A site right on the shores of Lake Windermere might seem an ideal location for a holiday park – and until the floods came it was.
Last November's torrential weather did serious damage to South Lakelands Parks' flagship holiday site, as well as to the wider Cumbrian tourism industry. For a time, bookings in this famously picturesque area plummeted – and local businesses have had to work extremely hard to win back visitors after the natural disaster and the subsequent aftermath of negative publicity.
At Lake Windermere, an extensive £2m refurbishment at the White Cross Bay park has resulted in pleasingly improved facilities. This major revamp features an upgraded boat and clubhouse, new restaurant and beer garden, a multi-sports play area and a collection of luxury lodges, some of which directly overlook the lake and have striking views to the mountains beyond.
White Cross Bay is particularly well situated for exploring the Lake District – on foot, on water, and by car or bus. with the towns of Ambleside, Windermere and the resort of Bowness-on-Windermere all within easy reach.
Set in landscaped grounds, the new lodges have been devised with a contemporary look, some sleeping four, some eight. Given the simple decor in light colours along with wooden blinds, springy carpets and stylish, comfy furniture, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a modern apartment.
A spacious living-dining area, a fully fitted kitchen and bright, swanky bathroom complete the luxury feel. Bedrooms are a decent size – the only let-down being a lack of investment in the mattresses, which on our visit resulted in a disturbed night's sleep all round.
The food and drink
Within the park perimeters there is a restaurant and lounge bar – the Flying Boat – as well as a fast-food take-away on site. But if you want to head further afield, the local villages and towns around Lake Windermere offer a range of pubs, cafés and restaurants. For a lakeside lunch, the Wateredge Inn at Ambleside is family friendly, and has a huge garden.
There is a small indoor swimming pool, as well as a gym, sauna, play area and free Wi-Fi throughout the park. Quite apart from the obvious outdoorsy pursuits such as hiking and watersports, there is plenty in this area to keep visitors of all ages well occupied.
Families can combine a trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite steam railway (lakesiderailway.co.uk) with a visit to the Lakes Aquarium (lakes aquarium.co.uk), or take a relaxed cruise on the lake with Ullswater Steamers (ullswater-steamers.co.uk). Naturebreak UK (naturebreakuk .co.uk) has just launched its family-friendly wildlife guided tours in the area, too.
Meanwhile, there are, of course, plenty of classic Cumbrian sights within easy reach. When in the Lake District it's always a good idea to have some rainy-day options in mind: indoor pursuits include Wordsworth's Dove Cottage in Grasmere (wordsworth.org.uk) and Levens Hall near Kendal (levenshall.co.uk).
By contrast, those in search of thrills and adventurous activity could head for the Honister Slate Mine near Borrowdale (honister-slate-mine.co.uk) which has a safe but challenging Via Ferrata, and the Go Ape course at Grizedale Forest near Hawkshead.
Family pets are welcome in selected "pet" lodges and caravans, for an additional charge of £15-£25. There are some lodges that have been specially adapted for wheelchair users, and have access ramps, wider doorways and a range of appropriate fittings and fixtures.
Short breaks at White Cross start at £319 for three nights over a weekend or four nights midweek, with accommodation in a two-bedroom classic lodge. The price includes bed linen – but not bath towels – as well as fuel supplements and on-site entertainment passes.
White Cross Bay Leisure Park and Marina, Ambleside Road, Windermere, Cumbria LA23 1LF (015395 69834; southlakelandparks.co.uk).