From the most haunted castle in Britain to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top House, there’s so much to visit in the Lake District
While some families will be jetting off abroad this half-term thanks to the recent easing of travel restrictions, for many people a staycation is still on the cards.
The Lake District is one of the most beautiful areas in the country, with impressive fells, stunning lakes and a rich literary history, all just two hours’ drive from Manchester – so why not head there?
Thanks to the spectacular scenery – the Lake District is home to England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike – you won’t even miss being abroad.
So dust off your walking boots, grab some waterproofs and prepare to be inspired by this impressive corner of England.
Autumn is the ideal time to visit Borrowdale, just outside of Keswick, as it’s here you’ll find the most wooded valley in the Lake District which is perfect to take in nature’s display of golden-red leaves.
The valley itself stretches from the high fells, including the 977m Scafell Pike, all the way down to Derwentwater. If you’re into climbing you’ll love Borrowdale as there are various low level crags throughout the area which are accessible from the road.
Enjoy the impressive sight of the Jaws of Borrowdale, where the valley is squeezed between Kings How and Castle Crag, and the road and river twist around the crags.
Derwentwater itself is 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, and features four main islands, including Derwent Island which is inhabited – but not open to the public except on occasional days. It’s an eight mile walk to circle the whole of the lake.
Boat ride on the Ullswater
If you’re visiting the Lake District then you may as well experience all the lakes have to offer – including a boat ride. Although certain services operate on a seasonal basis, the iconic Ullswater Steamers run all year round so there’s no excuse not to have a go.
A trip around the lake means you can enjoy the stunning scenery from the comfort of the boat, and get unique views you wouldn’t have from the shore. It’s also a great way to visit several sites without having to walk far.
The cruises run between Glenridding, Howtown, Pooley Bridge Piers and between Glenridding and National Trust Aira Force Pier. The cruise times vary from 20 minute up to two hours.
Honister Slate Mine
Cumbria has a rich mining history and near Keswick is the Honister Slate Mine. This is one for history fans and adrenaline junkies. The mine is famed for its green slate.
You can embark on a mine tour (probably not for those who don’t like enclosed spaces) and learn about the processes used to mine the slate.
For thrill seekers there’s several other activities to book if you’re brave enough, including Climb the Mine where you can explore cathedral-sized caverns. Or try the Infinity Bridge, which is the longest high-wire bridge in Europe.
Pay a visit to the Sky Hi Café, reportedly the highest café in the Lake District.
Steam railway at Ravenglass and Eskdale
One of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (known as the La’al Ratty meaning ‘little railway’) offers a 40 minute journey which passes through spectacular scenery.
There are several walks you can take from the railway’s various stops. Including heading to Ravenglass beach from the station itself, the Japanese Gardens in Giggle Alley forest from Eskdale Green station and the Eskdale Mill from Dalegarth.
You can learn about the railway’s history at the accompanying museum which is free to visit.
Hill Top House and the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere
Beatrix Potter is one of the area’s most celebrated residents, and why not visit the places which inspired her popular children’s’ stories? Visit the house which was the real-life inspiration for Peter Rabbit.
Hill Top House is a time capsule to the author’s life and still contains many of her belongings. Fans of the books will recognise many familiar scenes dotted around the house and garden, including where Tom Kitten and his sisters played.
For a more interactive experience, visit The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere where her stories are brought to life with models, sounds, scents and touch screens.
Lake District Wildlife Park
Meet over 100 different species of wild and domestic animals animals at the Lake District Wildlife Park. The park is home to meerkats, Red pandas and lemurs to name but a few, as well as birds of prey and reptiles.
The park itself is set in 25 acres of land near to Bassenthwaite Lake, and has stunning views of the northern fells, including Skiddaw, the sixth-highest mountain in England.
Many of the animals are kept in natural open enclosures, and there are various animal talks running throughout the day, and a bird of prey display.
As Halloween is just around the corner, why not plan a spooky visit to Muncaster Castle, reputedly Britain’s most haunted.
Visitors to the castle, which is privately owned, have heard strange footsteps near the Tapestry Room, a child crying in the corner and felt room become cold for no apparent reason.
The spirit of Thomas Skelton, the castle’s fool during the 16th century, is still said to play tricks on the family, staff and visitors.
