It has been a couple of months since my last break to the New Lanark Mill Hotel, so I decided it was time to book a break for a couple of nights at the 4* Castle Inn Hotel in Bassenthwaite for a family getaway with my wife, Nadia, and two year old son, Harry.
I have been to the Lake District a number of times when I was young, however I have not been recently and wanted Nadia and Harry to experience some of the great things to do. My planning started with some research online and on our private Facebook Group to find out the best things to do whilst there – baring in mind we only had Saturday and Sunday to explore.
As you may know, the Lakes are full of top visitor attractions as well as plenty of walking and outdoor activities – you could really spend a week here and still not see everything! After creating a few lists of the top things to do (keeping Harry in mind – so no wake boarding or canoeing for me unfortunately). I created an itinerary (yes, I actually created an itinerary on my iPhone – much to the amusement of Nadia) which included a rail journey, aquarium, Beatrix Potter World and a wildlife park.
Due to work and college commitments we were not able to set off until around 5pm, however the journey from the Glasgow area to Bassenthwaite (in north Lake District) is a fairly easy and quick route. We arrived at the hotel for about 6.45pm.
The hotel is situated on its own about a mile outside the village of Bassenthwaite, sitting on the main road with views in the distance of Bassenthwaite Lake.
We managed to find a parking space easily and the signs took us to reception where check-in was prompt and all information about dining, the leisure and the room were given to us. We were also asked for a pre-authorisation on my card with an agreed additional £100 for any extra items we charged to the room – like food and drinks.
The receptionist advised us that the restaurant was closed for a function, however meals were being served in the bar area. We were all very hungry by this point and we were advised we would not need to book a table and just head to the bar when we were ready. I would however always advise pre-booking a table for dinner, no matter where you are staying.
The hotel is spread out and is quite a maze, however there are plenty of signs to lead you in the right direction. We were allocated room 21 which was a large family room on the first floor at the front of the hotel.
The room was a little old fashioned for my liking however it was spotlessly clean and probably one of the largest hotel rooms I have stayed in, with a double bed, single bed and space for a cot. Plus two windows looking out over the lake and hills – amazing views! The room also had 2 bottles of water, snacks and tea/coffee making facilities.
We quickly got unpacked and went down to the Tavern Bar to get a bite to eat. The area was quite busy however we managed to get a seat next to the bar which was great. The menu was more than adequate and featured everything you would expect – from steak to burgers and fajitas, steak pie, scampi and more.
We ordered our food and drinks at the bar. I went for the fish and chips, Nadia had the pulled pork burger and Harry the children’s sausage and mash. The portions were massive and just what we needed! I would also highly recommend the local beer they have on tap – “Tirril” from the Lakeland Brewery – which is not far from the hotel in Appleby – very quenching!
The hotel also allow dogs in the bar area where there is no carpet. We spoke to a couple who had a dog with them at dinner and they had stayed at the hotel for a couple of nights already. They highly recommended the hotel for dogs and plenty walks in the area.
After dinner we headed back up to the room to get an early night – in preparation for a busy day ahead!
We managed to wake early (Harry usually takes care of this) and we were down for breakfast at 8.30am. As you would expect there was a large selection of cold items available from breads to fruits and cereals. Hot breakfast was cooked to order with a nice selection of anything from a full Cumbrian to Eggs Benedict or scrambled eggs on toast – so something for everyone.
If you have read any of my previous blogs then you will know how much I love a full cooked hotel breakfast – however I surprised myself by ordering the Eggs Benedict instead! This tasted great and meant I wasn’t too full. Nadia had scrambled eggs and harry had boiled eggs with toasted soldiers (he loves his eggs).
The weather was not great, however we had prepared for this and we have always felt you cannot let the weather get in the way!
First stop on our day of activities was to venture all the way to the south Lakes and to the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway (which took just over an hour) – where we had booked tickets on the steam train!
Harry is obsessed with trains and to see his face when he saw “Thomas” was worth it (the steam engine was blue so he was convinced this was real life Thomas the Tank Engine).
