Travel: There’s lots to do in the Lake District for a family

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Rising to over 3,000 ft, few mountains dominate a town like this giant dominates Keswick. From the right angle, it’s all you can see. And it sits there, inviting the hundreds of thousands of hardened fell walkers who visit the Lake District market town each year to give it a go.

But for many, it’s not Skiddaw that epitomises a Keswick holiday. No. That title is held by little Latrigg, Skiddaw’s whelp – a minuscule family fell sitting at the base of the bigger mountain’s southern flank. It is a round walk of no more than two hours, and can easily be conquered by experienced walkers and little feet alike.

And that is the beauty of the Lake District. Few holiday destinations have so much for so many different age groups. Few places have such a mix of relaxing and adrenaline-pumped activities. And arguably nowhere in Britain is there so much to enjoy when the sun is out, and so much to do when it rains, which is fortunate, because it rains a lot.

Richard and Harry in the museum at The World of Beatrix Potter at Windermere

And Latrigg (1,207 ft) is not the only family fell in the surrounds of Keswick – a small but forever busy town sandwiched between Derwent Water and the Skiddaw mountain range. There’s Castle Crag – at 950 ft this is the smallest of the so-called Wainwrights (214 fells across Lakeland documented by legendary fell walker Alfred Wainwright over seven pictorial guides).

There’s Walla Cragg which, at a height of 1,243 ft, offers magnificent views across Derwent Water and beyond and if you follow the same route back down as you took on the way up should take no more than two hours to complete. And there is, of course, Catbells – one of the most photographed fells in the whole of the Lakes and one which gives walkers of all ages an excuse to stretch their legs.

Indeed, it was described by Wainwright himself as a ‘family fell where grandmothers and infants can climb the heights together’. And for added adventure for younger family members, you can catch the steam boat from Keswick Launch to Hawes End before setting off on the two-hour walk.

But a holiday to the Lakes need not be all about fell walking. Over the last few decades, the national park has transformed from a destination for climbers and trekkers to one which is packed full of so many family fun attractions that it is impossible to try everything in a week.

Richard, Giulia, Harry and Bramall on Latrigg fell

It was fortunate, then, that we stayed for two.

After a beautifully straightforward overnight crossing on the Commodore Clipper (, we arrived in Portsmouth a little after 6 am refreshed after a long sleep in a comfortable cabin and set off north, arriving in Keswick in time for lunch.

Home for the week was 22 Rose Cottage ( – a small but very comfortable two-bedroom terraced house about a four-minute walk from the town centre. With a well-equipped kitchen, spacious master bedroom, small but adequate second bedroom and a modern bathroom, the house was perfect for me, my wife, our two-year-old son and our dog.

But there is too much to do in Keswick and its neighbouring towns and villages to stay inside all day. Just a ten-minute drive out of town, past the village of Braithwaite, is the Lake District Wildlife Park. Starting life as a farm park 20 years ago, it is now a premier 24-acre tourist attraction featuring more than 100 species of animal, including zebras, yaks, meerkats, mandrils and, oddly enough, a Guernsey goat.

There are also scheduled talks and displays during the day – including a magnificent bird of prey display, and ‘hugging a bunny’ for young children.

Visitors can even pay extra for their own private animal experience, including feeding the lemurs and meerkats and ‘taking a hawk for a walk’.

A self-drive boat is the ideal way to experience Derwent Water

Further out of Braithwaite – but still less than a 15-minute drive from Keswick – is the Go Ape adventure centre in the Whinlatter forest. The centre – the highest Go Ape in the country (it’s so high you can even see Scotland) – offers everything you would expect from an adventure centre, including zip-wire rides, climbing courses and the most recent addition, Segway rides.

Back in Keswick, visitors can hire boats – self-drive cruisers or rowing boats – to take in the sights of beautiful Derwent Water and its surrounding fells.

And there is more than enough to do if it rains, which is reassuring to know, as the town is a few minutes’ drive from Seathwaite – the wettest place in England, which is pelted by about 124 inches of rain per year. Keswick’s Leisure Pool offers a perfect way to spend an hour or two if the heavens open.

And further out of Keswick, back down the A66, is the Rheged Centre – a modern, eco-friendly indoor shopping/dining and family fun centre – featuring everything from soft play areas and a painting zone, to a restaurant and a cinema.

Harry looking over Keswick and Derwent Water from Latrigg

Further south, close to Lake Windermere, is The World of Beatrix Potter – a magical museum dedicated to the famous Lake District-based author and, more importantly for young visitors, her many wonderful characters.

Visitors wander through settings from the storybooks, including Mr McGregor’s Garden and Miss Tiggywinkle’s kitchen, in a museum which has become one of the south Lakes’ most popular family tourist attractions.

But after a few days of a Keswick holiday even reluctant walkers struggle to resist the urge to take a break from the man-made attractions to scale one of the many larger fells surrounding the town. And there are more than enough to go at – from Grisedale Pike (2,593 ft) to Causey Pike (2,090 ft) and, a little further away, Grasmoor (2,795 ft). And then there is, of course, Skiddaw. It’s big, physically demanding and a rather long slog. But there’s little reason not to at least try it, as you start in the heart of Keswick and can follow one of the most well-defined paths in the whole of the Lakes right to the summit.

But don’t make it your only mission, as there is so much more to the Lakes than giant fells.

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