Beautiful Windermere and the lakes pt2

Windermere and the surrounding area

Shame the inside didn't quite match the outside

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by brady58 on October 17, 2012

I had never been to the Rheged Centre before but there was a leaflet in our bed and breakfast and it sounded like a good place to take the kids and as it wasn’t too far by car we drove to it one afternoon.

The Rheged Centre is an indoor centre that has a few shops, cafes and local culture. What makes it really interesting is the fact that it is housed in Europes largest grass covered building. It was actually quite difficult to see it as the grass really does blend in well with the local landscape. Luckily it is located just outside Penrith and it was well signposted.

Inside it is a large space and really quite fascinating but unfortunately I wasn’t all that impressed with the range of activities inside it. I just felt that such an unusual building should have some more dramatic exhibits especially considering the local Roman history.

It did pass a few hours though and we did enjoy our time there. There were a few small shops which were selling mainly locally produced items some of which were really nice. There was also a few cafes and these were pretty reasonable considering that we were at a tourist attraction.

Outside there is a play centre which is Roman themed and looked quite good and my children would have loved to have played there but unfortunately the day was wet and the outdoor play area was closed. There is also an indoor play area but this was for much younger children than mine.

They also have a craft area where kids can design and paint a piece of pottery. My kids picked two mugs and painted them and then they were fired and glazed so that they could be drunk out of. This was a great part of the centre and wasn’t that expensive at around about £5 for each mug. My kids really enjoyed doing it and I almost wish that I had painted something myself.

As well as the shops, cafes and play area the centre also has its own cinema showing mainly kids films. We didn’t actually see a film as the times weren’t convenient for us but if I had known about it then I would have definitely arranged our visit to coincide with watching a movie especially as the weather wasn’t too great that day.

Of more interest to me rather than the kids was the free art exhibition that was showing. This was pleasant and although none of the art work really caught my attention I did enjoy looking at it and I liked the fact that you could purchase the art if anything took your fancy.

Rheged was a strange experience. It was a perfectly pleasant way to spend a couple of hours but I really do think that the building could be put to much better use and incorporate more of the local history. At the minute it is a bit of a jack of all trades trying to cater to everyone but not really mastering any. I would visit it again but I would hope that next time there was more local interest.

Rheged is open every day from 10:00 in the morning until 5:30 in the afternoon and if you are in the area then it might be worth visiting and seeing for yourself but just don’t expect the inside to match the amazing outside building.
The Rheged Centre
Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0DQ
01768 868000

One of the most beautiful views in all of England

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by brady58 on April 19, 2012

When coming to Windermere one thing that you absolutely have to do is take a walk somewhere up high so that you can appreciate the views as they are some of the most stunning in all of England if not the world.
Not everyone has the fitness or the inclination to climb one of the surrounding mountains to get a view of the landscape but there are other shorter and less intense climbs all over the area. One of the best is Orrest Head.

Because I was in Windermere with my children it wasn’t practical for us to climb a mountain as they would have struggled so I asked about and was told that Orrest Head would probably be the best place for us to go.
Orrest Head is a hill that towers above the town of Windermere and is 748 feet at the summit and it offers breath taking views of Lake Windermere and 360 degree panorama views of the surrounding countryside all the way to the Yorkshire moors and even Morcambe bay on a good clear day.

The path to Orrest Head is clearly marked and it starts at the towns train station. The walk starts gentle enough but it soon starts getting a little bit more difficult.
The kids and I had no problems with getting to the summit but obviously you will need to have a decent level of fitness to be able to make it to the top. It does get quite steep in parts but nothing compared to some of the mountains in the area but you do need to be careful not to trip and make sure that you wear decent shoes as the ground can be rough in places.

It took us about an hour to reach the top of Orrest Head but this was at a quite leisurely pace so it is easily doable in a morning. Although we were tired by the time we reached the top the hike up was well worth it and the views were to die for. I have honestly never seen such a gorgeous sight as when we reached the top and looked down over the lake as the sun was coming through some clouds and glistening on the water.

