Ambleside is a small Lake District town surrounded by beautiful and inspiring scenery which is ideal for a cottage break. Dramatic mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the little town, with its busy market place packed full of interesting shops and three cinemas. A holiday in Ambleside offers walking for all abilities with gentle lakeside strolls and spectacular high level routes to explore. Here is our guide to the Top Ten Things to do in Ambleside on Holiday.
Visit Bridge House
Bridge House is an iconic Lake District attraction dating back to the 17th century. It is also one of the most photographed buildings in the Lakes. The tiny building stands over Stock Beck and serves as a small shop for the National Trust. At one time, Stock Beck powered a number of watermills, producing corn, bobbins, fabrics and paper. Some still remain and you can see one of these mills and original workings opposite the Giggling Goose Café.
See the mighty Stock Ghyll Force
Stock Beck is a tributary of the River Rothay. The beck flows through a dramatic ravine and is only a short hike from Ambleside town. There is a viewpoint to admire the spectacular 70-foot waterfall named Stock Ghyll Force. The water crashes through a series of waterfalls before it reaches the town and flows under the famous Bridge House.
Discover Ambleside Roman Fort
During the Roman Empire, Ambleside was a very important site. The Romans built a fort at Waterhead between Windermere and Ambleside to guard their important supply road between Brougham and Ravenglass. The fort was called Galava and dates back to Hadrian's rule (2nd century). The site is free to visit and there are plenty of information boards to explain the layout of the ruins.
Entertain the little ones
There are plenty of things to do in Ambleside for families. White Platts Recreation Centre is right in the town centre and has a putting green, a brilliant crazy golf course, tennis courts and a play area. The Ambleside climbing wall is also good fun with a kids' club, bouldering room and a lovely café.
Head to the cinema
Zeffirellis is an independent cinema, established over 30 years ago. As well as showing the latest film releases, there is a jazz bar with live bands and fabulous vegetarian Italian restaurants. Another great place to catch a film is Fellinis, a modern vegetarian restaurant with a screen upstairs playing international, niche and art house films.
Enjoy the shops!
Ambleside has a fantastic selection of shops selling everything from books and clothing to luxury bath products. Our favourites include the Apple Pie Bakery, Detail for funky cards and gifts and Hayes Garden Centre for the wonderful seasonal displays. As you would expect, Ambleside has excellent independent outdoor shops for walkers, cyclists and climbers. You won’t find a better place to shop for new kit or to seek the advice of local outdoor enthusiasts.
Go on a historical tour around Above Stock
Situated in the heart of the lakes, the town of Ambleside as it appears today is largely due to the building boom during the Victorian era which catered for a mass arrival of tourists. Before the railway brought tourism to the area, Ambleside was known as Above Stock and consisted of a settlement uphill of the main town with several lanes and narrow alleys lined with quaint old cottages dating back to the 1700s. You can explore this historical part of Ambleside by picking up a town trail leaflet from the Armitt Museum.
Experience amazing walks
Ambleside is perfect for walking enthusiasts. Our favourites include lovely little Loughrigg Fell, Wansfell and the Fairfield Horseshoe. Loughrigg Fell is a pleasant walk overlooking Grasmere and Rydal Water. There are several gentle paths leading to beautiful viewpoints and picnic locations making it perfect for a family day out. Make sure you include a visit to the cave with the jagged open mouth! Wansfell is a medium-sized mountain with a stunning view over Ambleside and Windermere from the summit. It can be reached along Nanny Lane (from Troutbeck) or directly from Ambleside town starting from Stockghyll Force. The Fairfield Horseshoe is a stunning mountain walk featuring 8 different mountain tops (great for Wainwright fans). Experience panoramic views across the Lake District on this walk from Ullswater to the Scafells. Many of our holiday cottages in Ambleside have excellent walks from the door.
Relax at a traditional pub or local cafe
Ambleside is known for its amazing selection of pubs and has one of the highest pubs to people ratios in the Lake District. There are family-friendly pubs, traditional walkers' inns, pet-friendly pubs and stylish modern bars. We love the Golden Rule for its traditional and unique atmosphere. You can also get a great cup of tea and delicious slice of cake at Rattle Ghyll Café. It is a tiny little dog-friendly café in a beautiful old building with a warm and friendly atmosphere. If you're after hearty homemade food, Daisy’s Café is perfect with its large breakfasts and big pint mugs of tea.
View all our self catering cottages in Ambleside, read our introduction to Sally's Lake District Cottages and see our selection of dog-friendly cottages.
Explore a gallery or museum
Ambleside has a vibrant cultural scene with several museums, galleries and studios. The Heaton Cooper Studio is a gallery and art shop which was founded by the landscape artist Alfred Heaton Cooper in 1905. For years, the Studio's paintings and books have influenced the way the landscape of the Lake District National Park has been viewed. Some of our other favourite galleries are the Old Court House, Walton Mount, Cookhouse and Hobbs. The Armitt Library and Museum is a hub of local history and Beatrix Potter donated many of her natural history watercolours here.