A week camping in... the Lake District
The Lake District is all things to all people – just as popular with outdoor adventure seekers as it is with those looking for peace and quiet.
History and literature buffs rub shoulders with fell walkers, while groups of teenagers share campsites with young families enjoying a summer holiday.
In the northern lakes is Keswick. This busy market town, whose fortunes were founded on graphite and slate mining, lies between the towering presence of Skiddaw’s hills and the serene beauty of Derwentwater. Keswick has a wide range of shops, restaurants and even a Saturday market which began in 1276. It’s also a great place to explore the northern Lakes.
The popular stone and slate-built town of Windermere, and its environs, has lots to offer the enthusiastic touring fan, including a wide range of shops, eateries and pubs.
For a real Cumbrian experience, head down to the Hole in t’ Wall in Robinson Place, Bowness, where many locals eat and drink.
Afterwards take a walk down to the lake and hop on one of the tourist boats for a relaxing cruise.
To get a real feel for the region, head north out of Windermere on the A592 Kirkstone Pass. It’s narrow in places, so cars or bikes (not motorhomes or caravans) are best. Stop for a breather/beer at the Kirkstone Pass Inn at the top, before heading on down to beautiful Ullswater.
A WEEK IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
DAY 1 KESWICK
Keswick is the main town of the northern Lakes and a great place to explore from. Take a cruise across Derwentwater from the jetties beside Hope Park, or there are traditional wooden rowing boats if you want to explore at your own pace.
The town has a couple of quirky museums – the Puzzling Place is great for all ages and is a fun foray into the world of optical illusion, while the Keswick Pencil Museum houses the world’s first pencil and the world’s largest one, too!
There is lots of walking around here, and it’s easy choose the level of difficulty that suits. You can enjoy what they call “family walks” around Derwentwater, a total distance of eight miles, or face a more challenging walk at nearby Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England.
DAY 2 ADVENTURE TIME
At the southern end of Derwentwater is the valley of Borrowdale, leading to the Honister Pass and the home of Honister Slate Mine.
The mine has a visitor centre and guided tours, which vary depending on your level of adventure.
They range from a flat walk underground, to venturing out onto the mountain and across the Infinity Bridge.
For those with a huge sense of adventure (and a massive dose of bravery, too), Honister also offers Via Ferrata. Using a series of metal cables, rungs, ladders and bridges, those taking part ascend to unimaginable heights, all while attached by fixed safety cables.
DAY 3 WINDERMERE
Spanning 10 miles between Ambleside and Newby Bridge, Windermere is the largest lake in the Lake District and is one of the National Park’s busiest sights.
You can take a scenic boat trip around the lake and its islands from Bowness-on-Windermere, which is a great little town to wander around to enjoy its scenic charms.
Bowness is also home to the World of Beatrix Potter attraction and located near Lake Windermere is Hill Top, Beatrix’s former home. For time away from the tourist crowd, try the much quieter western shoreline of the lake in areas like the wooded trails of Claife Heights and the grounds of Wray Castle.
Picture: VisitEngland/Cumbria Tourism
DAY 4 GO APE
Head west to Whinlatter Forest Park, England’s only true mountain forest for a bit of mountain biking (three trails) or walking (nine trails) amid superb scenery and wildlife.
Alternatively, save your energy and take an off-road Segway tour of the forest, or go one adrenalin step further with a couple of hours in the treetops on a Go Ape experience.
The longest zip line measures 89 metres! It all makes for a great day out.
DAY 5 ON YOUR BIKE
For a spot of exercise, hire bikes from Brockhole, a house and 30-acre gardens near Windermere and spend a day whizzing along the bike-friendly paths. Prices include helmets, locks and a lake crossing to the western shore, which is quieter with plenty of bridleways.
DAY 6 MEET THE WILDLIFE
A perfect family day out, the South Lakes Safari Zoo at Lindal-in-Furness offers a few unusual treats.
Firstly, different species are allowed to roam together within their enclosures, which better reflects the mix of animals in the wild.
Secondly, they also let humans inside, too! This means that emus, prairie dogs, lemurs and squirrel monkeys all interact with each other and with the visitors. There is a no-touch rule, but this doesn’t stop the experience being one not to miss.
Another unusual feature is the fact that they feed the tigers and jaguars by pinning the food to the top of a telegraph pole, meaning the big cats have to run and climb the pole to get their dinner.
DAY 7 TAKE A STEAMER
No visit to the Lakes is complete without a trip across the water on a famous Ullswater Steamer. These began sailing in 1849 and then in the 1930s the paddle steamers were converted to diesel as the paddles kept getting tangled in the weeds.
Today five operate on the lake. You can board at Glenridding and enjoy the journey across the lake to the jetty at Howtown. While here you can follow a circular walking route over Hallin Fell and enjoy views back over Ullswater.
Then follow the alternative route back down into Pooley Bridge which is another departure point for the steamers back to Glenridding. The village of Pooley Bridge offers a riverside walk, pubs, cafés and gift shops.
Picture: VisitEngland/Richard J Jones
ONE TO VISIT
SCAFELL PIKE is England’s highest mountain and war memorial.
The climb is challenging, whichever route you take. It’s a steep hike which involves scrambling over hard terrain so experience and fitness is key, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
This is as tough as it gets, but hitting the summit of Scafell is very rewarding. A map and compass will be needed and check mountain weather conditions.
WHAT TO SEE
World of Beatrix Potter
Crag Brow, Bowness-on-Windermere LA23 3BX
Brockhole Bike Hire
Windermere LA23 1LJ
Derwent Pencil Museum
Southey Works, Keswick CA12 5NG
Puzzling Place (World of Illusion)
Museum Square, Keswick CA12 5DZ
Go Ape (Whinlatter)
Whinlatter Forest Park, Braithwaite CA12 5TW
goape.co.uk (select Whinlatter)
Honister Via Ferrata
Honister Slate Mine, Honister Pass CA12 5XN
Helping you choose the best place to camp in the UK
Camping in the UK gives you freedom, adventure and the chance to get closer to nature, whether it is a night on the Cornwall coast or a week's holiday in the Highlands of Scotland.
Home is where the heart is, and that's especially true when it comes to camping in the UK. Sometimes we forget just how much there is explore in the UK.
And with the disruption to travel by coronavirus and Brexit, the one thing that seems certain is that more people will be holidaying at home.
Expert information for picking where to camp
Family holidays are so important and we want to help you choose the right destination for your next camping trip. To give you inspiration, we’ve hand-picked some of our favourite UK camping destinations.
Some, like the Lake District, Cornwall and the Scottish Highlands, are obvious. Others are maybe less well-known, but they are all magnificent and should definitely be on your camping bucket list.
Expert camping advice to your door!
We are very proud of our camping magazine which has been providing camping advice for 60 years.
Camping is the only magazine in the UK dedicated to the wonderful world of tents and life under canvas. Every issue features travel ideas in the UK and further afield, as well as top sites to stay on, plus tent and gear tests to ensure you are properly equipped for all your camping adventures!
Why not treat yourself to a subscription today?
Don't go camping without it!