Everyone expects a bit of rain in the Lake District, but when we spent a week near Lake Windermere last autumn and had to endure two storms and the tail end of a hurricane, we did feel a bit unlucky. Still, despite the intermittent torrential downpours and gale force winds, we found plenty to keep ourselves entertained over the course of a week. In case you’re ever in the Lakes and find yourself in a similar predicament, here are a few things you might like to think about doing:
1. Visit the Rheghed Centre in Penrith
We didn’t know about this place until we arrived at our lodge and saw the weather forecast for the week. It has a small soft play for children up to age 7 and the centre runs all kinds of children’s activities. As well as a little cafe at the soft play there are three other cafes/restaurants, so you won’t starve while you’re there.
The centre has a full arts programme for both children and adults and a huge cinema screen where you can see the latest releases. There are some great shops selling clothes, homeware and food, and a lovely toy shop where you can find some really unique gifts (or even a treat for your own children!).
Simply put, this place has a few things going on. And there’s also an outdoor play area in case the weather clears while you’re there, as it did for us, briefly.
2. Drop into The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction at Bowness-on-Windermere
Now, I may have been feeling a bit emotional when we visited The World of Beatrix Potter, but whatever it was, this place gave me watery eyes. I think it’s a beautiful exhibition and a must for children and adults alike. We’re used to the CBeebies version of Peter Rabbit and so the original Peter Rabbit was a bit lost on Little B, but whether you’re a true Beatrix Potter aficionado or not, every scene in the exhibition is so intricate and captivating, it’s hard not to be a bit taken in.
And of course there’s a lovely gift shop at the exit, as well as a tea room which gets good reviews but which we didn’t manage to try because, to be frank, we’d eaten more than enough that day. But at least we now have a good reason to go back.
3. Take a trip on a boat from Bowness on Windermere to Lakeside
Obviously this may be better on a dry day, but there’s no reason to let the rain stop you from hopping on a boat on Lake Windermere and taking in the scenery. There are a few routes but we chose the yellow cruise which runs from Bowness to Lakeside. It’s a 90 minute round trip, or you can hop off at Lakeside and come back to Bowness later in the day, as we did. Pushchair access was brilliant which made things so much easier for us, and as an added bonus, there was even a little cafe on board, so we managed to warm up and dry off with a cup of tea.
4. Lakes Aquarium, Lakeside
This isn’t the biggest aquarium you’ll ever visit, but it’s great for little ones with rays, piranha, pufferfish, otters, clownfish and of course, the usual walk through glass tunnel. Also worth a look are the leafcutter ants. These little creatures are fascinating and if someone had brought me a chair and a cup of tea, I would happily have sat and watched them busying backwards and forwards for hours.
The aquarium is right next to where the yellow cruise ferry drops off in Lakeside so it’s super handy if you visit by boat on a rainy day and don’t want to get your hair wet.
Advice: When exiting via the gift shop, do not be convinced by your 3 year old that you need to buy a toy mermaid that promises to hatch from a clam shell if you put it in water for 24 hours. It will be the longest 24 hours of your life.
That, I promise you.
5. Take a ride on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway
Again, if you get off the boat at Lakeside, you can hop straight onto the platform for the Lakeside and Haverthwaite steam train. Take the steam train to Haverthwaite station where you can pop into the Station Cafe for lunch (I recommend the fish finger sandwich) and have a wander round the gift shop, or even the engine shed, if that’s more your thing.
The train ride lasts only 15 minutes or so each way, but it’s dry, there’s a cup of tea waiting at the end, and anyway, what child doesn’t love a trip on a train?
6. Get creative at Pandemonium Pots, Kendal
Easy to find in the centre of Kendal, this place was a lifesaver on one of the particularly wet and windy days. We visited during what we now refer to as Little B’s ‘blue’ period. Basically, this was a period of a few months during which the only colour she would ever really draw or paint in was, er, blue. She chose her own piece of pottery, painted it and then once it had dried, added some glitter and sparkle.
She had a brilliant time and was thrilled to come away with yet another unicorn to add to her vast collection…..
7. Ponder the pencil at Kendal’s very own Derwent Pencil Museum
Yes, the pencil museum. It’s small, but still manages to house one of the world’s largest coloured pencils and eleventy billion (or thereabouts) pencil sharpeners. Once you’ve wandered round the exhibition, there are a few tables set up with pencils and paper for you to while away half an hour drawing, if you can’t face going back out into the rain.
While a lot of the exhibits were lost on our then three year old, she enjoyed completing the quiz (ask at the entrance) and had a great time drawing with all the different coloured pencils. But mostly the blue ones. Obvs.
And if all else fails……..
If it all gets too much and your little ones just need to let off steam, there’s always Fun Factory Bowness. Personally I try to avoid soft play at the best of times but there’s no getting away from the fact that on a rainy day, it’s always a winner. We never made it to this one, but it gets good reviews and it was reassuring to know that it was there for emergencies!
Have you visited the Lakes recently? Let me know your suggestions for things to do when the weather takes a turn for the worse.