Northern National Trusts with a bit of WOW

Did anyone else get National Trust memberships for Christmas? If you’re looking out for how to make the most of them, here are some recommendations of the best the North has to offer! There are soooooo many fantastic places to choose from that I’ve wrestled with writing this… can I really not include my beautiful local property (Nostell) that I’ve spent so many happy times at? I’ve had to be ruthless, so here we go….

Cragside, Northumberland

Yep, it’s tops another one of my lists! I think because it has EVERYTHING. An absolutely stunning house in the most amazing setting, a great history and my favourite element; miles and miles of fantastic walking trails in their impressive estate. It’s worth a holiday in Northumberland just to visit. Honestly, just go. More here.

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

Obviously this World Heritage site has to be included. The magnificent medieval abbey ruins are in beautiful grounds, perfect for a leisurely day exploring! There’s a great adventure playground and good, accessible paths. More here.

Stickleback and the Langdales

If you’re into the outdoors, perhaps you already have a bit of a love affair with the Langdales. The scenery is spectacular…and there are miles of walking trails to explore this piece of paradise. We love the National Trust campsite at Great Langdale, where you can start the Stickle Tarn Trail, a great short but challenging walk.

Brimham Rocks, Nidderdale

The best natural playground you could wish for! Children (and adults) of all ages will love exploring and climbing these impressive rock formations. The views over Nidderdale are both breathtaking and extensive, and on a clear day you can even see York Minster! More here.

Mam Tor, Peak District

One of the Peak District’s favourite walks, the shivering mountain is great for families, and for little ones starting at the top car park it’s a realistic summit which still can give them a good sense of achievement.

Other notable favourites

These all have their own bit of wow;

  • Longshaw Estate in the Peaks has beautiful walks, including the unmissable Padley Gorge
  • Catbells is a favourite walk for many in the Lakes.
  • Gibside, on the outskirts of Newcastle is another go to place for family walks
  • Wallington Hall has some fab play areas and the walled garden is just gorgeous
  • Clumber Park is impressive in size and the amount of things to see!
  • The Lake District’s Great Wood is a starting point for many good walks
  • Wray Castle on the banks of Windermere in the Lakes is a favourite for children
  • Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge is a must see for anyone loving stepping stones!

A Keswick Mini-Break

We love to get away for a mini break at the end of January! It blows away those January blues, and gives us something to look forward to in that post-Christmas lull. This year we stayed for three nights in a lodge just outside of Keswick in the Northern Lakes. If this is something you fancy, read on!!

Accommodation

Where: For the first time, we stayed in a Hoeseasons Lodge at Keswick Lodge Retreat.

What: We chose a Wainwright Log Burner Lodge, which had two bedrooms and two bathrooms

Cost: Three nights here (Friday-Monday) were great value at £290. There were cheaper and more costly (with hot tubs) available. We booked only a few weeks before, which may have meant we got a good rate, but looking at other dates you can also get a bargain.

Verdict: Ooooooooh we just LOVED it here. From arrival in reception where we received a glass of fizz, to finding a wine fridge in the lodge kitchen. The lodge was clean and spacious and had everything that we needed. The standard and spec was far higher than we anticipated, it really felt like a treat to stay there. When I think of some of the grotty city centre hotel rooms I’ve stayed in for well over a £100 a night, staying here is exceptionally well priced. The kitchen is well kitted out, there wasn’t any equipment we felt we were missing. You could quite happily eat in every night, cooking to your hearts content.

The site was peaceful with some great views.You can hire high chairs and travel cots for your stay, but we saved pennies by taking our own. At reception there was a small shop that sold essentials you might need for your stay, as well as extra wood and kindling for the log burner (which they are also happy to deliver for you).

The on-site bar and restaurant provided good food, we particularly liked the bar, and on Saturday night there was a live singer. We let the little ones stay up as a treat, James was absolutely mesmerised by her. The best babysitter we could ask for!!

Highlights Keswick and the surrounding area

1. Walking. Obviously one of the main appeals of the Lakes is to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Luckily you have LOADS to see nearby. If you want help getting the kids on board, this blog might help.

My favourite walks in the area are;

Whinlatter; this forest park is super close to where we stayed. It is honestly AMAZING and should be on your itinerary whatever the weather. This actually should be a highlight itself it’s so so good. There’s lots to do for children, including an adventure play and themed walks. We recently visited on a pretty miserable day but had a fabulous walk; details here.

Catbells; one of the most loved fells in all of the Lakes. It’s great fun with super views, and not without some challenge! If you fancy trying it with children make sure you read this blog post.

South of Lake Dewentwater, Castle Crag is a great climb for children. This blog from one of my favourite blogging sites, Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District gives a good description to follow.

Parking at the National Trust’s Great Wood carpark, there are a number of routes perfect for children, and make sure you visit the gorgeous Ashness Bridge, one of the most photographed spots in all of the Lakes. If you fancy going a bit further, continue onto Surprise View and Watendlath. Superb.

