So, welcome to my blog if you haven’t been here before. A bit of background – we have three kids, currently aged seven, almost four and almost two, and recently, in the interest of transparency, we worked with Visit England and Peppa Pig to showcase some of the brilliant places to visit in the Lake District, with kids.
We headed towards the Cumbria region a couple of weeks ago now, for three days, and used Visit England’s Peppa Pig adventures checklist to help inspire our trip. You’re probably wondering what a Peppa Pig adventures checklist is, so you can either visit the Visit England website for a nosy, or I can give you a quick brief here before I get onto the places that we visited and what we thought.
So! The Peppa Pig adventures checklist has been developed by Visit England to help inspire us, as parents or caregivers, when it comes to doing things with our kids, here on our doorstep. All of the activities mimic things that Peppa does with her family, so they are especially great if you have a Peppa Pig fan in your household (we have two diehard fans in ours!). You can download and print the checklist on the Visit England website and use it the next time you need an activity idea, or you could even treat it as a bit of a yearly bucket list too! Our kids really appreciated the novelty of having Peppa Pig as our inspiration and you’ll be pleased to know that not all of these activities cost an arm and a leg either.
Now that’s all out of the way, let’s talk about what we did while we were exploring the Lake District shall we?
Where we stayed – Hillcroft Park
We wanted to be somewhere that felt like a home-from-home, which always works well for us as a family. We like to be able to make food ourselves, have a bit of downtime, and also give the kids a bit of space to just play and reset themselves a bit. We ended up staying in a three-bedroom lodge at Hillcroft Park, in Pooley Bridge. It was absolutely perfect for us, as we had our own bedroom (we’ve all shared a room in a hotel a few times before and restful it was not!), the bigger two shared, and our teething toddler had his own room too, so he was less likely to wake his siblings up!
There’s an onsite park, a small shop, and a secure gate letting you in and out of the premises with a passcode, which was a nice extra bit of security. As it happens, our lodge also came with a hot tub, but as it was FREEZING when we visited (February) we didn’t make use of it.
As a parent, I loved being able to cook our own breakfast and save money that way, and we even ate in on our first night as we’d had a long day of travel and play and the kids would never have managed a meal out as well. I also liked that we could watch a bit of telly with a glass of wine and the fire on and just relax for a bit.
Our first stop – Rheged Centre
When we set off, bright and early in the morning (our journey was around two hours and 15 minutes, which wasn’t too bad), we headed right for the Rheged Centre, in Penrith.
Rheged is like nowhere I’ve personally been before. You could honestly fill a whole day there, which is what we did. It has an independent cinema, a gorgeous café, a farm shop of sorts, other stalls selling local art, crafts, and even clothes. Then there was a play area indoors, a play area outdoors, along with workshops and events for the kids.
It was absolutely stunning as well, and despite such gorgeous surroundings, it was full of families and I didn’t feel like we had to keep our kids “seen but not heard” if you know what I mean.
We started our day with a screening of Doolittle, which I loved (love me a talking animal), and we were able to buy some snacks to keep the kids content until lunch too. They still did popcorn and sweets for that proper cinema experience!
Then we had our lunch at the café there and, wow, the food was not only gorgeous, but locally-inspired and the portions were huge too. I can recommend the pork and apple and black pudding burger. I couldn’t finish it, but it was so good.
After that, we headed downstairs to a painting workshop run by the most enthusiastic and passionate lady. She was great and all three kids got stuck in and were allowed to be as ‘creative’ (messy) as they liked. They also got to bring their crafts home and the bigger two children in particular really loved being able to do that.
We then went for an explore, really, and ended up in the outdoor play area, which I appreciated, because, after a while, my kids need somewhere to go and burn off some energy.
We ended our day with an animal workshop, where my kids were holding and stroking snakes, salamanders, beetles and rats, and learning a lot about them too. I loved that my one year-old was able to join in and I was surprised at how interested and gentle he was. The woman who held the workshop was brilliant at integrating all ages and I felt really at ease, as she knew how to deal with every child individually.
