As more signs of spring finally begin to emerge, it is time to think ahead to better weather and plan some days out and weekends away.
And if you haven’t visited the Lake District National Park and its surrounding area yet, then you’re in for a real treat.
So what are some of the best autism friendly activities in the Lake District for 2020 for someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Where exactly is the Lake District National Park?
The Lake District National Park, often shortened to the Lakes, is a protected region in Cumbria, in the north west of England.
It is home to England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, its deepest lake, Wastwater and its longest lake – the famous Lake Windermere.
The Lake District is England’s largest National Park and is now also a World Heritage Site. And its popularity shows no signs of slowing, with over 15 million people visiting every year.
Visitors enjoy walking, climbing, cycling, sailing and caving here. Fans of Alfred Wainwright can explore his 214 fell walks with illustrations and younger visitors can track down children’s author, Beatrix Potter’s many sites of interest.
2020 autism friendly activities in the Lake District
Finding activities suitable for children and adults with ASD in the Lake District can take some planning and, as with anything, it can pay to contact a venue in advance, to ensure they have everything in place to make your visit as enjoyable as possible.
Most tourist attractions are more than happy to accommodate visitors with additional needs.
So what are some of the best autism friendly activities in the Lake District for 2020?
Here are 5 of our favourites:
1. Take in the latest film at the Kendal Brewery Arts Centre
The Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal is a dynamic arts organisation and registered charity, which has been delivering artistic events, festivals and creative learning courses since 1972.
Set in a beautiful, historic building, right in the centre of the picturesque market town of Kendal, the centre also features a cinema, which offers regular Relaxed Screenings, suitable for people who are on the autistic spectrum, have Tourette syndrome, anxiety, sensory difficulties or other learning disabilities – perfect if you are looking for something to do on a rainy day in the Lakes!
These screenings offer visitors the chance to see all the latest releases on the big screen but in a more relaxed environment.
This means that the cinema is not in complete darkness and the sound is played at a lower volume. And of course, it is not expected that everyone attending will be silent or remain seated throughout the film.
If you fancy something to eat before or after the film, you can take full advantage of the onsite restaurant and bar, known as the Vats Bar, which serves some of the best pizzas in the area.
2. Bounce through the tree tops in Windermere
Kids (plus adults!) will love the novelty and sense of freedom of exploring over 1750 square metres of super-bouncy, tree top nets and aerial walkways in the heart of the Lake District.
Featuring four slides, a crawl tunnel and a ball zone, TreeTops nets near Brockhole on Windermere offers the perfect way to explore the forest canopy, without risk of harm.
The whole area is completely surrounded by high walls of netting, leaving you free to explore the trees without the need for a harness. And, better still, no previous experience or skill is required.
Even the most energetic will have let off steam by the end of a two hour free play session high up in the trees. And the more adventurous might like to attempt the nearby tree top trek high wire adventure and zip wires.
This location is particularly suitable for anyone with autism as all full time staff have undertaken Disability Awareness Training and they regularly work with SEND children, particularly those with autism.
In 2019, Treetops was awarded Highly Commended in the Cumbria Tourism award for Accessible & Inclusive Tourism and shortlisted again for the Accessible for All title in the national Staycation Awards.
3. Scale the tallest indoor climbing wall in England
The centre welcomes individual climbers alongside families, friends and larger groups.
And if you or someone in your party has autism, they are more than willing to accommodate your requirements, with a little bit of advanced notice so that they can plan ahead.
This could include booking you in for a quieter time of the day as well as ensuring you get private one to one instruction, to avoid larger groups.
Music can be turned off and to help you to plan in advance, their website even has a 3D 360 degree virtual tour of the centre that you can browse at your leisure. That way, you know exactly what to expect, long before you arrive.
4. Go deep underground at Honister Slate Mine
Honister Slate Mine, is the last working slate mine in England and one of the best Lake District activities if it’s raining – and, as any frequent visitor to the Lakes will tell you, there’s always a good chance of rainfall here!
Wearing hard hats and head torches, you will be given a 90 minute, fully guided tour of this historic underground space, to learn more about its 450-million-year-old volcanic Westmorland green slate.
Expect to go deep into the underground tunnels and caverns in the Fleetwith Pike and get first-hand experience of life for the miners through the ages.
All staff at Honister receive disability awareness training and there’s also a café on site serving soup, bacon sandwiches and home-made cakes as well as tea and coffee.
If you are fan of climbing, you can even climb the cave, following the route of the original underground mine workings, complete with vertical climbs, rope-bridge crossings and steel ladder ascents.
Or, if you prefer to be outside and are not afraid of heights, you might fancy your hand at either the via-ferrata or the Infinity Bridge, which is set 2,000 feet above the valley floor! The views are spectacular.
5. Choose a riding lesson on a real pony or an RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) simulator
Horse riding has long been a popular activity for young people and adults with autism spectrum disorder.
And in the first large study of its kind, researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus showed “a lasting reduction in irritability and other positive social and communication impacts on children with autism through therapeutic horse riding.”(Source)
There is no shortage of places to ride a horse in the Lake District. Whether you fancy a one to one lesson in an indoor school, or a hack in the open countryside, there’s something that will suit everyone in your group.
Happy Hooves runs an RDA programme which can benefit riders with cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and autism.
They offer individual, group lessons or four week courses and make sure that each individual has their own tailored lesson plan, based on experience and ability.
They even have a life sized (and perfectly behaved!) horse simulator called Mr Williams – ideal for anyone who is nervous about trying out riding for the first time!
Autism friendly accommodation in the Lake District
Perfectly placed for exploring Cumbria, you can stay in one of YHA’s 18 different hostels in the Lake District.
From YHA Skiddaw Bunkhouse in the north, surrounded by mountains and accessible only on foot or by mountain bike, down to YHA Windermere in the south, set in four acres of wooded grounds, there’s something for everyone.
Our hostels are popular with guests with autism, who love the continuity of our bunkbeds, decor and safe social spaces in which you can relax and be yourself. We offer private rooms or dorm rooms.
Each of our 18 locations offers something individual and special. To find out the hostel best suited to you, check out the YHA website.