There are many great attractions in and around Keswick and perhaps one of the biggest is Whinlatter Visitors Centre. Only a 10-minute drive west of Keswick, you turn off the A66 into Braithwaite and wind your way up a steep and scenic road to the top of Whinlatter Pass, where clear signs direct you into the Visitors Centre Carpark (paid parking). As soon as you turn into the car park, you will hear the distinctive whizzing sound of the zip wires overhead and will be greeted by the sight of many an enthusiastic mountain biker gearing up for some single-track rides! There is a great buzz about the place and there are activities to cater for every age group, interest and ability.
Whinlatter Forest itself is England’s only ‘mountain forest’ and this makes it a wonderful place for walking enthusiasts of all abilities. There is a maze of paths winding through the forest, including nature trails, a Zog Activity Trail, orienteering circuits and graded routes suitable for wheelchair users and buggies. Those who are keen on hiking up into the high fells can enjoy an ascent of Barf and Lords Seat, offering spectacular views over Bassenthwaite Lake and the surrounding Northern Fells. The densely planted pine trees offer a good level of shelter, so you can still get out for a walk on rainy days and the trails take you into some really tranquil spaces!
For younger children, there is the ‘Wildplay’ project, a 600m long trail that takes you into nine separate play areas. You can spend all day here with your children discovering the different themed play areas, whether that’s simply slides and rope swings or the water feature area, involving the use of two impressive Archimedes Screws! There are hidden fairy doors carved into trees, wood sculptures, little play dens and much more. It really is a great day out for a young family and the Wildplay area is free of charge.
For adult groups and those with older children looking for something more high octane, you can book yourself onto Go Ape! (age 10+), a high ropes course running through the trees with multiple high-level assault courses, each culminating in a thrilling zip wire ride back down to the ground!
Whinlatter is also famous for its mountain biking with a range of tracks, from easy forest trails to the more technical ‘single track’ routes, which are colour coded to indicate the level of difficulty. If you don’t have your own mountain biking equipment, you can hire bikes and helmets from Cyclewise, the mountain biking shop located right next to the Visitors Centre. There is a jet-wash area for getting the mud off your bike when you finish.
Image by Dave Willis
Whatever your choice of activity, you can return to the Visitors' Centre to enjoy some delicious, homemade food at Siskins Café! There is ample indoor and outdoor seating and bird feeders hung all around the café, so you can enjoy watching the wildlife while you eat your lunch! The Visitors' Centre itself has lots of interesting information about the local wildlife and is famous for its live webcam footage of the osprey nests over at Bassenthwaite Lake. Outside of the nesting season, there is usually live footage of the red squirrels. The gift shop sells a range of local items; everything from pottery to toys, tea-towels, books, local food delights and much more.
This is a fabulous place to visit at the start of your holiday because, with so much to do, you will want to return again and again!
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