Quick Guide to Windermere
Stretching for 10.5 miles between Ambleside and Newby Bridge, Windermere isn’t just the queen of Lake District lakes – it’s also the largest body of water anywhere in England.
Windermere has been a centre for tourism since the first trains chugged into town in 1847 and it’s still one of the National Park’s busiest spots.
Confusingly, the town of Windermere is split in two: Windermere Town is actually 1.5 miles from the lake, at the top of a steep hill, while touristy Bowness-on-Windermere (usually shortened just to Bowness) sits on the lake’s eastern shore. Tour and explore the area, you could start with a few featured places below.
Windermere & the Islands
Windermere gets its name from the old Norse, Vinandr mere (Vinandr’s lake; so ‘Lake Windermere’ is actually tautologous). Encompassing 5.7 sq miles between Ambleside and Newby Bridge, the lake is a mile wide at its broadest point, with a maximum depth of about 220m. It’s a nice place to hire a boat for the afternoon, but it is far and away the busiest of the lakes.
Windermere Lake Cruses offer sightseeing cruises, departing from Bowness Pier.
The lake’s shoreline is owned by a combination of private landholders, the National Park Authority and the National Trust, but the lakebed itself (and thus the lake itself) officially belongs to the people of Windermere (local philanthropist Henry Leigh Groves purchased it on their behalf in 1938).
There are 18 islands on Windermere: the largest is Belle Isle, encompassing 16 hectares and an 18th-century Italianate mansion, while the smallest is Maiden Holme, little more than a patch of soil and a solitary tree.
World of Beatrix Potter
This themed attraction brings to life various scenes from Beatrix Potter’s books, including Peter Rabbit’s garden, Mr McGregor’s greenhouse, Mrs Tiggy-winkle’s kitchen and Jemima Puddle-Duck’s glade (there’s even a themed tearoom). A recent addition is the Where is Peter Rabbit? musical theatre show (adult/child/family £10.50/8/35, late May to September), which features puppets and characters from the stories.
While being squarely aimed at kids, adult Potter fans might enjoy indulging their inner child. Well worth a visit!
Fell Foot Park
Located at the southern end of Windermere, 7 miles south of Bowness, this 7-hectare lakeside estate originally belonged to a manor house. It’s now owned by the National Trust and its shoreline paths and grassy lawns are ideal for a sunny-day picnic. There’s a small cafe and rowing boats are available for hire.
Two miles south of Bowness on the B5360, Blackwell House is a glorious example of the 19th-century Arts and Crafts Movement, which championed handmade goods and craftsmanship over the mass-produced mentality of the Industrial Revolution.
Designed by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott for Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy brewer, the house shimmers with Arts and Crafts details: light, airy rooms, bespoke craftwork, wood panelling, stained glass and delft tiles. The mock-medieval Great Hall and serene White Drawing Room are particularly fabulous.
Millions of people visit the Windermere area each year. The A591 is one of the main routes into the Lake District, and there are car parks close to the lake shore. Or ditch the car in favour of the bus, train, cycle, boat or just your own two feet! Windermere train station is the end of the branch line and has direct trains which run as far south as Manchester Airport. You can transfer at Oxenholme The Lake District (near Kendal) on the main West Coast line to the Windermere branch line. Oxenholme to Windermere takes approximately half an hour.
Windermere train station is the end of the branch line and has direct trains which run as far south as Manchester Airport. You can transfer at Oxenholme The Lake District (near Kendal) on the main West Coast line to the Windermere branch line. Oxenholme to Windermere takes approximately half an hour.