The Lake District is a National Park in North West England, and it is a stunning part of the country. It is an area that I visit regularly with my aunt, uncle and cousins living there and it’s our number one location for a long weekend. With international travel restrictions over the last two years, we have visited several times so it felt like the right time to write this guide!
The Lake District is vast so this guide may not give locals many new ideas for gluten free dining but if you’re on holiday in the Lakes it should hopefully have you covered. We aren’t daily hikers but do some, and often visit with children so have included some other activities and easy walks we have also done in the area, along with some of the hikes we have done such as Helvellyn (having grown up in the Fens and my legs disliking hills as a result I am extremely proud of this one!)
Southern Lake District
As my family are based in Kendal, this is the area of the Lake District that I have visited the most with plenty of trips to Ambleside, Windermere and up Helvellyn! I would recommend Ambleside or Windermere for a first trip to the Lakes or if you have non-hikers in your group. If you’re travelling from the South, these can also make good stop offs if your accommodation is in the Northern Lakes.
A town full of outdoors shops, pubs and restaurants Ambleside is perfect for a wander – especially if you decide you need some last minute hiking boots or outdoor clothing! You are also on the Northern side of Lake Windermere and a short walk from Stock Ghyll Force Waterfalls (not push chair friendly for toddlers, but my four year old nephew managed to walk it).
You will be pleased to know that most towns in the Lakes have a fish and chip shop that offer gluten free daily. In Ambleside, that is Ambleside fish and chips which is located near Ambleside Pier on the Lake. Gluten free is mentioned on the menu, but when I went in it wasn’t clear at all that they did this. In reality all of their fish and chips are gluten free so that they don’t have to worry about cross contamination at all in the fryers. Amazing news!
This meant it was really easy to eat fish and chips with everyone, but Paul wasn’t keen on his and realised his were also gluten free very quickly. The batter wasn’t crispy and we would choose a fish and chip shop where you could get a normal option as well in future if we had a choice.
This isn’t somewhere I’ve visited but I get recommended it on Instagram pretty much every time I visit the Lakes hence why I thought I would add it. From the website they do cater for dietary requirements but they do not clarify any cross contamination measures so do check this if you’re coeliac. Adding to my list to visit next time to check it out properly!
Jintana is a Thai restaurant and takeaway with branches in Ambleside, Kendal and Windermere. Gluten free options are marked clearly on the menu and when I had takeaway I selected a Thai red curry and rice as a naturally gluten free option too and it was delicious!
I have had Lucy’s on my wishlist for so long and on my last trip we finally visited, and the food was amazing as were the personalised menus – such a lovely touch!
When I emailed about cross contamination they said that they specialise in gluten free options and have a dedicated preparation area.
We shared a quartet of scallops as the starter, I had lamb shank for main whilst Paul had steak and we had sponge puddings for dessert with mine being the sticky toffee pudding. This was incredible served with hot custard! The meal with a glass of wine and two beers came to £89 and we really recommend the food.
I haven’t eat here, but when I told my aunt and uncle we’d been out in Ambleside they said that we must try Zeffirelli’s as they absolutely love it and have been visiting for over ten years without a bad meal! They said it took them many visits to realise it was actually all vegetarian as the food is so good, and you can get deals when you combine it with the cinema. I haven’t checked cross contamination measures but gluten free options are marked on the menu so definitely one on the list to check for next time.
Ok, not a gluten free based recommendation but we absolutely love staying at Brathay just outside Ambleside. Choose a superior room which is not part of the main house for new rooms which are like stand alone chalets rather than a hotel, with a double bed, bathroom, fridge and two arm chairs in front of the windows with amazing views. We love the extra space compared to a B&B and is a great option if you only want one room rather than renting an air b n b.
Lake Windermere is extremely touristy, but we love hiring a rowing boat and getting out on the lake.
Since covid it’s been much harder to just turn up and do this though, so make sure you book in advance. I’ve also visited the Beatrix Potter attraction more times than I like to admit but it’s definitely one for those that were brought up on the books!
Wanting waffles in Windermere? No problem – just head to Choccobar who make all their waffles gluten free so there is no risk of cross contamination from the waffle iron! Such fluffy delicious pancakes, I devoured my lemon meringue waffle far too quickly.
