lake district attractions : Places to visit in the lakes

Your guide to things to do and places to go in the Central Lakes

Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House (Bowness)

This elegant Arts and Crafts Movement house and garden commands spectacular views across Lake Windermere. The restored furnished interiors include original features such as stained glass windows and carved oak panelling. Changing historical and contemporary exhibitions of the applied arts are held in the upper galleries. It's an amazing place, in the sense that such a perfect example of the Arts and Crafts movement should have survived so completely. A fascinating example of British art - and a tribute to the power of the industrialist who had it built.

Open: Daily 10.30-17.00 13 Feb - 24 Dec 2006 (Closing 16.00 Feb, Mar, Nov & Dec)

Addresss: Blackwell the Arts and Crafts House, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 3JT

Directions: 1.5 miles south of Bowness just off the A5074 on the B5360.

Phone: 015394 46139

Email: Web:

World of Beatrix Potter™ Attraction (Bowness)

Beatrix Potter is a timeless family favourite, and this exhibition, updated and expanded, is great fun for the children, who can see and meet the characters they know and love from the stories.

Open: Every day (except Xmas Day & 23-31 Jan) Summer 10.00-17.30 Winter 10.00-16.30

The Old Laundry, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 3BX

Directions: In the centre of Bowness-on-Windermere on Crag Brow.

Phone: 015394 88444 .

Email: Web:

Windermere Lake Cruises (All along the lake)

The old steamers (now, of course, driven by diesel engines) have had a long history. Brought in pieces from the shipbuilders at Barrow, they were assembled at various times over the past 150 years on the shore of Windermere. After passing through the hands of good old British Railways, and being somewhat neglected in the process, they have moved into the good care of the Windermere Steamboat Company. Any adult who visited the Lakes as a child will have fond memories of the excitement of setting out for a day trip down the Lake, and even with the passage of time, a trip on these beautifully restored steamers has lost none of its appeal for children and adults alike! A Top Attraction! The boats operate every day between Ambleside, Bowness and Lake Side, near Newby Bridge. Seasonal connections operate for Brockhole, Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway, Fell Foot and Ferry House. Evening Cruises and Jazz/Buffet Cruises operate during the summer. Island cruises sail daily from Bowness. Santa Specials, Christmas Lunch Cruises.

Open: Daily during daylight hours throughout the year except Christmas Day. First cruise departs Bowness 10.00 (earlier in summer).

Directions: From M6 junction 36, follow the brown signs along the A590 to Lakeside or take A591 to Bowness and Ambleside.

Phone: 015395 3118.

Email: Web:

Lakes Supertours (From Windermere all over the Lakes)

If you want something a bit more personal and individual, try these "spectacular and informative" Lake District guided tours. You can try the full and half day tours, in luxury high-topped mini-coaches visiting lakes and mountain scenery and many of the Lakes' cultural attractions including Hill Top and Wordsworth's houses; and you can even incorporate lake cruises and steam train journeys.

Open: Operating every day throughout the year except Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Address: Lakes Supertours office: Lakes Hotel, 1 High Street, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1AF

Directions: just below Windermere Tourist Information Centre, 100 metres from the railway and the bus stations. Pick up service available.

Phone: 015394 42751 & 88133 for detailed tours programme.

Email: Web:

Lake District Visitors' Centre (Brockhole)

Idyllically situated on the shores of Windermere, and admission is free, though you have to pay for the car park. There are interactive exhibitions, the Mawson gardens, an adventure playground, a shop, cafe and information centre. You can enjoy lake shore access, and catch a cruise to or from Waterhead (the northern end of the lake, a short distance from Ambleside). I haven't been for some years, so no doubt it's even better now; even then it was certainly a superb introduction to Lakeland life and culture.

Open: Daily 1 April - 29 Oct. Grounds open all year. Please phone for extended winter opening.

Directions: Conveniently located on A591 between Windermere and Ambleside, or cruise from Waterhead, Ambleside. (Waterhead is the real end of Windermere, and it's just a short walk to Ambleside from there).

