Favourite place when you're off work?
I travel to Brantwood, the home of John Ruskin (www.brantwood.org.uk), on the SY Gondola, a Victorian steamboat, or the Coniston Launch, which is solar powered. Both start from the Bluebird Cafe in Coniston.
From the water, you can see places mentioned in the Swallows and Amazons books, the quirky architecture of Coniston village and Coniston Old Hall, which dates from Tudor times. The view from Ruskin's house must be the most breathtaking in the Lake District. There's a cafe nearby called Jumping Jenny (www.jumpingjenny.com), or I go for a walk with my little girl Alice, who's six. There are good low-level walks and picnic areas.
We also like to take the boat from Waterhead in Ambleside on Lake Windemere to Brockhole, where there's a brilliant, free adventure playground. We spend all day there and take a picnic, so it costs nothing.
When's a good time to come?
We love the torchlight procession in Ambleside in November. Father Christmas comes by boat, gets into a carriage and leads the lantern parade.
Anyone can join in with home-made lanterns. Then there's a firework display.
Zeffirelli's in Ambleside (015394 33845, www.zeffirellis.com) is a family-oriented vegetarian restaurant. It's not posh but it's a nice treat.
Wilf's Cafe in Staveley (01539 822329, www.wilfs-cafe.co.uk) is very popular with good, reasonably priced, home-cooked food.
Lucy's on a Plate (015394 32288, www.lucysofambleside.co.uk) is where you'd go for a special occasion. It's not the kind of place where you'd take children, but Lucy Four (also in Ambleside) is less formal - you just order lots of dishes and share. My favourite is the chocolate fondue.
Beware Parking's a problem in the villages and can be quite expensive. I don't like the World of Beatrix Potter (www.hop-skip-jump.com) in Bowness, it's quite expensive and there's not that much to see.
Don't miss For parents with children of different ages I'd recommend Grizedale Forest (www.forestry.gov.ukgrizedale).
There's art in the forest, a playground for younger children and Go Ape for older ones and a choice of walks.
Remember to buy Sweets at The Sweet Jar (www.thesweetjarambleside.co.uk), a new old-fashioned shop in Ambleside Find out more
Cumbria Tourist Board (www.golakes.co.uk); Coniston Tourist Information Centre (015394 41533, www.conistontic.org), or The Good Guide to the Lakes by Hunter Davies (Forster Davies, pound;7.99) - it has a bit of everything and is not hard going.
Where to stay
Book No 1 Silverbank in Coniston, or Stone Cottage in Patterdale, through Boutique Getaways (www.boutiquegetaways.com), a web guide that offers five-star cottages and stylish hotels.