2. Keswick Launch. Obviously this can be combined with a good walk, but a trip out on the beautiful Derwentwater is unmissable.

3. The Lake District Wildlife Park. On the doorstep of our accommodation is this great park, which holds many fond memories of my childhood. It includes animal encounters, an adventure playground and indoor soft play. Website: https://www.lakedistrictwildlifepark.co.uk

4. Mirehouse and Gardens, on the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake also takes me back to my childhood. Unfortunately the site isn’t open in winter months so check the website before you go. There’s some truly fantastic adventure playgrounds as well as family walks.

5. Castlerigg Stone Circle is half an hour’s walk from Keswick, with spectacular views. Be careful that the Threlkeld Railway path is currently closed for repairs (Feb 2020), so check routes carefully before you start.

And finally, a top tip..

Sometimes, sadly the weather is just too tough to handle with children. If you’re struggling to find somewhere, try Keswick Leisure Centre. It’s got a water slide, wave pool and a few bits for toddlers and is a good way to spend a couple of hours when getting outside really isn’t possible.

There you have it, my personal highlights but there is soooooooooo much more to do, and as much as I love a good mini break here, it always makes me want more!! We’re already looking to when we can book again.

Any more suggestions? Questions? Leave me a comment!

Walking Catbells with children

Catbells is often considered a good first mountain for children. I think this implies it’s an easy fell to walk. It’s really not; but it’s a short climb, easy to navigate and easily accessible. And if you (and your children) are up for the challenge, it’s both beautiful and rewarding, with fun scrambles and fantastic views.

The OS Explorer map covering this area is OL4/ The English Lakes- North Western Area 👉OS Explorer OL4 The English Lakes – North Western area (OS Explorer Map) (Amazon affiliate link)

The walk starts Hawes End. There is a small car park which we used (get there early if this is your intention) or for even more excitement, take the Keswick Launch to Hawes End Landing Stage.

The usual direction is to walk over the fell from the North (anticlockwise). This means you climb up the scrambles and then descend down stone steps. The scrambles are very do-able for children (but probably a little harder for the parents watching their three year old navigating a rock face!).

Just remember if you are carrying a baby like I was, your balance is definitely impacted, so you need to be confident! I found it easier with a back carrier so I could see my footing a little better. Our daughter loved these parts, and her small feet found footholds that weren’t much use for us!

After the first steep ascent/ scramble (Skelgill Bank) it is difficult to turn back, so you need to be sure that young children are up to completing the whole walk. If you find that you often need to carry your children on your shoulders for much of your walk, this might not be for you; until you’re back on the bridlepath they’re going to have to do it alone (unless of course you’ve got a proper carrier).

Check weather conditions before you go; you want children to enjoy it, which they’re less likely to do if it’s freezing cold or blowing a gale. In summer be mindful that the ascent has no shade, so hats and lots of fluids are a must.

It’s really not a walk children should be attempting in wellies or other casual footwear; make sure they’ve got something sturdy with a good grip. After a bit of a hunt we bought these Gelert Walking Boots for Jess, which we thought were great value for little feet growing so quickly!

👉 Gelert Kids Horizon Mid Waterproof Infants Walking Boots Lace Up Breathable Charcoal/Blue UK C8 (26)

The top of Catbells rewards you with glorious views over Derwentwater and down Borrowdale. Try to walk on a clear day so you can get the best of them!

The great views continue as you descend on the stone steps down, just be careful on rainy days as they can be slippy!

You have a choice of routes that you can follow here, if you wanted something a little shorter (just over 5km in total), take the bridleway that forks left (towards the coniferous woodland), and hugs the side of the fell back to the start of the walk. Where the track drops to the road there is also an option to drop down to the Lakeside path and take that route back. This gives good views all the way.

The path forks ahead, where you can turn left to take the shorter route.

With children in good spirits, as our daughter was on this walk, you may fancy the longer route (10km), and continue the descent towards Manesty. After a brief walk along the road, you turn left towards the Lake and follow the path back all the way to Hawse End and the start of the walk.

Unless you fancy a detour heading into Grange, there are no facilities along the route. So you’ll need to take a picnic and/ or snacks with you. We found a great picnic stop on the side of Derwentwater, and enjoyed watching the launch pass us.

The path that returns to Hawes End is truly beautiful, winding through woodland along the Lake shore, with good prospects of the climb you’ve just completed. It’s fantastic. If you did get the launch to start the walk you could even pick it up earlier if little legs were getting tired!

Of course if the weather (or indeed the prospect of scrambling with an under 5) phases you, a great alternative is to take the bridle path half way up the fell and walk back along the shore line. You miss out on some of the fun but still get some great views.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure you spend time enjoying this truly fabulous area of the Lakes. It’s popular for a reason!!

👉Nearby in the area you could also visit Whinlatter.

