Review: The last days of summer in the Lakes

Elis Elliot and family explore the Lake District from The County Hotel in Kendal.

I HAVE a long and somewhat damp history of spending time in the Lake District. And yet, still I return to this scenic area of England. And there is good reason for this, because on a sunny day there really is nowhere more beautiful.

Most of my trips to the region have involved camping, so I was delighted to be travelling light with my family as we headed to The County Hotel in Kendal for a long weekend of relaxation and, with a little bit of luck, outdoor exploration.

The County is a grade II listed building right in the centre of Kendal, making wandering around the town a breeze, even with children in tow. The hotel underwent a full refurbishment last year and provides spotlessly clean budget-friendly accommodation for families and couples alike.

We enjoyed sitting in the park by the river Kent and watching swans and ducks as we wandered along the riverside, discovering the excellent playground in Abbot Hall Park. The ruins of Kendal Castle, which is thought to date back to the 12th century, are a pleasant stroll from the hotel and we enjoyed the views across the town. You can learn lots about the history of this building and the town at Kendal Museum, a perfect rainy day visit.

Starting the day with a fortifying full English breakfast served up by the cheery staff in the County, we headed out to explore further afield. Kendal is often referred to as the “gateway to the lakes” and – with the popular towns of Windermere, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside all within a half hour drive – it certainly makes a great base to explore the surrounding area. Lake Windermere is England’s largest natural body of water and is a haven for water sports enthusiasts; boat cruises are also popular and provide a more sedate way of exploring this huge expanse of water. Bowness-on-Windermere is home to The World of Beatrix Potter, another perfect place to hop, skip and jump to for fans of Peter Rabbit and friends, old and young.

Determined to explore some lesser-known lakes, we headed past Windermere and beyond Ambleside to Rydal Water. One of the area’s smallest lakes at just three quarters of a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide, it is dwarfed by Windermere. The short wander through glorious woodland that leads to Rydal from nearby White Moss car park is more than worth it. This is reputedly one of William Wordsworth’s favourite places and it’s easy to see why it might have inspired his work. It is possible to walk right around the lake and to explore the caves in the hillside above the water’s edge.

We chose to rest by the small stony beach and enjoy a picnic lunch while watching a small flock of red-breasted mergansers popping up and down in the water as they searched for their own lunch. There were plenty of other families enjoying the sunshine here, but in comparison to the bustle of the towns we passed by on route Rydal felt tranquil. The children happily paddled around in the shallows, enjoying the sunshine. But unable to resist joining the other wild swimmers I braved a swim around one of the small islands and found that the water was pleasantly warm and shelved off gently. Perfect for anyone who likes a reviving dip.

We arrived back at The County in time to freshen up before dinner and it was smiles all-round in the dining room after a gloriously relaxing day with lots of new and happy memories made. Dinners at The County are hearty and wholesome and although there isn’t a dedicated children’s menu there was always plenty for my sometimes-fussy pair to choose from. The roast beef and Yorkshire puds went down a storm, as did the mushroom and thyme risotto.

After-dinner entertainment in the bar sounded like great fun, with live music and a quiz, but my wee ones were exhausted after a day of fresh air and sunshine and ready to get into their pyjamas and snuggle down for the evening in front of the large TV in our spacious family room. Stifling a yawn or two, Mum and Dad didn’t put up much of a fight and gladly joined them.

Despite being in the centre of Kendal, our room on the fourth floor was peaceful and boasted some great views over the town to the hillsides beyond, and the children loved spotting sheep and cows in the fields from our window. After a good night’s sleep, we enjoyed another hearty brekky before heading out into the still-present sunshine for more adventuring.

This time our destination was Loughrigg Tarn. This is a popular area with walkers who pass by the water’s edge when hiking up Loughrigg Fell. There is a pleasant circular route from Ambleside, which takes in the tarn. More paddling, picnicking, swimming and visitations from curious swans gliding through the lily pads saw us wile away the afternoon at this gorgeous spot. We also enjoyed an outing in our kayak here. Paddling out onto the calm waters to take in the panoramic views offered up in the middle of this small mountain lake.

There are certainly many attractions to be found in the famous towns of the Lakes, but we were lucky to experience what felt very much like the last weekend of summer and spend some time discovering what this area of incredible natural beauty has to offer far from the madding crowds.

The County Hotel is one of ten hotels across England owned by Daish’s Holidays. Free off-site parking is available for guests. Daish’s Hotels are perfect for families and, when sharing a room with two adults, children under six go free. A family’s first child aged from six to 12 goes free (when sharing a room with two adults) and all other children (aged 15 and under) pay 50% of the adult price. For more information and current rates visit