Phone: 015394 46601

Email: Web:

Fell Foot Country Park (near Newby Bridge, south end of Lake Windermere)

I remember rowing across from Lakeside to Fell Foot many times when I was a kid, and you know what? It's just as wonderful now as it was then. A bit more formal, maybe, since the National Trust became the business it now is, but there are still great views of the fells, and it really is a superb place for families to enjoy access to Windermere, with boat hire, a picnic area and an adventure play area. And if you happen to be there eat the right time, you'll see wonderful spring and early summer colour from the daffodils and rhododendrons.

Open: All year 09.00 - 17.00 Shop and tearoom, 25 Mar - 29 Oct 11.00-17.00

Directions: Off A592 Windermere/Newby Bridge road. Southern end of Lake Windermere. Seasonal ferry link from Lakeside (so you won't have to row across as I did!). 

Phone: 015395 3127.


Fine Ceramics by Gordon Fox(Kentmere, near Staveley).

Situated in a peaceful riverside location in the beautiful Kentmere valley, the Studio produces fine hand-made multi-fired English enamels. Gordon specialises in lamps, individual pieces, unique tableware and special commissions. Gordon's exclusive ceramics are available from his studio showroom only.

Open: All year, usual shop hours (it might be advisable, however, to telephone if calling on Sunday).

Address: Kentmere Studio Pottery, Kentmere, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 9JH

Directions: Turn off Kendal/Windermere Road to Staveley and take the Kentmere Valley Road, following the signs for Kentmere. The pottery is signposted three miles from Staveley on the left.

Phone: 01539 82162.

Email:  Web:

Hayes Garden World (Ambleside)

Anyone who's watched this vast garden centre grow over the years will know how good it has become. It's certainly one of the largest and best cared for in England - probably due to the personal service offered by the Hayes family. As they say, Hayes Garden World really is sheer inspiration. A Top Attraction!

Open: Monday - Saturday 09.00-18.00, Sunday 11.00-17.00 Closed 25 December, New Years Day and Easter Sunday.

Address: Hayes Garden World, Lake Road, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0DW

Directions: Head towards Ambleside on the A5911. Bear right at the lights and the centre is 500 yards on the left.

Phone: 015394 3343.

Email: Web:

The Lakes Discovery Museum @ the Armitt (Ambleside)

Experience 2000 years of local history! There are artefacts from the Roman occupation of Ambleside, Kurt Schwitters Ambleside's artist exhibition, Beatrix Potter watercolours, information on John Ruskin, a historic Lake District library, interactive displays, workshops, talks and changing exhibitions. The museum shop sells "Made-in-Cumbria" gifts (which we on this website totally support) and antique books, CD's and so on.

Open: 10.00-17.00 daily except Christmas.

Address: The Lakes Discovery Museum @ the Armitt, Rydal Road, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9BL

Directions: In the grounds of St Martins College, Ambleside, opposite Rydal Road main car park.

Phone: 015394 31212

Email: Web:

OSHY Gallery, House of Design (Ambleside)

Run by a talented artistic, design oriented and crafts family, OSHY specialises in unique designer/maker pieces and accessories including sculptural furniture and lighting, with evocative paintings of the Lake District. A real treat for the senses.

Open: Daily 10.00 to 17.00 (except Dec 25, 26 and Jan 1).

Address: Old Stamp House Yard, Lake Road, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0AD

Directions: In the heart of Ambleside, off Lake Road, first yard in right after Church Street.

Phone: 015394 3264.

Email: Web:

Rydal Mount and Gardens (near Ambleside)

Well, what can one say about this place? I should think everyone who has been to the Lakes has at some time been to visit the two most famous Wordsworth memorials - his houses at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, and Rydal Mount. They both have many interesting features, but the grounds and the breathtaking views of the lakes and hills make this place rather special. Dove Cottage is better on the poetry and context of his writing.

