Ah, Windermere. Land of Wordsworth, cream teas and bracing hill walks. But there's a  lot more to it than that. Fresh-air fanatics and literary buffs are well catered for, it's true, but it's not all country bumpkins and quill pens at dawn. There are some fabulous boutique hotels, up-market cafés and world-class restaurants to discover, too.

You'll need a hearty breakfast to get started, so fuel up on a full English at the cosy Brambles Tea Room in Windermere village before heading up to Orrest Head view point, a 25-minute walk and a stunning view from the top.

If you don't fancy walking everywhere, First Transpennine Express has teamed up with car hire company Co-wheels so if you've come on the train you can pick up a discounted Mini Cooper Clubman by the hour. Passengers can also enjoy a 20 per cent discount on partially battery-powered bikes from the Electric Bicycle Network. Otherwise, an Explorer ticket will get you around Lake Windermere by bus. It's valid for a day and you can make as many stops as you like.

If you're with children (and, let's face it, even if you're not) head into Bowness to The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, where Peter Rabbit and friends have been brought to life, complete with the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside.


A bite to eat

It's probably time for lunch by now, so pop in to the Angel Inn for a sumptuous full on lunch - the local Cartmel Valley duck and damson sausages are a warming treat. For a lighter option, Aunty Val's Tea Rooms serves afternoon tea, sandwiches and cakes.

Had your fill? Then it's time for more adventure so hop aboard a paddle steamer at Bowness Bay. It's a 45-minute cruise down to Lakeside (look out for the multimillion-pound houses hugging the banks) where you can break your journey at the aquarium or with a ride on a steam train at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. Alternatively, take a two-and-a-half-hour stroll through serene woodlands and meadows to Finsthwaite and High Dam.

The next stop is Bowness, and the Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, one of the best-preserved examples of the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK. For dinner, try the bistro in The Old Laundry Theatre before settling in for a show or film. Alternatively, for authentic Italian cuisine and the best cocktails this side of Manhattan, Cafe Italia in Windermere village is the place to head. A five-minute walk away, the Cedar Manor Hotel & Restaurant offers fine dining in a peaceful wooded setting.


Castle culture

Next morning you'll be ready to work up a sweat again, so get on your mountain bike (or don your walking boots) to follow the Windermere Circular Route. It takes you through some of the area's most beautiful scenery, passing through the villages of Ambleside, Grasmere, Elterwater and Rydal Water and the wooded section of Hawkshead Hall Park. There's an improved stretch between Windermere and Wray Castle, a mock Gothic castle built as a private house in 1840, and two new piers opening this spring will make access easier. If art is your thing, Ambleside is stuffed with art galleries. Try La Galerie d'Art or the Cookhouse for fine art and Lake District scenes.


Poetry and pie

By this time lunch is calling, so head to The Apple Pie, an award-winning café and restaurant now in its 39th year. Afterwards, stroll through Ambleside's pretty streets before heading up the road to Grasmere, a gorgeous little Cumbrian village backed by dramatic scenery. Don't miss Dove Cottage, the first family home of William Wordsworth, who lived here between 1799 and 1808. Another 'must do' is the Grasmere Gingerbread shop, which has hardly changed since its beginnings in 1850. Thirsty? Pop into Faeryland Tea Gardens for a refreshing cuppa. Not only does it sell an amazing range of teas, but it hires out rowing boats, too. It's a suitably soothing end to a weekend of lakeside luxury.

Visit now

visitcumbria.com

golakes.co.uk

countrylaneslakedistrict.co.uk

windermere-walks.co.uk

golakestravel.co.uk

 

Places to stay

The Lamplighter Dining Rooms (From £65)

Close to Windermere train station, this cosy hotel is in a building dating back to 1865. All rooms are en-suite and there's a bar and a restaurant that serves scrumptious Sunday lunches at reasonable prices.

Info:lamplighterdiningrooms.com

 

Heidi's Grasmere Lodge (From £75)

This gorgeous six-room boutique hotel in the middle of Grasmere has undergone a complete renovation. There are pure wool carpets, underfloor heating, splash TVs in the bathrooms and a smart, airy café next door.

Info:heidisgrasmerelodge.co.uk 

 

Gilpin Lodge Hotel and Lake House (From £220) 

A member of Relais & Châteaux, this is the place to come if you're pushing the boat out. The last word in luxury, everything - from the views to the furnishings - has been designed with sublimity in mind.

Info:gilpinlodge.co.uk

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