles per hour, led to a deadly crash. Both men are revered in this former mining village. 

It will be a quick museum visit, which gives your family most of the day to enjoy the great outdoors. Take a ride into the past with a Steam Yacht Gondola cruise on Coniston Water.  

Originally providing service in 1859, when gondolas were common on the lakes, the current gondola has been restored to showcase its Victorian-era charm, including polished brass fittings and opulent saloons. The slow-moving ride takes about 2 hours if enjoying the full tour, or you can opt for a shorter cruise that lasts about 45 minutes.

High-wire adventure in Grizedale Forest-
High-wire adventure in Grizedale Forest. Photo by davidyoung11111/Adobe Stock

Day 4 Hiking and Grizedale

Also nestled near Ambleside, you’ll find a number of family-friendly hikes to enjoy in the morning. Loughrigg Fell offers a gentle slope that climbs just above 1,000 feet, with well-worn paths that are easy to follow to the summit. Once you reach it, enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking Windermere and Grizedale. After descending the fell, finish your day in the village of Grizedale, located between Coniston and Windermere Lakes. Its forest offers an interesting sculpture trail with more than 40 works of art scattered amid the trees.  

Kids will especially want to Go Ape at the treetop ropes course with ziplines in the forest. Programs can last one to three hours, depending on what you pick to accomplish. There are even beginner treetop programs for little ones.

Derwent Pencil Museum - photo credit Stinglehammer
Derwent Pencil Museum. Photo by Stinglehammer

Day 5: Keswick

Drive to Keswick, 30 minutes north of Ambleside, and spend your morning at the Derwent Pencil Museum. Kids can draw and learn how pencils were made in the town where they were first introduced in the 16th century. (Graphite, officially pencil “lead,” was discovered nearby in Borrowdale.) The museum is home to the world’s largest pencil at more than 26 feet, as well as replicas of WWII pencils that hid maps and compasses for British soldiers. 

The lively market town surrounded by mountains provides access to the shores of Derwentwater, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the lake and the beautiful backdrop. Friars Crag is a particularly scenic spot, but Crow Park has more space to spread out. 

In the afternoon, take a 50-minute cruise on Derwentwater with Keswick Launch Co. to see the lake’s islands and surrounding fells, or rent a cabin cruiser to explore on your own. Family-size boats are available for 2-hour rentals and boating instruction is provided.  

For a more active excursion, rent a kayak or canoes at Nichol End Marine and explore the lake at your own pace.

Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa Lake District England
Photo by Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa

Where to Stay in the Lake District

Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa

The Lake District is filled with darling inns and romantic B&Bs. But if you want a more traditional space that’s expansive enough to share with the kids rather than booking separate rooms, check out Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa in Windermere, just four minutes from Ambleside.  

Situated right on the water, the pet-friendly property features family rooms and rooms with spectacular views. It also offers free parking, free Wi-Fi and an indoor swimming pool so kids can splash about when you feel like sitting back and relaxing.  

The property is also filled with onsite dining so you don’t have to drive after long days exploring, and the adults can share a bottle of wine.   

Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa Lake District England
Photo by Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa

The resort is a destination in its own right, with a watersports center offering canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, sailing, wake surfing and boat rental. And, as the name implies, there is a spa with a number of treatment options, including massages to iron out the kinks after hiking in the fells.  

If you have a full week in the Lake District, spend the extra two days enjoying this luxurious property. 

Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly accommodations and activities in England on Ciao Bambino

52 tips for traveling in England with kids

Top holiday destinations in the United Kingdom with kids

A wonderful weekend in Bath, England with kids

8 favorite day trips from London with kids


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