Going back down was much easier than getting up was but again it is quite steep so extra care needs to be taken to ensure that you don’t trip on steep incline.
Even though it is quite hard going in places it is easy enough for anyone with a decent level of fitness and the walk up and down is enjoyable thanks to the scenery and just the whole surroundings which is idyllic.

I would highly recommend going up to Orrest Head and taking in the views as they are spectacular and the walk up reaqlly does help blow away the cobwebs. It is hard to appreciate just how stunning the Lake District is until you are up high and although there are many higher mountains to climb which probably offer an even better view Orrest Head is a short satisfying climb which most people can do and the views are absolutely worth it.
Orrest Head
Lake District
Eastern Shores of Windermere

Stunning tranquil gardens

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by brady58 on June 14, 2012

Holehird gardens are a stunning set of gardens located in Windermere in the Lake District and are a lovely place to spend a nice sunny afternoon.
The gardens are easily walkable from Windermere town and take about an hour to reach through some gorgeous scenery and countryside. You can also drive or take a bus but the walk is so enjoyable that this is definitely the route that I would recommend you take.
Definitely stop by the reception which is open until 5 o’clock every night and pick up a couple of leaflets which tell you all about the gardens and offer some walking rotes through them.

The walled garden is exactly what the name suggests and is an old kitchen garden which is now full of plants shrubs and flowers. The walled garden smelt absolutely amazing thanks to the Mediterranean area which was full of Mediterranean plants such as lemon trees. These plants really fragranced the whole area and were absolutely lovely.

Surrounding the walled gardens is the outer gardens which is much larger and contains several different species of plants. There is also a brook which apparently comes from the fells and flows into the pond which is also surrounded by plants. This was our favourite area to walk around as there was so much to see and the colours of all the different plants was absolutely stunning.
The whole gardens take in over 17 acres of land so there is lots to admire.

Although I don’t know much about plants so am not able to adequately describe each and every plant in the grounds I did very much enjoy looking at them all. The different plants and shrubbery were a real feast for the eye and even the kids enjoyed looking at the leaflet and spotting all the plants that were mentioned.
The gardens are the home of the Lakeland horticultural society and this is evident in just how well kept everything is. Nothing in the garden is overgrown and you can see all the attention to detail that has gone into planting all the plants as nothing has been left to chance.

We visited the gardens in late spring so they were in full bloom and bursting with colours. I would love to go back in winter and see what they were like them and see the different kinds of plants on offer at that time of year.

Entry to the gardens was free but they do have a donation box where you can leave some money to help with their upkeep. Because both myself and the children enjoyed the gardens immensely and because everyone we encountered was so helpful and friendly I wanted to leave something towards helping with their running cost.

Facilities at the garden are limited and there is no café which is a shame as it would be lovely to have been able to sit somewhere and have a coffee whilst overlooking the gardens. There are some toilets and the majority of the gardens are accessible to disabled visitors.
Holehird Gardens
Patterdale Road
Windermere, England, LA23
015394 46008

Up close and personal with owls

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by brady58 on June 20, 2012

We spent nearly an entire day visiting Muncaster Castle and Gardens as there was so much to see and do there. We all enjoyed different parts of the trip but for my son his favourite part of the day was going to see the Owls at the world owl centre.
The world owl centre is home to the world owl trust which is one of the planets leading conservation groups dedicated to the protection of owls. The centre also houses one of the largest collections of owls in the world.

There are loads of different owls to see at the owl centre and loads of different species some of which I had never even heard of.
The centre is a non-profit organisation and all the owls in the centre are there for rehabilitation or protection of some kind.
You can adopt an owl for only £1 so we all decided to do this after seeing them in the flesh and hearing the horror stories or how the owls came to be at the centre.

The best thing was getting to watch the birds fly and hear a talk from one of the keepers who told us more about the owls and how they hunt and live in the wild. This was not only fascinating for me but also for my son who was completely enthralled by the entire talk. After watching the owls fly we got to go and talk to the keepers and also get our photograph taken with the owls up close which was a real pleasure. I was a little nervous as I am not overly keen on birds but the owl was perfectly well behaved and sat really still and didn’t flap its wings or try and fly off.

