Welcome to the longest natural lake in England! Wonderful Windermere is the most popular lake in the Lake District and winds over 11 miles from bustling Ambleside in the north all the way down to picturesque Fell Foot Park in the south. It’s fairly narrow and dotted with islands, which we think makes it even prettier, and there are plenty of places to explore around the shores. To make the most of the area, take a look at our holiday cottages around Windermere.
Note: All of these walks can be found on OS Map OL7 – The English Lakes, South eastern area. Please remember that these are summary descriptions only and you should always get hold of a full route description and map before setting off. Always wear appropriate footwear and clothing, even on shorter walks, and take plenty of food and drinking water too!
1. Gummer’s How – 2 miles
Start/Finish: Gummer’s How car park
The very best thing about Gummer’s How is that you can drive most of the way up it – just follow the narrow winding road opposite Fell Foot Park and look out for the car park on your right after a mile or so. The route is well signposted and the views are stupendous! Towards the top there’s a choice between a gentle winding route around the back or a short scramble to the summit – the scramble is huge fun for kids so, obviously, that’s the route we always choose! If you’re visiting between November and March this is a great place to spot an inversion: when the clouds linger down in the valleys leaving the peaks sunny and blue.
2. High Dam and Stott Park Heights – 2 miles
Start/Finish:car park behind Stott Park Bobbin Mill
This is a very popular spot with locals and a swim in High Dam is the perfect way to cool down after a hot day on the hills. There’s a splendid woodland route winding up along the beck to High Dam, an artificial tarn, then around and out onto Stott Park Heights where there are glorious views up along Windermere. This route is definitely off the beaten track so tends to be a lot quieter than many other places. Stott Park Bobbin Mill is also worth a visit while you’re in the area and tells you all about how Cumbria produced the bobbins to support the Lancashire mills.
3. Claife Viewing Station – 2 miles
Start/Finish: National Trust Visitor Centre, Claife
Claife Viewing Station has been restored and returned to its former glory so that you can take a step back in time and enjoy a view of the Lake District that was popular with our Victorian ancestors. The Victorians liked to explore the lakes by way of viewing stations, which were dotted all over the county, though very few now remain. Claife was once the site of posh dinners and dancing into the early hours and today affords fantastic views along the lake. The beautiful coloured panels in the windows frame every picture perfectly. Once you’re done exploring the station, follow the route up and around and loop back via Far Sawry – but make sure you’re back before the tea shop closes!
4. Orrest Head – 2 miles
Start/Finish: Windermere village Tourist Information Centre
This is possibly the most famous view in the county as it’s the place where a young Alfred Wainwright came on his first ever visit; the view so inspired him that he moved here and wrote his famous series of guidebooks! Aside from the magnificent views, this route has a lot going for it; it’s clear and easy to follow, there are loads of benches on the summit to rest your weary legs, there’s an information board at the top to fill you in on the history and, once you’re all done and dusted, there’s a vast array of fabulous eateries in Windermere where you can enjoy a well earned dinner.
5. Wray Castle – 4/8 miles
Start/Finish: Windermere ferry
From the ferry, follow the broad track north along the lake all the way up to the bonkers (but fabulous) Wray Castle. It’s a nice flat walk and is perfect for the whole family. Once you’re up at Wray you can explore the curious castle, enjoy tea and cakes and, if you don’t fancy the 4-mile walk back, pick up a ride from Windermere Lake Cruises to get you back into town. There has been a ferry ferrying people across this point in Windermere for over 500 years but these days it’s just a short 10-minute ride from shore to shore!
6. Blelham Tarn – 2.5 miles
Start/Finish: Wray Castle
This is the perfect walk for escaping the crowds and we can almost guarantee you’ll hardly see another soul up here! Blelham Tarn is teeming with wildlife and often experiences blue/green algae blooms, so don’t go diving in and best to keep your dog on a lead. In a region with so much dramatic scenery, this tarn is a gentle wonder with extensive reed beds and a profusion of birds and fish. In fact, the wildlife is so bountiful that the tarn is classed as Eutrophic, which means the water has an abundance of nutrients leading to huge biological diversity, so keep your camera handy, you never know what you might spot!
7. Town End Toddle – 3 miles
Start/Finish: Town End House
If you like a walk with a spot of history, then this is the one for you. Townend House in Troutbeck, Windermere, is a stupendous structure and, if you don’t fancy the full tour, you can simply stand outside and admire the magnificent chimneys. From just north of the house the track leads up onto the hillside where you can follow Robin Lane – once part of the old Roman road linking Penrith to Ravenglass. The rocks around the waterfalls at Skelghyll are perfect for a picnic before you drop down to follow Skelghyll Lane back to your start point. This is also a wonderful spot to watch the sunset – just remember your torch so you can get back to the car!
8. Wansfell Pike – 5 miles
Start/Finish: Ambleside shore
This is a proper leg stretcher so make sure you’re well prepared with good shoes and plenty of tea in your flask. Wansfell Pike is very exposed, but that means there’s nothing in the way spoiling your views and, from the top, you can count the stunning fells disappearing into the distance in every direction. There are usually plenty of fell ponies along this route who are perfectly friendly and generally pose wonderfully for photographs (but please take your snaps from a reasonable distance!).
9. Stockghyll Force – 2.5 miles
Start/Finish: central Ambleside
Head out of Ambleside along Stockghyll Lane and look for the footpath leading into the woodland alongside the waterfalls. There are a variety of routes in and around the falls but, if you check your OS Map, you’ll spot a nice circular walk that loops up around Low Grove and drops back into Ambleside along Kirkstone Road. This route has it all: placid pools, lush woodland, and thundering falls – what’s not to love?
10. Loughrigg – 5 miles
Start/Finish: Rothay Park
For many people Loughrigg is the ‘must do’ fell on a visit to Ambleside but it’s quite challenging and best-suited to those who have some experience of hill walking. From the top there are perfect views of the Langdale Pikes and, if you drop down via Loughrigg Terrace and Rydal Water you’ll find some magnificent caves to explore. The huge cave is part of an old quarry and it has excellent acoustics as well as fish darting about the pools and magical stepping stones into the depths!
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- Sally's Favourite Winter Walk in Bowness-on-Windermere
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- 9 Family-friendly Fell Walks
- 1-Hour Walks in the Lake District