The YHA Hawkshead is in a really superb location for exploring the Lake District. There are loads of walks in the immediate area which you can do, including Grizedale Forest which is just behind the YHA Hawkshead campsite. It’s only 15 minutes walking/ 5 minute drive from the pretty village of Hawkshead, the heart of Beatrix Potter country, with cute shops and great pubs and cafes. It’s also just a short drive from Ambleside.
We arrived at Hawkshead via a short ride on a car ferry across Windemere, which added to the excitement of arriving at our destination – and saved us a drive around the edge of the lake!
YHA HAwkshead main building and facilities
The main building is open for people camping in tents and the camping pods to use. From the outside the building is really impressive, and in fact it is a Grade II listed regency-style mansion. It has nice grounds for the kids to explore, perfect for picnics, and it has a lovely view over Esthwaite Water.
Inside it’s little bit tired in places, but it is clean and comfortable and perfectly adequate for what you need from your camping base. There is a communal lounge with a lovely view out to the grounds, and a TV room with a single TV, a pool table and a games machine.
The main building is also where you can find the dining room and a little bar at the reception desk – more about that in the Eating On Site section below.
Adjoined to the main building and immediately behind the pods is an annex where you can find a washing up sink for campers and also the toilets and showers, which are protected by a combination lock (you will be given the code on arrival). These facilities are very clean and serviceable, and in fact the showers were particularly good – modern, warm and spacious, ideal for families. There are only three showers, two loos for men and two for women and one sink – so queues could be possible in peak season, but we had no problems during our stay.
The Camping Pods
The four new camping pods are located just behind the main YHA building in a nicely secluded camping field and pod village area. The area is lit at night so you can easily find your way up to main building for trips to the loo in the middle of the night.
Each pod has its own partly covered decking space outside with a marble slab for your barbecue and camping stoves, and a small lawn to the front and side perfect for your picnic blanket/camping chairs.
Inside the pods are more spacious than they look. They are carpeted and are equipped with 2 powerpoints, a lamp, an electric heater for chilly evenings and the larger pods also have wall lights. Our pods also had a couple of camping chairs supplied. Otherwise the pods are completely empty – so bring everything you would normally take on a camping trip – except a tent of course!
There are double doors to the front which are lockable, and which have a blind you can pull down at night– so we felt much more secure than we would in a tent and had lots of privacy, even though there were tents pitched just opposite our pod in the camping field. However the doors are a bit narrow. There is also a small window to the back of the pod, so they are quite light inside.
To give an idea of the size of the pod itself, in the 2 person pod we had a double blow-up mattress and had ample space for our bags, box of provisions and two fold out chairs.
The 4 person family pod had the same, and fit two double blow up mattresses with ease.
We found the pods to be cosy at night, even though both nights of our stay the weather was chilly and rainy. We used the heater and we also needed to use blankets we had brought in addition to our duvet, but it was lovely experience to wake up in the night and hear the rain drumming on the roof and to have no worries about our tent collapsing under the rain.
Eating and drinking on site
There are 4 options for eating and drinking on site:
- Cook your own, al fresco. As mentioned earlier, there is a marble slab where you can put your barbecue or camping stove. We spent a chilly evening drinking hot chocolate and toasting marshmallows.
- Cook your own in the self catering kitchen. This is in the annex building where you can also find the toilets and showers. It is very large, well equipped and very clean. There is also a seating area so you don’t need to carry the food back to your camping pod if you don’t want to. There is a communal fridge where you can keep your (labelled) essentials. You can also buy basic food items at the YHA main building for a reasonable price.
- Eat in the YHA dining room. This is in the main building and offers very reasonably priced breakfasts and dinners.We ate breakfast both mornings in the dining room. The breakfast is served canteen style and includes cereal, fruit, yoghurts and full english breakfast (even hash browns and veggie sausages), and fresh tea and coffee. It’s not a gourmet affair (who wants gourmet for breakfast anyway?) but then food is fresh, hot, plentiful, enjoyable and cheerfully served up.
We also ate dinner in the YHA restaurant on one of the evenings. The menu is small but includes the classic favourites ( we ate fish and chips and sausage and mash). Our meals were absolutely delicious, well cooked and huge portions for the price. Kids portions were also available. The restaurant is definitely a good option if you want to stay on site and don’t feel like cooking for yourself.
One thing to note is that although the YHA site is licensed, it is prohibited to consume your own alcohol anywhere on site. There is however a small bar at the reception in the main building where you can buy alcohol to drink on site. The prices are very reasonable and there is no profiteering involved which is very refreshing.
- Eat out. The reception staff recommended some places for us to try in the nearby village of Hawkshead. We ate in the Sun Inn and the Sun Inn cafe next door and the food was great in both venues.
Things to do at and around YHA Hawkshead
The YHA Hawkshead is a great base for exploring the local area and all it has to offer. There is an abundance of walks you can do, and loads of outdoor pursuits you can do around the Lakes, depending on how old your kids are.
The weekend of our review, we were travelling with 4 year old twin girls Chloe and Molly, and these were the activities which we most enjoyed:
- Exploring the grounds of the YHA Hawkshead
- Story time in the camping pod - we pretended it was a Hobbit House!
- Toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate on the porch ouside the pod
- A forest and lake walk around Lake Windermere
- Lunch in Ambleside
- Wandering around Hawkshead, buying Beatrix Potter souvenirs
- A brilliant half day visit to Wray Castle, were there were loads of kids activities available. See our review
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the camping pods at the YHA Hawkshead.
The staff team is wonderful - extremely helpful, friendly, cheerful and welcoming, from the manager to the receptionist to the kitchen staff.
The cost (£35 for a 2 person pod and £45 for a family pod at the time of writing) is really good value for the location.
We thoroughly recommend these pods as a very convenient alternative to camping without the hassle of pitching the tent and the worry of being out in the elements – we can’t wait to come back : )