I would thoroughly recommend that you go and visit the owl centre given the chance as it was a lovely experience seeing the owls close up and I also liked the fact that I was actually helping even if only in a small way with helping to save these beautiful creatures.
Kids will absolutely love being close to the owls and hearing the informative talk from the keepers and adults can enjoy the owls whilst also taking in the breath taking surroundings.

Entry to the owl centre was by way of a combined ticket which also gave entry to the castle and the gardens and it cost me £13.00 for myself and £7.50 for each of my children. As we spent so long here we also ended up having lunch at the castle so it was an expensive day out but I have to say that I found it to be completely worth every penny spent.
World Owl Centre
Muncaster Castle
Ravenglass, Cumbria, CA18 1RQ
01229 717 614

Interesting and educational

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by brady58 on October 11, 2012

The kids and I had a fabulous time when visiting the Lake District. Not only is it one of the most beautiful places on earth it also has loads of things to do as a family even if the weather outside isn’t the best.

One of the places we visited was the Lakes Aquarium which is situated on the shores of Lake Windermere. We were staying in Windermere town and the aquarium is on the other side of the lake so it would be quite a distance if we were to drive. Luckily the Windermere Steamers go to the aquarium so it was an easy and pleasant journey to the aquarium on the boats across the lake.

I had bought our tickets online before arriving at the aquarium which makes it cheaper than purchasing them on the door. I paid £6.50 for my adult tickets and £3.95 each for both the children’s tickets.
To buy them on the door costs £8.95 for adults and £5.95 for children. The aquarium also has loads of different offers on such as combining tickets with the steamer tickets which can save you 30%. Unfortunately I had already bought our tickets before I found out about the combined tickets but I wasn’t too bothered as I thought that it was still good value for money.

The aquarium isn’t as large as some of the more famous ones and it doesn’t have the same level of unusual wildlife but we all found it to be fascinating and the kids really enjoyed themselves regardless. It was also a lot cheaper than the more famous aquariums so you have to take this in to account when visiting.

The aquarium is divided in to different areas and the largest areas are dedicated to British wildlife but there are a few areas dedicated to other parts of the world. There are fish from the Americas and the amazon. What I did find a little strange but absolutely loved was that there is a rainforest section with snakes and amphibians as well as some marmosets. These were very cute and not something we expected to see in an aquarium.

My kids favourite part of the visit was the otters. They were so playful and kept us entertained for ages. Unfortunately this seemed to be everyone else’s favourite part too and it was very crowded but well worth braving the crowds to see these cheeky chappies playing.

The underwater tunnel through the lake is a brilliant part of the exhibits and it was amazing to look up and see ducks diving above our heads. The other exhibits were interesting but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. What made this place such fun was that instead of just having tanks with fish swimming in them there were loads of interactive exhibits where the kids could join in and actually learn something whilst also having some fun.

The staff were also really friendly and helpful and they didn’t seem to mind in the least my kids harassing them with questions and they took time to answer them and show them different parts of the exhibits which we had missed. We were also in time to see a couple of the daily talks that the staff give in different areas of the aquarium and even I found these to be both entertaining and educational and I learnt a few things I didn’t know before going in to the aquarium.

I would highly recommend the Lakes Aquarium to people who are in the area and looking for a fun and interesting activity with the children. The aquarium itself doesn’t take that long to go around but because there is loads to see and activities for the children on the way round you can easily spend a good few hours in here with no problems. We spent over 3 hours in the aquarium and neither myself or the children were bored at any part and as it only cost me under £15 for the three of us I consider this to be really good value for money.

Onsite there is also a gift shop which sells the usual kind of thing at these places and is located right at the exit so that you have to pass through it to leave the aquarium which meant that I ended up having to buy something for the kids as we were passing through it. There is also a café onsite but we didn’t actually visit this so I can’t comment on the quality of the food served.

Opening times for the aquarium are 9:00am until 6pm every day of the week and the aquarium is open every day with the exception of Christmas day.
Lakes Aquarium
Lakeside, Newby Bridge
Cumbria, England, LA12 8AS
+44 15395 30153

© LP 2000-2009