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Windermere is the largest lake in England measuring 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 219 feet at its deepest point. Its name Windermere, comes from the Norse hero, Winand aka Vinandr, and until the 20th century the waters were used was a busy highway for ferrying iron ore and passengers.
There's lots to do both on and around Lake Windermere, whether you fancy taking a scenic stroll around the shoreline or trying your hand at a range of water sports. There are also lots of choices of places to stop for refreshments within the collection of towns and villages that are scattered around Windermere's glistening waters.
Take to the Windermere water
It would be a shame to visit Windermere without taking to the water. Fortunately there are lots of ways to do this with everything from a relaxing steamer cruise around the lake to a spot of paddle-boarding.
Windermere Lake Cruises
Explore Windermere by boat with a choice of lake cruises that range between 45 minutes and 3 hours. Boats can be boarded from Bowness, Lakeside or Ambleside and all day parking is available near the Lakeside and Ambleside piers.
Popular options include a Freedom of The Lake ticket which allows passengers unlimited Windermere cruises for 24 hours and the Red Cruise which travels from Ambleside to Bowness and back again.
During the summer months you can enjoy an evening buffet cruise which includes live music, a fully licenced bar and a dance floor within the boat.
Boat Hire and Watersports
If you fancy ditching the organised cruise and exploring Windermere on your own terms, you can hire either self drive motor boats or traditional rowing boats to travel around the lake.
Boats can be hired from either Bowness or Ambleside and no experience is necessary. You’ll get a full safety briefing, life jackets and a guide to sailing on Windermere before you set off on your journey across the lake.
Watersports available on Windermere include kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding. Windermere Canoe Kayak can provide equipment hire and lessons from their boathouse on Ferry Nab.
Things to do around Windermere
There’s plenty to see and do around Lake Windermere including a heritage steam railway, a fairytale castle, a beautiful country park and Beatrix Potter’s former home.
Catch a boat to Wray Castle from Ambleside’s Waterhead Pier and explore the beautiful grounds and family activity rooms at this fairytale mock gothic fortress.
Brockhole is the Lake District National Park visitor centre and includes a whole raft of family-friendly activities on the shores of Lake Windermere. Alongside an adventure playground, mini golf and treetop treks, Brockhole is home to the popular Brave the Cave experience where children can journey through a series of underground tunnels.
Fell Foot is a National Trust owned country park where you can hire rowing boats from a refurbished Victorian boathouse, enjoy a paddle in the lake or go on a nature trail around the grounds. Wood-fired pizza is served from a specially converted Landrover on Thursday evenings and the Boathouse Cafe at Fell Foot serves a range of coffee, cakes and snacks.
Hill Top is a 17th century farmhouse and the former home of Beatrix Potter, bought with the profits she made from The Tale of Peter Rabbit. During a visit to this National Trust site you can view the author’s original artwork, see items Beatrix collected during her lifetime and take a wander in the gardens that inspired her famous woodland tales.
The World of Beatrix Potter is based in Bowness and brings characters such as Mrs Tiggywinkle and Jemima Puddleduck to life with recreated scenes from the much loved books and a Peter Rabbit show garden. There’s also the chance to take a virtual walk through the locations that inspired Beatrix and learn more about the author’s life in the Lake District.
Take a scenic 3-mile trip through the Lake District countryside on a restored Lakeside & Haverthwaite heritage steam train. Haverthwaite Station includes a traditional tea room, an engine shed where you can see the locomotives up close and a raised picnic area where you can watch the trains go by.
Lake Windermere’s Towns and Villages
Image: Cumbria Tourism
Bowness is a honeypot Cumbrian town that’s a big draw for visitors to the Lake District. Browse independent shops and art galleries, catch a ferry across the lake from Bowness Pier and play a game of crazy golf at Glebe Park on the shores of Windermere.
Ambleside is another popular Lake District town on the north shore of Windermere. There’s a great selection of shops, restaurants, pubs and even a cinema in the form of Zeffirellis where you can also watch live music. Catch a ferry to a variety of Windermere destinations from Ambleside’s Waterhead Pier which dates back to 1845.
The picturesque village of Hawkshead has connections to both William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter and is home to pretty whitewashed cottages, tearooms and charming pubs clustered around historic courtyards and squares. Famous buildings include Hawkshead Hall which once belonged to the monks of Furness Abbey and The Old Grammar School which William Wordsworth once attended and is today houses an exhibition dedicated to the poet.
Plan your visit to Lake Windermere
We have some lovely holiday cottages around Lake Windermere. Please visit our collection to feel inspired and start planning your next short break or holiday to this gorgeous part of the Lake District.