As a family we love to be outside and exploring. One of the best things about Henry being that little bit older now is that we are back camping again! We did go away a few times last year, but it was a little bit difficult with him as he wasn’t quite walking fully and we spend a lot of time stopping him from crawling on wet grass. This year though, we are off! Our first stop was the lakes where we had the best time with friends. So, here’s our little guide to camping in Ullswater.
WHERE TO GO
Ullswater located north of Windermere and east of Keswick. At 9 miles long, and 0.75 miles wide, it is the second largest lake in the Lake District. The benefit of it being only the second largest means that it is infinitely quieter to visit than its big sister lake Windermere.
The easiest way to travel there if you are heading north is to make your way over to the M6 and follow it all the way up to Penrith. From there you will find that Ullswater is only a few more miles on. With Pooley Bridge at its northern point and Glenridding / Patterdale to the south, there is beautiful scenery, great sailing and wonderful steamers stretching down both sides of the lake.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at The Quiet Site, just outside Watermillock. Nestled into the hills, it has the most stunning views across the fells and Ullswater itself. There are a variety of accommodation options available including tent pitches, caravan and motorhome pitches as well as camping pods and hobbit holes.
For us it was camping all the way and we were placed at the top of the site. This had a drawback that it was furthest from the toilets and at the top of a steep hill for little 3-year-old legs, the view we had from up there more than made up for that.
Although not the cheapest site we’ve stayed in, I have to say we were very impressed by the facilities. The Quiet Site had a well-stocked shop, a clean and modern toilet and shower block and there were even family bathrooms which was perfect for my two as they hate showers. There was a laundry room with washing machine and tumble dryer as well as dishwashing facilities. I also loved how sustainable the site was and recycling was actively encouraged with a large refuge centre with plenty of room to separate all your waste.
There was also plenty for the kids to do too – the main reason we chose it – including a children’s play area in its own field and a small soft play area by the bar. However, please note this was SMALL only suitable for 4-years-old and under. For the grownups there is a bar which is open in the evenings.
As for the camping itself, all the pitches were flat which is great. Unfortunately, though they were mixed stone and grass. While I 100% understand the reason why – for drainage and protect the site – it made it extremely uncomfortable underfoot and painful to potter around barefoot as the stones get everywhere in the grassed areas too. While it’s easy enough to wear shoes, it kind of takes the extra fun out of camping for us as a wailing child because they’ve refused to put on their shoes but stood on a stone (again), is no fun for anyone. Add in the fact that Henry toppled over inside the tent on day one and managed to split his lip due to the hard ground. This told us that mixed pitches aren’t for us.
However, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t enjoy our stay at The Quiet Site. In fact, quite the opposite. It was beautifully located with fabulous views, friendly staff and great facilities. That all guests needed to keep the noise down with no outdoor music from 10pm until 8am was a great bonus to us as it means that the kids were able to sleep with the minimal amount of disruption.
WHAT TO DO
Ullswater is a fantastic location and while we were only in the lakes for a few days, we managed to squeeze in a few highlights.
If you are looking for something a little more urban, then Penrith is the closest market town to Ullswater. Our reason for visiting was a little more functional as unfortunately out trailer has blown a tyre on the way up (a story for another time), and therefore we dropped in to organise a replacement. While there though we did a little shopping and had a browse, picking up some new camping fleeces for the kids and I as well as stocking up on a few other camping goodies such as garden toys and gas canisters…. yes, the most eclectic shop ever!
However, if there is anything you forgot or something you need, or even if you just like exploring new market towns, then Penrith is where you will head. This is also where all your big emergency services are based.
The National Trust describes Aira Force as “a showcase for the power and beauty of nature; it’s a place to escape the ordinary” and I agree. Set in a beautifully rocky Victorian pleasure garden, Aira Force is stunning waterfall which falls 70 feet into glorious pool below. As we took our trailer with us for the kids, we didn’t even attempt the stone steps up to the top of the falls, but that doesn’t matter as we were more than happy with the fabulous views from the bottom. The walk to get there was a little hilly, but we managed it with no issues and pulling two children.
The real highlight for us though was the rock pools by the river at the bottom. Our kids had the best time paddling on the shore and exploring the area while we paused for a picnic.
If you are camping in Ullswater then I would say this is definitely one not to be missed. Although a National Trust location, there is no cost to visit the falls themselves, however their is a charge for parking if you are not a member.
Located on the northern tip of the lake, Pooley Bridge is a lovely little tourist town packed full of shops, pubs and tea parlours. Sat on the junction where the river Eamont flows into the lake, it is a lovely place to stop off for a little traditionally British tourism. This is where you’ll be able to stock up on souvenirs, holiday tours and enjoy a spot of lunch and / or dinner. If you’re camping in Ullswater then it’s definitely worth popping by for a visit.
We took a little drive as far as we could around the lake one morning when the kids had crashed out in the car immediately on leaving the site. Enjoying just sitting back and exploring the area, when we drove through Pooley Bridge we were immediately struck by how accessible the wide river was. It looked like the perfect place to set up for the day and play. So, as soon as the kids woke up we popped into town to arm our self with new nets and headed off to the river to explore. This was exactly what we needed on a very hot summers day.
As you can see we loved our weekend away camping in Ullswater. This was the first time we had headed up north to camp in the lakes and we had such a great time that is most certainly will not be our last. If you’re thinking of heading away this summer with little ones, then why not check out our camping survival guide from last year.