We were on holiday at the end of August, with a large group of friends (that’s another blog post, that is!), in the beautiful town of Windermere in the Lake District. We holidayed in exactly the same place last year, but as the geekson was then only a couple of months old, I was still fairly house bound and we only got out for a couple of trips.
This year both kids were a year older, with the geekson being much more portable, so we resolved to go out for as many days as possible during our week away. And in doing so I think I’ve come up with a pretty good list of things for a young family to enjoy in the South Lakes area.
Rufty Tufty’s soft play – a bit of a gem of a soft play area this one, although very well hidden (our satnav put us on entirely the wrong bit of the road concerned). Worth calling for directions or at the very least checking the website map in advance if you’re new to the area, as it involves one-way streets off the main road. The free WiFi was very much appreciated, and the play area was large with plenty to occupy the kids. Something I’d not seen before was an open space around the soft play area with lots of tractors to ride on – the geekdaughter particularly enjoyed those! I particularly liked the separate baby area, although I couldn’t keep the geekson in it as he just wanted to join his sister in the bigger area! We arrived just before lunch and there was only one other family there, but it did get busier as lunchtime progressed. Nice cafe selling a decent selection of drinks and food. We’d definitely go back 🙂
Ducky’s Park Farm – we are spoiled by having an excellent play farm just down the road from us at home, so I was really pleased when this one turned out to be even better! This is a great all-weather attraction, with a huge indoor soft play area as well as various outdoor ones. I didn’t like having to walk right past the indoor play area before we did anything though, as all the kids just wanted to stop there and not go to see the animals. Once we got them outside though, there was loads to do, including a huge barn with trampolines and a huge sandpit to play in. There was plenty of opportunity to get close to the animals – the geekson particularly enjoyed how tame the goats were – the photo shows one that curled up on the table right next to him! I still felt it was expensive for a day out of this nature (£19 for our family of four), but all their facilities were very good, and the cafe served reasonable food. No WiFi though, free or otherwise, and the mobile signal was hit and miss. As an added bonus this is just down the road from the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding factory shop, so we were able to stock up with puddings for the week 🙂
Lakeland Wildlife Oasis – I was attracted to this as they advertised having Meerkats, and we’d missed the Meerkats at Chester Zoo when we went the previous weekend. This was a dear little zoo with a huge variety of exhibits. We particularly enjoyed the butterfly area which you could walk through – the geekdaughter could almost touch them, and they were very tame. We managed to dodge the showers to see everything, but again there was a balance of indoor and outdoor attractions (although I don’t think I would have felt that I had got my money’s worth if we’d only been able to see the indoor attractions). We visited on Bank Holiday Monday, and they were clearly busier than they would normally be, but we still managed to get a seat in the cafe and a high chair, and didn’t miss out on anything. The cafe food wasn’t brilliant, but kept us all going. We particularly enjoyed the meerkats where you could crawl through a tunnel to pop your head up through a glass-covered dome in the middle of their enclosure, and the snow leopard was the highlight of the day for me. If you don’t like animals in cages this is not for you, but they appeared to be well cared for, and I loved the centre’s approach of trying to get people as close to the animals as possible. The geekdaddy liked the sound of their wildlife photography masterclasses, but none were running during the time we were on holiday.
Lakeland Maize Farm Park – this is the most amazing maize maze I have ever seen! There are two mazes available – the little maze which is supposed to take 20-30 minutes to complete, and the large maze which they estimate at 1.5 – 2 hours. We chose to do the little maze which was the perfect length for the ages of kids we were with (1 to 6). For each maze you’re given a leaflet with activities to do in the maze – for the small maze we just had to find 10 checkpoints and get a stamp at each one – again this helped keeping the kids attention. You can buy a sealed envelope when you go in with an emergency map inside – if you return it still sealed you get your pound back 🙂 I was surprised with the number of things there were to do in addition to the maze itself – several outdoor play areas, a small indoor play area with a really cool climbing wall. The selection of food was limited to pretty much just sandwiches, so we left at lunchtime to find better food – we’d probably have stayed longer if there’d been a bit more of a selection.
K Village shopping mall – location of a Cadbury outlet store. Need I say more? Actually I should say a little bit more, because we tried to go here for lunch, only to discover that the restaurant marked on the plan we had found in our holiday accommodation had closed down. Thankfully a very kind lady within the centre directed us to a great family-run cafe a short walk up the the road, so all was not lost. And they did have possibly the best little ride ever!
Lunch at Lakeland – yes I know, technically this isn’t a family day out, but we couldn’t stay within walking distance of Lakeland’s flagship Windermere store and not have lunch in the cafe one day! My best friend and I took our four kids out for a lovely meal. We had been prepared to grit our teeth and drag the kids around the store whilst we waited for a table to become available, but it was a short (15 mins ish) wait, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover they have a small kids soft play area which kept our four happily occupied. We enjoyed a very nice meal – there was a good selection and plenty of appropriate stuff for the kids as well as the adults. I did plan to go back the following day and take the geekdaddy, but we sadly ran out of time. Next time, for sure 🙂
So there you go. A quick run down of how we spent our week in Windermere. There are plenty of things to keep a young family entertained, and we had a great time.