Open: Daily March - October 09.30-17.00, November - February 10.00-16.00 Closed Tuesday in Winter months and from 10 - 31 January.

Address: Rydal Mount and Gardens, Rydal, Near Ambleside,Cumbria, LA22 9LU

Directions: Off A591 1.5 miles from Ambleside, 2.5 miles from Grasmere.

Phone: 015394 3300.

Email: Web:

Dove Cottage & The Wordsworth Museum (Grasmere)

Dove Cottage is maybe less interesting for the "how" than the "why" of Wordsworth's work. Sure, you can take the tour of the house, and that's interesting enough, but the real gem here is the internationally important collection of manuscripts and the exhibitions which give you a real feel for his muse. Needless to say, you can also visit the tearooms and gift shop. A Top Attraction!

Open: Daily 09.30-17.30 (last admission 17.00).

Directions: Just south of Grasmere village on the main A591 Kendal-Keswick road.

Phone: 015394 35544

Email:  Web:


This gallery is a real favourite of mine. I've called in many times over the years because my father was (among many other things) a stained glass and watercolour artist, and I'm still impressed by the essence of the Lakes captured in the Heaton Coopers' work. It's certainly a family affair, for the studio features a hanging exhibition of paintings, prints and sculpture from four generations of the Heaton Cooper family, from Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929) and William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995), to present day members. There are some superb prints to buy. And it's one of the most comprehensive sources of artists' materials I've seen. Look out for the beautiful hand-made paper.

Open: Summer: Monday-Saturday 09.00-17.30, Sunday 12.00-17.30 Winter: Monday-Saturday 09.00-17.00, Sunday 12.00-17.00

Address: Heaton Cooper Studio, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9SX

Directions: Centre of Grasmere, opposite the village green.

Phone: 015394 35280

Email: Web:

Beatrix Potter Gallery (Hawkshead)

Beatrix Potter's original artwork for her children's "tales" - and more. Each year a different aspect of Beatrix's work is featured - this year it's "The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher" for his 100th birthday. You can learn more about Beatrix's work and children can join in the fun with quiz sheets and goody bags, and there's a shop nearby. You can also browse around the beautiful village of Hawkshead (Wordsworth was at school here), which I thoroughly recommend. Have a look at the amazing crystals and artefacts on sale in Tiger's Eye, and meet the charming owner.

Open: 1 April-29 Oct Sat-Weds 10.30-16.30 (3 - 31 August open Sat-Thurs). Last admission 16.00 Shop: daily.

Directions: Hawkshead centre, 2 miles from Hill Top. Large pay & display car park nearby.

Phone: 015394 3635.

Email: Web:

Hill Top (Near Sawrey)

Beatrix Potter wrote many of her children's stories in this small 17th century farmhouse. It's been kept exactly as she left it, complete with her furniture, china and a traditional cottage garden.

Open: 1 April - 29 Oct House: Sat - Weds 10.30-16.00 (3 - 31 Aug Sat - Thurs). Garden and shop daily.

Directions: 2 miles south of Hawkshead, in Near Sawrey, or 2 miles from the Bowness car ferry (that's the ferry that takes you across the breadth of Windermere, just south of Bowness).

Phone: 015394 36269

Email: Web:

Esthwaite Water Trout Fishery (Hawkshead)

The largest stocked lake in the North West. Catering for the National Competition team, casual anglers, beginners and children alike. You can get tuition as well if you're a novice. There's a shop where you can buy tackle and hire equipment, and, as you might expect, you can also buy the produce.

Open: 7 days a week 09.00-18.00 Call the booking line 015394 36541

Address: Esthwaite Water Trout Fishery, The Boat House, Ridding Wood, Hawkshead, Ambleside, LA22 0QF

Directions: On south west shore of Esthwaite Water 1.5 miles south of Hawkshead or 6 miles north of Newby Bridge.

Phone: 015394 3654.

