Visiting the Lake District with children this summer? Budget feeling a little under pressure? Looking for some fun, but low cost activities to keep everyone entertained? There are a wealth of activities available that won’t cost the earth that everyone can get involved in.

1. Do A Beach Clean

Plastics found on beach

You can’t have missed all the coverage about ocean plastics that has dominated the media in recent months. We still do not fully understand the full environmental impact of the issue, but it’s reasonable to assume that there are some potentially serious consequences for the food chain. Here in Cumbria we have around 120 miles of coastline and whilst we believe it is amongst the most picturesque of landscapes, we also have to admit that ocean plastics washing up on the beach is a problem.

If you and your family love Cumbria and the Lake District then this summer why not consider giving something back by doing a beach clean? It’s a way of spending a couple of hours teaching your children about how to look after their environment and highlight to them the issue of ocean plastics. Last year, Prince William and Prince Harry revealed that their father, Prince Charles, used to take them on litter picking holidays as children to highlight the importance of preserving the environment, so you would be in excellent company. You could join the National Trust on the 29th August at Whitehaven for an organised beach clean or you could take a couple of rubbish bags and some gloves to the beach and do your own. Just make sure your children are supervised carefully when picking items up, avoiding sharp objects and possible hazardous waste.

You can make it more interesting for children by talking to them about their finds, asking them to think about where it might have come from. If you want to combine the clean with a play and a reward then head over to St Bees, where the beautiful coast is accompanied by a fantastic play area and a café selling delicious locally made ice cream. You can drop your collected rubbish off at a local household waste centre that you find by visiting the websites for Allerdale and Copeland borough councils.

2. Go on a Guided Walk with the Lake District National Park Authority

Lake District National Park Authority Guided Walks Summer 2019

The LDNPA are a not-for-profit organisation charged with looking after the Lake District. Throughout the summer months, they offer a series of guided walks that range from easy to strenuous, ensuring that there is something suitable for everyone.

During the summer holidays, they have something taking place nearly every day and many are suitable for children with families. Best of all, these walks are charged at very low prices, with some being free of charge (donations welcome). Some of the walks that are suitable for families are listed below. It’s worth noting that not all of these will be suitable for very young children:

  • Esk Estuary Escapade: Tuesday, 6th August | A free 6-mile guided walk from Ravenglass along the Esk estuary
  • Yew Beauty: Friday, 9th August | A free 3-mile walk through ancient woodland from Coniston
  • Family Walk - Coppermines Valley: Sunday, 18th August | A free 4-mile walk with an opportunity to explore the Coppermines Valley at Coniston & learn more about the lives of men, women, and children who worked in the mines.

3. Look for a Book

Look for a Book in Cumbria

Look for a Book is a new phenomenon that is taking over Cumbria. The idea originated in Cambridgeshire and is now becoming popular across the country, no more so in Cumbria, where several thousand people have signed up to local Facebook groups to take part. The aim to promote reading and getting outdoors in children. Volunteers hide books in parks, museums, town centres, and local beauty spots for children to find.

Finders are encouraged to post pictures of their books online and to re-hide the book once they have finished reading it. If you are visiting the Lake District this summer, then search Facebook for Cumbria Look 4 A Book to find the groups operating in the area. Hiders often announce when they have hidden books and give clues to their location. You can join in by hiding a book of your own whilst on a search, and it’s a great motivation for children to walk.

4. Visit Whinlatter or Grizedale Forests

Grizedale Forest

Grizedale Forest

Both Whinlatter Forest in the north Lake District and Grizedale Forest in the south offer low cost days out for families. You do need to pay to park but entry to the forests is free. Both Grizedale and Whinlatter have huge adventure playgrounds for children and plenty of trails through the woods to explore.

For a small fee at both forests, children can join the Zog trail. Inspired by Julia Donaldson’s children’s tale about a dragon who struggles at dragon school, the trails take you through the woods to find different characters from the books and the trail pack costs just £3 includes activities to do along the way. Grizedale also has a sculpture trail with some unique outdoor art, whilst at Whinlatter there is a 3-mile trail that will take you to the summit of Seat How where you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the northern fells.

5. Visit the RockShop in Ambleside

ALT

Perfect for rainy days when you don’t want to spend too much money keeping the children entertained, the RockShop in Ambleside has three fantastic activities that children will love. The Gem Pit is a huge pit of gems that children can climb into and explore, looking for the prettiest, shiniest, or most interesting polished gemstones. Each child is given a small bag to fill up with the stones of their choosing to take home.

In the Pipkit Bead Bar, children can choose from hundreds of beads to design and make their own bracelet to take away. In the Dinosaur Den, children can follow clues to search for a hidden fossil, with some scary dinosaurs to avoid along the way. Each child gets a real fossil to take home at the end. Each activity costs just £5 per child and includes the items they can take home, or one child can do all three activities for £10. The shop floor is packed with interesting fossils and gemstones to look at or buy if your budget stretches to it.

