As a local, I know there isn’t a lot to do in the Lake District unless you enjoy walking up hills in the rain and Beatrix Potter. If you’re like me, that makes the Lakes quite unappealing but over the years I’ve managed to seek out the best places to visit, eat and drink for those less adventurous people that are in search of best place to grab a coffee, shop and eat.
Places to Eat
I love food and luckily for me, I’m surrounded by lots of amazing restaurants and cafes. I get bored quite easily with food so I’m always on the search for interesting dishes and always willing to try something new.
Everyone that knows me will guess my first recommendation to eat when visiting the Lakes and that is Homeground Coffee + Kitchen in Windermere. I send all of my customers their way. You can read my previous blog post on Homeground here. On top of their staple classic dishes such as their brunch burger, smashed avocado on sourdough toast and bacon and maple syrup pancakes, you will find an ever-changing and mouth watering specials list. If those can’t tempt you then I’d recommend checking out their famous hash browns. I can’t look at Homeground’s Instagram without getting hungry.
If you’re looking for healthy take out food then the best place to grab it is at Just Good Food in Windermere. Only recently opening, it already has a huge base of local customers who eat there daily (including myself when I’m working in the town). Watching your waist line isn’t an issue when eating at Just Good Food as all of their dishes are made with the company’s ethos of eating clean and healthy which is what you’d expect from the owners who are also in the fitness and health profession. My favourite dish is their butternut squash, spinach and blue cheese bake- delicious! Each day they have a different vegetarian and meat eater’s option but you have to be quick because they’ve usually sold out by 2pm. My dad and I eat here frequently and I can safely say there hasn’t been a single dish we’ve disliked.
If you’re visiting the Lakes then you must go out for afternoon tea at least once and the best place to have it is at The Forest Side Hotel. Based in Grasmere, this place is perfect for an all round day trip. Priced at £24.50 per person, this afternoon treat in such a beautiful and luxurious hotel is really affordable. Head chef Kevin Tickle was recently awarded a Michelin Star and rightly so! If that hasn’t already convinced you check out the photos on their website. I advise all visitors to wear stretchy pants as you won’t be able to move after eating this decievingly large afternoon tea.
The award-winning More? Artisan Bakery is a must visit if you’re a lover of artisan bread and sweet treats. Their cafe not only serves good coffee but has a lunch offering of salads, sandwiches and soups. It’s nestled in a small village called Staveley which is a great place to bimble about with the dogs. Don’t visit Staveley if you’re looking for extreme mountaineering or hiking though- it’s more of a place for dog-friendly, leisurely strolls with lovely scenery. Also in Staveley is the Hawkshead Brewery (quite confusing, I know). Their beer hall is open 7 days a week where you can try their own craft beers and also eat in a relaxing atmosphere. On the weekends they usually have a variety of live music and if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can have a tour of the brewery.
Best place to grab an ice cream? The Little Ice Cream Shop of course! Now I might be slightly biased but 22 flavours of ice cream, sorbets, free toppings, free sauces, cakes, coffee and tea in one of the Lake District’s prettiest villages is quite a hard offer to refuse! You can check out our website here. Prewarning: it can get seriously busy on summer afternoons, if you want to miss the queues then pop in and see us earlier.
Places to Drink
The nightlife isn’t the best in Cumbria but there are a few places I would recommend if you’re looking for a chilled evening or quiet drinks.
Paloma’s is a quirky little cocktail bar in the centre of Kendal. I won’t lie, it was a bit of a shock when it first opened as Kendal hardly seems the place you’d expect to find such an establishment. Paloma’s specialises in amazing cocktails that are all-singing, all-dancing and taste divine. The price list is typical of a cocktail bar but if you’re used to 2-4-1 cocktails and Thirsty Thursdays like I am, then this might feel a tad on the expensive side.
Another great place to grab a cocktail is Cafe Italia in Windermere. It’s an extremely popular location in summer as you can sit outside and enjoy the sun but it’s also a great little location in the colder months as they have outdoor heating and blankets (heaven). The cocktails are really well priced considering how strong they are- three of them will usually do me for the night…
If you’re on the search for good coffee then I would also recommend Homeground again. Full stop. No arguments. Just go and have a coffee there.
Red Bank Roasters occasionally do pop up coffee shops in and around the Lakes too. Their recent pop up shop was at The Lakes Pressery. If you’re looking for some #damnfinecoffee to purchase, then I’d recommend these guys. You can buy their coffee online here. I’ve tried their Penny Rock espresso blend and it is perfection. To find out when their next pop up shop will be, follow them on Facebook.
Named after their dog, Chesters by the River is a great pit stop for a coffee and cake after a long walk around the surrounding area of Skelwith. The location of this cafe/shop is truly stunning. Lake District prices do apply here so if you’re particularly price conscious then that is something to consider. However I personally think it’s reasonably priced and you get what you pay for which is top quality cakes and coffee. There’s also a gift shop next to the cafe which is great for those who like to mooch.
A lot of people get Windermere and Bowness mixed up. I can understand the confusion because the lake in Bowness is called Lake Windermere yet Windermere town is actually 1.2 miles up the road from the lake.
I always recommend to visitors to check out Windermere as it has changed loads over the past year. Windermere is a great place to go shopping, it’s full of amazing little independents such as Agnes and Cat, Daisy Chain Studios, Peter Hall & Son, The Northern Line, Scottie & Russell and Forget Me Not Interiors. There’s genuinely something for everyone whether that be handmade candles or upmarket interiors and everything in between. A great place to check out is the sweet shop Life Is Sweet– it’s packed full of lovely confectionery, chocolate, gifts and ice cream.
Now personally, I don’t like Bowness because it’s too touristy and is absolutely heaving in the summer. However if you’re looking for well known brands such as Fat Face, Pandora, Joules, L’Occitane and Herdy then Bowness might be more up your street. Although there is the occasional independent store within Bowness such as Love The Lakes, I find the town is a bit commercialised and not very different to any other town you can find in the UK. However, Love The Lakes sells Kin Toffee Vodka which is one of my favourite alcoholic drinks so I’d recommend buying that if you’re visiting. I’d advise the £29.99 bottle as it’s best value for money.
I’ll be very surprised if you haven’t already heard of the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop. It’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a tiny little traditional shop that has a lot of character. Although, I’m not quite sure how I feel about making the staff wear old-fashioned Victorian baker’s costumes, I think it looks a bit ridiculous. Nevertheless, the shop is famous for its gingerbread that you can’t buy anywhere other than in the shop. Stock up whilst you’re there because the gingerbread is so moreish- if you’re like myself you’ll go through 12 pieces in a day (at least). You can always drop in on the gingerbread shop when visiting Forest Side Hotel for afternoon tea as they’re only about ten minutes away from each other.
Finally, one of my favourite shops in the Lakes is Armstrong Ward in Kendal. The owner of Armstrong Ward has incredibly good taste and this definitely shows in the style of the shop and the quality of products available to buy. Armstrong Ward has a large selection of children’s toys, gifts and home interiors; it’s a great place for Christmas shopping or for a little ‘treat me’ splurge. As a bit of a greeting card snob, I always purchase my greeting cards from Armstrong Ward as she stocks gorgeous brands such as Belly Button and Caroline Gardner. Most importantly, Armstrong Ward has it’s own little cafe downstairs of the shop so you can rest your feet and have a cuppa.
As you can tell, I’m not really a very adventurous outdoorsy type and I’m always on the search for things that are new and fresh. If there is a place that I’ve missed or don’t know about, please comment below!
Disclaimer: all photos have come from the individual businesses’ websites. They are not my own.