Located within the gardens of the castle is the Hawk and Owl Centre, home to a huge variety of birds – it’s worth catching one of their bird displays.
Sitting on the shores of Lake Windermere, Wray Castle promises to be a hit with children and adults alike. Goth Revival castle is a sight to behold, with turrets, towers, grounds and miles of paths to explore.
The castle itself was built in 1840 by Dr James Dawson, a surgeon from Liverpool, so it has pretty much everything you’d expect from a traditional castle, from a portcullis to turrets- and it even features fake ruins in the grounds.
It’s the ideal place to enjoy breath-taking views of Lake Windermere and a place where Beatrix Potter herself stayed as a teenager.
Currently there’s only access to the ground floor, but the castle is free to enter.
If the weather turns and you’re looking for something to do indoors, the Puzzling Place in Keswick promises to be a good day out for the whole family. Full of life-size optical illusions, grab your camera and capture some gravity-defying moments.
There are several rooms to explore all with different illusions – prepare for your brain to be completely baffled as it tries to make sense of it all.
Go against physics in the gravity-defying room or check out the various interactive displays at the Eyelusion Exhibition, where there are over 50 exhibits to check out.
In the hologram gallery you’ll find more than 60 holograms which mess with your eyes and will have you reaching out to touch images appearing in thin air.
Buttermere is a stunning lake to visit in the autumn where the golden leaves are reflected in the water. Surrounded by mountains, you might think you were in Switzerland or Austria, let alone northern England.
Two other lakes are located nearby – Crummock Water and Loweswater and together they make up Buttermere Valley, home to some of the best views in the Lake District.
To walk around Buttermere itself takes around two to three hours and is relatively easy-going, or you can challenge yourself by tackling one of the fells.
Castlerigg Stone Circle
Stone Henge may be at the top of most tourist’s to do lists in England, but the Lake District is home to Castlerigg Stone Circle, a hidden game when it comes to ancient landmarks.
Castlerigg is said to date back to around 3000 BC and could well be one of the oldest in the country. It’s composed of 38 free standing stones, some of them up to 3m high.
And once you’re finished exploring the ancient structure, take a moment to admire the panoramic views of the Helvellyn and High Seat mountains
Heavy rainfall ruining your Lake District trip? Take advantage of it and stop by Aira Force waterfall, which becomes even more powerful when it rains.
The surrounding area is made up of a landscaped Victorian park and an arboretum, while the main waterfall falls 70 feet from underneath a stone footbridge.
Follow the Gowbarrow trail through green woodland which leads you to the summit of Gowbarrow where you can enjoy views over Ullswater.
If you want to get active in the great outdoors then a visit to Grizedale is a must. There’s mountain biking for those who are more adventurous, or why not go by foot and visit the art sculptures which you can spot throughout the forest.
Sculptures first made an appearance in Grizedale in 1977 and they have won several awards; now there are more than 40 of them dotted around and you can get a map and sculpture guide to help you find them all.
New sculptures are added each year while some of them are allowed to naturally decay.
The forest is home to a Go Ape aerial adventure course too so there’s something to keep everyone entertained.
Set on the shores of Lake Windermere, there’s lots to do at Brockhole to keep you busy.
Brockhole is an Arts and Crafts villa surrounded by stunning gardens, originally built at the end of the 19th century as a holiday home for silk merchant William Gaddum and his wife Edith Potter – cousin to Beatrix.
The list of activities to do is endless – test your aim with archery or laser clay shooting. Take to the water in a kayak, have a laugh with mini golf or give karting a go. The woodland faerie trail is perfect for younger children too.
Built between AD120 and AD138, this Roman fort was probably one of the most remote in the Roman Empire.
Most of the fort you see today was rebuilt from rubble excavated from the site; you can see the foundations and walls of the soldiers’ barracks, the commander’s house and the granaries.
The fort looks over the Eskdale Valley so the views are spectacular. It can be reached by driving up the steep and winding Hardknott and Wynose passes – be warned, this drive isn’t for the faint-hearted and shouldn’t be attempted in bad weather.
Based in Sheffield, Jamie Carrol is the Senior Editor at The Camping Fire. Previously he has worked for The Huffington Post. Jamie is a graduate of Sports Recreation and Leisure at the Nottingham University.