Lake District

Named after one of the ancient kingdoms of Britain, this large heritage attraction just outside Penrith features exhibitions, live events, a 3D cinema and shops celebrating local produce and wares. It’s a one-stop shop for all your culture needs in the Lake District, but if you need to scratch that shopping itch too, then there are plenty of locally-sourced and made wares to splash your cash on.

Toys, beauty, art materials, outdoor clothing and even spa treatments are available at this cultural hub, and there’s mouth-watering food from around the region into the bargain. 

To let the food and drink settle, sink into your comfy seat at Rheged’s 3D cinema which has a mix of popular favourites and documentaries. And September features beamed-in performances from The National Theatre and Royal Ballet. 

There’s also time to catch a celebratory exhibition of printwork and Rheged’s Autumn Fair - for delicious food and drink from the region and demonstrations of local crafts. And if you like to get your hands dirty, you can also learn how to build a dry-stone wall or weave a wicker fence. 

Looking for a gift for a loved one? The Peter Sidwell Cookery School caters for those looking to improve their culinary skills. Or, if you prefer the business end of food, there are two cafés, a restaurant and ice-cream shop.

Lake Windermere
Over ten miles long and more than 200 feet deep, Windermere is the country’s largest lake. Little surprise that it has so many attractions, including an aquarium, ferry and the ornamental Holehird Gardens. 

There are plenty of undemanding walks around Windermere itself, but nearby Holehird boasts 17 acres of hillside gardens including rock and heather gardens, a walled garden, alpine houses and herbaceous borders. It’s ideal for whiling away some time in stunning surroundings.  

On the southern end of Windermere is the Aquarium of the Lakes, with over 30 displays of the wildlife and freshwater creatures that dwell in and alongside these inland waters.  

Lake Windermere is best enjoyed on the water and regular cruises chug around dropping off people for lunch dates at hotels and villages. There are all sort of watersports on offer too - the lake has several marinas and sailing and windsurfing centres but if that sounds like hard work, there are paddle steamers and rowing boats for hire.  

If waterbound vessels don’t float your boat, you can always wander lonely as a cloud among Windermere’s quaint streets taking in the breathtaking views.

The fish may be local - from a fishmonger in Fleetwood down the coast - but the cuisine isn’t. Not necessarily anyway… This lauded seafood restaurant brings influences from the world of gastronomy to the table in Windermere. You might spot Morecambe shrimps and local trout on the menu, but the fare is seasonal and subject to change depending on what has been landed on the day. 

Either way you can expect a good range of Mediterranean seafood dishes and some traditional British standards, plus food influenced by the cuisine of Southeast Asia. And just because Hooked is a seafood restaurant it doesn’t mean the desserts aren’t a top catch.  

Hooked is renowned for its friendly staff, expect to chat to the owner when you go, and its bustling ambiance but be sure to book ahead and check this buzzy, affordable little bistro is open if you’re keen to go. As is traditional, there’s no seafood on Mondays - no-one goes fishing on Sundays. And don’t expect chips!


Gala Theatre
So much more than a theatre, the Gala is the cultural epicentre of Durham. Housed in a £15 million building near the heart of the city and surrounded by eateries and watering holes, it’s home to an impressive array of performances. 

September’s 'what’s on' guide is a typically eclectic mix featuring highlights such as Alan Ayckbourn’s, Absent Friends and The National Theatre’s touring comedy, The Beaux’ Stratagem. But the pick of the bunch this month is the wildly successful Agatha Christie murder mystery, The Mousetrap, returning for another run. Under the tagline ‘suspect everyone’, this 60th anniversary production strands a group of apparent strangers in a snow-hit country house and throws every plot twist in the book at audiences. 

The Gala is also hosting comedians Dave Spikey, Jo Caulfield, Ruby Wax and Fred MacAuley and music from The Searchers and seventies sensation Leo Sayer - all in September. The first Sunday of the month is a Comedy Store takeover and the theatre also screens a smattering of Hollywood blockbusters at cheaper-than-multiplex prices. 

Add in A Night at the Opera and a performance from internationally renowned jazz guitarist, Martin Taylor and it’s hard to find someone who won’t be well-served by the Gala’s impressive roster. It just goes to show that, while Durham is historic, it’s by no means stuck in the past. 

Durham Cathedral
You don’t have to be religious to enjoy a visit to Durham’s breathtaking cathedral, that’s for sure. But it’s well worth taking a leap of faith to enjoy amazing views and awe-inspiring history. 

