10 best walks around Windermere holiday cottages

10 best walks around Windermere

Joe 29 March 2021

Windermere is the longest natural lake in England, and possibly the most popular! It winds over 11 miles from bustling Ambleside in the north all the way down to the National Trust's 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. You can reach all parts of it very easily from our cottages in Bowness and Windermere, Ambleside, or around the lake.

Walks around Windermere are varied and beautiful. There are challenging high mountain paths with rough terrain in some areas, and fully accessible lakeside walks in others. They can range in length from a couple of miles for a pre-dinner stroll, to an all-day hike. Whatever your preference or ability, Windermere has a walk that’s just perfect for you.

 1. Gummer’s How

Gummer’s How

Start/Finish: Gummer’s How car park

Approximate length: 2 miles

One of the handy things 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. Orrest Head

Orrest Head

Start/Finish: Windermere village Tourist Information Centre

Approximate length: 2 miles

This spot has played a very important role in Lake District history, as it was 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.

3. Windermere Western Shore and Wray Castle

Wray Castle

Start/Finish: Harrowslack National Trust car park

Approximate length: 4/8 miles

For this walk, which is a miles without stiles route, you can start at the car park at Harrowslack or, if you prefer to go car free, catch the ferry from Bowness to nearby Ferry House. From there, 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 cake 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 transporting 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!

4. Stockghyll Force

Stockghyll Force

Start/Finish: Central Ambleside

Approximate length: 2.5 miles

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?

5. High Dam and Stott Park Heights

Start/Finish: Car park behind Stott Park Bobbin Mill

Approximate length: 2 miles

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.

6. Claife Viewing Station

Claife Viewing Station

Start/Finish: National Trust Visitor Centre, Claife

Approximate length: 2 miles

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!

7. Blelham Tarn

Start/Finish: Wray Castle

Approximate length: 2.5 miles

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!

8. Town End Toddle

Start/Finish: Town End House

Approximate length: 3 miles

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 safely!

9. Wansfell Pike

Wansfell Pike

Start/Finish: Ambleside shore

Approximate length: 5 miles

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!).

10. Loughrigg


Start/Finish: Rothay Park

Approximate length: 5 miles

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. These are part of an old quarry and the largest has excellent acoustics as well as fish darting about the pools and magical stepping stones into the depths!


Windermere is the biggest natural lake in the country and much of the shore is privately owned. While it is possible to do a circular walk, the route is very long (around 30 miles), though takes in many interesting sites. There are also many walks around shorter sections of Windermere that are very enjoyable.

Because much of Windermere’s shore is privately owned, a circular walk around the lake is considerably extended, often away from the water. Doing the whole walk in one go is likely to take most people over 10 hours. Alternatively, the route can be broken down into smaller, more manageable sections.

Everyone you ask will have a different opinion about the best walk in the Lake District. Many consider Helvellyn and Striding Edge as the ultimate Lake District walk, while others prefer the circular stroll around picturesque Tarn Hows. Fortunately, the Lake District has walking routes to suit all tastes and abilities so you can explore and find your own favourite.

Lake Windermere is a popular wild swimming location, and is even home to the annual Great North Swim. Though much of the shoreline is privately owned, there are still plenty of locations where you can take the plunge, including at Fell Foot Park and Borrans Park. There’s even a lakeside pub where you can finish off for refreshments!

Plan your getaway to Windermere

We have dozens of places to stay scattered all around wonderful Windermere – all you have to do is click here and find your favourite! Or find your perfect property with our cottage search. You'll also find lots more walks to try in our ultimate guide to the best Lake District walks.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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