We look at the activities children can enjoy around Ullswater – waterfalls, steamers and stately homes
The second biggest lake in the Lake District, Ullswater benefits from the dramatic peaks of Helvellyn soaring above its eastern edge.
Here there aren’t the huge crowds which descend on Windermere, which means quiet coves can be found on both east and west sides.
There are plenty of stony shorelines and woods to play in. You can hire boats to enjoy the water or just picnic and take in the view.
This is your best rainy day option near Ullswater. You can choose from pottery painting, soft play and an outdoor playground.
There is also a cinema, arts shows and restaurants. Watch out for temporary exhibitions, there was a brilliant Lego one when we visited. For more information visit the Rheged website.
This spectacular waterfall is a must-see. The walk up has some steep drops so keep an eye – and a hand – on small children.
You can walk up from the National Trust car park, through the woods, to the waterfall and down the other side in around an hour.
At the end there’s a babbling river to explore and nice park to play in. For more info visit National Trust Aira Force.
The streams and woodland of Aira Force
The nature trail at this small stately home is brilliant for little ones. The trail winds through gorgeous gardens, with farm animals to see.
At the end there is a play area, cafe with a pizza oven and delicious cakes. A perfect place to spend a few hours. For more information visit the Askham Hall website.
These traditional boats are the best way around the area.
They sail between Glenridding in the south and Pooley Bridge in the north with a stop at Howtown in the middle of the lake.
We got off at Howtown to take a walk up Hallin Fell which was a memorable picnic spot.
Tickets and information on the Ullswater Steamers website.
The steamers are the best way to travel around Ullswater
Have we missed out any of your family’s favourite activities around Ullswater, do let us know in the comments below.
Read about our experience of flying with Ryanair for a family break
When Monarch collapsed a week before our holiday was due to start we had to rush to book alternative flights.
The only option to our destination was Ryanair. At 6am in the morning I had to negotiate the booking process on my laptop, knowing lots of other people were scrambling to do the same after losing flights with Monarch.
In the end, to save time, I went for a family pack, which at £103 included two suitcases, priority boarding and seat selection.
With more time, I may have been able to pick and choose some of those options for slightly less money.
It is clear Ryanair are trying to make their process a little more straightforward but it can still be a minefield of potential charges.
Ryanair’s fleet is one of the youngest around. That means most planes are modern, clean and quiet. Ours was pretty good although not the newest they have.
As usual, overhead locker space was at a premium. We used our trick of one adult boarding early to sort out the children’s activities, drinks, snacks etc and putting bags in the locker. The second adult boarded later with the children so they had more time to stretch their legs.
The seats are modern on Ryanair’s fleet
The seats were surprisingly comfortable and in good condition. The legroom was fine but Ryanair, like lots of short-haul airlines, maximises space by taking away the pocket in which to put your valuables.
That can be a pain when you have children’s drinks, magazines and general paraphernalia, which has to go somewhere.
There were just two toilets which meant some queues. The heat was quite intense too, awaiting take-off on our return journey.
The offering is fairly basic with the usual snacks and drinks. Pre-ordered hot meals are the first to come round followed by the drinks and snacks trolley.
It was all efficient except they ran out of change for some passengers on the way back.
Ryanair is aiming to be more family-friendly but are they going far enough?
There were some nice touches.
Children’s pushchairs/strollers and car seats can be put in the hold for free but that is the same as other airlines.
Priority boarding with the family pack is useful and they are currently offering discounts on bags and seat reservations for families.
We didn’t have any complaints, boarding was smooth and efficient, the flights landed on time, there were no queues at check-in at either airport.
But as we all know, the problem with Ryanair is if something goes wrong, then you’re often on your own. We were lucky and found it to be stress-free.
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We review a flight with Norwegian Air from Manchester to Malaga
The airline Norwegian is a relative newcomer to the short-haul market in the UK. But it is a big player worldwide, flying 500 routes.
From the UK, it now carries over five million passengers a year from London Gatwick, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester airports to 50 destinations worldwide.
We flew with the airline for the first time from Manchester to Malaga and were very impressed.
The booking process
The website and booking process is straightforward with the usual options on baggage.
The lowest fare tickets don’t include a checked bag but higher priced tickets do.
A Norwegian plane takes off – the airline flies 500 routes around the world
This is where Norwegian shines. Most of its planes have free Wi-Fi as standard and also give passengers access to some free tv programmes.
There are enough free children’s shows to pass the time on a short-haul flight and there are also television screens above each row showing videos.
Children aged between two and 11 get a 25 per cent discount on most fares. This is a handy reduction, which is rarely offered these days.
Hand luggage allowances are generous – one standard and one small bag weighing up to 10kgs.
Norwegian has some of the newest planes in the world with an average age of less than four years. They are clean and modern on board with decent legroom.
Staff at the airport
One of our flights was full and one fairly quiet so we experienced both extremes. It was a friendly and efficient service, with just a bit of a wait at the passenger boarding bridge to board on the busier flight.
We were really impressed with Norwegian. It didn’t feel like low-cost travel even though the price was good.
For more information visit Norwegian – fares from Manchester to Malaga start from £29.90 per person.
RELATED REVIEW: We review British Airways regional CityFlyer service
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We flew at a discounted price with Norwegian for the purposes of this review. As always all opinions are our own.
How do we rate BA CityFlyer for a family flight with children?
British Airways may be based at the world’s busiest international airport, London Heathrow, but it now also flies small planes from regional airports.
BA CityFlyer, a subsidiary airline of British Airways, is the leading airline at London City Airport.
It also flies from Manchester, Edinburgh and London Stansted to destinations such as Alicante, Dublin, Florence, Ibiza, Malaga, Mykonos, Nice and Palma Majorca.
We travelled to Florence from Birmingham (routes from Birmingham and Bristol have since been suspended) using Avios air miles we had collected with a American Express card, read our guide here for how to collect air miles to get free family flights and read the full review of Florence here.
Here is how we found our BA CityFlyer flight.
The plane, an Embraer 190 with a two-two seating format throughout, was modern and quiet. The seats were comfortable and leg room was reasonable.
Our hot meals were pretty average, one bit of beef was tougher than an old wellington, but the fish and chips on the return journey weren’t bad.
There was no dedicated children’s food or menu which is disappointing.
Small sandwiches were still on offer in economy class along with a complimentary drink. This has been phased out of most BA short-haul flights but this service does still offer it.
Boarding is easy as the planes are smaller
As British Airways was only operating a couple of flights per day at both airports when we flew, there were no staff at check-in until exactly two hours before. This meant a big queue built up which wasn’t ideal.
The planes are small, ours only seated 76 passengers, which means you are on and off quite quickly, great when you are travelling with children. It feels straightforward to board as there aren’t so many people fighting to get on.
It is worth checking out British Airways if you had given up on them ever flying outside Heathrow. The small plane saves time at either end and you can try to use Avios air miles even if you live outside London.
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