Yesterday was my daughter’s 4th birthday and our normal things are the usual, a few presents, birthday tea and a day out. This year, she opted for the Lakes Aquarium and the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.
Firstly though, I decided we should all walk up Orrest Head near Windermere, for a couple of different reasons:
- It’s good practice for when we walk up Loughrigg Fell for Children in Need in a couple of weeks.
- It looked like an ideal place for a picnic.
Finding somewhere near the start of the path wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be and we soon found we could park at the railway and walk from there. The path starts about 2 minutes from the station. Well, our path did. We knew the path was opposite the station so we walked and found a gate, that led to a path up a hill and that people were coming down. A safe bet then that this was the path up the hill. This walk has repeatedly been listed as easy and it’s height wasn’t much greater than the Hoad Monument, so I thought it would be a good choice for the kids but, looking at how steep the hill in front was and the fact I couldn’t see the well known sign stating it was just 20 minutes to the top, I was starting to doubt everything I had read about it.
After checking google maps to make sure we were in the right place, we started off up the hill. Now I knew that this walk took you through some woods, but when we came to a fork in the path, my husband decided we should go left, into a field as he could see a path and because the path going into the woods seemed to be going down, not up. After a couple of minutes and a bit of a bicker between us, we went back to the fork and through the woods… what is it they say about men and directions?
In the woods, the kids were in their element. Charlotte needed a little snack to perk her up so everyone else took advantage and nibbled on some pistachio nuts. The children were fascinated by the insects we kept seeing and enjoyed clambering up the rocky paths. Eventually there was another fork (this time it was sign posted) and we headed left, through a stone stile starting to climb the hill through the trees and the thick, wet mud. The trees started thinning and were replaced by bushes, opening out onto the summit. Despite the fact it was a very cloudy day, I can honestly say, Wainwright was right to be impressed. The views are spectacular from up there. Although it’s very small compared to the surrounding fells, it’s location means it can show them off perfectly. Tom was so proud of getting to the top, and rightly so! It turns out we never did go up the path we intended to. That would have been a lot quicker. I think we added on an extra half a mile each way with our route, but nobody seemed to mind although Charlotte did claim she was hungry after every 10 steps or so.
At the top we had a picnic and everyone had a wander around the top. Tom seemed right at home up there amongst the other walkers and I don’t think he will be forgetting it any time soon. After a while we headed down the hill and to the car to head to the Aquarium.
After going several miles out of the way to the wrong place (we can read maps honestly) we finally reached the aquarium. Having never been before, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was definitely pleasantly surprised although a bit frustrated that we had to pay for parking for it. There was plenty for the kids to look at, they especially loved watching the leaf cutter ants and the chameleon.
Altogether it only took half an hour or so to have a look around it worked out well for us as we were in time to catch the last train that would let us have some time at Haverthwaite before returning.
The steam train was great fun. It was comfortable and the views out of it were lovely. At the other end there was an unexpected surprise. Someone from The Owl Sanctuary had 3 owls at the station, which was a dream come true for Charlotte because she loves owls and today, she got to hold one!
It was a fantastic experience and the handler helped to put the kids at ease. It didn’t cost anything for the priveledge, just a voluntary donation in a bucket.
After something to eat in the cafe (I highly recommend the shortbread), a good long play on the playground (which was better than most parks I have been to) and a cheeky blackberry forage the train arrived and we went back to Lakeside.
This was an unusually packed day for us, but was a lot of fun, if a bit tiring.
All that was needed to finish it off was a chippy tea on the way home.
Fun had (according to the kids): 42/10
Tantrum level: 8/10 towards the end but with such a busy day who can blame them? Overall they did brilliantly.
Worth it: Yes, yes definitely yes!
Worth knowing: There’s quite a lot here so bear with me…
- To find the entrance for the path to Orrest Head turn left, not right. It is clearly marked with that signpost.
- The walk up and down is about half a mile each way up the correct path.
- Parking was fairly cheap at Windermere Station but there are very few spaces.
- There are plenty of benches at the top of Orrest Head so it is perfect for a picnic.
- The car park at the Lakes Aquarium is not free for customers
- There are no toilets in the aquarium, they are on the train platform so if you have had a long drive, might be best to take the little ones before you go in.
- Check your train times if you are going after the aquarium especially if you are planning to stay for a while a Haverthwaite, and you should, the park is excellent.
- Children under 5 travel on the train for free.
50 things achievements: 21. Pick blackberries growing in the wild, 28. Climb a huge hill, 30. Hold a scary beast, 45. Find your way with a map and a compass.
Cost: Parking at Windermere Station was approximately £4 for 10 hours. Parking at the aquarium was approximately £3.50 for 4 hours.
Entrance into the aquarium can be combined with tickets for the train and can save you money for example, a family of 4 ( adults and 2 children) can do both for about £36.00 but as children under 5 ride free, it might not be worth it. A family ticket into the aquarium is £22.95 (2 adults/3 children) and family ticket for the railway (2 adults/ children) is £18.50 Discounts are available for buying in advance online and the staff at the aquarium/train should be able to tell you the cheapest deal. Food at Haverthwaite station is reasonably priced considering it is in an “attraction”.
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