Email: Web:

Solar Electric Launches, Coniston Water (Brantwood, Coniston)

Can they really be powered by the sun? Yes, but I guess they have some back-up - the sun doesn't shine all the time in the Lakes! But the electric launches are a delight - quite, smooth and peaceful. Sit back, relax, and imagine you're in the days of the Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome's delightful children's books were actually set on Coniston Water, though they resemble Windermere more closely). No surprise that special cruises include "Swallows and Amazons" and "Campbells on Coniston" - see website for details. Private Charter available.

Open: Sailing daily from 10.30 to dusk - see website, or phone, for details and winter sailings.

Address: Coniston Ferry Services, Pier Cottage, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8AJ

Directions: Parking at Coniston Boat Landings. Or you can get the Stagecoach bus from Windermere or Ambleside.

Phone: 015394 36216

Email:  Web:

Brantwood (Coniston)

A truly lovely place to explore, John Ruskin's house, estate and gardens probably are, as the trustees claim, the most beautifully situated house in the Lakes. There's a gallery, a jolly fine restaurant, and a bookshop - if you tire of finding out about this great social reformer and his life (which was, it has to be said, quite odd, at least in the later stages). Maybe not so good for the younger children, but certainly a wonderful place for the older ones and adults. A Top Attraction!

Open: Daily mid-March to mid-November 11.00 to 17.30. Winter: Wednesday to Sunday 11.00 to 16.30

Directions: Off B5285 signposted from Hawkshead and Coniston. Via bus connecting with boats at Coniston jetty.

Phone: 015394 41396

Email: Web:

The Ruskin Museum (Coniston)

"Be inspired by the radical political philosophy of John Ruskin, brilliant artist, critic, and social reformer. Marvel at the heroic courage of Donald Campbell, speeding over Coniston in "Bluebird". Understand slate, copper, dry-stone walls, Herdwick sheep, Langdale linen & Ruskin lace."

Open: Daily mid-March to mid-November, 10.00-17.30 Winter: Wednesday-Sunday inclusive, 10.30-15.30 (16.30 mid Feb - mid Mar).

Address: Ruskin Museum, Coniston, Cumbria, LA21 8DU Directions: A593 from A591 at Ambleside; A595 & A593 from A590 at Greenodd; B5285 from Hawkshead.

Phone: 015394 4116.

Email: Web:

Steam Yacht Gondola (Coniston Water)

A unique and elegant steamboat providing an unrivalled cruising experience. Just like the Victorian passengers of the original Gondola launched in 1859, today's passengers can enjoy a steam-powered cruise in opulently upholstered saloons. It's certainly fun to sail down the lake in style on Gondola, and it gives you a very different perspective of Coniston.

Open: Daily sailings from Coniston Pier. 1st April until 31 Oct. Passengers may disembark at Brantwood.

Directions: Follow B5285 from Hawkshead A5084/A593 from Broughton. A593 from Ambleside. Signposted from Coniston village.

Phone: 015394 41288

Email: Web:

Go Ape! High Ropes Forest Adventure (Grizedale)

Go Ape! is a challenging course of rope bridges, Tarzan swings and zip slides of up to almost 60 feet above the forest floor. Ideal for families, friends and corporate groups, Go Ape! provides approximately 3 hours of fun, laughter and adventure. Pre-booking essential. If your kids are under 18, you have to go with them, so if you're not the intrepid sort, get someone into high-wire daredevilry to accompany them. We've taken our young nephews along and they say it's ace!

Open: 11 Feb - 26 Feb. Daily: 24 Mar - 29 Oct. Nov: Weekends only.

Directions: At Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre, 2 miles south of Hawkshead on road to Satterthwaite.

Phone: 0870 428 088.

Email:  web:

Muncaster Castle (Ravenglass)

Like so many historic country houses, Muncaster's owners have developed entertaining diversions to keep the estate together. Here you can see owls and herons, and a very entertaining meadow vole maze. In addition, you can check out claims that the historic castle is haunted, and enjoy the Himalayan Gardens and the World Owl Centre (actually, it's great - don't miss it!) Owl display daily 14.30. Herons feed 16.30. Winter evening magic - Darkest Muncaster Saturday & Sunday from 26 Oct to 25 Mar. Starts 16.00 (or dusk). Closed Jan.

