10 of the Lake District's best kept secrets

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Here at Sally's Cottages we love to seek out unusual and lesser known places to visit around the Lake District. Here are just a few of our favourites, some of which can be combined with stunning walks too. But shh... don't tell anyone!

1. Claife Viewing Station, Far Sawrey

Claife Viewing Station overlooking Windermere

Hidden on the western shore of Windermere, Claife Viewing Station has just undergone a two year restoration project by the National Trust. Dating back to the 1790s, Claife was one of several viewing stations around the lake which were constructed for the earliest wealthy tourists to the area. In the 1830s and '40s the station was used for parties and dances, and the windows had coloured glass to recreate the seasons. Now, you can enjoy the café in the courtyard before walking up to the viewing station itself (if you're with the little ones, just be aware that the toilets are four minutes away at the ferry landing).

Walking: Take a traditional wooden launch from Bowness or Ambleside to the Wray Castle Jetty, then walk the four mile route along the serene western shore of Windermere to Claife Station before being transported back to complete the circuit (see the Walkers Ticket). You could also travel across the lake on the Windermere car ferry from Bowness - why not leave the car behind and go on foot?

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2. Holehird Gardens, Windermere

Holehird gardens, Windermere

Holehird's 17 acres of beautiful fellside gardens have fantastic views over Windermere to the Langdale Pikes and beyond, and are the work of around 200 volunteers from the Lakeland Horticultural Society. The centre piece has to be the Walled Garden which bursts with colour throughout the season, but there is so much else to explore including pathways through the many different gardens and three national collections, and around the lower tarn. You can relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere from one of many ornate seats, and there are two picnic benches overlooking the neighbouring fields (toilets available on-site).

Walking: Why not walk to Holehird from Windermere, via Orrest Head or High Hay Wood (routes available on the website)? From Holehird, you can also explore a 45-minute circular walk through Highlands Wood, an ancient semi-natural oak woodland. Beatrix Potter stayed at Holehird on one of her family holidays to the Lakes, and although you can't visit the house itself, it can be seen from the garden.

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3. Rydal Hall, Rydal, near Ambleside

Rydal Hall grounds

Rydal Hall belongs to the Diocese of Carlisle, and welcomes visitors to enjoy its fabulous grounds and gardens. The Formal Gardens were designed and built in the early 1900s by the famous Landscape Architect Thomas Mawson and, recently restored, overlook the Rothay Valley with the Fairfield Horseshoe and Nab Scar behind. Don't forget to also explore the lower 'Quiet' Garden, and look out for The Grot. Built in 1668, this was one of the country's earliest viewing stations and looks out onto the lower Rydal waterfalls. The Old School Room Teashop serves light refreshments in a peaceful spot by the river.

Walking: Rydal Hall is located on the well-known Coffin Route, a low level walk through the Rydal and Rothay valleys, so called because coffins were once carried from Ambleside to St Oswald's Church in Grasmere. It's an ideal stopping place for refreshments and a well-deserved rest.

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4. Brougham Castle, near Penrith

Brougham Castle, near Penrith

Situated next to the picturesque River Eamont, Brougham Castle was founded in the 13th century, and its original great keep and later additions including the 'Tower of League' still survive. Brougham is ideal for a family day out with a picnic, and it's fascinating passages and stairways are fun to explore at any age. From the top of the keep, admire the beautiful views across the Eden Valley and look down on the outline of a Roman fort. Also look out for the intricate stone carvings which can still be seen in the oratory. 

5. Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Finsthwaite

Stott Park Bobbin Mill, near Newby Bridge

Stott Park Bobbin Mill is a working example of the many Lakeland mills built to manufacture bobbins for the Lancashire textile industry during the Industrial Revolution. The mill used timber coppiced from the surrounding woodlands, and was powered first by water, then steam and finally electricity - it's worth visiting on a steam weekend, when you can see the steam engine in action. Entry includes a guided tour and demonstrations of the bobbin-making process.

With plenty of outside space you can bring a picnic and make a day of it. There are also several places to eat nearby, including Oscar's Café next to the Lakeside Aquarium - with views of the lake and incoming boats - and one of our favourites, Café Ambio by the river at Backbarrow.

Walking: Take a walk to the beautiful and tranquil High Dam, an artificial tarn which once fed the mill. Seeing the surroundings really does enhance your experience of the mill itself.

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6. Conishead Priory, near Ulverston

Conishead Priory, near Ulverston

Conishead Priory was originally founded as a hospital by Augustinian monks in 1160, and the present house, which is a Grade II listed example of Victorian Gothic architecture, is currently being restored by the Buddhist community. You can visit the magnificent and recently-built Temple for World Peace, café, gift shop and gardens, and its relaxed woodland walks take you to the beach and breathtaking views across Morecambe Bay.

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7. Quaker Tapestry Museum, Kendal

The Quaker Tapestry is made up of 77 unique embroidered panels, which were crafted by more than 4,000 men, women and children to illustrate the Quaker story. It was completed in 1996, and is now housed in the Friends Meeting House, a Georgian Grade II listed building. You'll want to spend hours looking at the intricate detail of each panel and listening to the exhibition's audio guides, so the tapestry makes a perfect rainy day attraction. There are themed activities to keep children of all ages occupied too.

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8. Old Hall Farm, Bouth

One of the Lake District's newest attractions, Old Hall Farm is an historic working farm which preserves a piece of the past using traditional methods and animals. You can watch shire horses working the land, see the 19th century farm buildings and steam driven machinery, and meet the farm's traditional and rare breed animals. Complete your day with something to eat in the Chicken Shed Tea Room, and be spoilt for choice at the Ice Cream Parlour, with ice cream made on the farm from its very own Jersey herd.

9. Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe, near Penrith

Larch Cottage Nurseries, Melkinthorpe, near Penrith

Larch Cottage Nurseries is a complete escape from the outside world, a pretty and seemingly never-ending series of outdoor 'rooms' with quirky stone walls. Each is filled with plants grown on-site and an array of unusual garden ornaments. No visit is complete without stopping by the Red Barn Gallery, which sells interiors and gifts, and you can sit on the restaurant terrace at 'La Casa Verde' and soak up the peaceful atmosphere whilst overlooking the nursery.

Look out for Larch Cottage's charity days (see the events section of their website for dates), when the owners open their private gardens. These lead to a small lake and gorgeous little stone chapel which was constructed for the owners' wedding back in 2014.

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10. The National Garden Scheme (NGS) in Cumbria

Holehird gardens, Windermere

The National Garden Scheme's Yellow Book lists gardens from around the UK which open to raise money for charity, and Cumbria regularly has delightful gardens taking part. Look out for the NGS in Cumbria booklet, available at information points across the area, or better still, plan ahead by visiting the website to see what's on when you'll be visiting the Lakes.

Looking for your ideal holiday cottage? Use our search facility to find the perfect place from which to start your Lake District getaway. For ideas on things to do on a rainy day, read our top 10 post.