[dropcap]So[/dropcap] you want to get yourself to Penrith, nuzzled in the Eden Valley, where every unsuspecting alleyway has something colourful waiting to be discovered. In Penrith, the perfect family day out awaits you with food to make your mouth water, activities to keep you entertained, and a countryside peacefulness to help you restore to your rested best. It’s also where William Wordsworth spent most of his childhood, and he turned out pretty inspired in the end, right?
Let’s begin at the beginning. Breakfast time. You’ve got yourself to the northern edges of beautiful Cumbria, just a 30 minute drive from the similarly well-loved town of Keswick, and you’re hungry. Make an event of it by heading just outside of the town centre and spending the morning at Cocklakes Farm Shop. Here you can purchase some exceptional Lakeland produce to take back home with you and visit the Rod & Reel Tea Room, which just so happens to make use of all those fresh goods. Open every day from 9am, try their free range eggs and Cocklakes bacon on toast for £4.95. We’d also recommend Granny Dowbekin’s Tearooms for the most scenic breakfast you’ll ever have!
Sporty Fun 🏊
Now you’re all fuelled up, everyone’s ready for action. It just so happens Penrith Leisure Centre has everything you could possibly want in the way of adventure. With a swimming pool, indoor bowling and climbing wall (plus fitness gyms, but who wants to do that on their day away?), the Leisure Centre has a whole array of facilities. For the under 10’s there’s the – new as of 2015 – Jungle Jack’s Adventure Soft Play, though we’d recommend you all pack your costumes and go for a splash around in the pool, knowing Penrith’s picturesque charm awaits you on dry land. It’s £4.25 for an adult swim and even less for children.
For those who’d rather make a splash on the art scene, Penrith is home to a fabulous little pottery studio that welcomes all levels of craftsmanship and you can take away your painted masterpieces on the day, should you wish. Prices from £6.50. And for something scenic, try Lowther Castle and Gardens; the premiere of Penrith greenery. This country park sees the Kendal Calling Music Festival bring in hoards of music lovers each year, but any other time it’s available for some good old-fashioned browsing. Learn about the estate’s tragic history and explore the vast network of secret gardens and walkways. And make sure to check out Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre when it comes to the Lowther grounds for a spectacular show. An adult ticket for £8 gets you admittance to the castle, gardens, shop and on-site cafe.
After all that mid-morning moving it’s time for a sit down. Not just any sit down. The Pot Place Garden Centre has not only a superb traditional farm shop and all manner of horticultural goodies, but also a lively tearoom with an excellent selection. You have to try their afternoon tea at £14.95. Or if you fancy something a little less refined and just a tiny bit more ‘Lake District’, then you need to divert to Angel Lane Chippie, £5.80 for some award-winning fish and chips.
Spend the rest of the day slightly further south at the Aira Force, a stunning network of waterfalls in the Penrith. From a picnic to a paddle, Aira Force is looked after by the National Trust with several interesting routes. Raining? It doesn’t matter. Popular opinion shows the waterfalls are even more spectacular with the rainfall. Scout out the plunge pools and ascend higher for Ullswater views to die for. It’s even voted the #1 attraction in the whole of the Penrith area. To get even closer to nature (if that’s possible) visit the Alpaca Centre, the only one of its kind in Europe, the centre is free and is the one and only place for some Alpacca sight-seeing. You can view the alpacas in their paddock and venture to the the shop and gallery, where there is a wide variety of alpaca clothing, paintings, sculptures and wood turnings both on display and up for grabs.
For your Penrith evening, we’d recommend the Rheged Centre in Red Hills, a grass roofed Lakeland heritage centre turned multiplex entertainment venue. The largest grass covered building in Europe, the Rheged Centre is a shopping haven, perfect for picking up your Grasmere Gingerbread (the ultimate Cumbrian souvenir). It also houses one of the Lake District best loved cinemas, with 3D viewing and surround sound, it’s the largest in the whole of the north west.
After your evening stroll through the high street, the night is ready to wind to a culinary close. So close it with a bang with one of Penrith’s finest restaurant’s Four and Twenty. In fact, Trip Advisor name it Penrith’s very best restaurant. They’re a modern place serving locally sourced good, and they’re very good at it. Leave room for their apple and blackberry parfait with blackberry coulis and cinnamon doughnut, all for the glorious price of £6. Just keep in mind they don’t open on Mondays and only open at 6:30pm on the remaining five days of the week.