by Andrew Robinson

AH, the tranquility of the English Lakes.

Cravats and shiny Jaguars, formal dining and peaceful walks by the water's edge.

But there's trouble brewing in our hotel's wooden-panelled dining room even before the starters have been served.

Sliding and crawling across the floor is a mischievous lad of nearly five - collector of sticks, thrower of stones and tantrums, taunter of little sister and of mum and dad.

He's broken free for a few embarrassing seconds of Horrid Henry-style mischief before he is recaptured.

Many years of visiting the Lakes - BC, Before Children - didn't prepare us for a couple of nights in an upmarket hotel with two under 5s.

The last time, as a child-free and carefree couple, we had enjoyed struggling up the 2,848ft Blencathra in a gale, followed by beer in the evening.

Today our far tougher challenge is maintaining sanity and parental authority over our boisterous lad (his sister, Lottie, two, isn't quite so demanding).

The key question for us grown-ups: what is there to do in Cumbria when mountain walking isn't an option due to incessant cries of "I've got tired legs".

Thankfully, there's more to Cumbria than big hills and beer.

After a lovely drive up the A65 from Bradford, stopping for the obligatory lunch at Settle's Ye Olde Naked Man cafe, we arrive at Low Wood Bay hotel, sitting pretty on the banks of Lake Windermere, just two miles from Ambleside.

The four star hotel is an instant hit with the lad who has boundless energy when it comes to messing about in swimming pools.

After our dip in the hotel pool, we cross the busy A591 for a walk on the shores of the mighty Windermere - a simple pleasure for adults but, for stick collectors, this place is seventh heaven.

There are piles and piles of them, a reminder of the recent floods from which parts of Cumbria are still recovering. And there is no shortage of little stones to chuck in the water.

The view across the water, with the Langdale Pikes in the distance, is quite something, particularly at sunset, with the nearby jetty framing our iPhone shots perfectly.

The following day dawns early, as it always does with Harry (usually well before 7am), so we have around 12 hours to fill with fun stuff.

The buffet breakfast is a winner when our boy returns with a big grin and an even bigger chocolate muffin.

Well immediately fall lucky with a trip to Wray Castle, a National Trust mock-Gothic Victorian building beside Lake Windermere at Low Wray, Ambleside.

The outdoor adventure play area is superb, with tyre swings, den building, logs, tunnels to crawl through and lots of things to climb on.

Equally popular are the walks along the shore, or "beach" as we call it. Just make sure you get there early to grab a space in the pay-and-display car park.

No one minds if you have a picnic beside the lake and there's a good supply of small stones to skim across the water, not to mention tree climbing opportunities (for lad, not Dad).

In the afternoon we bravely drive our ageing Mazda Bongo Friendee van up the Wrynose mountain pass which runs between Little Langdale and the Duddon Valley.

It is one of the steepest roads in England, with gradients up to 1 in 3, and is narrow, with lots of twists and turns. Or as Harry cheekily puts it: "Is this even a road?"

There are daffodils in the verges, little lambs leap in the fields and we stop to admire the views every few miles before we call at Coniston Water for a little walk and an ice cream.

After so much freedom and fresh air, the atmosphere in the hotel feels a little prim on our return. We opt to head out for a fish and chip supper in Ambleside, returning in time for the kids' bedtime and wine o'clock for us.

There aren't that many families around, so we retire with a bottle of red.

Our early night is a chance to discuss future and past holidays but then Harry leaps from his bed for the umpteenth time, laughing, squealing, revelling in the chaos.

An hour or so later, he finally crashes and I mutter something about holidays being "intolerable".

After a decent sleep, we forgot last night's tomfoolery and head for The World of Beatrix Potter, a visitor attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere and home of Peter Rabbit, one of our kids' favourites.

The interactive exhibits featuring Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Tod and Squirrel Nutkin, and also the cute outdoor garden, soak up well over an hour.

Afterwards, we walk to the lakeside to look at the swans and geese. And eat another ice cream which stops someone grumbling.

Back in the van, as we head back home via the Yorkshire Dales, a happy looking Harry declares that the holiday has been "brilliant". And that's why we'll be back again soon.


* Andrew Robinson and family stayed at Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina. Reservations 08458 503 502. Telephone: 015394 33338

* For more information on attractions go to