As we set out towards the Lake District, it strikes me that it’s been quite some time since I’ve made my way up to the Lakes.  In fact it’s been a few years and I didn’t have a 6 year old in tow at that time.

So this time, it’s different.  The stay is (as all parents will understand) built largely around my son and what will interest him.

We arrive in the area surprisingly quickly.  My mind has clearly played tricks on me, convincing me over the last few years that it is a lot further away that it is in reality.

Even the boy just stands and looks at the lake and hills

Our first stop is the Lakes Aquarium on the southern shore of Windermere.  The views as we park up are simply breath-taking.  Even the boy just stands and looks at the lake and hills.  After taking it in, we make our way into the venue.  It’s a little bit bigger than we had expected, which is quite welcome (in fact it houses one of the largest collections of UK freshwater fish) with wonderful displays, plenty of information and it’s very child friendly.  The big hit of the aquarium is the underwater tunnel, where we truly feel immersed

Lakes Aquarium

Lakes Aquarium

We then pop to the café for some lunch.  Unfortunately, this is a bit of a let-down.  The staff are lovely, but the products they sell are horrendously overpriced – three average sandwiches, 2 coffees and an ice-cream cone liberate us of £28.  Bearing in mind that entrance to the aquarium was quite reasonable I’m a little bit taken back.

At this stage the boy spots the steam train pulling in and immediately wants to go on it.  It sounds like a good idea so we hop on.  We’ve been told that it’s about to depart and we can buy tickets on board so we leap on to do a round trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite route.  But we’re almost caught out as the train only accepts cash!  Who has cash these days?  The justification makes sense in that the mobile signals can be sketchy so card machines can sometimes struggle.  Thankfully we have enough cash and they don’t throw us off a moving train.  The journey is lovely and packed full of tourists taking pictures of the picturesque scenery we pass by.  For a weekend away built around a six year old, I must confess I’m quite enjoying the activities too.

It’s time to make our way over to the hotel now.  We’re staying at the Beech Hill Hotel and Spa, which backs on to Windermere itself.  It’s just a 10 minute drive from Lakeside and 15 minutes in the other direction from Bowness, so located perfectly for the weekend we have planned.

We check in and make our way to our surprisingly large room, complete with balcony overlooking the lake.  The family rooms are very generously proportioned with tea/coffee making facilities, television and plenty of space.  The bathroom is a little on the small side for family use, but is perfectly functional.

Beech Hill Hotel and Spa

Beech Hill Hotel and Spa

I make my way off to explore the grounds with a very energetic child, whilst my wife makes her way off to the spa for some relaxation time and indulgence.  The spa area comprises of an indoor swimming pool with loungers down one side.  There is also a Himalayan sauna and an aromatic steam room.  The swimming pool area also looks out onto the spa terrace which has amazing views of Windemere and offers can either relaxation in one of the heated Vitality Spa pools or some tranquil time on a sun lounger to unwind and soak up the wonderful view.

that’s not the only thing which is five star about the meal

The hotel backs on to Windermere which makes for stunning backdrops when we arrive at the hotel restaurant.  And that’s not the only thing which is five star about the meal.  The food is delicious and the service second to none.  To start my son goes for the garlic bread with mushroom sauce which he quickly demolishes; whilst I go for a delicious lentil soup and my wife sets her eyes on the Chestnut Mushroom and Truffle Oil Risotto.

When it comes to the mains, our expectations are now high and they do not disappoint.  I’m rendered jealous at the sight of the boy’s burger and chips from the kids menu – it is done and presented to perfection (and is more than sufficient for an adult appetite); but the jealously quickly disappears when my Poach-roasted Chicken Supreme arrives accompanied by honey roasted parsnips, cauliflower cream and florets; meanwhile my wife salivates over the cod loin with creamed leeks, saffron potatoes and pancetta crisp.

Dinner at Beech Hill Hotel and Spa

Dinner at Beech Hill Hotel and Spa

Of course, we can’t resist dessert.  I opt for the Bailey’s and Toffee Cheesecake – it’s a difficult but entirely justified decision bearing in mind that I want to eat the whole dessert menu; whilst the near full to pop wife goes for Tabago Dark Chocolate Mousse (coconut meringue, spicy pickled pineapple and micro coriander to boot).  The boy has eaten himself practically into a coma and opts against any more.

After the meal, we head back to the room.  We have an exhausted six year old who flops into bed, whilst we head out on to the balcony.

I must admit to visiting the pastry section more than once

It’s quickly morning again and we’re back in the restaurant for breakfast.  We take a seat by the window and watch the mist lifting off the lake whilst tucking in.  The breakfast is plentiful – options of various breads, pastries, cereals, pancakes, cooked breakfasts, juices and coffees.  I must admit to visiting the pastry section more than once for some excellent Danishes and pain au chocolat.

From the hotel we make the short journey up to Bowness.  It’s busy, but not quite as packed as I had expected.  The sun is beating down and so it really does feel like we’re on holiday.  We park up and head into the World of Beatrix Potter.  We are in there a good couple of hours whilst the boy soaks everything in.  I attempt to explain to him that Mr McGregor is simply misunderstood, just trying to protect his land from the thief Peter Rabbit, but he’s having none of it.  The attraction is very well laid out, with lots to see after a brief video introduction to who Beatrix Potter was and the inspirations behind her characters.  The gift shops is also very well stocked and my wallet whimpers as we leave (to be fair that’s as much my fault as the boy’s).

We decide to get some lunch and go for Vinegar Jones’ Fish and Chips.  It’s definitely up there with the best fish and chips I’ve had.  It’s also very busy with barely a table empty but lots of people hungrily tucking in and clearly enjoying the experience.

no visit to Windermere would be complete without a trip on the lake

Of course, no visit to Windermere would be complete without a trip on the lake itself and so we go for the 40 minute round journey.  There’s a commentary pointing out the landmarks and explaining some of the myths behind the islands which are dotted around Windermere.  With the sun out it’s an incredibly relaxing experience, although my son does start to get restless around the 25 minute mark.

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

As we head back towards the car, I can’t help but notice a cluster of home-made chocolate shops.  For the purposes only of research we head into Helen’s chocolates and of course leave with three blocks of chocolate (I can firmly attest to the rum chocolate being one of the nicest I have tasted) and three very large and equally tasty ice-creams.

On the drive back I find myself wondering (whilst everyone else has fallen asleep) why I haven’t been to the Lake District for so long.  I honestly don’t know, but it certainly won’t be long until I am back again.