The Lake District is one of the most prized slices of the English countryside. Home to the country’s tallest mountain, Scafell Pike, and some of its most scenic walking routes – not to mention literary legends Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth – this National Park in Cumbria draws thousands in search of tranquillity every year. Holiday rentals are varied and plentiful, offering a more esoteric alternative to hotels. Here, we round up the best.
Ambleside sits just north of Windermere, the largest lake not only in the Lake District but in all of England. Rothay is a few miles further up, nestling invitingly next to the river it’s named for. Rothay Villa – think quaint old English cottage, rather than a sunny whitewashed mansion with a pool – sleeps four across two double bedrooms. It has a fully equipped kitchen so you can make all your own meals, while quirks come in the form of animal-print cushions and beaded lampshades. The popular Grasmere Garden Village is a short walk away.
Helm View is on the west side of Lake Windermere, just beyond the village of Bowness. The World of Beatrix Potter, one of the area’s most popular (and adorable) attractions, is right around the corner – and it’s not difficult to imagine Beatrix herself writing a tome in this holiday rental. The one-bedroom house feels like part of the surrounding landscape; the exterior walls have the same piled-stone effect found all over the Lake District, while inside an old stone fireplace and antique-style furniture add more traditional elements. Happily, there are modern flourishes, like a Smart TV and digital control for central heating.
Cherry Trees is a little way south of Bowness, in the idyllic hamlet of Storrs which stretches along the bank of Lake Windermere. Sleeping ten, the house is grand in every sense: there are five double bedrooms each boasting its own flatscreen TV, three bathrooms, two separate lounge areas, a dining room, a sizable kitchen and a garden with a decked balcony and a tennis court. The deck hangs over a steep hill looking out onto the lake, as is Windermere Golf Club.
Howgills looks appealing right from the outset; a cobbled block of six apartments in the middle of Sedbergh, a town caught between Calf Top, Aye Gill Pike and The Calf – three of the Lakes’ most popular hill walks. Five of the apartments sleep up to four, while the largest sleeps six. All of them feature a full-sized kitchen, although you may want to take advantage of the breakfast basket service available on request, or even a catering service to come and cook for you. The town’s many pubs, cafes and restaurants are all within easy reach when you want to venture out.
A short drive from Bowness, Cleabarrow Cottage is next door to Windermere Golf Club – so a great option if you plan to spend a bit of time out on the course. It’s also an ideal base for large groups; there are six double bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bathroom, a wall-mounted flatscreen TV and fresh robes. Panoramic bifold windows let you enjoy mesmerising views of the Lakeland Fells from indoors, though on warmer days you can do so from the giant terrace or the bubbles of the outdoor jacuzzi. Bring your walking shoes along – there are routes leading in all directions from this luxury holiday home.
This two-bedroom holiday rental near Chapel Stile is a great reminder of the fact there’s so much more to the Lake District than, well, lakes. The old but modernised house looks out onto Lingmoor Fell and Langdale Valley, both considered to be among the region’s best areas to go hiking. If you really want to put your uphill ambling skills to the test, try conquering Scafell Pike – you can find the beginning of numerous routes up the mountain just a short drive west. Later, warm your toes by the open fireplace, or if it’s a balmy summer evening, enjoy some drinks out in the courtyard.
This cluster of guestrooms gets its name from The Farmers Arms, a popular local pub that’s owned and operated by the same company. There are ten apartments and cottages sleeping between two and six – all of them distinct in their design and brimming with personality. From former pubs and bakeries to old town jails, many of the self-catering stays have their own story to tell. Canal Foot is a short drive away and a good day trip out to the seaside. Its small beach is overlooked by The Bay Horse restaurant which serves hearty food for lunch and dinner.
Ulverston is on the southern border of the Lake District, close to Morecambe Bay and South Lakes Safari Zoo. It’s a fascinating little market town, dating back to medieval times and home to the Laurel & Hardy Museum, it being the birthplace of the former comic actor. The CS building contains three apartments; one with two double bedrooms, the other pair offering just one. They all come with modern amenities such as Bosh coffee-makers and flatscreen TVs. Complimentary baskets stocked full of supplies will greet you on arrival, for that extra personal touch.
Lots of care has been taken to make Brigham Farm feel like a home away from home. The kitchens are hand-built with wooden cabinets and ceramic teapots, and the living rooms have stone fireplaces with cast-iron log burners. There are six suites to choose from; five sleep two, while the last sleeps four, and all have access to a garden with patio furniture for al fresco meals. Located in Keswick, just north of Derwentwater Lake, these apartments make great bases if hiking, mountain biking and/or horse riding is on the agenda. You can also visit the Lodore Falls waterfall on the south side of the lake.
Also in Keswick, Gable Cottage plonks you right in the centre of town near all the best pubs and restaurants. It’s quiet nonetheless, and with three bedrooms, sleeping up to five, you’ll have your own private patio garden to enjoy in peace. Walking along the River Greta is a popular pastime here, but if you’re looking for something more adventurous try Kong Adventure climbing centre, a ten-minute walk away, or the nationwide franchise Go Ape, a bit further by car but worth the drive if you’re in the mood for adrenaline.