Tuesday 10 July 2018

A Lake District Travel Guide - A Two Day Trip to the South Lakes

"Visit the Lake District" has been on my bucket list ever since I relocated to the North East and, although we have visited Center Parcs (not really a genuine Lake District experience) and stayed at The Gilpin on Minimoon (definitely doesn't count as we didn't really leave the luxury of our hotel!), it's something that we forever talk about doing but never actually organise.

Until now!

With the fantastic weather that the UK has been enjoying we decided to plan a spontaneous Lake District trip because when the Lakes is promised some sunshine you know it's going to be looking pretty spectacular. With an overwhelming choice of beautiful spots to visit we decided for our first go we'd "do the tourist thing" and booked ourselves a break in the South Lake District.

Here's our Lake District Travel Guide for our two day trip to the South Lakes.

A Two Day Trip to the South Lake District

Getting Soggy in Grasmere

First things first, and this is more of a note to myself for future reference, even if your weather app says you are going to be getting two days of glorious sunshine and baking temperatures still pack a waterproof. Something we discovered in Grasmere when we were cooling ourselves down with icy fruit drinks one moment then running back to the car in the pouring rain around 30 minutes later to grab our coats whilst squealing "this wasn't on the forecast!"

It's best to be prepared for any weather in the Lake District!

We decided that our first stop of the trip would be to Grasmere as I really wanted to try some of their world famous gingerbread, for an organised person I was pretty unprepared for the shop not opening until 12:30 pm on a Sunday so we ended up spending a lot more time in the village than we'd planned to.

This lead to us walking up the hill away from the village and into the National Trust site at Allan Bank which offered some beautiful mountain views. I love that in the Lakes you are always only a few steps away from an amazing view.

A Lake District Travel Guide - A Two Day Trip to the South Lakes

Blueberry Scones at Ambleside

When it comes to planning a holiday I love to search Instagram for inspiration of where to visit, it's a fantastic modern day travel guide and if you don't already use it to plan your itineraries you really are missing out.

Instagram had us heading to Ambleside in search of the most amazing blueberry scones from Waterhead Coffee Shop.  I had seen photographs of the mammoth scones stuffed full of cream and, when I finally got my hands on one, I was so thankful that they looked just as good in reality.

The small coffee shop sits by the lake in Ambleside and is a particularly lovely spot when the sun is shining.  We managed to grab an outdoor table overlooking the water where we enjoyed some people watching while I tucked into my delicious treat.  It definitely got me wondering why more places don't serve scones in different flavours, because the tangy blueberries with the cream was a match made in heaven. These bad boys were definitely worth travelling for.

South Lakes - Waterhead Coffee Shop

Although a bit of a tourist hot spot, Ambleside is a nice place for a wander in the sunshine and the views across the water to the hills were breathtaking.  It was completely different to our last trip to the lakes during our Minimoon when it was so misty we hadn't been able to see a thing.  If you can get to the Lakes on a sunny day you really will be blessed with the finest views in England.

Walking along the water's edge we managed to find a quiet spot away from the other tourists (you can usually find somewhere if you walk far enough) and settled ourselves down in the sunshine to watch the boats going past.  It was one of those moments where you feel truly happy and content.

South Lakes - Ambleside

The Swan Hotel and Spa

With day one over we decided it was time for a rest so made our way to the Swan Hotel and Spa, a hotel in Newby Bridge on the southern tip of Windermere and our home for our stay.

I had been wanting to book into The Swan for a long time.  Its dreamy looking interiors had captured my attention and I'd be lying if I said the thought of an adorable pink dining room hadn't swayed my decision slightly (something which I hadn't dared mention to Simon!)  It's probably best to never judge a book by its cover because, although The Swan was beautiful, it definitely wasn't the best hotel we've ever stayed in, something that became apparent when we had a below average, overpriced evening meal there.

Luckily the extensive gin list made up for the disappointing food and, having seen the impressive collection of bottles behind the bar, I began my mission to try as many of the gins as possible.  All served in proper gin glasses with a huge variety of garnishes and tonics I spent most of my evening convincing Simon to traipse back and forward to the bar keeping me well stocked in gin and tonic while I lounged about in the sun.

South Lakes - Swan Hotel Newby Bridge Gin
The Swan is a real drinking destination especially if you're lucky enough to have good weather and want to make the  most of the evening sunshine.  They have the most picturesque terrace at the front of the hotel with a large number of seats all overlooking the water, it's a very peaceful sun trap and, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I've ever had a drink.

South Lakes - Swan Hotel and Spa
Luckily the bar at The Swan is just as beautiful as the outdoor terrace so once we'd had enough of the sunshine (I promise you it was Simon that decided that, not me!) we headed indoors to find a quiet spot.  The bar is busy which is great if you like to enjoy your drinks with atmosphere or, if like us, you enjoy  a quieter pace of life we stumbled across a lounge area just off the bar with the most amazing vibrant furnishings (I really want to decorate my lounge at home like this now!) and really comfy sofas.

