The Lake District: a trip back in time

Everyone has a favourite family-holiday memory from the Lake District. Here’s mine: seven years old and in short trousers, I’m skimming stones on the shore of Lake Windermere, dreaming of my next ice cream and dreading the day we have to go home. I remember it even today thanks to a set of grainy, Seventies photos my mother still keeps in a draw.

And now here I am on the edge of Derwentwater, a spring breeze blowing around candyfloss blossoms and arcs of the sunshine picking out wild flowers on the fells. I returned with Maya, my four-year-old daughter, for the kind of family break the Lakes does so well. Think cosy B&Bs, bracing walks, home-cooked suppers and lots of family-fun attractions. No wonder England’s largest national park remains one of Britain’s perennially popular short-break destinations, with around one in eight of the local population employed in tourism.

But there’s another reason to love the Lakes – its capacity for reinvention. On my return I found it both reassuringly familiar and exotically different to the place I knew as a seven-year-old schoolboy. Maybe that’s the key to its enduring success. The Lake District moves with the times, winning over new generations each year, yet the natural beauty of the landscape remains drop-your-ice-cream spectacular.

Our journey starts in the South Lakes around Kirkby Lonsdale, a sturdy market town, where the local brass band can often be found warming up on the historic market square in smart maroon blazers. The town’s historic Royal Hotel is set to reopen for business later this year after a five-year hiatus; in the interim Plato’s, a smart new restaurant with bedrooms, would be our base for the night.

But first we drive a few miles out of town along flower-strewn country roads to the newly opened Greenlands Farm Village. The 15-acre site comprises an open farm, a café, farm shop and indoor play centre, and offers a more educational spin on the traditional pet-the-animals approach. As Maya gets to know a new-born lamb – just a few hours old – farmer Roger Mason walks me round the farm park, introducing me to Irish Dexter cattle and South American alpacas.

There’s a cacophony of animal noises at the 2pm feeding time, but Maya’s mind is on other things. She’s tearing it up on a model tractor, Roger’s puppy Smudge chasing excitedly after her.

A few miles further north-west we find Edwin Maher busily overseeing final preparations for the opening, on 20 May, of the newly expanded Lakeland Motor Museum. The original museum has resided since 1978 in the grounds of stately Holker Hall and Gardens. The new museum is located at Backbarrow near Newby Bridge, just a stone’s throw from hugely popular Aquarium of the Lakes. It will build on the original collection, bringing some 10,000 extra items of memorabilia out of storage and into the public domain for the first time. Some of the treasures from the long-lost archive include a 1936 Flying Flea airplane and an original hot-air balloon, both suspended from the roof of the main hall. The collection is also being redesigned to reflect more of a narrative, telling the story of transport from highway robbery to electric hybrid cars.

That night Plato’s typifies the new face of the Lakes: relaxed and contemporary with an emphasis on great food. While I tuck into a Moroccan tajine take on Lakeland lamb, Maya is getting to grips with her £7.95 child’s set menu. “Peas in a bucket,” she gasps at her nouvelle-cuisine fish and chips, “Fancy that.”

The next day we venture further into the heart of the national park, snow sugar-coating the tops of the fells and sudden bursts of daffodils water-colouring the roadside. We pass the Plough Restaurant, the latest venture from the team behind The Punchbowl at Crosthwaite, the current Michelin Pub of the Year. The Plough may well be this summer’s must-visit gastropub when it opens in June with an all-day menu, three rooms plus three more to come and an emphasis on local produce at affordable prices (mains from £12 to £15).

In Keswick we stop at the Good Taste Café for a hearty sandwich, served on grey-slate plates, and a box of toys to keep Maya occupied, before exploring town. Time for pictures by the record-breaking 25-foot pencil and a spot of colouring-in at the Cumberland Pencil Museum, before dad drags daughter round the new Bond Museum next door and gets all misty eyed about Roger Moore’s Lotus Esprit Turbo from For Your Eyes Only, which he owned a Dinky Car version of as a child.

We catch the Keswick Launch over to Lodore to check into the imposing Lodore Falls Hotel, our accommodation for the night, and end the day skimming stones on the shore of Derwentwater, the third largest of Cumbria’s 16 lakes, tarns and waters. Maya has designs on the kids’ film club at the hotel and I have designs on a sundowner on the terrace, watching dusk over Catbells, the favourite peak for families to climb. But, for one holiday-defining moment, it’s just father and daughter, the gently lapping waters of Derwentwater and the thousand-acre-sky landscape of the Lakes.

It’s a moment Maya can treasure, just as I treasure my first Lakes holidays. Besides, I have the photos to remind her of it until she returns one day with her own children.

David Atkinson is the author of Lake District with Kids (Footprint, £13.99), out now.

Travel essentials

Getting There

* The main line rail gateways to the Lakes are Oxenholme in the south and Penrith to the north. First TransPennine Express (0844 556 5637; offers direct services from Manchester and other points to Kendal and Windermere. Virgin Trains (0845 722 2333; runs from Glasgow Central and London Euston.

Staying There

* Plato’s Kirkby Lonsdale (015242 74180; Weekend doubles from £100 B&B.

More information

* Cumbria Tourism 01539 822222;

* Lakeland Motor Museum Newby Bridge (01539 558509; lakelandmotor

* The Plough Inn & Restaurant Lupton (07980 294690;

* Greenlands Farm Village near Burton, Kendal (01524 784184;

* Cumberland Pencil Museum Keswick (01768 773626;

* The Bond Museum, Keswick (01768 775007;

peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits