July 12, 2008

Echo Travel – Bye, Bay Baby

By Kathryn Fox

Forget foreign travel, Kathryn Fox finds a self-catering holiday in the Lakes the ideal getaway for a family with a toddler in tow

IT IS five years sincemy last holiday ? and I now have the addition of a boisterous two-year-old son, Finn, and enough luggage to sink a small ship. So there?s no wonder I didn?t want to attempt a flight with a wriggling toddler and a week of wrestling him under a parasol to protect his ever-so-sensitive baby skin. So off we went, car brimming with toys and nappy bags to Windermere, in the Lake District, in search of a peaceful, stress-free holiday.

And that is precisely what we found.

Nestling on the shores of Lake Windermere in stunning woodland is White Cross Bay leisure park, home to cosy wooden lodges and spacious static caravans, all within easy walking distance of the leisure facilities. Luckily, having brought the parents along for the trip, I could leave Finn having his afternoon nap and take a gentle stroll around the park.

Our three-bedroom lodge was nicely furnished and fully equipped with everything from bedding to cutlery, including a bottle opener (vital) and a generous amount of crockery. The view from the veranda was breathtaking ? right across the lake. The site has a small shop to stock up on essentials, and there is a supermarket a short drive away.

For sailing types, the park has superb boat launching facilities at one of the finest marinas in the area, but for those of you who, like myself, prefer something a little warmer, there is a heated indoor swimming pool with adjoining gym and sauna. For total relaxation, there is also a bar and restaurant.

Armed with an extra two pairs of hands, a variety of toy cars and some crayons, Finn, my parents and I went to dine in the comfort of the park?s restaurant. The beautifully laid tables and roaring log fire made it the perfect place for a familymeal and, in spite of Finn?s attempt to make a fish finger fly, the staff were friendly and accommodating.

The meal was most enjoyable and superbly presented within ten minutes of our order being taken. Taking a toddler out to dinner can be a military operation, but we were made to feel at ease and given plenty of time to enjoy our meal.

After dinner there was just enough time to bundle Finn into bed and enjoy a sneaky bottle of red out on the veranda while watching the sun set over the lake.Whatmore could one ask for on a relaxing holiday?

There is so much to do in the Lake District.

Of course, walking and climbing are the prime pursuits, and there are so many places to visit, including taking one of the superb lake ferry trips, visiting the Beatrix Potter Attraction and wandering in the footsteps of Wordsworth.

But don?t forget it also offers some superb shopping opportunities. Only 30 minutes from busy Bowness and Windermere, Keswick is a shopper?s paradise. Once you have conquered the many outdoor clothing shops, bought the walking socks and purchased that all-important fleece, you can meander through the market and taste some of the finest handmade treats Keswick?s traders have to offer.

If I were to mention one place to visit during your trip, it would have to be Friars chocolate shop. For weak-willed chocoholics, I would suggest taking back-up funds with you.

If you are willing to venture a little further with a toddler in tow, I would suggest Coniston Water. Away from the charming village there are craft workshops and a waterside cafe where you can sit and watch the world go by with a latte and cake.

I would advise taking baby reins if you have small children, as it is awfully close to the water?s edge and, amazingly, swans don?t like being poked in the face by two-year-olds.

As a final point, you cannot go on holiday in this country without having fish and chips at least once, so take yourself to Windermere town and go to The Chippy. The walls are covered with old sepia photos of the locals ice skating, swimming and boating on the lake, taking you back to the days when holidaying abroad was a distant dream.

So after a leisurely and unhurried week, even the steady drive home made me grateful that I had left my flight socks firmly buried in the back of the wardrobe.

TRAVELFACTS Kathryn and her family stayed as guests of South Lakeland Parks, which owns nine premier holiday parks across The Lake District and North Lancashire, where you can buy or hire quality static holiday homes or luxury pine lodges.

There are also camping and touring caravan facilities. To order a brochure, book a holiday or for more information, call South Lakeland Parks on 01539569830 or go to www. southlakelandparks. co. uk

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