The quaint conurbations of Bowness and Windermere lie at the heart of the Lake District on the shores of Lake Windermere. Both have been huge visitor attractions since Victorian times.
Windermere town lies furthest from the lake. It was here that the railway came, bringing visitors who all leapt off the train with buckets and spades, hampers and picnics, and promptly rushed down towards Bowness and the lake. Recently, Windermere has been given a face lift with an attractive pedestrian centre where you will find plenty of shops along with good pubs and restaurants.
Bowness is situated on the east shore of the lake, its main street climbing away from the bay up a steep hill. Always a nice holiday atmosphere, if a little crowded in peak season, the steamers offer trips up and down the lake. The Bowness settlement dates back to the 11th century during the last stages of Viking expansion. For years Bowness remained little more than a few cottages and fisherman’s huts until the arrival of the steam railway to the Lake District region.
Out and About
Today, much of the action takes place close to the shops, pubs and restaurants, and the boat terminus. Here you can board one of the steamers and cruise up and down the lake, calling in at Ambleside in the north or Lakeside down at the southern tip of Lake Windermere.
For the best fudge you'll ever try, stop into Roly's Fudge on Ash Street and taste the impressive range of flavours as you watch it being made. Even though you may have good intentions to bring the fudge home as gifts it may not make the journey, so pop into Herdy's around the corner to pick up some interesting souvenirs. If you wander away from the main streets past the pier to Glebe Road, you can pick up some unique home furnishings at FAB Home Interiors, you won't leave empty-handed.
The Old Laundry is both a theatre and host to an exhibition dedicated to the characters of Beatrix Potter and is a great favourite with children. At the top end of the town is the Royalty Cinema. South, on the Newby Bridge Road, is the newly restored Blackwell Arts and Crafts House. This perfect example of the Arts and Crafts movement also houses a fine gallery of modern art. For shopping, there is a mix of grocers, fashion stores, with Booth's supermarket located in Windermere and a Tesco Express in Bowness. For dining, you will find a large selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants.
The Porto Restaurant at the bottom of Bowness has garnered some excellent reviews for its dishes. The Bodega Tapas Bar comes highly recommended by locals and the press, and in Windermere, you can find the fine fish and seafood establishment Hooked – advance booking is advised. Francine’s is a relaxed and friendly bistro-style restaurant with an a-la-carte menu and daily specials. It is popular with visitors that are seeking a quieter place to eat and sample some local ales. Seafood is their passion with freshly prepared lobsters, large bowls of steaming mussels and fish casseroles.
Explore the enticing maze of little lanes where you will find pretty cafes and independent shops, along with a post office, grand hotels and the oldest pub, The Hole Int’ Wall. The name comes from the days when ale was passed through a hole to the then adjoining blacksmith. The Church of St Martins is a handsome edifice in the oldest part of Bowness. Head north toward Ambleside and you have Brockhole, the National Park Visitor Centre. Here, there are indoor exhibitions, the famous Thomas Mawson gardens and an exciting adventure playground ensuring there is something for all the family. There are also boat trips and other watercraft for hire.
Along the bay on the Glebe, is a marina with lots of boat shops for cleats, rowlocks, diving and sailing gear, along with a few bars and cafes that overlook the water. The Windermere Steamboat Museum lies on the Rayrigg Road. Here, you get a wonderful insight into a more genteel age of boating, and you can book a trip on one of their fine restored steamboats. This is currently enjoying a period of restoration and will be re-opened to the public in late 2018.
For local walks, find the path that runs between Lake Windermere, from the railway entrance leading up onto Orrest Head. Here you will see some of the finest views in the Lake District and Cumbrian Mountains - do take a camera.
Other circuits include the 9.2-mile loop via Crinkle Crags, Cold Pike, and the Pike of Blisco. Another walk with spectacular views of the region is the 9.5 miles trail up the Old Man of Coniston to Black Crag, Swirl How, and Wetherlam. You'll find more ideas for walks and days out in the region here.
Stay in Windermere or Bowness
If you've been inspired to visit these two charming lakeside villages, head on over to our cottages in Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere to help plan your perfect Lake District holiday.