You could spend the whole day at Brockhole and only just touch the surface of the many activities on offer. This sprawling visitor centre on the shores of Windermere has something for all age groups – from boat hire and treetop adventures to exhibitions, gardens and cafés.
For those wanting to take to the water, Brockhole hires out sit-on kayaks, Canadian canoes, rowing boats, motor boats and stand-up paddle boards. During school holidays, it’s also possible to book a half-day guided kayak tour in a 15ft sea kayak – an ideal opportunity for first-time kayakers to get a taste of paddling… and in truly breathtaking surroundings.
Back on dry land, there’s archery, laser clay pigeon shooting, a nine-hole mini golf course and a free adventure playground. Take to the treetops, and there’s even more on offer. If you can hear screaming, it’s probably coming from the Treetop Trek, a high-level ropes and obstacle course that involves rope bridges and an 800ft zip wire. Three different courses are available: two are suitable for those aged five and over, while trekkers have to be at least seven for the third, more challenging option. For younger children (three years and upwards), there’s the Treetop Nets, a system of slides, tunnels and trampolines all made from bouncy netting hanging 30ft off the ground.
Bikes, tag-alongs and trailers can be hired for a full day or just a few hours. The hire charge includes a ticket, in the summer, for the Brockhole to Bark Barn Bike Boat. This takes cyclists from Brockhole’s own Windermere Lake Cruises jetty across to the beautiful western shore of Windermere. After the lake’s busy eastern shore, the traffic-free trails on this side of Windermere will seem like another world, offering relaxed and safe cycling. Attractions include the National Trust’s Wray Castle and the restored Claife Viewing Station, with its unique outlook over the lake.
Back at Brockhole and heading indoors now, young families will find a soft-play area and Brave the Cave, a simulated caving experience where adventurers get to don helmets and head-torches and wriggle their way through a network of dark, often narrow tunnels.
A series of educational trails and two fixed orienteering courses are among the more traditional outdoor pursuits on offer in the grounds. Activity sheets, including trail maps, can be bought from the Brockhole shop, which also sells locally made gifts and doubles up as a tourist information centre.
For those spending the day at Brockhole, there are several food options – two basic outlets in the grounds, a large café with both indoor and terrace seating (dogs welcome) and The Gaddum restaurant, offering lunch and afternoon teas in the slightly plusher surroundings of the Victorian Brockhole house.
Located roughly half-way between the towns of Ambleside and Windermere on the A591, Brockhole is run by the Lake District National Park Authority. All profits go into caring for the National Park.