A Day in Rydal, Lake District

With friends over from Holland, this weekend we needed to find a good spot that both showed a glimpse of the beauty of the Lakes, as well as providing easy paths for the three little walkers we had with us. Rydal proved to be the perfect choice… and if you fancy a day here, let me suggest a good itinerary.

Spend the morning discovering Rydal Hall

Brochure: https://rydalhall.org/cms/resources/rydal-hall-2019.pdf

We had read about Rydal Hall from the rather brilliant Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog and decided we should give it a go! We parked in the gardens, you are able to leave your car all day for £5 with a permit from the Main Hall. The grounds aren’t huge, but that suited us fine, and we followed the little route suggested on the brochure. We loved reading the little informative signs dotted about to learn about the trees, and there were plenty of things of interest to keep our young children entertained, including waterfalls and sculptures. In the centre, behind the cafe, are toilets and a baby change.

Enjoy lunch in beautiful surroundings

There are a few options for lunch; the cafe at Rydal Hall is pleasant but doesn’t have the best options for children. You could enjoy a picnic, there are plenty of picnic benches in the grounds or you could head down to the Lakeside and find a spot.

The Old School Room tea shop is also a short walk away and is in stunning surroundings too!

Walk up to Rydal Caves

Another fantastic suggestion on the Family Walks and Pubs in the Lake District blog. We used to walk around here frequently pre-children, so it was great to spot a walk in the area that was suitable for our three year old. We crossed the road from Rydal and across the little footbridge to take the path that joined the White Moss footpath. It’s not suitable for pushchairs, but a relatively short distance.

Remember when you get to them, that the first cave isn’t the main one. Keep going round the corner and climb to see the huge mouth of the cave. Entry is by stepping stones, or scrambling over the stones at the side of the cave- which was our choice with me and the baby carrier and our little one. We were massively lucky to find a choir in the cave itself, and enjoyed the music for a little bit. Just up from the cave was a great viewpoint over Rydal Water, and we took obligatory family photos before heading down.

Finish the day with a wander around Grasmere or Ambleside.

Grasmere is much smaller than Ambleside but has gift shops and cafes to mooch around, whereas Ambleside is much larger with more choice. There is a wide range of cuisines and many leisure activities to choose from.

If you’re in the Lakes for a few days you might wish to visit Grizedale, a fantastic forest with lots to enjoy. There are so many walks to enjoy around the area, if you have difficulty getting your child motivated, read this blog post for tips to keep them going!

Grizedale, nr Hawkshead, Lake District

I’ve always loved the Lakes. When I was growing up, my parents had a static in Keswick, and for three consecutive summers post-uni, I worked in children’s summer camps, including one at Hawkshead. In my previous career as a teacher, I relished the outdoor trips there and since I first met my husband we go as often as we can. It’s safe to say the Lakes hold a special place in my heart, and the walking that I have enjoyed there has not been beaten anywhere in the world.

But for the last three years the choice of walks has been difficult, and much more planning is needed to make sure the walks are child friendly. To be honest I think we didn’t realise how lucky we were on our first family trip away when Jess was just 6 weeks old. In a carrier she was no heavier than a normal rucksack, and we didn’t appreciate that the walking we did in Langdale would be the last of its kind for a good few years!

But today we visited Grizedale. Walking map below;

https://www.forestryengland.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Walking%20interior%20%28A3%29%20VIS.pdf

We’ve been here a few times in our previous life (before Jess) for the superb bike riding, but today was the first time we went just for the trails. We were soooo impressed with the whole set up for children. If you’re looking for somewhere that’s easy to get your bambinos excited about the outdoors there can’t be many places that match this place.

One thing that I will say is that other than the short blue route, and the shortest of the yellow routes, it isn’t particularly buggy friendly. Not that that’s a particular problem if you’re not planning on walking far.

We naively set off on the 2.5mile yellow route with Jess on her balance bike. Naively because it soon became apparent that the path was exactly what it claimed, a walking path and totally unsuitable for toddler attempts at biking. She ended up on hubby’s shoulders for much of the first half, but was eager to get down wherever possible. It was a lovely short circular walk with plenty to see, and finished at the visitor centre, complete with one of the best play areas we’ve tried.

The best thing is the access to all parts of the play area- if you did have a buggy you’d be able to watch your children from the top of the slides- something pretty rare!

There’s also a GoApe centre there (banked that knowledge for future years) and a comfortable cafe.

Once Jess had worn herself out we were able to get her up in the carrier and try out one of the other trails, but with my pregnant belly & achy back stopping me going too far, we stuck to a shorter route (Bogle Crag). Still, another great route through this amazing forest.

If you can make it further than us there are some fantastic viewpoints, so make sure to have a look on what’s on offer!

We finished off our trip with a snack stop up at the picnic area at Moor Top, with the winter sun shining through the trees I couldn’t ask for a more picturesque place to end our visit ❤️❤️❤️