6. Visit Brockhole – The Lake District Visitor Centre

Brockhole Summer 2019

Operated by the Lake District National Park Authority, Brockhole is one of those places where you can spend as little or as much as you like. You have to pay for parking (though if you fancy a walk to the centre from a spot with free parking then check out our Brockhole and Townend walk) but there is a huge, free, adventure playground here that will keep the kids entertained for a good hour or so.

The centre also has several trails with accompanying activity sheets that cost just £2, and an orienteering course with a map that costs £2.25. There is also a small, free soft play area, but it is only open to children who are under 4 years old. During the holidays, the centre is also offering craft sessions for just £3 per child. Mini golf is another low cost activity, with a family ticket for 2 adults and 3 children costing just £10. The centre has a range of other activities available that cost a bit more, including boat hire, archery, and caving with prices starting from £11.

7. Take a Stroll Around Buttermere

Buttermere

Buttermere

Buttermere is perfect for a family friendly stroll. A circular route of this pretty lake is just under 5-miles and will take you around 2-3 hours, depending on how fast your children can walk. It has plenty to keep children entertained along the way, including stunning waterfalls, plenty of pebble beaches with stone skimming opportunities, wooded areas for tree climbing, and even a spooky tunnel to walk through.

Most of the route is accessible via an all-terrain pushchair, but there are a couple of sections where you will have to get your baby out and carry him or her whilst someone else carries the collapsed pushchair. Take a picnic and a picnic blanket with you, but make sure you leave room for an ice cream from Sykes Farm where they make their own artisan ice cream from Ayrshire cows.

8. Sign up for National Trust Membership

National Trust Membership

The National Trust own several major attractions in the Lake District, including Wray Castle, Allan Bank, Wordsworth House, Hill Top, and Sizergh Castle. They also own many of the car parks in the area. If you are a family of four visiting the Lake District, then it really is worth looking into family membership. All five of the attractions listed above offer great days out for children and for a family of four without membership it would cost £123.50 to visit all of them.

Add in a car parking fee at somewhere like Buttermere, Aira Force, or Tarn Hows, and that will take you over the £126 fee that it costs for a full year of family membership. You can pay for your membership by monthly direct debit, costing £10.50 per month, allowing you to potentially spread the cost of entry to all these attractions. What’s more, your membership is valid for a year and gets you free entry into over 500 places, as well as free parking in most National Trust car parks.

9. Visit the Keswick Museum & Fitz Park

Fitz Park

Fitz Park (neilld / Bigstockphoto.com)

The Keswick Museum might look fairly humble from the outside, but inside it houses a collection of over 20,000 objects, each one giving us an insight into life for the people who have lived in the Keswick area since ancient times. Along with collections of fine art, items from the industrial age, animal and plant specimens, and items of geological interest, the museum has a number of activities for children, including dressing up, craft activities, and trails. Young visitors can also borrow an explorer pack that will guide them to points of interest around the museum. The museum costs just £5 for adults to enter, and £3 for children aged 5 to 15 years. Children under 5 go free, and your entry ticket is valid for the entire year. Alternatively, you can purchase a family day pass for just £12, which covers two adults and three children.

The museum is located on the edge of Fitz Park. Once you have finished in the museum your children might like to explore the play area here. It’s got a range of equipment that is suitable for toddlers up to young teenagers. And, for the big kids, there’s an outdoor gym where you can give yourself a workout. The park also has a circular path around it that is ideal for young children to bike or scooter around, whilst the café attached the museum serves up some delicious cakes.

10. Hunt for Fairies at Low Sizergh Farm

Low Sizergh Farm

Image thanks to Low Sizergh Farm

Low Sizergh Farm is a working farm near Kendal that produces thousands of litres of milk that is used to create local cheeses and yogurts. The farm also has a large population of hens and sheep. It is home to the Low Sizergh Barn shop and café, and there is a 2-mile farm trail that is free to enter. The trail will take you past the hens, the cows, ancient hedgerows, and through an ancient woodland. In addition, part of the farm trail features some more unusual inhabitants, with 12 fairy doors to find. Each door depicts a native plant or flower that can be found on the farm and visitors are encouraged to take pictures of any specimens of these plants that they find and upload them to the Woodland Trust’s nature calendar website to help with climate change research.

In the café, visitors can treat themselves to a cake made using eggs and milk produced by the farm. The café overlooks the milking parlour with large windows allowing you to see everything that goes on in there. At 3.30 each day, the cows come into the parlour to be milked, providing a wonderful opportunity for your children to learn more about where their food comes from.