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Family holidays in the Lake District: the best places to stay with kids

Heading to England’s glorious Lake District? We’ve rounded up Mumsnetters’ favourite family hotels, cottages and holiday parks to help plan your next trip.

By Poppy O'Neill | Last updated Aug 30, 2023

a view across the lake district

With its breathtaking views, cosy pubs and walks to suit every taste and ability, the Lake District is a popular destination for UK holidaymakers all year round. It’s particular good for holidays with kids, and there are family-friendly hotels dotted all around this spectacular region.

The Lake District has been a national park since 1951, and in 2017 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning its wild beauty will be preserved and protected for future generations.

Covering over 900 square miles, it’s hard to know where to start when planning a trip to the Lake District so who better to turn to for advice than well-travelled Mumsnetters? They’ve explored every part of the region, checked into the hotels and seen the sights (and dodged the rain in the process). We've gathered suggestions from our popular UK Travel forum to put together a selection of the best recommendations for your next family holiday.

The best family hotels in the Lake District at a glance

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1. Best overall hotel in the Lake District: Lakeside Hotel & Spa, Newby Bridge

Lakeside hotel, Newby Bridge

Lakeside Hotel & Spa | Check availability

"The Lakeside Hotel in Newby Bridge is lovely and caters brilliantly for families. It's in a beautiful spot right on the water's edge and a couple of minutes' walk from the Lake ls Aquarium (good for kids) and also close to the motor museum which is worth a visit. The hotel has a nice pool and a couple of different eating areas. It's just really lovely and we can't wait to visit again" - recommended by Mumsnet user, Peacypops

With its beautiful setting and lots to do nearby, the Lakeside Hotel is Mumsnetters’ pick for the best family-friendly hotel in the Lake District. Located on the southern shore of Lake Windermere, the views are stunning and the rooms are luxurious. The hotel makes a great base for visiting the Lakes Aquarium, World of Beatrix Potter and Kendal Castle, as well as walks around the lake and nearby Grizedale Forest. After a long day of hiking and exploring, the Lakeside Hotel offers a warm welcome with comfy beds, spa treatments and locally-sourced produce in its restaurant.

Nearest train station: Oxenholme (9.6 miles)

2. Best family-friendly budget hotel: YHA Ambleside

YHA Ambleside youth hostel

YHA Ambleside | Check availability

"We've just come back from Ambleside YHA and it's brilliant! Would definitely go again. My 12 yr old enjoyed playing table tennis and pool in the games room and we had a great walk up to Rydal caves" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, reallyneedmoresleep

Hear us out - youth hostels aren’t always about bunking up with a room full of strangers (although beds in dormitories are available). YHA Ambleside has a huge variety of rooms, with private rooms to suit larger and smaller family groups, and a choice of en-suite or shared bathrooms. It’s no-frills accommodation, which is perfect if you’re in the area to explore rather than luxuriate - why pay more? Its location near to Lake Windermere is hard to beat, and Ambleside village is a short walk from the hostel, which has a handful of shops and cafes.

Nearest train station: Windermere (4 miles)

3. Best family hotel for views: Hillthwaite House, Windermere

the view from Hillthwaite House, Lake district

Hillthwaite House | Check availability

"Hillthwaite Hotel in Windermere. We had a great deal (Secret Escapes I think) which included a four-course dinner. Lovely views from its hillside position. It's got a swimming pool, but we didn't have time to use it. Would definitely go back" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, ComingtoKent

Perched on a hillside, Hillthwaite House has views across Lake Windermere and the Lakeland Fells, with a choice of views when you book. Beds and cots for children can be provided on request, but reviewers warn the restaurant doesn’t have many kid-friendly options. Just down the road from the World of Beatrix Potter, the hotel has a heated indoor pool and lovely gardens.

Nearest train station: Windermere (1.2 miles)

4. Best family-friendly luxury hotel: Another Place, Ullswater

a woman in a hot tub looking at a mountain view

Another Place | Check availability

"You must go to Another Place in Ullswater, it is divine!" - recommended by Mumsnet user, ShirleyPhallus

Another Place is in a league of its own. With an Ofsted-registered kids’ zone, family shepherd huts, and Micralite off road buggies to borrow, it’s geared towards active families looking for a holiday with a difference. There are lots of watersports on offer, as well as stargazing sessions, forest school activities and a spa with mountain views.

Nestled on the shore of Ullswater, the hotel is surrounded by beautiful grounds and countryside. If you do decide to venture out, Aira Force Waterfall is well worth a visit.

Nearest train station: Penrith (6.3 miles)

5. Best hotel with a spa: Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa, Windermere

Low wood bay resort and spa

Low Wood Bay | Check availability

"The Low Wood hotel and spa is lovely overlooking Windermere" - recommended by Mumsnet user, cocacola1

Another Windermere hotel, Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa boasts indoor and outdoor pools and a spa, plus a private jetty for cruises around England’s longest lake. Reviewers say under-8s are kept out of the hot tub, but can enjoy the pool and it’s very family-friendly otherwise. Various water sports are available, or drive west to scale England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike.

