At some point in the last few weeks, the bitter cold and sogginess has given way to at least a little bit of sunshine. There have even been reported sightings of t-shirts and shorts! It all bodes well for an Easter break, which has come a little later than normal this year, and where all the attractions finally kick into gear.
We all know the places to avoid once the schools break-up – unless you don’t mind a spot of wrestling among the throng of tourists that clog up certain parts of the Lake District, come rain or shine.
What I’ve decided to look at is some of the lesser-known, often overlooked days out activities you can do in Cumbria. And yes, there are a few activity ideas for when the inevitable “wet day” rears its ugly head.
The first recommendation has to be the La’al Ratty. The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway, to give it its formal name, was a personal childhood favourite, and it must surely be the best time of year to take the 40-minute journey through some of our most spectacular countryside. There’s still snow on the surrounding peaks, yet it’s just about warm enough to enjoy an ice cream at either end. Any child travelling over Easter with Teddy in tow will enjoy a free ride.
The same deal also applies at the Ullswater Steamers, and if it’s sunny you can cram both journeys into one day as well as a quick dash up around Aira Force falls – that’s hard to beat for day one of the holidays!
Something that has grabbed a lot of attention since it was announced is the new walking experience from ‘Alpacaly Ever After’. As you might have guessed, there are alpacas involved. A lot have people have never even seen one, let alone taken one for a walk – or even a swim. That’s exactly what you might be doing if you head to the Lingholm Estate, near Keswick. As it’s brand-new, who knows how busy it will be? But it’s imperative that you ring ahead to make sure there are enough alpacas to go around.
Also new for this month is a King Arthur App Trail – a mobile phone-led walking tour in and around Ullswater, giving visitors the chance to see locations once visited by the legendary monarch. It should be downloadable from April 8 and takes in some hidden gems and fascinating stories.
You may or may not be aware that Cumbria’s largest playground opened last year – well the Lost Castle is also now home to Cumbria’s largest slide. It’s based at Lowther Castle, where there’s enough to keep you occupied regardless of your age, but I wish I was 20 years younger then I could try out the playground for myself. It looks great, anyway, and keeps getting bigger and better.
If I were to turn the clocks back that far, a rainy day during any camping trip in the Lakes would usually mean a trip to the Sellafield Visitors Centre. Even after 20 or more visits, I still wasn’t any the wiser when it came to splitting atoms or positively charging my neurons, but the loss of the public front of the nuclear decommissioning site is sadly missed. The closest you can come to such a hands-on experience this Easter is The Mechanicals exhibition at the Beacon Museum, in Whitehaven. It’s an interactive exhibition, so you can learn a thing or two about basic mechanisms and how they work – or you can choose to step back and admire the slightly bonkers nature of the automatons on display.
Probably the big one for the whole year though is the Hadrian’s Cavalry celebrations. It all gets under way with an open day at Tullie House, in Carlisle, on Saturday April 8, where there will be Roman-inspired activities and crafts, as well as the chance to meet a “real” Roman soldier. The museum’s new exhibition will be opened that day too, so it’s worth dropping by on any day of the holidays (including Sundays), before the huge outdoor events arrive towards the summer – which we’ll look at in the run-up to the next lot of holidays.
By Karl Steel