Open: Daily 12 Feb - 5 Nov, 10.30-18.00 Castle open 12.00-17.00, Sun - Fri (Muncaster closed Jan.

Directions: On A595 one mile south of Ravenglass, 19 miles south of Whitehaven.

Phone: 01229 717614

Email: Web:

Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway (Ravenglass)

This was always a favourite of our family when we were kids, and it's just as charming and entertaining today as it was then. They are, as they claim, a "family friendly steam railway" in the Western Lake District. If it's sunny, you can enjoy riding the very scenic line in open carriages and if the weather turns grey, there are closed coaches to enjoy the journey. You get a free guide to the line, which will give you a wealth of information about the amazing scenery you're seeing, and there's a free La'al Ratty (the line's nickname) children's game to play. It's also true there is unrivalled walking and cycling. At Dalegarth Station there's now a Visitor Centre including "Fellbites Cafe" and the "Scafell Gift Shop". Great fun, highly recommended, and A Top Attraction!

Open: Minimum of 7 trains per day, mid-Mar to Nov. Most Winter weekends. All holiday periods.

Directions: Ravenglass is on the coast by the A595. Trains connect with the main line railway.

Phone: 01229 717171

Email: web:

Peter Hall and Son Furniture Workshop (Staveley, near Kendal)

This fascinating workshop is well worth a visit from anyone who appreciates true quality craftsmanship. You can see skilled designers and craftspeople creating exceptional furniture and home interiors. You can watch the craftsmen at work from the viewing gallery, and see more of the products in the showroom.

Open: Throughout the year Monday - Friday 0900-170Q Saturday 1000-1300 (showroom only). Closed Sunday and Bank Holidays.

Address: Peter Hall & Son Ltd, Danes Road, Staveley, Nr Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 9PL

Directions: Between Windermere and Kendal just off A591 at Windermere end of Staveley. Follow tourist signs.

Phone: 01539 82163.

Email: Web:

The Lakeland Climbing Centre (Kendal)

This climbing centre claims to be the largest in the North of England. They offer a full range of instructed sessions from beginners' courses through to children's parties. Since they offer outdoor rock climbing, mountaincraft and navigation courses, and private guiding on the Lakeland crags and fells, you can learn all you need to know to be safe on the fells. But it's not all serious - there's also a lot of fun to be had! We recommend the climbing wall for a completely different diversion. Our youngsters loved it. Phone for details, times and prices.

Open: Tuesday-Friday 10.00-22.00, Weekends & Bank Holidays 10.00-17.00, (September-April: Monday 16.00-22.00, Weekends 10.00-19.00 in addition).

Address: The Lakeland Climbing Centre, Lake District Business Park, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 6NH

Directions: 1 mile north of Kendal town centre on A6 (Shap road), follow signs onto the Lake District Business Park.

Phone: 01539 72176.

Email: Web:

The Paper Warehouse Arts & Crafts (Kendal)

This arts and crafts shop holds card making workshops throughout the year. We haven't tried it ourselves, though some of our friends went along and had a wonderful time, so we quote from their literature: "You can explore your creative side using different card making techniques, suitable both for beginners and the more experienced. All materials and a buffet lunch provided during 3 hours of imaginative fun."

Open: Mon-Fri 09.30-17.00 Sat 10.00-17.00 Sun 11.00-17.00

Address: Grosvenor House Papers Ltd, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 6NP

Directions: V/2 miles north of Kendal on A6 (Shap Road) follow signs to Westmorland Business Park, turn left at Land Rover garage.