Choccobar is a lovely cafe with really friendly owners and smells gloriously sweet as soon as you enter – think chocolate, waffles and churros. We went for breakfast, so I ordered a smoothie with my waffle to kid myself I was being a bit healthier. Paul just ordered a cup of tea as he’s not a fan of sweet breakfasts, so something savoury would be a useful addition to the menu! I know the clue is in the name, and for everyone with a sweet tooth it’s a dream – that just isn’t Paul!
I stuck to the waffles for less chance of cross contamination, and I just love waffles. However, I’m pretty sure their indulgent hot chocolate is gluten free and that a gluten free afternoon tea can be made if ordered in advance.
A pub with a separate gluten free fryer and fab options that I’ve seen include fish and chips or roast dinners on a Sunday with Yorkshire puddings. We visited when lockdown restrictions were still having a huge impact on the way businesses operate so the menu was reduced which resulted in hardly any gluten free options. However, it did still include a burger and chips so I can’t complain too much!
This pub is in a fab location in Windermere and gets extremely busy.
During busier months my family choose to avoid Windermere, but when we have been staying there in the summer we have met them at the quieter Jetty Museum cafe slightly further along the lake (a short walk from the town) and it’s so much quieter!
I just had tea when I last went but I did spot two gluten free cakes, stored separately with their own tongs so a promising spot if you’re after tea and cake – or struggling to find somewhere in the height of summer that has a free table!
There is also a branch of Jintana Thai that I tried in Ambleside in Windermere.
A fish and chip shop right in the heart of Windermere, near both the Lake and the Beatrix Potter attraction that can serve gluten free daily is amazing for those with coeliac. That place is Vinegar Jones and I can confirm that the fish and chips are fried separately and taste amazing!!
Located in Ings just outside of Windermere, The Watermill Inn and Brewery is definitely on my list of places to try as it was recommended in Sarah’s Gluten Free Guide to the Lake District as well as by followers on Instagram. Looking at the menu you’re in for a treat with plenty of gluten free options marked including fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding.
Where to stay: Kirkwood Guest House
The owner of this B & B was diagnosed as a coeliac as a child! How reassuring is that for relaxing whilst someone else cooks your breakfast?
We stayed two nights, and I made the most of gluten free sausages, bread and separate toaster with an English Breakfast with toast and jam one day, and a sausage sandwich the next. We just texted our order through the night before so it was really easy, but meant I didn’t ask about the waffles as Sarah who writes the Endless Distances blog had said on her visit they were made on a shared waffle iron so a good reminder to always still double check you’re comfortable with all the cooking processes but they definitely had a second toaster.
We often passed Grasmere when visiting Helvellyn but somehow had never actually stopped there until our last visit! Famous for being the home of English Poet, William Wordsworth the home/museum was closed on my visit but I did have a stroll through the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden located next to the Grasmere Gingerbread shop that even in February had long queues but smelt amazing and sadly isn’t gluten free!
Grasmere Lake is an easy 3.5 mile walk and Rydal Water is a beautiful flat walk around too with a cave. We’ve used these lakes as options for walks the day after longer hikes for something easy, and they are also good options for children. The walks can also be combined together, with a stop in Grasmere.
I walked past here and there was a huge chalk board of gluten free options, but I didn’t go in. 100% on the list for next time though and here’s a full review from Sarah at Endless Distances.
In Grasmere, we went to Grasmere Tea Gardens where I was able to get a hot chocolate with the staff checking the ingredients for me, and a slice of toblerone cake which I at least know is made gluten free off site. I was there with my niece who’s three months old and nephew so went where was easy for them but there are coffee shops with better options.
Greens is the cafe that Paula, the owner at Kirkwood Guest House recommended to me and one that I may not have seen without the recommendation. I did pop in after my trip to Grasmere Tea Rooms and bought a scone to take away. They take cross contamination measures and they freeze the gluten-free scones until needed as they gave me a frozen one to take away. They didn’t give me any jam or clotted cream though so do make sure you ask for this is you’re self catering like me and don’t have these available!
