With so many different activities available we like to think of the Lake District as one giant adventure playground. Families visiting the area are offered a wealth of opportunities to try new challenges, whilst the lakes and fells are brimming with endless possibilities for those with enough imagination.

However, sometimes, especially now in the winter, families with children prefer to go to a place where the children can burn off energy for an hour or two without venturing too far from the car. Adventure playgrounds offer the perfect solution. Equipped with much more than the standard swings and slides you would find in a public park, they provide a safe environment for children to challenge themselves. If you are planning a visit to the Lake District this half term with the kids, then why not take time out to check out some of these playgrounds?

Whinlatter Forest, Near Keswick

Whinlatter Forest, Near Keswick

Whinlatter (Mick Knapton / Wikipedia.org)

England’s only mountain forest at Whinlatter has a myriad of possibilities when it comes to adventure, whether it be the exhilarating treetop ropes course, or the thrilling mountain biking trails. However, for children who prefer to keep two feet on the ground, there is a delightful adventure play trail.

Along the trail you will find slides, a rickety bridge, a giant climbing structure that includes a climbing wall, swings, playhouses, and balance beams. The most popular station is undoubtedly the Archimedes Screw, where two metal spirals can be turned to fetch water up from a stream, which can then flow through a series of platforms.

  • Why Kids Like It: It’s set within the forest itself, allowing children to explore the natural world at the same time.
  • Why Parents Like It: There are plenty of benches along the way, and the café serves hot drinks in takeaway cups.
  • How Much Does It Cost? It’s free, but parking charges apply.
  • More Information: forestryengland.uk/whinlatter

Rookery Woods, Keswick Climbing Wall

Rookery Woods, The Keswick Climbing Wall

Image thanks to the Keswick Climbing Wall

The Keswick Climbing Wall is an indoor climbing and activity centre located on the edge of Keswick, close to Castlerigg Stone Circle. Rookery Woods is located within the centre’s grounds and takes advantage of a small patch of woodland. On arrival, children are given a sheet with details of an orienteering course to complete.

Around the playground, there are various climbing structures, including climbing walls suspended from the trees, balance beams, a wobbly bridge through a bog, tunnels, a small tunnel maze, and a zip line. There are carved wooden creatures to spot along the way, including a colony of meerkats that can be seen by peeping through the wall of the playground’s “hide”. There’s even a small archery range with soft arrows that are perfect for children.

  • Why Kids Like It: It offers a miniature taste of the activities that are available in the centre, so young children don’t need to miss out when older siblings are climbing.
  • Why Parents Like It: There are a number of nature based activities, such as a bug hotel, encouraging children to learn about the natural world. There’s a café in the centre.
  • How Much Does It Cost? It’s £5 per child.
  • More Information: keswickclimbingwall.co.uk/rookery-woods

Natural Play Trail, Wray Castle, Near Ambleside

Natural Play Trail, Wray Castle, Near Ambleside

Image thanks to The National Trust

Wray Castle is a fabulous place for families with children to visit. This National Trust property lacks its original contents and instead the castle’s rooms are filled with activities for children, such as soft play bricks and colouring tables. In the castle’s grounds, there is a large natural play trail. There are rope swings, balance obstacles made from tree stumps and trunks, and tunnels to crawl through.

There is even a miniature wooden castle with a slide and climbing wall. Along the trail, there are a number of dens made from tree branches and children are welcome to add to these or try to create their own. There are plenty of woodland trails to explore and there are several geocaches around the castle to find.

  • Why Kids Like It: It’s a great opportunity to get mucky as they crawl and run around on the forest floor.
  • Why Parents Like It: If the weather is really poor, from March to November, you can seek shelter in the castle. There’s a café open most weekends throughout the year.
  • How Much Does It Cost? Entrance to the grounds, including the play trail, is free. Charges apply for parking and for entrance to the castle (free for National Trust members).
  • More Information: nationaltrust.org.uk/wray-castle

The Lost Castle, Lowther Castle, Near Penrith

The Lost Castle, Lowther Castle, Near Penrith

Image thanks to Lowther Castle

The addition of the Lost Castle play area to the grounds of the ruined Lowther Castle near Penrith has helped to make this formerly derelict site into one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cumbria. Visitors walk through the castle gardens, spotting various points of interest along the way, before arriving at a small wooded area. There’s a natural play trail at the start, with various structures made from tree trunks to climb on.

Then, as you venture further in, the Lost Castle becomes visible. This huge structure was created using 18,000 metres of sustainable timber. It’s a giant wooden castle complete with turrets, slides, ladders, and even a trampoline made from rope. There is a zip wire, swings, and plenty of walkways to explore. The castle even has a dedicated area for younger children with a sandpit and smaller climbing structures.

  • Why Kids Like It: Children can channel their inner knights and pretend to be part of a great siege. It’s much, much, bigger than other play structures in the area.
  • Why Parents Like It: The gardens are a delight to stroll through and a small hut serves hot and cold snacks and drinks, with plenty of seating areas.
  • How Much Does It Cost? Adults £9, Children 3-15 Years £7, Under 3s go free. This covers entry to the castle ruins, exhibition space, gardens, and play area.
  • More Information: lowthercastle.org

Adventure Playground, Brockhole, Windermere

Adventure Playground, Brockhole, Windermere

Image thanks to Brockhole

Brockhole is the Lake District National Park Authority’s visitor centre, and it’s brimming with activities for the whole family to try, including high ropes, archery, and orienteering. In 2018, the outdoor play area was completely revamped and is bigger and better than ever.

The play area has equipment suitable for children of all ages, including a giant structure for older children that consists of nine towers with various obstacles, including rope ladders, climbing walls, and tunnel slides. For younger children, there is a climbing structure in the shape of a boat, plus plenty of balance beams, swings, slides, and sit on bouncing toys, as well as a zip wire.

  • Why Kids Like It: There is something to suit all ages so older children won’t run the risk of getting bored whilst their younger siblings play.
  • Why Parents Like It: There’s a covered seating area and indoors you will find a small soft play area if the weather turns bad. There is a café indoors and plenty of other activities to try.
  • How Much Does It Cost? Entrance to the centre, playground, and indoor soft play is free. Parking charges apply. There are charges for other activities, such as archery, etc.
  • More Information: brockhole.co.uk