Day trip: Windermere and the Lakeside Aquarium

Lakes Aquarium

A RATHER wet week in Ambleside was saved by a fab visit by boat to the Lakeside Aquarium, writes Camilla Chafer.

THIS is the second year running we've been to the Lake District but unfortunately we were caught out by some rather bad weather. However, we managed to squeeze in one great day out on Windermere which we combined with a visit to the Lakeside Aquarium.

At Bowness we decided to go for a combined ticket that would allow us a return journey on the boat, a 45-minute sailing each way, with entrance fee for the Aquarium. The boat was large and roomy and with the weather being rather changeable we bagged a booth inside so we could gaze out to the lake and watch the white sailed boats and huge lakeside houses. On board there's a small shop with light snacks but the children were more than happy to watch the waves lap at the boat.

Lakeside is a small port where, alongside the Aquarium, you'll find the station for the steam railway (also available on a combined boat-train ticket), a gift shop and up a flight of stairs, a cafe with stunning views over the Lake. We headed in to the aquarium and up a flight of stairs (lift for pushchairs) to start our visit. There are plenty of tanks of native fish alongside small animals such as field mice, playful otters, a family of adorable tiny monkeys, crocodiles, snakes, a tortoise (they move faster than you'd think), seahorses and rays. Children can get an activity sheet with questions to find the answers too to make sure they actually take in some of the information.

One of the most innovative parts is the underwater tunnel. Walk over top first where a poignant beach scene reminds visitors not to litter then head down the stairs (lift nearby). If you've ever wondered what a duck might look like whilst paddling you'll find out here but there's plenty of fish too. Make sure you see the seahorses and the rays' tank near the exit. It is a small aquarium and it can get crowded so do bear that in mind plus you have no choice but to exit through the gift shop.

Our boat back was open topped so we huddled up in our rain jackets (it got a bit windy) and toughed it out. However, we were lucky enough to get a captain who pointed out some areas of interest including a large house on the shoreline with an unsavoury history of keeping slaves shackled in the cellar.

Back in Bowness, we snapped up hot chips to eat on a bench and visited the sweetie shop for supplies of Kendal Mint Cake and fudge – I defy you to leave without any!

Fact Box:
How much? Boat&Aquarium Adults £15.95, Children £9.20, Family £47.50 (2 adults, 3 children) Under 5s free on boat, however over 3s must pay for Aquarium.
Opening times:9am – 5pm
Pushchair accessibility: Good, may need to fold on boat.
Facilities: Loos on boat, or near station platform.
Cafe: Upstairs from station platform.
SatNav postcode:LA12 8AS (Aquarium only)
Web: Lakes Aquarium

Images: Lakes Aquarium