Family holidays can cost a sizeable portion of your annual salary before factoring in any food or entertainment, but activities don't have to cost the earth. Here is our guide to interesting things to do in the Lake District that are completely and utterly free.
Adults tend to need little persuading for this activity, but you can probably anticipate your children's groans and protests at the mere notion of going outside and enjoying some of the most beautiful countryside in the world! A simple motivation that nearly always works is some kind of distraction on the way around and a reward at the end.
Miles without Stiles
The Lake District National Park's official website has a fabulous list of almost 50 walks that are buggy and little leg friendly called Miles without Stiles. These are easy routes that don't require huge amounts of hiking gear or a degree in map reading to complete. Download or make a simple 'spotting' game before you go and take a treat for the winner(s). Children or teams can tick off items as they see them on the way around.
For a crafty crew, take a bag and all gather bits and pieces along the way that can be made into beautiful works of art when you get home. You could even turn it into a treasure hunt depending on your planning skills. Some guided walks are also free and run by local volunteers who just might spark your children's imagination with their enthusiasm and in-depth knowledge of the area.
Festivals and the Arts
The Lake District holds a huge variety of festivals every year, some of which are completely free to attend. There are two that are particularly worthy of note, the first being the Windermere Boat Show. Admission is free and there are free taster sessions for activities such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.
Heritage Open Days are held every September and thousands of organisations open up their doors to celebrate the heritage, community, and history of their establishment. Keep an eye out for free art exhibitions and pub beer festivals too, although these may not stay a free activity for long!
Take a Dip
Swimming is always a favourite and in an area known for its clear water lakes, this activity can dive to the top of the list. Some lakes are quieter with less boat traffic such as Grasmere or Rydal Water, but as with all water-based activities, safety is the key to fun for all. Please note that the lakes of Ennerdale Water, Haweswater and Thirlmere do not allow swimming.
History on your Doorstep
Cumbria is an area that is rich in history and some sites of major interest are free to visit. Hadrian's Wall and Carlisle Cathedral are two such places and will have even the most sceptical amongst your group unable to shrug off the feeling of complete awe and wonderment that both can instinctively stir up. Hadrian's Wall, for example, is an epic World Heritage site that runs for nearly 80 miles across the rugged, wild and dramatic countryside.
History under your feet
It is a feat of engineering that demonstrates the ability of the Roman's to protect their Empire and for nearly 300 years it was a thriving, vibrant and multi-cultured frontier. With history under your feet, family re-enacting of sword fights and witnessing the remains of Roman settlements every step of the way, one can't help but be mightily impressed. Equally, if you are lucky enough to visit Carlisle Cathedral when the choir are practising, don't be ashamed if an involuntary small tear of emotion escapes, it's par for the course.
You may have to pay to park, but Wordsworth Wednesday is worth the £3 for the whole family for a couple of hours of fun. It runs throughout the summer every Wednesday at Brockhole, the Lake District Visitors' Centre on Windermere. Simply turn up and join in. This event is suitable for children aged 3 upwards and there is a different activity each Wednesday based on the poems and work of William Wordsworth.
Finally, you can never go wrong with a picnic, even when it rains. Sitting in a car, cosy and dry and looking at a beautiful view whilst eating homemade sandwiches and drinking a flask of hot tea is the pure and simple foundations upon which the British holiday was built.
Lakeland Cottage Company has a beautiful collection of holiday cottages and homes to suit everyone.