After that – we were there for nearly four hours – we headed to a local Sainsbury’s to stock up on some food before heading to Hillcroft Park for the night…
Next stop – Lake District Wildlife Park
After a well-needed sleep and some bacon butties, we bundled up and packed ourselves in the car and headed to the Lake District Wildlife Park, which is just a short drive from Keswick. It took us about 45 minutes in the car, and it was so worth the journey.
Now, the day we chose to go, was a MISERABLE day, and part of me was a bit nervous about how that would go, considering we were going to be outdoors quite a bit. It rained, it even tried to snow, and the wind was strong, but I really needn’t have worried. Firstly, thanks to the weather, there were less families than usual, and we were really able to make good use of our visit because of that (so that’s a tip for you – it really is a rain or shine place to visit!). There are plenty of things to do inside, as well as outside, and I think this was my kids’ favourite place out of all the places that we visited whilst we were there.
They were able to feed goats, llamas, and sheep. We went to a reptile workshop, a guinea pig cuddling session, and an owl workshop too. Seeing the owls fly ahead was amazing and probably one of my favourite parts of the day. The kids were just so happy to be able to interact with all of these animals and spent most of the time laughing and saying how cute they all were. Maybe not at the snakes, though!
We ate at the onsite café, which did hot and cold kids meals (some of which came with crayons and things like that, which my kids loved!). The food was comforting and tasty – I had a panini and Mark had the chilli bowl, which was a huge portion and smelt amazing!
There was also a gift shop on the way out if you fancy treating the kids. We actually did one of the claw machines in the indoor soft play area and won them each a toy there (it was one of the easiest ones we have ever used!) so that saved us some pennies! The soft play was brilliant when the rain really came down and it was just the right size to be able to keep an eye on all three kids. Might have climbed up a few ladders myself!
I have to give a huge well done to all of the staff at the Lake District Wildlife Park. Not only were they extremely kind and passionate, but what they didn’t know about the animals that they care for isn’t worth knowing.
Next stop – Keswick Museum & Art Gallery
After a quick in-car nap for our youngest, and a petrol pitstop, we found ourselves in Keswick. We were there to visit the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery, which I was on the fence about initially, as I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I didn’t know how much my children would appreciate it. We’ve been to larger museums in the past, but never a smaller local one before. But I was keen to see what it was like.
When we walked in we were met by Dave, who is charge of education at the museum. Gosh he was such a passionate man and really did care about his job and the local community. The Keswick museum is largely run by volunteers, which was touching to see, considering that not everyone wants to give their time so freely these days.
Dave was explaining how they had given everything a rejig to try and better cater to families. and judging by the amount of people there, young and old, I’d say it was working.
They had set up ‘Fox Boxes’ around the museum, with a series of quizzes and puzzles and activities for children to do. I was so impressed by this, because there’s only so much you can show a child before they start needing a wee or want to visit the gift shop! They each got an activity sheet and a pencil and then they were off.
I’d say my eldest got the most out of our visit, because he can read and has a better understanding of things, along with a general curiosity that comes with being seven. But my younger two loved the old-fashioned puzzles you could do, the book box and the brass rubbings. There was also a Punch & Judy style theatre, where the kids could act out Goldilocks & the Three Bears, and that was worth a visit alone as we were in hysterics!
I think it’s easy, in a world of of soft play, parks and technology, to forget that places like this exist and really are a great place to visit. Instead of paying for a family ticket, we paid for two adult tickets and one child as our younger two were free. It came to £12.90 and that is now valid for 12 months! So we could go back again and again and not pay a thing. We aren’t local, so we might not get the best use out of it, but I thought it was worth sharing!
We stayed until it was about to close, and then we headed back to Hillcroft Park for an hour of rest before heading out for some food…
Next stop – George and Dragon
I am a bit of a foodie, and I was really looking forward to having a meal out one evening. It’s always a gamble with three tired kids, but George and Dragon had great reviews and I was excited to have a glass of wine and some good grub!
First things first, the decor is gorgeous. It’s really cosy and has that ‘country’ vibe going on. It was really busy, which you’d expect for a Friday night, but that added to the atmosphere and you couldn’t tell if my kids were being noisy then either!
We all had starters and mains and the options were fantastic. The kids all had the same starter of veggie sticks, which, if I’m honest, needed a dip of some sort. Maybe houmous or something like that?
