10 fun family things to do in the English Lake District

We had a fabulous active week in the Lake District this summer. Whether you are camping, staying in a B&B or a cottage or a hotel, there are so many fun family things to do in the Lake District and here are my top 10!

Go for a walk

I have written before about my favourite day walks in the Lake District (it’s one of my most popular posts!) With young children it is not always so easy to tackle satisfying day walks but there are lots of beautiful short walk options. Get your kids some decent hiking shoes (and fleeces/waterproofs) and have a go! I recommend a family walk at Blea Tarn, there’s even a little stream to play in if the weather is warm. We also had a beautiful beach walk on the coast near Ravenglass.

English Lake District Day Walks Langdale Valley

Get out on the water

All that water means plenty of opportunities for water sports in the English Lakes. We hired a kayak for a few hours from Low Wray and pottered about on Lake Windermere, enjoying the views, the birdlife and looking out for otters.

Kayaking on Lake Windermere Lake District

Rock climbing

There are a number of easy access rock climbing crags and guides who will take you and your family on a rock climbing experience. I recommend the Scout Crags in the Great Langdale Valley – just along from the Sticklebarn pub.

Rock climbing Mt Arapiles, Australia

A train ride

The Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is a perfect family day out in the Lake District. This gorgeous 15 inch gauge steam train line is affectionately nicknamed La’al Ratty (“little railway” in the old Cumbrian dialect) and passes through beautiful scenery over a 40-minute ride.  It’s one of the oldest narrow gauge railways in England. A hundred years ago it was for mining and construction but now it’s purely pleasure. There is a mix of open-topped and closed carriages. Have a look at the museum at Ravenglass station and the visitor centre at Dalegarth, from where you can explore the area on a number of easy walks.

Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway Lake District

A bike ride

The bike ride we did in the Lake District merges seamlessly with the abovementioned train ride. You can put your bikes on the Ravenglass railway (for free but call ahead to book a space) and then ride back the eight miles from the end of the line at Dalegarth visitor centre to Ravenglass station. Be warned, there is a whopping great hill in the middle of this 8.5 mile (14 kilometres) cycle route, which you will have to push your bike up.

Eskdale Trail cycle route Lake District

However the remainder is very pleasant and near the end you can include a pitstop at ….

Muncaster Castle

The Eskdale cycle trail passes through the edge of Muncaster Castle’s stunning estate so it would be silly not to leave your bike at the visitor centre and wander down to see the castle, visit its famous owlery and enjoy the stunning views. Try to time your arrival for one of the wild heron feeding events. Combined with the Ravenglass Railway and the bike trail, Muncaster is an outstanding day out for all ages!

Muncaster Castle Lake District

View from Muncaster Castle Lake District

Gorge scrambling in the Lake District

This was first time we had tried gorge scrambling, with or without children, and I have to say it was a huge success for the whole family.  The Lake District is peppered with ghylls, or mountian streams that are perfect for gorge scrambling. I’m afraid I didn’t take my camera on the gorge scrambling experience but here’s a picture of us scouting the route up the Sticklback ghyll

Gorge scrambling in the Lake District

When it rains… in the Lake District

Notice I said when not if. The chances of spending a week in the Lake District without experience a rainy day or two is pretty much impossible. It’s one of the rainiest places in the United Kingdom after all. So what to do on a rainy day in the Lake District? We only had one day where it simply rained ALL day, meaning we couldn’t get out and about and a whole day sitting in the tent listening to Harry Potter audio books could have been disastrous. The solution was a lovely National Trust property called Allen Bank. This house has cosy rooms with sofas, easy chairs and open fires blazing merrily, rooms where kids can mess about with arts and crafts, a mountaineering library upstairs, a nature trail in the garden, and the opportunity to see some of Cumbria’s red squirrels from the windows. There is a little tea room with hot and cold snacks, and you can make your own tea or coffee for free.

Allen Bank House Lake District

Climb a mountain

We talked Wandering Kiwi Jr into attempting something big on our last day in the Lake District. We had contemplated Scafell Pike from Wasdale Head but I ended up doing that hike solo. Having done it I think it is very achievable for kids with a bit of stamina. Instead we chose Bowfell, one of the best peaks in the Great Langdale Valley. It took us about four hours up and three hours down, at the pace of an eight-year-old. It gets a little scrambly at the top – over big rocks – but it was nothing Wandering Kiwi Jr couldn’t handle. We certainly deserved our pub dinner at the end…

Climbing Bowfell in the Lake District web

Go to the pub

This also comes under the rainy day category – we spent a rainy couple of hours playing scrabble in our favourite Sticklebarn pub in the Great Langdale valley – but Lake District pubs are also beautiful places to be on sunny days or evenings. They are also generally very family friendly. The Lake District certainly has an appealing selection of pubs, from traditional to gastro. Carnivores shouldn’t miss a dish created from the local Herdwick sheep breed. Another Langdale recommendation is the excellent food at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, where we celebrated our conquest of Bowfell.

Sticklebarn pub Great Langdale Lake District

Those are my top 10 fun family things to do in the Lake District, I hope you enjoy your trip there as much as we did!

By Natasha von Geldern

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