25 Apr 2017
In our house, as a self-employed mum of one, school holidays are met with excitement, trepidation and a desperate thumbing through of a dog-eared copy of ‘how to juggle work and provide a fun-filled programme of interesting activities whilst still leaving you a few hours in the evening to catch up on everything you’ve not managed to do, at an affordable rate, whilst feeling guilt-free and fabulous.’ (Not heard of it? I’m sure you can get it on Amazon…)
Far more likely to be wearing cowboy boots than any sort of sensible shoe option, I am not a natural outdoor enthusiast. I like looking at the mountains but not climbing them (stop judging me!) so while my friends are busy conquering peaks, we are out doing lots of other glorious things. No fleece required.
Looking for inspiration? We dotted around the county this April and enjoyed lots of indoor and outdoor action. Here are 10 things we got up to this Easter.
1. Lowther Castle
Built at the turn of the 19th Century, Lowther Castle, which is located just outside Penrith, was once a lavish building. Demolished in 1957, there are now only ruins, but the site has been renovated and the gardens and grounds are an absolute treat. This was our first visit to the castle but certainly won’t be the last. Because of the Easter Holidays, there was a dragon egg hunt taking place so we explored the gardens and grounds with chocolate fuelled glee. We were lucky to have nice weather (it might not be quite so appealing in the rain) and we all enjoyed the Lost Castle, an adventure playground deep in the woods, built from 18,000 metres of sustainable timber. With activities for all ages (including the grownups) this is a fab area for all the family to enjoy. The café was well stocked with high quality produce but you can take picnics and ball games to really make a day of it. If your loved ones have 4 legs instead of 2, they are also welcome.
Cost: Entrance to the castle is £9 for adults and £7 for children or £29 for a family.
2. St Bees Head
St Bees, just a few miles outside of Whitehaven, is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the country (and that’s not just my opinion, I promise. Just ask anyone). Whether the tide is in or out, there are some great walks. Trek up the Heads for an amazing view of the bay, tire out your little darlings on the adventure playground and watch out for the designated ‘dog toilet’ which always make me giggle. Round off your trip with a Hartley’s ice-cream. No visit to St Bees is complete without one.
Cost: Free (although it depends on how many ice-creams you polish off).
3. Whinlatter Forest
Just west of Keswick and signposted from the A66, Whinlatter Forest provides a fantastic day out for all ages. There are mountain bike trails throughout the forest, a children’s adventure playground and plenty of walks. The visitor centre has a lovely café, giftshop and information on conservation. Go Ape offers a treetop trek for the more adventurous. Lots of parking, plenty of fresh air, fantastic scenery and if you look carefully, you may stumble upon a huge Gruffalo statue hidden deep in the forest.
Cost: Free but parking fees apply.
4. Big Screen Fun
After living in Manchester, London and Newcastle I really appreciate Cumbrian cinema prices. We went to see Boss Baby at the Plaza in Workington. There were laughs (all of us), there were tears (mainly me), there were snacks, there was Alec Baldwin. What’s not to like?
Cost: Adults £7.50; Child £5.50 plus snacks (lots of).
5. Get the Guitar
My daughter plays the guitar. Me? Not so much. Our friend is like a younger Slash without the hair, top hat and bad living. We decamped to their house and they ‘jammed’ together. I discovered fondant fancies, we all got to spend some quality time together and somehow, we came away with a giant stuffed tiger toy called Lionel.
Cost: Free (although ears and waistline paid a price).
6. Hawkshead Cocoa Bean Company, picnic in the park and accidental ferry ride.
Not yet sickened by Easter chocolate we decided to check out the Hawkshead Cocoa Bean Company where kids can take part in chocolate workshops. Adults sit outside and can watch through a glass panel as their littlies get all ‘Willy Wonka’ with melted chocolate and moulds.
We explored the lovely village of Hawkshead making sure we looked with our eyes (not hands) in the crafty giftshops and then went wild on the kids' playground on the recreation field. After a picnic, we took an accidental trip on the Windermere Ferry thanks to the magic of satnav - although it turned out to be absolutely worth it. Stunning views across the water and an incredibly easy boarding procedure. No scratched doors or scraped bumpers here.
Cost: £15 for chocolate workshop; £4.40 for ferry ride; unexpected treat and satisfaction of surviving = priceless.
7. The train at Platform 1 is now departing!
Carlisle is a great hub to get to bigger cities and it’s only an hour and 20 minutes on the train to Glasgow. Armed with a Family and Friends Railcard we got a great deal on tickets and popped up to Scotland for the day. We checked out the Vivienne Westwood shop for a bit of fashion inspiration, pored over shelves of stationery treats and built a bear.
Cost: A child’s fare from Carlisle to Glasgow checked in at £1.25. Stationery treats and build-a-bear extras, completely optional.
8. Wordsworth House
This lovely Georgian townhouse, in Cockermouth, was the birthplace and childhood home of poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. Managed by the National Trust and presented as their bustling family home, it is peopled by costumed servants and offers the chance to experience what it was like to live in the 1770s. There are children’s trails to follow, treasure hunts, baking demonstrations, exhibitions, a beautiful garden, a gift shop and a lovely café.
We loved dressing up in the children’s clothes and writing with a quill pen. Our denim dungarees are still proudly bearing a souvenir stain and lasting memory.
Cost: £7.50 for adults; £3.75 for children.
9. Easter Egg hunt and family egg dump competition
Not strictly somewhere to go in Cumbria but certainly a tip for something to do. Every year I organise a family egg hunt around our house. There are clues, there are timers, there are plastic eggs and there’s excitement. This year, stuck for inspiration for rhyming clues (there are only so many poems you can make up about a Morrissey pillow case) I did maths clues and introduced a treasure master. And rules. Lots of rules. You’d think that might have diluted the fun but apparently not. Anyway, we had a family dinner, looked for eggs, organised a family egg dump (my dad decorated one that looked vaguely like my mum which didn’t go down too well) and enjoyed the day together. It rained and it didn’t matter.
Cost: Free (apart from brain power and a collection of plastic eggs that get dragged out of retirement every spring).
10. Theatre by the Lake
Possibly the most beautiful setting for a theatre known to man. Theatre by the Lake is nestled on the shores of Derwent water and has a fantastic programme of world class events year-round. I managed to bag a ticket for an evening performance of William Wordsworth, a beautifully written new play with a fantastic soundscape and jaw dropping set.
Cost: Tickets vary depending on the production and performance. Look out for £5 tickets for Under 26s on Fridays.