Swan Hotel and Spa Newby Bridge

We had booked a "Lovely Room" for our stay, the cheapest accommodation available and not too badly priced when you compare it to other hotels in the area.  Our room was really comfortable and we were impressed with the amount of space we had for a standard room.

Unfortunately our breakfast experience at The Swan wasn't any better than our evening meal.  Flies were buzzing about the restaurant (nothing puts you off your food more than flies on the croissants), the dining room was in a bit of a mess, the buffet table wasn't fully stocked and my avocado and poached egg wasn't brilliant. To us it felt like it was the food that really let down The Swan and having had a little look on Trip Advisor since our return it seems we're not the only guests to feel this way.

Swan Hotel and Spa Newby Bridge - Breakfast

If anyone has any great hotel recommendations in the Lakes for our next visit I'd love to hear them as I dont think we'll be staying there again.

Pottering to Hill Top

The second day of our Lakes visit was another scorcher so we decided to spend some time exploring some of Beatrix Potter country that the Lakes are famed for.  Our adventure began at Hill Top, the beautiful country home that Beatrix bought following the success of her book Peter Rabbit.  Surrounded by the most beautiful countryside it's where she would sit and write some of her most famous tales.  Strolling around the colourful gardens it was easy to see how Beatrix felt so inspired at her home.

South Lakes - Hill Top

I grew up on Beatrix Potter so it was very special to have the chance to look around Hilltop and we coudn't believe the amount of her original furnishings and trinkets that were still dotted around the house including many items that are instantly recognisable from her illustrations.  The highlight had to be copies of her illustrations that she sent to her publisher when she was working on Peter Rabbit, the drawings are absolutely beautiful.

South Lakes - National Trust Hill Top

Hilltop is in the little village of Sawrey and a few steps away from Hilltop you can find plenty more recognisable landmarks from the Beatrix Potter books.  Beatrix was someone who brought her pictures to life using places that she knew well and strolling around the village almost every building is straight from the pages of one of her stories.

South Lakes - National Trust
Ice-cream Adventures in Hawkshead

Continuing our Beatrix Potter adventure our next stop was Hawskhead, another place made famous by the books.  Popping into the Beatrix Potter Gallery the lovely lady behind the counter showed us that the very building we were standing in featured in one of Beatrix's books and only a few steps outside the door we discovered loads more buildings that pop up in her illustrations.

We couldn't leave Hawskhead without visiting The Little Ice Cream Shop, the prettiest ice-cream shop I've ever seen with an impressive 22 flavours on offer and cones piled so high they were almost impossible to eat.  I went all out with two scoops of Turkish Delight topped with crushed Oreo cookies.

South Lakes - Hawkshead The Little Ice Cream Shop

Walking Tarn Hows

Our weekend in the South Lakes ended with a trip to Tarn Hows and Coniston, a beauty spot run by National Trust.  It's perfect for walking beginners as its a very short, flat, circular route that offers  beautiful scenery without having to hike up any hills.  However, despite being a very easy walk it wasn't without its struggles as Simon will tell you, he spent most of our walk running away from bugs determined to bite him!

South Lakes - Tarn Hows and Coniston

We really enjoyed exploring the South Lakes and although some parts were heavily packed with tourists (I can only imagine how crazy it gets in the school holidays!) it was a really relaxing break!

We're now busy planning our next trip and hope to visit a different part.  Let me know your favourite parts of the Lake District - where should we stay next time?



  1. Looks ace. we always get rain in the lakes but guess that's what makes it so pretty...and errr lakey! shame your hotel wasn't the greatest but looks like you had a fab mini break

    1. It's definitely what makes it so green and luscious - we were very lucky wth this trip that we were able to plan a very last minute dash when the forecast looked good!

  2. What a fab itinerary! I always use Insta for travel inspiration too - it's just the best!

    Flies really put me off to, we once stopped at a service station and had a sneaky burger king and there were flies all over, it really put me off burger king for life!!

    The terrace on the hotel looks stunning though. If I ever stay in the lakes I want to stay in your minimoon hotel ;-)

    1. HA! Everyone says that until they see the price of it .. I still can't believe we spent that much money on a few nights away in the Lake District - thinking about it makes my eyes water, but I guess you only get married once!

  3. Ah it looks aaaamazing! I've done the lakes once but it rained all weekend - I really need to try again! x

    1. Keep your eye on the forecast and go last minute - it's definitely the best way to do it if you can!

  4. You managed to fit so much into the weekend that you were there - I haven't been to the Lake District in so long!


    1. I am a bit guilty of racing around when we got away because there's always so much I want to do - I drive Simon mad!

  5. Chloe, this is a fab post. I'm so glad you finally got to visit the lakes properly. There's so much to see and do and is genuinely somewhere you'll never bore of. And yes, you can easily go through ALL the seasons weather wise, whilst visiting!
    Such a shame about your hotel stay/food.


    1. Ahhh thank you! I can't wait to go back and explore a different part!


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