We love taking our greyhound Max on our family holidays in the UK, and although dogs can restrict what you can do slightly, the advantage of taking a dog along is that you end up spending more time outside and less money on attractions. Dogs are a passport to more outdoor fun for all the family, and a lovely reminder that nature is the best playground. Although I always say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes, really bad weather days are a chance to snuggle up in our holiday cottage, read and play games. The Lake District is one of those places where you can’t quite believe how easy life with a dog is, because many shops, cafes and pubs openly encourage them, even if they are tall and leggy greyhounds who take up half the floor. We’re been several times now, so here are our favourite things to do in the Lake District with kids and a dog in tow.
Climb a Fell
Climbing a fell is one of the obvious things to do in the Lake District, but finding the right one can be tricky! Wainwright listed 214 of them in his Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, so you are never too young to start ‘bagging peaks’, or, for the uninitiated, ticking spectacular hill climbs off your list. The views are amazing, kids have a real sense of purpose and achievement. There are so many fells to choose from and they vary immensely in challenge, but you really don’t have to climb high to get a spectacular view, in fact in bad weather you are better lower.
We climbed Loughrigg, which was the perfect level of challenge for our new-to-fell-climbing 6 and 8 year old and our leggy greyhound, who is more used to the track and suburban pavements than rocky scrambles. The sense of family satisfaction was huge, and taking Max made the adventure all the more special. We took one of Wordsworth’s favourite routes, which meant we truly could ‘wander lonely as a cloud’. Afterwards Mr A, the kids and Max shopped in Grasmere, while I snuck into Dove Cottage, where William and Dorothy Wordsworth once lived. Dogs aren’t allowed in the house and museum, but can go in the grounds, if you can juggle it I recommend it.
Top tips – Always research and pack proper equipment – waterproofs, OS map, first aid kit and plentiful snacks and water for humans and dog. Hunger, thirst, blisters or bad weather can quickly take the fun out of an adventure with kids.
Take a Lake Cruise
A Freedom of the Lakes pass allows you to take on the whole of Windermere. Leaving Bowness on Windermere at 11am, we enjoyed our scenic cruise on a large, complete with refreshments, to Ambleside. Max managed to jump on board fine here and quite enjoyed his boat trip.
From Ambleside we boarded the smaller boat, the Princess of the Lake, to Wray Castle. It wasn’t as easy to get a slightly stubborn greyhound on and off this small boat and Mr A had to scoop him up and carry him on. As you approach the small pier, you wouldn’t believe there is a whole castle hiding between the trees, except for tiny glimpses from the lake. It was truly magical for all of us, sneaking through the trees to the is hidden shore. The minute you set foot on land, you feel like you are stepping into a children’s story book.
Top tips – Well behaved dogs are free. We used a Family Walkers Ticket, which for £28 allows you to combine a 4 mile walk along the peaceful western shore with a cruise across Windermere. This ticket allows walkers to create a circular walking loop and can start/finish at Bowness, Brockhole or Ambleside.
Owned by the National Trust and sporting the most spectacular views, this made a perfect picnic spot, a place for a toilet stop, tea, table tennis of all things, and of course you can also pay to explore the castle. Wray Castle is surrounded with small coves and rocks to climb, and larger bays where you can paddle.
We spent a magical afternoon walking, playing and picnicking the four miles along the lake to Ferry House, through gorgeous woodland, we took the last boat back to Bowness at 5pm. Everyone was suitably worn out!
Top tips – We nearly lost track of time as we dawdled a lot, its such a fun walk, so allow much more than the two hours it takes to walk 4 miles, especially if you are heading for the last boat – although there is always the car ferry to fall back on, but you will have to pay again. The path is gravelled and suitable for bikes, walkers and for pushchairs. Much of the walk is shaded by trees.
Shopping in Ambleside
Being allowed to get in a giant gemstone pit with a small bag to choose around 20 gemstones was child nirvana. I suspect this is one of the little things too, that they will never forget. The Rock Shop is educational and creative and has an offer whereby you can do two of it’s activities for the price of three, so we also made bracelets and did the Dinosaur trail. This was also my kids’ favourite place in terms of spending their pocket money. Max made a friend while tethered outside.
We ate at the Giggling Goose Cafe, in the Watermill to the right and across the road as you leave the Gem Pit. The cake was great and the staff were totally brilliant with both kids and dogs. Lots of shops do allow well behaved dogs inside which means your dog doesn’t need to be tethered anywhere for too long.
Dog Friendly Accommodation
Good Life Lake District Cottages have some beautiful family and dog friendly cottages. Eller’s Close allows dogs and sleeps four and is in Loughrigg, perfectly placed for following in Wordsworth’s footsteps and visiting his cottage, and climbing that fell I mentioned! If you are bringing a bigger family or grandparents, Wayside cottage sleeps 6, or for a joint family get together try stunning lakeside property Holly Nook which sleeps 8. Both are Ambleside.
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