Phone: 01539 726161

Email: Web:

Museum of Natural History and Archaeology (Kendal)

The Kendal Museums (see also below) form a pretty comprehensive tableau of Lakeland life and history with a few bizarre additions like a collection of mounted animals hunted by British military officers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

This museum holds the district's archaeological finds and the natural history collection, together with a collection of hunted animals from Africa and Asia (among other places) which was presented to the museum in, I think, the 1930s. Of course we live in more enlightened times now, but it seems ironic that the museum adds the rider to its own local natural history exhibition that none of its exhibits were killed for the purpose of showing them in the displays. The moral issue of whether it's right to display a collection of animals killed in less enlightened times isn't one for this website; I suppose the rationale for displaying them is that they give an insight into world wildlife for people who may never see the animals in their natural habitat. It just sits uncomfortably with me; no matter how impressive the collection (and, with an objective eye, I suppose it is impressive), one is never far away from the issues of conservation, and, more importantly, man's effect on the world environment.

I personally find it offensive, but that's just me: go and judge for yourselves. The collections are impressive, and children will probably find them highly entertaining. It seems to me that the museum's on safer ground when it focuses on the natural history, archaeology and geology of the Lake District. The natural history section includes a nature trail from mountaintop to lakeside, during which you can learn more about many of the natural inhabitants of the area. There are impressive archaeological finds, too, and for anyone interested in the history and development of the area, right through from Roman times to the present day, the displays are interesting and entertaining. There are interactive displays which will keep the children amused. On reflection, I'd say this was a good provincial museum, trying hard with some more than averagely interesting collections.

However, the reverence accorded to Alfred Wainwright is a little overdone. Even though many admire his books, he was undoubtedly a curmudgeon. He was, in his time, a curator or clerk at the museum. Events, lectures and exhibitions run throughout the year.

Open: Mon-Sat 1030-1700. (Closed Sundays). (Closing 16.00 in Winter).

Directions: M6, Junction 36. A591, follow signs to north Kendal and railway station, which is opposite Kendal Museum.

Phone: 01539 72137.

Email: Web:

Quaker Tapestry Exhibition Centre (Kendal)

Now this is absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in either Quakers or Tapestry. As the promotional material says, you can see colourful embroidery from 15 countries, showing 350 years of social history within 77 modern tapestry panels. Family facilities include: multi-lingual personal audio guides and large screen video, costume, shop, garden, and tearooms.

Open: Mon-Fri 10.00-17.00, April - Dec. Tearooms: all year. Saturdays to pre-booked groups only. Closed Bank Holidays.

Address: Friends' Meeting House, Stramongate, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 4BH, England, UK

Directions: Friends Meeting House in Kendal town centre. Entrances on Stramongate and New Road, facing river.

Phone: 01539 722975

Email: Web:

1657 Chocolate House (Kendal)

1657 Chocolate House is a unique destination with a restaurant serving 20 chocolate drinks, 14 handmade gateaux and savouries served by traditionally dressed ladies. The shop has hundreds of handpicked chocolates and gifts. And you can learn about chocolate making, its history, and see an informative video. There are also special events including chocolate dipping and chocolate fondue feasts!

Open: 7 days a week 10.30 to 17.00

Address: Branthwaite Brow, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 4TX

Directions: Branthwaite Brow is next to the market square on old cobbled street near the Westmorland Shopping Centre.

Phone: 01539 74070.

Email: Web:

Brewery Arts Centre (Kendal)

The Brewery has something for everyone - theatre, dance and music events, free art exhibitions and all the latest films. The Green Room Restaurant, overlooking the garden, Vats Bar and Intro Cafe Bar, offers everything from snacks and pizzas to evening meals.

Open: 10.00-23.00 every day. Box Office: 1000 - 2030 Mon-Sat, 11.00 - 20.30 Sun & Bank Holidays.

Address: Brewery Arts Centre, Highgate, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 4HE Directions: Near the centre of Kendal, signed off Highgate near the YHA, on the left of the one-way system. Parking for 60 cars.

Phone: 01539 72513.

