The experience included a tour of the area including a trip to Hill Top Farm (where most of the Beatrix Potter boos are set) and a boat trip on the lake, plus entrance to The World of Beatrix Potter experience centre. Not to mention enjoying the beautiful chocolate cottage hotel and 6 acres of grounds and gardens, and finding time to slot in some obligatory walks over hills and round lakes.
The reason for this post, which as you’ll notice has nothing to do with healthy eating (other than the odd mention of meal times) is because after two family members being quite ill in the last two years I decided enough was enough and it was time to ‘Live More’, while we could. Not everything has to be expensive – we’ve spent more time having family meals, going for country walks and playing in the garden together this year than we have done, well, ever. This holiday was the first thing I booked and symbolises our goals to live life to the full.
Whether you’re after some light reading or are considering a family trip to the lake District yourself, you’ll find information you need here on all the places we visited and hopefully be entertained and inspired to take your own magical trip somewhere.
P.S. I’d love to know where you’ve always wanted to visit so please do take the time to come and tell me in my Facebook group here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Our adventure started with hitting the roads with nowhere to go or stay. Well for one night anyway. We didn’t want to either get up at 3am or waste the first day of our holiday travelling, so decided to hit the roads on Sunday night, see how far we got (it’s a good 6 hours from us on the South Coast, without wee stops), and find a room using the Hotel Tonight App. Not having used it before it was a little concerning, but what’s the worst that could happen? Somewhere would have a room, even if we ended up having to pay more than we’d hoped for in a cheapo travel inn style place because we only really needed the beds for a few hours.
The app combines your GPS location or desired destination and links to a huge database of hotels, plotting them on a map with price labelling. This first step was fab – we literally just needed cheap beds for a few hours and quickly found a few suitable. Unfortunately you can only seem to search for 1 or 2 beds, no good for a family of 4, but I simply called a couple of hotels that the app had shown up and in 5 minutes had a room with two double beds for £89 and that included breakfast. Big up to the Holiday Inn which was not only clean and staff polite but there was a lovely pool (which we didn’t have time to use), a fully equipped gym (which I did use at 7am while the others slept), and 24 hr room service. You can’t get a single with no kettle for that money south of Oxford.
The only hotel that was a home once owned by Beatrix Potter herself, Lindeth Howe on Lake Windermere is the only place to stay for a Peter Rabbit and friends short break in the UK.
I’ve been told about the wonders of the Lake District for years but as a child who, for every night for two years running made her single Father read ‘Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’ at bedtime, visiting the farm and surrounding areas where the stories are set was a must for me, and preferably before my girls got too old to emerse themselves in the stories and help me spot locations and animals from the books.
The hotel itself is a charming country home adorned with Beatrix Potter memorabilia, with beautiful gardens and spectacular views over the lake. The rooms are cosy and the restaurant serves local, family friendly food, and while there’s free WiFi throughout, this is the closest place you’ll get to tech-free peace and bliss without sending the kids off to Grandparents while you go to a spa.
The gardens and surrounding area turned out to be just perfect for some early morning ‘me time’ too. I’m an early riser so while Daddy and kids slept in (following holiday typical late nights) I took advantage and went on an hour-long power walk/run/uphill climb hybrid that cleared my mind, blew the cobwebs away and allowed me to dive into enjoying the day ahead refreshed.
The slightly more commercial and child friendly walk through experience ‘The World of Beatrix Potter’ was walking distance from our hotel but don’t worry, it’s not ‘if Butlins did Beatrix Potter’ and is way more charm than chav, with a fully planted vegetable garden, a cute walk through of all the locations in the stories like Mrs Tiggy Winkles kitchen complete with flagstone floor, Mr McGregor’s Greenhouse, and there are shows to watch and characters to meet every day throughout the Summer.
Queues were long (30 minutes wait) and it took about the same time to walk round but the children loved seeing all the characters, especially 5 year old Bella who loves cuddle animals and insisted on spending most of her saved up pocket money on a fluffy talking Lily Bob Tail.
If you’ve read a Beatrix Potter book, you’ll already be familiar with Hill Top Farm. Bought in 1905 with the proceeds from her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, she used Hill Top Farm and the surrounding countryside as inspiration for many of her subsequent books.
The house is full of original artefacts and Potter’s possessions and the garden, a National Trust area, is maintained to exactly how it is in the books.
While not huge, the gardens are beautiful and Mr McGregor’s garden is exactly as you’d expect, complete with blackcurrant bushes to stain little blue rabbit jackets and a little path just right for a hedgehog to run up. The house is almost untouched, and you can see areas that are right out of the book, as if the illustration was done that very morning. It brought the books to life for the girls, who were completely enchanted with the dolls house inhabited by two bad mice, and I bought the Miss Potter movie in the gift shop so the girls could learn the story behind the amazing woman who created the stories.
This was a truly magical place if you were ever read Beatrix Potter stories as a child, it’s like walking right into the pages of a book.
It’s it incredible how fast children learn to use technology? As an online business owner I’m pretty tech savvy but to be honest I’ve got better things to do than spend ages figuring out children’s games they’ll ultimately be playing without me. I wasn’t sure what to do as soon as we opened the app but neither was I worried. 5 minutes in Bella’s hands and she’d figured out how to hunt for bugs and vegetables and was over the moon with her fruit reward badges.
We couldn’t see any introductory instructions (this would have been helpful at first) – this would be one thing I would add – some kind of walk through that’s easy and clear (but not annoying) enough for both kids and non-techy adults to understand so that children can get playing asap with minimal frustration. But I wasn’t worried as Bella seemed happy swiping and clicking away and discovered the colouring in area, where she can create Beatrix Potter pictures and save them to be printed when we get home.
The games can be played ‘as’ various characters; Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and other hoppy friends, and there’s a map hunting game, a ‘catch the butterflies and bees’ and the aforementioned colouring in. Cute children’s voices narrate (in a surprisingly non-irritating way) and fruit badges are rewarded for efforts and wins. Bella was very proud she could recognise every fruit and vegetable – and as I nutritionist so was I! If your young kids are totally against fruit and veg in every way this could be a way of making them fun. In fact in the ‘free hand’ drawing Bella chose to actually create bright pictures of all her favourite fruits, which made a refreshing change from the hundreds of ‘Mummy Daddy and Aurora and our two cats’ pictures I have stuffed in an art folder and smothering the fridge.
The app really came into it’s own at a family wedding. We hadn’t taken their iPad but come 9pm when the older kids were still going on cake and Bella had had enough, colouring in on my phone kept her going on my lap for an hour before we retired to our hotel. It was a novelty that there was a game on my phone as I don’t let them use it normally but I was pleased it was there at the time. So many kids’ games are noisy and stimulating and annoying but this was calm and quiet and well, like the Beatrix Potter books I guess in that respect!
In fact this is probably the best bit. The vast majority of children’s apps are noisy, shouty, musical, and stimulating, with all sorts of unsavoury characters who are either trying to kill each other or dress up like prostitutes (I’m looking at you, Barbie Fashion…). The app retains as much of the calm and charm as the Beatrix Potter books as you can for a digital app, and if we can survive a 6 hour drive to the Lake District with it with neither kids nor parents going insane, that’s pretty impressive.
If you have young children or are a Beatrix Potter fan yourself it’s a lovely short break. And if you’re not a fan then I think the Lake District is now my favourite British holiday I’ve ever been on. If you have any other suggestions I or my followers might like then please let us know!