I have climbed Helvellyn twice in my life! Paul and I first hiked it years ago, and since then Paul has done it many times opting to hike it on pretty much every visit to the Lakes. In 2020 we did it on an absolutely boiling hot summers day – it was hot, tough going (for me anyway!) and had the most spectacular views. The route we use takes us up past a waterfall, Grisedale tarn and then up Helvellyn before descending with views over Thirlmere. A longer but more beautiful circular route, rather than hiking up and down the same way that many do from Thirlmere whilst still avoiding any scrambling/Stridding Edge.
Paul was due to climb Scafell Pike on our last visit, but had to change plans due to the appalling weather so he’s definitely planning on doing that next trip.
I’ve never had much need to eat out in Kendal, but the Cottage Kitchen and Romney’s look great! There’s also a Pizza Express in town.
Kendal Castle is worth a visit if you’re looking for some non hiking activities too!
Where to stay: Mill House Air B n B
We’ve just spent two nights at Mill House in Kendal with my brother and sister in law, whilst spending time with my aunt and uncle introducing my baby niece. They hadn’t seen my 4 year old nephew either since he was 1 due to the pandemic so we had a lovely time together.
The air b n b has two double rooms and a single room in a newly furnished, modern, clean and well equipped apartment with river views. We made use of the games, building blocks, did a puzzle and baked in the kitchen. Everything had been thought of including some Kendal Mint Cake as a welcome gift. We were also offered a late check out for free when the guests staying after us cancelled. We would definitely return.
Where to stay: Rusland Pool Hotel
Rusland Pool Hotel in the Southern Lake District just outside the national park has won free from food awards. I felt so safe eating there with dedicated work space, utensils, toasters, fryers and an extensive menu. We stayed a night here on a recent trip to be able to eat at the hotel on the day we arrived in the Lakes.
We sat out in the beer garden, with perfect views and a drink after a long drive up. I really want to say with all the positives that we had a great meal, but we didn’t. Perhaps a bad day for the chefs or poor menu choices as they get lots of great reviews, but we sadly didn’t love our food and I would struggle to get Paul to return here. If you’re nervous eating out though, I would still recommend it for that!
Northern Lake District
We never seem to stay this far out in the Lakes, but on my list to try if I visit is Shill’s of Cockermouth.
We really like Buttermere Lake too for an easy beautiful lake walk, at 4.5 miles and pretty flat terrain. Located about 30 minute drive from either Cockermouth or Keswick. My aunt and uncle also say that Kirkstile Inn is popular for food and local walks, and it has gluten free options marked on the menu.
We can spend a lovely couple of hours in Keswick, browsing sweets shops, antique and second hand stores. This is a fab area to stay as a town located right near Derwentwater. There are plenty of walks available from Keswick or nearby. I also have Thyme Bistro at the top of my list of restaurants to try out in the Lakes, and I definitely want to try and find scones at Nichols End Marina next time I’m walking near Derwentwater.
You are also in easy reach of Bassenthwaite Lake and Thirlmere or for an easy walk consider Buttermere Lake. On a rainy day we have also visited the Honister Slate Mine.
We have eaten gluten free, safely fried fish and chips from Keswick – ordered on a rainy day and eaten in the car! They are available daily and are gluten and dairy free. However, they wouldn’t be my first choice fish and chips in the Lakes as they are not battered. If you prefer fish without batter then Kingfisher is the fish and chip shop for you.
Lingholm Kitchen in Lingholm Estate is a must visit for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. I haven’t checked the afternoon tea gluten free offering but the brunch I had there was amazing. As was everyone else’s. A beautiful location with food to match.
Set overlooking a walled garden, credited as the inspiration for Mr McGregors Garden by Beatrix Potter it’s a must visit spot with an outdoor gallery dedicated to some of her work. We had a really enjoyable morning here.
Where to Stay: Leonard’s Field House
Next time I visit Keswick, I want to stay at Leonard’s Field House – a Guest house run by a Coeliac who has won free from awards!
Where to Stay: The George Hotel
I also have the George Hotel on my list as somewhere to stay or visit for a more formal meal with gluten free and vegan options advertised.