Nearest train station: Windermere (1.8 miles)

6. Best family-friendly B&B: The Old Vicarage, Ambleside

Facade of the Old Vicarage, Ambleside

The Old Vicarage | Check availability

"We stay in the Old Vicarage in Ambleside with our boys. Its a B&B but has a swimming pool & a pool table & board games in the lounge. They do good breakfasts too! - Cosmo2908

If you’re aiming to be out and about all day during your holiday, a B&B like the Old Vicarage is a great choice. Opt for a superior suite, which has a separate sitting room and a bedroom and sleeps four. The large house features an indoor pool, a hot tub and a sauna, serves a variety of breakfast options and is well-placed for local attractions like Beatrix Potter’s house and Bridge House. Dogs stay for free, which is a rarity. The Old Vicarage has three resident dogs, so the owners can recommend you the best local walks.

Nearest train station: Windermere (5 miles)

7. Best family-friendly cottage: Goosemire, Bampton

Goosemire cottage, Bampton

Goosemire Cottage | Check availability

"I'd try Goosemire Cottages, they have a good selection of large self catering properies. We've stayed in their Lake District cottages twice now" - recommended by Mumsnet user, jenand

This traditional Lakeland stone barn conversion is a perfect bolthole for a family trip to the Lakes. With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, it comfortably sleeps up to six people, but sadly doesn’t allow children under four or pets. For younger children, check out Holme Cottage or Dairy Cottage, which are owned by the same company. Its private garden has views over the Lowther Valley, and it’s just a short drive or a long walk to Haweswater Nature Reserve and Ullswater lake.

Nearest train station: Penrith (9.2 miles)

8. Best self-catering accommodation: Waterfoot Park, Pooley Bridge

Waterfoot Park

Waterfoot Park | Check availability

"We love Waterfoot Park near Pooley Bridge. It's got cottages, pods or lodges to hire. There is a little playground for the toddler. There's a bar in the Mansion House, with a lovely garden outside. It's a short walk to Pooley Bridge for paddling in the lake, a ride on the Ulswater Steamers, ice cream and some child friendly pubs" - OhTheTastyNuts

Options abound at Waterfoot Park. From dog-friendly apartments with a lake view, to glamping ‘escape pods’, there’s something for everybody at this Ullswater resort. Just up the road from the banks of Ullswater, guests can enjoy the beautiful scenery and watersports on offer locally. Waterfoot’s S-Pods sleep up to six, with a full kitchen, sitting and dining areas and a mezzanine bedroom all cleverly designed in a compact structure. Larger groups can opt for the Lady of the Lake apartment, which sleeps eight.

Nearest train station: Penrith (5 miles)

9. Best hotel for babies and toddlers: Swan Hotel, Newby Bridge

A sunlit hotel behind a stone bridge in the lake district

Swan Hotel | Check availability

"We enjoyed the Swan Hotel in Newby Bridge. Child friendly (library of kids books, board games, milk and cookies brought to your room every night if you want it, playground, interconnecting rooms) but would have happily stayed there if no kids" - recommended by Mumsnet user, AliMonkey

Finding a hotel that strikes just the right balance between luxury and child-friendliness is difficult, especially when your kids are very small. The Swan Hotel does really well in this respect, with its two-bedroom family suites and myriad small touches that make all the difference. Set on the banks of the river Levern, just south of Lake Windermere, The Swan offers paddleboarding lessons, an adults-only spa and locally-sourced food at the on-site Swan Inn.

Nearest train station: Kendal (16.5 miles)

10. Best dog-friendly place to stay: White Cross Bay Holiday Park, Windermere

lodges at White Cross Bay

White Cross Bay Holiday Park | Check availability

"We’ve recently stayed at White Cross Bay with toddler DS and really enjoyed it. It’s in the middle of most of the tourist attractions, has a nice bar on site and a pool for the kids" - tried and tested by Mumsnet user, GoBacktoPartyCity 

White Cross Bay’s caravans and modern lodges are spacious and comfortable, with separate bedrooms, living areas with a well-equipped kitchen and even a private hot tub included with some options. Dogs are welcome and there are lots of on-site activities, including an indoor heated pool, boats for hire and an adventure playground for the kids. Located on the shores of Lake Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater are also nearby, perfect settings for walks, climbing and cycling.

Nearest train station: Windermere (2 miles)

Where’s the best place to stay in the Lake District?

Windermere is England’s largest lake, and its shores are dotted with great places to stay and things to do. The villages of Ambleside and Newby Bridge, at opposite ends of the lake make great bases for exploring the area and taking advantage of the watersports on offer.

Do you need a car in the Lake District?

Not necessarily. Oxenholme and Penrith are the main train stations serving the area, with direct trains from London Euston and a journey time of about 3 hours. The area has a good network of buses and a handful of small local train stations offering a limited service.

Having a car makes things a lot easier, but if you stay somewhere on the water with everything you need on-site, you’ll still have a great time without a car.

What are the best family-friendly attractions in the Lake District?

The Lakes themselves offer plenty of things to do, including walks, cycling and boating. Aira Force Waterfall is a natural wonder, or head to the World of Beatrix Potter for a day immersed in the beloved local author’s characters.

What’s the best family-friendly hotel in the Lake District?

Lakeside Hotel is Mumsnet’s pick of the best hotel for families in the Lake District. It’s on the quieter Newby Bridge side of Windermere, with boat cruises and a local railway nearby - perfect for exploring the area. The hotel has lovely family rooms and a brilliant kids’ menu.

How we chose our recommendations

Because we know that there's nothing like a real recommendation, we first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out what family hotels in the Lake District were being recommended.

We then did some research online, looking at what family hotels in the Lake District had won accolades or been featured in 'best choice' lists in travel publications, and what customer reviews said about them. Having collated all that information, we then narrowed our list down to the very best family hotels in the Lake District.

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.