Travel writer Bill Bryson described it as the best cathedral on the planet and for good reason. It’s a familiar sight to rail travellers that's visible for miles as a stunning high point of Durham’s skyline. With spectacular stained glass windows, historically significant tombs and pretty surrounding cloisters, the cathedral draws in over 600,000 visitors a year. 

History and splendour combine to make this a spine-tingling place to wander with a partner or in solo contemplation - especially as the sun sets and the light bathes the spires and illuminates those multicoloured windows. Go up the tower for breathtaking views of the city - it’s the highlight of any trip to Durham. 

The cathedral’s story is fascinating as the building has witnessed British history first hand for 1,000 years - it was even home to 3,000 Scottish prisoners during the Civil War. And it’s just a short walk on cobbled streets from the station and Durham city centre. Or, every Wednesday at 10am, you can join a free walk around the nearby woodland and riverbanks lasting one hour.

Bistro 21
Terry Laybourne has been teasing north east tastebuds for over 20 years and has rightly been elevated to local hero status thanks to his mouth-watering dishes. Bistro 21 is his rustic, informal outpost in the pretty historic city of Durham. It’s walkable from the station and easy to spot thanks to a mustard yellow frontage. 

The food here is hardly in the bargain basement bracket, but it’s good value and tasty. During the day you can grab an express lunch costing £12 for two courses or £16 for three. The menu reflects Laybourne’s unpretentious flare for combining old fashioned favourites with an anarchic approach to cooking. Smoked cheese and chive soufflé followed by minute steak served with herb butter, chips and salad anyone? How about a warm chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream for the road?  

Bistro 21’s evening menu is just as tempting. Arrive between 5.30pm and 7pm and you can have a fixed price selection for £16/£19. Mains on the à la carte mostly weigh in under £20 - and it’s worth it for a relaxed meal in an intimate setting.


Cleethorpes Discovery Centre and Boating Lake
What can be more romantic than a trip on rowing boat? Just the two of you at close quarters, the sound of the water trickling by… It’s all very Jane Austen and the perfect way to get away from the buzz of daily life. Time your trip on the water carefully, though. Every Wednesday and Sunday from noon local model boat enthusiasts launch their craft onto the lake, inviting all-comers to watch. Luckily, they love it when visitors chat to them about their hobby.  

Not up for rowing? Don’t fancy frolicking in a pedalo? Not to worry - you can also stroll around the water’s edge before you pop into the Lakeside Discovery Centre. Here you’ll find two floors of exhibition space celebrating the region’s association with the sea. It’s free and well worth a look - even if it’s just to spy out of the ABP Humber Observatory where you can enjoy stunning views of the busy waterway. There’s a gift shop and café on site too.

Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway
Voted the number one tourist attraction in this busy seaside town by TripAdvisor reviewers, the light railway is a throwback to the golden age of steam and a delightful way to see the town. Plus it’s home to the world’s smallest pub. 

The Signal Box Inn measures just 8 feet by 8 feet and still manages to squeeze in indoor seating, a TV, darts, an in-house band and a nine-hole golf course. Well worth a visit to find out how... 

There’s plenty more do as you hop on and off the trains on this two-mile track. At the Lakeside Station there’s a new café, Platform One, serving full English breakfasts, sandwiches and a proper brew. You can also take in the Griffin Hall Museum which looks back at the local history of steam or alight at Humberstone for great views and easy access to Pleasure Island Theme Park. 

Seaview Street Shopping
You get more than you bargained for with a trip to Cleethorpes, that’s for sure. The town has a number of clustered shopping areas, with the main spot located on Seaview Street spilling into the first curve of Cambridge Street. 

The jewel in the crown is Daniella Draper’s jewellery store. Daniella has created bespoke items for A-list celebrities such as Ed Sheeran, while Kate Moss has worn her stacking bracelets. A great place to pick up a gift for someone special. 

Of course, this wouldn’t be a seaside shopping destination without the usual gift shops and souvenir sellers with pretty trinkets at reasonable prices. 

Once the spending is all-but over, you’ll need to kick back and enjoy some nice food. The pick of the eateries is Petit Delight, featuring a delicious brasserie foodie menu with a very French feel and good, old fashioned English classics such as the mouth-watering afternoon tea. There are cafés, pubs and a curry house too, so you’re not short of options.


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