Where to Stay: Air B n B with Hot Tub
A hot tub is highly recommended if you’re planning on walking whilst in the Lakes! We recently stayed at this air b n b with friends – it was lovely with two double bedrooms and hot tub, located in Caldbeck which was about a twenty minute drive to either Keswick or Penrith.
I would say Penrith as a town is not as nice as Keswick for a wander, but its conveniently located from the M6 just outside the Lake District National Park. Penrith is near Ullswater, the second largest lake in the Lake District where you can also take an Ullswater ‘Steamer’ boat trip. It’s 20 miles to walk all the way round the Lake but we took a boat trip last time we visited across the lake and walked the 7 (ish) miles back to the car.
We also really like visiting Aira Force Waterfall.
If I was to eat near Ullswater or Pooley Bridge I have it on my list try out the gluten free menu at The Punchbowl Inn in the nearby village of Askham.
Whilst at Center Parcs we met up at the Rheged Centre (cinema and gallery) to see my cousins who picked the location. I’m mentioning it here as it had a great children’s play area! Whilst inside there wasn’t a great deal of main meals that I saw to be gluten free, but I did pick up an amazing gluten free millionaires shortbread. A great stop in the Lakes for coffee and cake, with a play area for children.
Where to stay: Center Parcs, Penrith
We have stayed at Center Parcs in Penrith and used that as a base. We stayed for a week out of season when this worked out to be a reasonable way to combine Center Parcs with local activities. Eating onsite (pre covid) was a positive experience. Otherwise we’ve always stayed closer to Keswick.
This is the fish and chip shop for a daily fish and chip takeaway in the north. I’ve been here twice and loved it both times, and it offers battered sausages as well as fish.
All the large U.K. supermarkets are found in the Lakes, but do plan ahead if you’re staying outside the large towns as you’re likely to need to stop in Kendal or Penrith for a shop.
Booths supermarket is an absolute must when in the Lakes, a high end supermarket with all sorts of treats (and gluten free sandwiches).
However, if you want to stick to a budget I wouldn’t recommend it for a main shop. Located in Kendal, Windermere, Keswick and Penrith you should definitely visit though.
Other tips and recommendations for the Lakes:
- Pack waterproofs, after a couple of extremely rainy trips to the Lakes this now includes waterproof trousers for us! (Although we admittedly rarely visit in the summer so then they may be less needed!)
- For this reason also pack plenty of socks and underwear, and spare leggins/outdoor pant.
- Walking boots rather than trainers are recommended, I’ve done some walks in outdoor trainers as I never loved hiking boots but you’ll be grateful for the ankle support and that they’re waterproof even on some of the flatter lake walks.
- Be really careful of weather conditions, they can change quickly. Paul has wanted to go on hikes when the weather has been ok, only for my uncle who’s ex mountain rescue and extremely knowledgeable on the area to insist on joining him fully equipped with things like crampons due to snow and ice or he has changed what mountain they climb based on rain, wind speed and wind direction. People can easily get caught out without this knowledge so be prepared especially if travelling out of season and use this website to help plan hikes appropriate to the weather conditions.
- Kendal mint cake is gluten free and is a must try – my cousin had this as favours at his wedding and I was so happy to be able to eat it! (Note – it’s not actually cake!)
- Kin toffee vodka made locally in the Lakes is also a must try! Available in Booths or many local gift shops.
- Roads are slow and busy when driving through the Lakes and Car parks are expensive and too small in summer months so you will need patience!
- Be respectful, and take rubbish home with you. The Lake District doesn’t have the infrastructure for the crowds it now sees – hence why we often visit out of season especially since the pandemic increasing the amount of people staying in the U.K.
- Always check recommendations for yourself as staff, menus, and ingredients can and do change quickly in today’s climate. Make sure you are comfortable with cross contamination measures for yourself especially for some recommendations that I’ve added from my list but I’m yet to try as some of those haven’t been checked thoroughly by me for cross contamination controls but they are the places I plan to try in these areas. All restaurants that I’ve tried in this post have a photo included.
The Lake District is a fabulous area to visit, and I hope you have a fantastic trip. If you have any other recommendations please do add them to the comments!