Email: Web:

Abbott Hall Art Gallery (Kendal)

This is a superb gallery, which I really enjoy visiting. As they say, this elegant Georgian building does indeed provide a superb setting for its collection of fine art, which includes paintings by Kendal's famous son (and society painter) George Romney, which fill the walls of rooms furnished by Gillows of Lancaster. Changing exhibitions complement the permanent collection of 18th, 19th and 20th century paintings and watercolours. There are pictures by Constable, Ruskin, Turner, Edward Lear and other lesser local artists. Since one of my relatives worked for Gillow's of Lancaster, the matchless furniture was of especial interest to me. There's also a small modern art collection with a Hepworth.

Open Mon-Sat 10.30-17.00 (Closed Sundays). (Closing 16.00 Nov - Mar).

Directions: M6, Junction 36 follow Museum signs into South Kendal. Situated behind Museum of Lakeland Life next to Parish Church. Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 5AL

Phone: 01539 722464

Email: Web:

Museum of Lakeland Life at Abbot Hall (Kendal)

The museum shows how our Cumbrian ancestors worked, lived and entertained themselves for the last 200 years. Or so says the brochure. In fact, this museum is like many others around the country which try to give a flavour of local life by constructing mocked-up scenes of life in the area. These scenes do work well: you certainly gain a sense of how our ancestors lived and worked. Again, children - especially those of a more curious nature - will find it all very entertaining. The exhibits include reconstructions of a Victorian street scene, with pharmacy, toy shop and market stall. To continue the theme of reverence for local authors started in the Museum Of Natural History and Archaeology, there's a re-creation of Arthur Ransome's study.

This works less well. The commentary is innocently amusing; and the main appeal of the man for most people was his books for children, not his personal history, which only historians and dedicated fans will find of much interest (he supported the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution and married Trotsky's secretary). Anyway, those of us who enjoyed the "Swallows and Amazons" series as children may find it interesting. All in all, Abbot Hall is a fascinating place for all the family, and there's much to intrigue and amuse the children. A Top Attraction!

Open: Mon-Sat 10.30-17.00. (Closed Sundays). (Closing 16.00 Nov - Mar).

Directions: M6, Junction 36 follow Museum signs into South Kendal. Museum is in stable block of Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

Phone: 01539 72246.

Email: Web:

K Village Outlet Centre (Kendal)

The usual factory shopping complex, with the 2nd largest Clarks Factory Shop in Europe, alongside other famous brands offering discounts of up to 60% off RRP. There's a Riverside Cafe, the K Shoe Heritage Centre and free parking.

Open: Monday - Saturday 09.30-18.00, Sunday 11.00-17.00 Directions: J36 M6 motorway, follow signs for Kendal and then K Village. Situated on the south side of Kendal on A65, the Kendal to Kirkby Lonsdale road. Local buses 41 and 41A.

Address: K Village Outlet, 20 Stricklandgate, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 4ND

Phone: 01539 73236.

Email: Web:

Kendal Leisure Centre

Facilities include swimming, squash, a sports hall, the fitzone gym, a café bar, children's holiday activities, swimming lessons, and an event venue for classical and light entertainment concerts. (There's also a leisure centre at Ulverston. See website for full details or phone 01229 584110.)

Open: 07.45-23.00 hours daily. Directions.

Address: Situated on Burton Road on the south side of Kendal on the A65 Kendal to Kirkby Lonsdale road.

Phone: 01539 729777 or 729702 ext 211 or 212

Email: Web:

Low Sizergh Barn, Farm Shop, Tea Room and Craft Gallery (near Kendal)

This little enterprise is one of my favourite places to go for superb quality organic food and drinks. I discovered them a few years ago, and I've been a fan ever since. They just have such good stuff, all year round, both fresh and cooked foods of the highest quality. You can enjoy a vast range of local (and some not so local) mouth-watering cheeses, fresh farm produce, cakes, sweets and biscuits, and find some truly delicious organic ready meals, ready prepared for you to take home.

