HOLIDAYMAKERS and locals basked in an Easter heatwave, giving a welcome boost to Cumbria's tourist economy.

As temperatures soared into the early 20s across the county, people made the most of the sunny four-day weekend by heading to Lake District beauty spots and enjoying attractions such as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Holker Hall.

Meanwhile, around 2,500 people clambered aboard the special shuttle train running between Oxenholme and Windermere, which has been hailed a "massive success".

The Met Office said Easter Saturday was the warmest day of the bank holiday weekend at its Shap weather station. Temperatures peaked at 21.5°C thanks to high pressure over Scandinavia and south-easterly winds.

Good Friday saw 20.8°C recorded, and Easter Sunday reached a slightly cooler 20.1°C.

"The fantastic weather we enjoyed over the Easter weekend certainly helped to convince many people to plan a staycation over the bank holiday," said Gill Haigh, Cumbria Tourism's managing director.

"While it’s too early to know exact visitor numbers at this stage, many of our members reported a healthy four days and visually it was clear to see visitors were really enjoying their time here, both along coastal stretches and inland areas."

The Lakes Line from Oxenholme to Windermere had been set to shut over Easter due to engineering work on the West Coast Main Line.

However, after talks between Network Rail, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron and Carnforth-based West Coast Railways, a free shuttle service ran on Saturday and Sunday - averaging more than 100 passengers per journey.

Mr Farron said: “I want to say a big thank you to Network Rail, the Lakes Line Rail User Group and to everyone who has campaigned with us for a better local rail service who have helped make this happen – it was another massive success."

Ulverston's cobbled streets hosted the traditional St George's Day Pageant with music and street theatre.

At stately home Holker Hall, near Grange-over-Sands, crowds enjoyed Alice in Wonderland-themed events, Easter egg hunts, an artisan food market and plant fair. The attraction was "brimming with people", said general manager Heather Creasey.

The chance to catch a cool breeze attracted plenty of visitors aboard Windermere Lake Cruises' steamers.

Managing director Nigel Wilkinson said: "Given the political uncertainty and concerns over consumer confidence, we are relieved that when the sun has shone, the visitors have come out, enjoyed themselves and been willing to spend.”