Over Easter we took a family holiday to the Lake District. We stayed in a little place called Cunsey, pretty close to Sawrey (famous for being the home of Beatrix Potter). We were sandwiched in between the lakes of Windermere and Esthwaite (Beatrix said that the latter was the prettiest lake of all). We could see Windermere from our windows and to wake up to the sight of water, hills, sheep and the daffodils just awakening was a real spring time treat. We all slept very well, even the non-sleeping 3 year old Though she did wake me at 5.45am one morning to tell me that the baby lambs were crying!
There’s a lot of different adventures to be had in that area. Five of the activities listed below involve the National Trust so it’s quite possibly a good idea to invest in National Trust membership if visiting the area for a week or longer (we did!). Here’s what we got up to:
A boat trip around Windermere
One afternoon we took a boat trip around the lake from Bowness. We had to get on a little chain ferry to get across the lake to Bowness in the first place, that itself was an adventure! Bowness is a tourist hub on the east coast of the lake and there are different boat or bus trips you can book there. There’s also a cinema (rainy day option) and The World of Beatrix Potter attraction which we went to last year. We opted for a 45 minute lake cruise and were able to sit on the top of the boat for amazing views across the lake.
We wanted to do a bit of walking but our little one has only recently stopped using her buggy so we knew we couldn’t plan anything too ambitious. Beautiful Tarn Hows in Coniston was perfect! The tarn is partly artificial, having been created from three tarns joined together over a hundred years ago. It is surrounded by woodland and on a clear day you can see over to the Helvellyn range and the Langdale Pikes. There is a level 1.5 mile path around the Tarn which is suitable for buggies. Tarn Hows is owned by the National Trust (it was left to them by Beatrix Potter) so members can park for free. During busy seasons there is a National Trust van there where we picked up children’s trails, paper bags to put “treasure” in and barred binoculars to look for birds.
We spent about 3 hours at the Tarn, stopping for lunch, scrabbling up banks, admiring the views and picking up conifer cones.
Hill Top in Sawrey, near Hawkshead, was Beatrix Potter’s home and is featured in illustrations in a number of her books. It is now a National Trust property. Children are given a copy of The Tale of Samuel Whiskers when they walk through the door and encouraged to match up the various pieces of furniture and corners of the house to the book’s illustrations (including the chest of drawers in the photo above). We spent around 30 minutes in the house and not too long in the garden due to rain. Parking is very limited at Hill Top and timed tickets to the house are available from 10am so get there early if you want to park!
Beatrix Potter Gallery
The gallery was a bit of an after thought for us but we found ourselves in Hawkshead in the rain after visiting Hill Top and decided to go in. I am so pleased we did, because the girls enjoyed this more than Hill Top! There was plenty to keep them occupied including a National Trust Easter egg trail, various art activities as you go round the gallery plus a small but well resourced play area tucked away on the landing. The gallery building was once the office of solicitor William Heelis, Beatrix’s husband and is packed with Beatrix’s original artwork.
Wray Castle is a National Trust property like no other I have been to. The Neo-Gothic castle was built in the early 19th century and has been owned by the National Trust for some time. However, it has only recently been open to the public after a variety of uses including being a youth hostel and a Merchant Navy college. It has not (yet) been transformed back to its further glory which means it provides a blank canvas for a series of wonderful play rooms. There are a number of Beatrix Potter themed rooms (our 3 year old climbed into Peter Rabbit’s bed to read a book), dress up rooms, art rooms, a room full of foam blocks to build dens with and still more play rooms.
We did (another) Easter egg hunt when we were there too.
There are a few rooms which tell the story of the house and about Margaret and James Dawson who built the house using her inherited fortune.
The grounds are beautiful too, with a wonderful natural playground and you can walk down to the edge of the lake. Visitors are encouraged to arrive at Wray Castle via the water, on a boat from Ambleside. There is a small car park at Wray but I imagine that would easily get filled up at peak times.
Lastly we went to Allan Bank in Grasmere. It is similar to Wray Castle in lots of ways. Once the home of Dorothy and William Wordsworth, it is now a National Trust property and has only recently been open to the public. Whilst hinting to the previous occupants, the rooms are predominantly used as a space for visitors to relax, think and be creative – you can find spaces to play, read, craft, draw and paint, all of the while looking at the stunning views from every window. There is a self-serve kitchen area providing hot drinks, squash and biscuits for a donation. There is a picnic room too but you are able to grab yourself a cup of tea and find an arm chair in any room in the house to sit down in!