The scenery of the South Lake District is spectacular, but a plethora of other delights await, too, from the chance to explore the worlds of Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth to discovering Cumbria's culinary delights and messing about in a boat on England's largest lake, Windermere. See our pick of the best things to do on a weekend break below.
Ten things to do in the Lake District
Ten things to do in the South Lake District
Spend an afternoon exploring beautiful Levens Hall in Kendal with its spectacular interiors and world-famous gardens. The perfectly preened gardens date back to the 17th century and feature extensive topiary (look out for the great umbrella, the lion and Homer Simpson!), a fountain garden and a heather maze with a hare in the middle. Visitors also love Levens Hall for its ghosts - one of the most well-known is the little black dog, which has been seen running up the stairs.
Ok, so you may not want to take on the Great North Swim (pictured) but swimming in the Lake District is possible whatever the weather. Windermere, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, is wonderful for a wild swim - just find your spot and put on a wet suit. If you're more of a spectator, the Great North Swim, Britain's biggest annual open water swimming event, takes place in June 2013.
Explore the world of poet William Wordsworth at his first family home, Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where he wrote some of the greatest English poetry. Treasures to look out for include Wordsworth's suitcase and reading glasses. Discover Wordsworth's letters, journals and poems at the museum and when you’ve explored their garden learned all there is to know about the poet, head to the tea room for sandwiches and a pot of tea.
Yes, OK, so it rains a lot in the Lake District. If you're a lover of the great outdoors and won't let the weather deter you from getting your adrenalin pumping, Treetop Trek in Windermere is a great place to spend the day as a family, or friends or as a couple. With 35 treetop challenges for you to climb, swing, balance and fly your way through.
For fine dining L'enclume, located in the picturesque village of Cartme where you can sample Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan's exciting cooking. If you're looking for home- cooked pub food, The Eagle & Child Inn in Staveley serves favourites, such as lamb shank and hotpot. Enjoy the ultimate evening of good food and wine at Gilpin Lodge, a country house hotel in Windermere overlooking its own private lake that serves fine food in a laidback, unpretentious setting.
Stop off for a visit to The Grasmere Gingerbread Shop in the quaint village of Grasmere, where founder Sarah Nelson ran her gingerbread business in 1854. Today it's owned by the Wilson family who have kept the recipe for Sarah's famous gingerbread closely guarded. The staff are dressed in period costume and as well as the most delicious gingerbread ever, you can buy traditional, homemade delights.
Children's author Beatrix Potter spent many holidays writing her tales about Peter Rabbit and his friends in the Lakes. While many visitors head straight for The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness, why not visit the author's holiday home, Hill Top? The 17th century farmhouse is where characters like Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck were created. You'll find a traditional cottage garden with old-fashioned flowers and Potter's writing desk, furniture and china in the house.
For a unique way of experiencing the countryside and woodlands of the Lake District go for a stroll with a hawk - literally! Predator Experience organises Hawk Walks (£40 per hour) near Cartmel, allowing you to see a beautiful hawk fly from your glove to trees and observe the natural behaviour, hunting style and habitat of the birds. You will be guided by a professional handler but be made to feel part of the hunting team.
Soak up the relaxed atmosphere of the Lakes at a cosy hotel in an idyllic spot. Briery Wood Country House Hotel sits on the eastern shores of Lake Windermere and is surrounded by spectacular landscapes, while hidden among trees, making it ideal for a romantic getaway. There's a warm lounge that's perfect for enjoying a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of wine, and after a day of getting active in the Lakes retire to your room, where a comfy bed, deep bath and cosy country cottage interiors await you. Bed and breakfast from £70 per night; family rooms from £145.
If you haven't been on a vintage train before, you must take a ride on the delightful Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, which dates back to the 19th century and takes in the picturesque Leven Valley and have carriages that make you feel lost in time. It departs from Haverthwaite Station and arrives at the southern end of Lake Windermere where you can hop on a boat to Bowness. If it rains but you'd still like to see the stunning scenery of the Lakes, The Mountain Goat offers fantastic sightseeing tours, visiting historic hotspots, pretty villages, like Cartmel (famed for its sticky toffee pudding) and includes lake cruises and steam train journeys.