The rail journey takes just over 15 minutes and leaves from Haverthwaite station to Lakeside – which is located at the very southern tip of Lake Windermere. We decided to just do the return rail journey, however you can then take the cruise from Lakeside round Lake Windermere which takes a couple of hours. You can see full details with timetables and information on their website.
The ticket you get means you can return on any train throughout the day. This meant we could spend some time at Lakeside, which features a cafe (with a Starbucks), an aquarium and a hotel. With an hour to spare we took Harry in to the aquarium which featured a wide range of sea and lake life. I would say this is more suited however to older children, but we still had an enjoyable time.
The views from Lakeside Station were unbelievable – even on a wet and windy day. We then went to the cafe for a coffee and some cake & ice-cream (I was also suckered in to buying some Thomas the The Tank Engine toys – the cafe had lots along with various Peter Rabbit toys) before taking the return journey back to Haverthwaite on the train.
Next on the agenda was taking the 15-minute drive back north to Bowness-on-Windermere. It was approaching 1.30pm so it was time for lunch. One of our members advised we should go to The Albert for lunch which is a traditional type pub located in the centre of town. After finding a parking space at The Hydro Hotel, we took the short walk down through the very busy streets.
We had called the Albert to book a table however they did not take reservations, on arrival it was extremely busy. The town as a whole was still very busy with tourists – which surprised me considering it is the very end of the season. We managed to find a table upstairs and orders were taken at the bar (where Harry liked to spend his time – not sure where he gets that from). On ordering we were advised there was a 50 minute wait – which was not ideal however we thought most other places would be like this so we decided to stay.
I went for the bacon and brie ciabatta, Nadia the nachos and Harry the chicken nuggets. True to their word the food arrived about 50 minutes later. Mine was delicious, however Nadias nachos were dry as were Harry’s chicken nuggets. This did not prevent us from finishing most of it though as we were ravenous by this point!
Next up was the moment we had all been waiting for – a visit to The World of Beatrix Potter, which was located about a two minute walk from The Albert.
Harry, thankfully, seems to have lost interest in CBeebies shows such as “Mr Tumble” and “In the Night Garden”, his new favourite is Peter Rabbit – so we could not pass on the opportunity to take a visit.
The visitor centre was quite busy however we managed to get in quickly. The experience starts with a short film then you take yourself round the exhibition including the garden and a chance for some photos. I think the excitement was all too much for Harry as he pretty much ran round the place, not leaving much time to take it all in!
As with most of these things, they have a gift shop at the end of the tour – which is where you should be prepared to part with some hard earned cash – especially if you have children. We purchased a few different toys (part of his Christmas gifts) and a couple of pics which we had taken – we couldn’t not get some souvenirs.
We left here at about 4pm and decided to take the journey back to the hotel which was going to take about an hour.
The hotel has full leisure facilities including steam room and sauna – so Nadia had some much needed peace and quiet in the room while I took Harry for a swim. The pool is massive and was very quiet at this time, which was perfect as Harry likes to do a lot of jumping in!
On returning to the room, we made the decision to phone in room service instead of heading to the bar again for dinner – the best decision we had made yet! We ordered the pate, soup, melon and steak pie for us all to share, which was all very nice and relaxing in our room.
It was then an early night for us all.
Today was going to be a much more relaxing affair, not making breakfast until after 10am this time! As it was Sunday I went for the full Cumbrian breakfast (with my usual poached egg) which was delicious.
About a mile or so from the hotel is the Lake District Wildlife Park, so after we checked out for 11am we took a drive down. We were very surprised how vast this was and featured a wide range of animals from golden eagles to monkey’s, zebras and donkeys and everything in between.
The weather was much kinder to us so we could enjoy a leisurely stroll round the park. Although Harry seemed to be more interested in the electric cars you could drive – typical boy.
I would highly recommend this park for anyone with an interest in animals or if you have kids.
After spending two hours here we decided it was time to head back home.
Overall, our stay in the Lakes was fantastic, albeit it went in far too quickly. As I mentioned previously you could easily spend a week in the area and still not tick everything off your list. Whether you are young or old there is something for everyone. The area is also very popular for walkers and if we had more time we would like to have done one of the forest walks near the hotel.