It’s been one of those cold, wet days with sleet and snow today, and so I’ve spent a snug Sunday working away in the office. It’s got me thinking though – where are the best places to go when the sun won’t come out to play? Here are my top 10 suggestions:
1. Lakeland, Windermere
Lakeland now has an impressive number of stores all over the UK, but Windermere is its flagship, with a stunning building which was constructed in the early years of the new millennium. The bakers and cleaning fanatics amongst us will happily spend hours pondering its range of innovative products. Customer service is paramount, and its staff are always welcoming and keen to help you find just what you’re looking for. You can also visit the ‘First Floor’ Café, run by the well-known chef Steven Doherty, which provides a range of light meals, lunches and morning or afternoon treats.
Top tip: If you’re heading to Lakeland for lunch on a wet day, particularly at the weekend, don’t turn up expecting to be able to head straight for the café – it’s likely to be very busy, although I’ve always felt very relaxed when sat eating. I’ve witnessed waiting times for the café of nearly an hour at peak, at which point you are given one of those exciting ‘James Bond-like’ vibrating gadgets to carry around the store with you, which will summon you when a table becomes free. My advice is to turn up a bit earlier, get yourself a gadget, and start browsing the store before you eat.
2. Hayes Garden World, Ambleside
Always the fan of a garden centre, how could I not include Hayes in my top 10? There’s plenty to keep everyone happy here, especially as following redesign of parts of the site, large areas of the outside space are undercover too. The furniture and pet areas are housed in an enormous and uplifting inside space and as well as indoor plants and gardening accessories there are also sections dedicated to gifts, cards, books, children’s toys, clothing, outdoor activity clothing, cookware and food.
Top tip: Hayes do a very generous panini (Friends and I have tried filling options such as ham and brie, tuna and chilli chicken) which comes with a salad, coleslaw and tortilla chips for a very reasonable price. I think a panini was £4.99 last time I visited, and you can also have chips for a small extra charge. My advice is that they’re very nice, so get there before they’re sold out…
If you enjoy history, there are plenty of historic houses to visit in the Lakes, and most of them have a café or restaurant too. Some recommendations within the South Lakes include:
6. Blackwell, Bowness-on-Windermere
Blackwell is an arts and crafts house which was originally built as a holiday home for a client by the architect MH Baillie Scott. Its website describes the house as somewhere to be enjoyed ‘without roped-off areas’. Predictably (!), I’ve tried the tearoom here too, and the food is good, including light lunches, open sandwiches and traybakes. The accompanying salads are made all the more exciting by the julienne vegetables, which was where I was first introduced to mooli, a type of mild-flavoured white radish. The menu’s online, so take a look for yourself.
7. Lakeland Motor Museum, Backbarrow
If you enjoy cars and a trip down memory lane, the Lakeland Motor Museum is the perfect place to spend time avoiding the rain. The museum site itself has a rich and interesting history, being located on the site of the former Backbarrow Blue Mill, which closed in the 1980s, and which manufactured the washing additive ‘Dolly Blue’. Now it is home to a collection of heritage vehicles, memorabilia and displays of ‘how things used to be’, which have a different but equally strong appeal whatever your age – and memories of what cars were like when you were young.
Another unexpected treat is the adjoining Café Ambio, which looks over the River Leven. The food here is good, and I like the modern and airy feel of the building which has full-length windows and glass doors, meaning you don’t feel shut away, even on a cloudy day.
8. Rheged, Redhills, Penrith
If you’re heading into the Northern Lakes and want plenty of indoor space, Rheged has it in abundance. On its website it says it prides itself on being a destination for family, food, the outdoors and arts and culture. It has an indoor play area, several choices of places to eat, shops, exhibitions and films shown on an enormous 3D screen. It’s an impressive building and most importantly it has a lovely warm atmosphere. For the latest details about what’s on and when, head to their website.
9. The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, Bowness-on-Windermere
The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction has recently undergone a complete refurbishment, and apparently now houses a ‘MultiTouch Table’ displaying 360 degree Lake District panoramas. This is a classic Lakeland attraction, especially for children, and there are also plenty of events going on throughout the year. I loved it as a child, and now I’m really intrigued to pay another visit.
10. Head into town and find a nice little café
One of my favourite recent memories is of heading into Ambleside on a miserable grey day, and of sitting in a cafe near the roadside simply watching the world go by with a nice cup of tea. Sometimes the simplest of things really can be the most enjoyable.
Where do you like to go on a wet day in the Lakes? If I’ve missed something out, do share your favourite places to keep dry (or even enjoy the wet!) by leaving a comment below.