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Famous for its soaring peaks and sparkling lakes, England’s largest National Park begs to be explored by foot, boat or bike. But there’s more to this area than 'just' astonishing natural beauty. From delicious eateries to a bustling cultural scene, the Lake District is the gift that keeps on giving and even the shortest visit can leave you refreshed and ready to leave city life behind (all that fresh air, you see). Catching trains to the Lake District is easy, too: it’ll take just over 2 hours from Manchester and under 2 hours from Edinburgh.
TransPennine Express trains to the Lake District call at Oxenholme Lake District (stop here for connecting train services to Windermere), Penrith and Carlisle stations. A great network of local bus services serve the towns and villages, check out Go Lakes for advice on travelling by bus.
Bike hire is available across the Lakes and specifically in Windermere (Country Lanes), Penrith (Inspiring Cycling) and Carlisle (Border City Cycle Hire).
Top of your 'things to do in the Lake District' list should be Penrith Castle, directly opposite Penrith station entrance. If you’re a rambler at heart, don’t miss Borger Dalr – it’s undoubtedly one of the country’s most beautiful walks. Dove Cottage, William Wordsworth’s first family home, is a well-run visitor’s centre and just a hop and a skip from Grasmere. No visit to the Lake District is complete without a cruise on the lakes themselves, or if you’re feeling adventurous, hire your own boat on Coniston with Coniston Boating Centre.
You'll not want for fine dining in the Lake District. Both The Samling Hotel and L’Enclume have Michelin stars, if you're willing to push the boat out. Four & Twenty in Penrith has a great reputation among locals, both for food and service, while you’ll find The Mortal Man in the tiny hamlet of Troutbeck, north of Windermere and down from Orrest Head. The menu is basic but so are the prices… and the pub garden is outstanding.
The World of Beatrix Potter is a must-see for families. Here, children (and adults) get to meet Peter Rabbit and friends – just watch out for Mr McGregor. Brockhole on Windermere is a popular visitor centre that offers pony trekking, boating, treetop walks, archery and mini golf… pretty much everything you need to tire out your crew in spectacular surroundings. The Rheged Centre near Penrith is a family-focused attraction with far too many activities to list here – easily enough to fill a day (or 3).
There are no mega-malls in the Lakes but you can get a retail fix at a variety of Lake District shopping stops. Keswick has great outdoor clothing stores: Nordic Outdoor, George Fisher and Cotswold Outdoor, and when better to use it? If you are partaking in a spot of hill walking, then you’ll be sorely in need of some fast-acting energy, so try some spicy sweet biscuits from Grasmere Gingerbread – baked in the same school that Wordsworth taught in. Windermere even boasts the headquarters of kitchenware experts Lakeland.
For more ideas on what to do in the Lake District, visit Go Lakes