They also have a trail around the organic dairy farm, and two galleries of gifts and crafts, and a tea room with a viewing gallery where you can watch the cows being milked around 3.45pm. If you're travelling to or from the Lakes, from Kendal to the M6, why not call in and see what they have to offer? Most definitely A Top Attraction! Highly recommended for good organic food, and delicious ice-cream!

Open: Easter to end Dec, 09.00-17.30 (tea room 09.30-17.00) - Easter 09.00-17.00 (tea room 0930-1645)

Address: Low Sizergh Barn, Low Sizergh Farm, Sizergh, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 8AE

Directions: 4 miles south of Kendal on the A591.

Phone: 015395 6042.

Email: Web:

Sizergh Castle & Garden (near Kendal)

Now, another wonderful attraction. Sizergh is a beautiful and fascinating "castle" (actually a pele tower, I think), with a distinct sense of history and full of ancient treasures. It has a sense of place that many old houses, open to the public, simply don't have. In addition, it's set in wonderful grounds with walks around the estate. No doubt one of the reasons it feels different to so many mere museum pieces is that it's been lived in by the Strickland family for over 760 years. As they say: "You can learn about the Elizabethan carvings and contents of the castle, then explore the stunning gardens including the renowned limestone rock garden." But you can enjoy it much more than that rather formal description suggests! A Top Attraction!

Open: Apr - Oct, Sun - Thurs inc. (Closed Fri/Sat). Garden, 1200-1700. House, 1300-1700.

Directions: 372 miles south of Kendal, signed off A590, Barrow-in-Furness direction.

Phone: 015395 6095.

Email: Web:

Levens Hall & Topiary Gardens (near Kendal)

As Levens is so near Sizergh castle, you could spoil yourself and see both houses in one day. This is an Elizabethan house, home of the Bagot family, containing Jacobean furniture, superb plasterwork and wonderful panelling. It has very impressive and enjoyable (and, as they rightfully claim, world-famous) Topiary Gardens, first laid out in 1694, with wonderful herbaceous borders and a fountain garden. You can enjoy home-made light lunches and teas. There's a tearoom, gift shop and plant centre. You only pay to go in the house and gardens. A Top Attraction!

Open: 2 Apr - 12 Oct, Sunday-Thursday. Garden, Shop and Tearoom 10.00-1700 House 12.00-17.00 Last admissions 16.30

Address: Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria, LA8 0PD

Directions: 5 miles south of Kendal on the A6 (M6 Junction 36).

Phone: 015395 6032.

Email: Web: .

Lakeland Wildlife Oasis (Milnthorpe, near Kendal)

You can enjoy a fascinating journey through the animal kingdom from magic molecules to mischievous monkeys in this unique and award-winning wildlife centre. Exhibits, indoor and out, include sea life, butterfly and tropical halls, a host of hands-on displays and many rare and unusual species.

Open: Every day (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day) from 10.00

Address: Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, Hale, Milnthorpe, Cumbria, LA7 7BW

Directions: Located on the A6, 2 miles south of Milnthorpe. Near M6 junctions 35 and 36.

Phone: 015395 63027

Email: Web:

Aquarium of the Lakes (Lakeside)

Like the Sea Life centres that have sprung up around Britain in the last few years, this aims to provide an educational focus rather than just pure entertainment - and there's no better way to get kids interested in conservation than to get them involved early in life with the animals that share our planet. So, here you can see pike, otters, British sharks and mammals including harvest mice, bank voles and brown rats. And there's a rather clever underwater tunnel featuring diving ducks. Special activities include a children's quiz trail and daily talks. A Top Attraction!

Open: All year: daily 09.00-18.00 (1700 in Winter) Last admission 1 hour earlier. Closed Christmas Day.

Directions: From M6 junction 36, follow A590 to Newby Bridge and Lakeside and from Bowness/Windermere follow A592 to Newby Bridge and Lakeside.

Address: Aquarium of the Lakes, Lakeside, Newby Bridge, Cumbria, LA12 8AS

Phone: 015395 3015.

Email: Web:

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