We shared a cauliflower tempura dish, which was also vegan, and it was absolutely incredible. One of my favourite things that I ate the whole time I was in the Lakes. For main, Mark and Bill, my eldest, had the fish special, which down really well as they love their seafood. My little girl Daisy is a pasta monster, so the Mac & Cheese went down incredibly well with her. And Stan, my youngest, had some local sausages with chips and veg. All three ate really well and it was a relief, as sometimes kids’ meals can be a bit hit and miss and a bit lacking in effort.
I had the lamb off the specials board and I’m so glad I did. It was absolutely beautiful and went really well with the haggis and seasonal veg. I was far too full for dessert, but the kids had chocolate pots and they didn’t last long at all!
It was definitely a little more expensive than average, but the food was far better than average and it was worth every penny. You’d expect as much as it was a Taste Cumbria Award Finalist too! You can see a menu sample here.
Next stop – Granny Dowbekins
The next morning, after another decent sleep, we checked out of Hillcroft Park and headed to our first stop of the day – breakfast at Granny Dowbekins! This place comes up a lot when you look for places to visit in Pooley Bridge, and I can see why. It’s been open for over a century and serves everything from breakfast to cream teas!
There’s parking (pay and display) just on the left as you pass Granny Dowbekins, which is always a bonus with kids as it’s nicer than getting them out of the car when you’re parked at the roadside. We walked across to Granny Dowbekins as the weather tried its best to snow! There were some sort of road/maintenance works going on right outside Granny Dowbekins when we visited, which was a shame as you might miss it! But as it was early morning, we didn’t feel like it disturbed us at all.
Granny Dowbekins is that sort of place to go to where you fancy good grub that feels a bit like a cuddle. Do you know what I mean? It was homely, cosy and the lady that served us was brilliant with our kids and brought over some crayons and colouring sheets and said she’d be back to pick the best one later. The kids loved her and we were grateful as it’s not always easy getting them all to sit still sometimes!
We both had Granny’s Breakfast, which was a Full English with your choice of eggs and toast and my goodness it was good. I didn’t finish it, but it was amazing. It included local sausage and bacon and just really tasty! The kids had a bacon barm and an egg barm between them, with plenty of ketchup. The lady who served us was happy for them to share and cut it up and brought extra plates too. You can see the full menu here if you like.
A pot of tea, a flat white and some apple juices washed it all down nicely. I would have loved to have tried one of their many cakes and bakes, but we were too full, but we did bring home some Gingerbridge which is a ginger shortbread in the shape of a bridge and is a ‘Pooley Bridge’ delicacy if you will! It was lovely! We had some at home with a brew!
Final stop – Lowther Castle & Gardens
With full bellies, we headed to our final stop, which was Lowther Castle & Gardens. I had been especially excited about this visit because castles are always a bit exciting to me. I love wondering about what and who has been there before we were.
This day was the worst weather wise. It was incredibly bitter and the wind was so strong that you could feel it pushing you along. When we arrived, thankfully the castle courtyard protected us a bit, because it was freezing! We headed inside and picked up the latest activity sheet for the kids. They do themed activities and trails quite regularly, and they are designed to help the children get the most of their visit. The one we did was pancake themed, and we had to explore the grounds and find various clues and if we worked it out, you would get a free pancake and syrup at the end at the on-site café (there’s also a beautiful gift shop too!).
The kids loved this aspect and thought it was all “soooo cooooooool!” as they explored. We managed to get out into the gardens and grounds, but some bits we were recommended to avoid because of the weather. We didn’t manage to stay outside for as long as we’d hoped because it was so cold! But it didn’t stop us from making the most of it and exploring while we could. I would love to go back and visit again on a sunny day and see all of the gardens in bloom, and take a picnic. One for summer I think!
And with that, it was time to head home! I think we managed a lot in our 2.5 days in the Lake District, and our kids are still talking about what they did while we were there even now.
I hope you found this post helpful and you enjoy your stay if you are visiting soon. And thank you to Visit England and Peppa Pig for working with us on this trip – we made some fantastic memories and it was an absolute pleasure!