Camping and caravan holidays in the Lake District
It’s not that we mean to be bossy. Well, not much. But if you haven’t been on a holiday to the Lake District yet, we’re going to don our stern faces and demand why. Millions of tasteful people visit the Lake District each year – it’s the most visited national park in the country and the biggest in England and Wales – and it has England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike to scale, collapse on top of and look across to the mountains of Wales and N Ireland. It’ll be at that precise moment you’ll realise you’ve forgotten your camera.
The Lake District also has England’s deepest lake in Wastwater, which caused a slight spat between the Lake Poets as Coleridge rhapsodised it was ‘a marvellous sight’ while Wordsworth at first huffily proclaimed it to be ‘stern’ and ‘desolate’: clearly he’d climbed nearby Scafell Pike and realised at the top he’d left his notebook behind. Windermere, England’s biggest natural lake, has to be visited not only for its boat trips and water-skiing, but also its rumoured lake monster Bownessie: prizes for anyone sending in pics.
Inside Out Camping at Hollows Farm: At dog-friendly Keswick, Inside Out Camping has the hills and valleys of Borrowdale within a stroll out of the site, with Derwentwater five miles away for watery sports (see below). The farm has a luxury bell tent with raised wooden floors, woodburning stove, sofabeds and a cooker. See also the yurts at its sister site, Inside Out Camping Yurts at Seatoller.
Hillcroft: Wander like Wordsworth around this park overlooking the banks of Lake Ullswater with quick access to the lake, the Ullswater Steamers of Lady Dorothy et al and the crashing of Aira Force waterfall. Hillcroft has family camping pods sleeping up to four, with dogs and unlimited cars included free; there’s a licensed shop on site and a big play area for the kids. Also in Penrith, the award-winning Flusco Wood has hardstanding electric pitches for tourers and motorhomes, with dogs allowed.
Lakeland Leisure Park: A Haven site packed with things to do for all ages, Lakeland lies to the south of the Lake District National Park and is about half an hour from Windermere. There are heated indoor and outdoor pools, sports including archery, golf and tennis, free kids’ clubs, evening entertainment and a lounge bar. The park has electric pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes, with dogs welcome on site.
Hawkshead Youth Hostel: One for Peter Rabbit fans, as it’s based less than a mile from the Beatrix Potter Gallery and two miles from Potter’s old home of Hill Top, and for mountain bikers and tree swingers, with Grizedale Forest and Go Ape! close by. Pitch up in a heated camping pod or family pod in the grounds of the youth hostel or bring your own tent: both pitch types come with full use of the youth hostel facilities, with meals and picnics available to order.
Booked? Got your flippers, your walking boots and your camera? Alongside the fell walking, climbing and collapsing on top of mountains, here’s our pick of some top things to do in the Lake District:
Lake District Visitor Centre, Brockhole: Learn about all things Lakes with the interactive exhibits at this swish centre, with lush gardens, watersports, crazy golf, Treetop Treks, adventure playground and café with lakeside views.
Whizz around Derwentwater: Take a motorboat cruise around Derwentwater, one of the Lake District’s most popular spots, or take to the water around Derwentwater Marina or one of the lake’s several jetties for kayaking, windsurfing and sailing.
Fill your boots: Cumbria and the Lake District are a haven for foodie fans of all budgets, with Cumbrian produce including coiled Cumberland sausages, fruity Cumberland Rum Nicky, the cheeses and sticky toffee pudding of Cartmel – and more microbreweries than any other county in Britain. You’ll need plenty of fortification for all that fell walking and climbing.
Go underground: Take a subterranean tour of England’s last working slate mine, the Honister Slate Mine at Borrowdale, or climb up Fleetwith Pike on the original miners’ path using the UK’s first Via Ferrata (Iron Way).
Go underwater: The Great North Swim is the UK’s biggest outdoor swimming event, starting with a one-mile swim in 2008 in Windermere and still held there each year. Swimmers of all levels can pick routes from half a mile to five kilometres, with boats alongside all the way to keep an eye on the less experienced. Wisely, the Great North Swim is a wetsuit only event. Brr.
Go to town: The Lake District’s biggest areas are Keswick, Windermere, Ambleside, and Bowness-on-Windermere, with shopping, restaurants and regular events a-plenty here and in market towns such as Kirkby Stephen, Appleby and Sedbergh, home of books and book festivals. Keswick has the popular Pencil Museum and the Theatre by the Lake, while Ambleside should be visited to take part in The Struggle, the aptly-named climb out of town to the Kirkstone Inn, one of the highest and most virtuous pints you’ll ever have in the UK.
Go natural: The Lake District has the biggest population of red squirrels in England, native to the area’s woodland and not yet overrun by the pesky invader the grey squirrel. Keswick’s Whinlatter Forest is a Red Squirrel Sanctuary and you should be able to spot some of them scampering about there; the forest is also home to deer, ospreys and red kites, and there are wildlife activities and events throughout the year. For seeing animals up close, the South Lakes Wild Animal Park has a host of critters that we suspect are not native to the Lake District, such as lemurs, giraffes, rhinos and wallabies.
You can look for Lake District campsites and parks by tourist board rating, area such as Penrith or Kendal, groups welcome such as family-friendly, rules such as dogs allowed, by theme including parks in a walkers’ paradise, peaceful or with spectacular scenery, or by amenities on site like disabled facilities. There are also filters to find a park by leisure on site or nearby, and all our Lake District listings have details on local attractions including must-sees, cycle paths, walking routes and pubs. We’ll see you, gasping, on the top of Scafell Pike.