Destination Downtime teamed up with Lake District local Emily, from Emily Lives Lakes, to find out where to go in the Lake District and to provide an insiders’ guide of one of Britains favourite staycation destinations, beautiful Cumbria. There is nothing more valuable than local knowledge when you are planning to visit somewhere new, Lake District hidden gems can be pretty hard to find when trawling through Google, build your trip around local knowledge and recommendations and you can’t go far wrong.
Stay tuned as we will also be brining you accommodation recommendations and walking routes across a number of blog features.
How long have you lived in the Lake District and what do you love about the area?
My family moved to Kendal in the Lake District when I was three and apart from a few years at university, I have been here since then! Apparently if you are somehow connected to the Lakes, even if you move away, you always end up back here! This is what my father did. My Irish ancestors originally came over to Kendal to sell in the farmers market. My father has fond memories of visiting his grandmother here so always wanted to come back one day! I have definitely developed the same loyalty to the area! I love it for obvious reasons – the stunning landscapes and thousands of walks. But it has so much more going for it that I think are often overlooked.
There are very tight-knit communities here. People genuinely care and make sure that residents and visitors alike are always made to feel welcomed and special. We have an amazing arts and culture scene; music, theatre, farming and food festivals happen all through the year. The Westmorland County Show, Damson Day, Victorian Festivals, Torchlight Parades, Mountain Festivals are just a few! The county is dotted with little arts gems including traditional cinemas, galleries and museums celebrating the rich history of the land and the literature that it has inspired over the years. I know I’m biased, but I really do love the area and still learn more about it every day. It makes me so happy to see our streets beginning to get slowly and carefully busier again, and I really hope I can give an insight into why I think The Lake District is the perfect staycation destination.
Where to go in the Lake District – As a local, where are your favourite places you would recommend visiting?
I’ll have to start with Kendal. Known as the gateway to the Lakes, it’s a vibrant market town with brilliant places to eat and independent shops to visit.
Venturing deeper into the county, it can be quite common for people to visit Windermere and Bowness and stop there. Don’t get me wrong, the views and atmosphere at Bowness are great, but there’s a lot more to see! South of the lakes themselves is the village of Cartmel. It’s beautifully picturesque and home of the best Sticky Toffee Pudding and some lovely walks. Up North, Keswick is a quintessentially Cumbrian town and always worth a visit. It’s home to the famous Theatre by the Lake; a hub for innovative theatre with a proud history of links to world-renowned actors including Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian Mckellen.
LAKE DISTRICT HIDDEN GEMS
Can you let us in on some Lake District hidden gems?
I feel like every turn in the Lakes has a different beautiful view and a hidden gem! The Lakes is usually a very busy place, but there are still plenty of spots that are a bit more off the beaten track. Here’s a view of my faves.
If you’re in the Windermere area, you don’t have to go far to get away from the busy town centre. Look out for signs up to Holehird Gardens. The land is home of the Lakeland Horticultural Society and comprises of a walled garden as well as acres of planted hillside overlooking Windermere. It is easy to spend all day wandering around the gardens, admiring the amazing national collections of several different types of plants and flowers, and the stunning views of course!
If you’re staying in Bowness and looking for a relaxing evening after a long day of walking, the Royalty Cinema in Bowness is a fab option. Built in 1926 as a cinema and theatre, the building has a rich history of entertainment. The latest films, classics and independents are regularly shown on the 3 screens. Screen 1 is the buildings original auditorium and still has a sense of archaic grandeur, complete with the original 1920’s organ. It’s a really different and humbling cinema experience compared to what most people are used to, so if it’s raining (it is Cumbria after all) and you’re looking for a cosy evening in, I can recommend this gem.
Nestled in the Eskdale Valley at the foot of England’s highest mountains, is the 7 mile little railway (or La’al Ratty if we’re being proper Cumbrian about it!). It’s a small steam railway track that gives visitors the chance to wonder at the amazing views from coast to fell. The village of Boot at the end of the track in the Eskdale Valley is home to some great walks including Stanley Ghyll Force that you can wander up to see before your train ride back down.
CONISTON VINTAGE SUMMER SHOP
Coniston is a cute little spot regardless. If you visit between June and October, pop into Coniston Village Hall for their Vintage Shop. Bags to books, pictures to plates; the range of vintage bits and bobs in the shops is amazing. In total, I must have spent hours in the shop and have acquired old paintings of the lakes, vintage costume jewellery and even a dictionary of Cumbrian Dialect! I almost guarantee you’ll find something that you can’t resist picking up.
Can you recommend any adventurous outdoor activities for those wanting to try something new?
It goes without saying that the options for walking and hiking in the Lakes are unmatched. Whether you’re looking for an easy lakeside stroll or to tackle the highest Wainwrights on the list, there is something for everyone. Every lakeside town/village has a boat club offering a range of water sports for all abilities. Kayaking and canoeing are popular options as chilled out, social experiences to see the views from the waters. However, there are so many options for trying something new. Here’s a couple of more unusual options!
In Keswick on the shores of Derwent water is a popular spot for water sports. Platty+ is a family run water sports centre that offer a range of water sports including kayaking, canoeing and SUP. They also offer something a bit different, Dragon Boat Racing. I personally loved the contrast of serene, peaceful views with a furious competition! The excitement and chaos trying to get your team to paddle faster in rhythm as the head of your dragon inches closer to overtaking your opposition is unmatched! Warning, you WILL end up shouting at the members of your team!
I’m an animal lover and have always loved horses. There are so many options for horse riding in The Lakes that are possibly a bit different to elsewhere. Pony trekking is available on the fells in multiple areas. I have pony-trekked with Rookin House Activities up in the North Lakes. Galloping in open scenery surrounded by impressive fells is a really unique experience. Over in West Cumbria live the Cumbrian Heavy Horses and the invaluable opportunity to ride along to striking west Cumbrian coast with the drastic fells as a backdrop. Most riding centres cater for beginners as well as advanced riders. Lake District views from horse back genuinely do seem different, so I recommend giving it a go! West Cumbria’s coast provides the perfect landscape for galloping horses & dogs alike!
Where to go in the Lake District – Please leave a comment below with your suggestions.