Best bike rides near Bowness and Windermere holiday cottages

Best bike rides near Bowness and Windermere

Kim 03 May 2022

The Lake District and cycling go together like tea and cake. And following an invigorating ride, a hot drink and a sweet treat will be the perfect reward for your efforts. Let’s explore the best bike rides around one of the most spectacular parts of the southern Lakes, the town of Windermere and its neighbour, Bowness-on-Windermere.

Cycling is a terrific way to get around the Lake District. As well as the exercise and freedom from traffic jams, you can breathe in the fresh Cumbrian air as you take in our stunning scenery. There are dozens of cycling routes to enjoy in the Lake District National Park but for now, let’s focus on a range of Lake District cycling routes around the awe-inspiring Bowness, and Windermere, England’s biggest lake.

Before we set off on our tour, a few words of advice: always ensure that your bike is up to standard and suitable for your chosen route; wear a sturdy helmet when cycling, and pack enough food and water for your trip. Finally, take a map with you in case of wrong turns.

Windermere Western Shore

Windermere Western Shore

Approximate distance: 8 miles round trip
Difficulty: Suitable for all

Windermere’s serene western shore is a family-friendly cycling route and perfect for a leisurely day out. There are long, mostly traffic-free bridleways that offer a gentle ride with wonderful views of historic Wray Castle and the Claife estate.

It’s easily accessed via the Bike Boat from Brockhole or by car from Wray Castle. You can also reach the western shore on the Bowness-on-Windermere car ferry.

If you’re feeling peckish or want to quench your thirst, stop for refreshments at Wray Castle or the always popular Claife Viewing Station.

Windermere to Grizedale Forest

Cycling in Grizedale Forest

Approximate distance: 7 miles from Windermere to Grizedale. Assorted mountain bike trails within the forest, varying between 2-14 miles.
Difficulty: Trails rank from easy to hard

As well as breathtaking views, Grizedale Forest offers some of the finest mountain bike routes in the Lake District. Nestled between Lake Windermere and Coniston, it’s 10 square miles of playground for adventure seekers. 

It’s a lovely cycle to the forest from Windermere and once there, you have a choice of seven trails to explore; from the easy Hawkshead Moor Trail with views of Coniston Old Man to the more challenging Black MTB Trail for expert riders. 

As you cycle your chosen trail, look out for over 40 fascinating sculptures dotted about the park, many of which are hidden within the forest. Established in 1977, Grizedale was the UK’s first forest for sculpture, and works continue to be added to it every year.

Windermere to Kendal

Enjoy cycling from Windermere to Kendal

Approximate distance: 11.5 miles one way (23 miles round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate

For more experienced cyclists, this is an enjoyable route through some of the Lake District’s most glorious countryside. For those of you after a leisurely cycle, hop on the train to Kendal and cycle back, or vice versa. 

The National Route 6 cycle path runs from Windermere alongside the River Kent via the picturesque villages of Staveley and Burneside. Staveley offers more than quaint pubs and refreshment stops; it’s also home to the biggest bike shop in the UK, Wheelbase. So, after a cup of tea and a hearty lunch, you can shop for all things bike-related.

Famous for its delicious energy-giving mint cake, Kendal is an attractive market town with a thriving arts and culture scene. We recommend spending at least a few hours there before your return to Windermere.

Beatrix Potter MTB Trail

Have fun on the Beatrix Potter MTB trail

Approximate distance: 10.6 miles round trip
Difficulty: Suitable for all

Take in famed writer Beatrix Potter’s favourite haunts in this fun mountain bike ride. 

Setting off from Hawkshead, the Beatrix Potter Trail is a fantastic way to soak up the scenery and learn about one of the country’s most beloved writers. Before leaving the village, why not pop into the Beatrix Potter Gallery? This charming National Trust gallery, once the office of Potter’s solicitor husband, exhibits some of her original artwork.

After your art stop, cycle south-east out of Hawkshead alongside Esthwaite Water, towards Lake Windermere. Riding through Sawrey, you’ll pass Beatrix Potter’s first farm, Hilltop Farm, now managed by the National Trust. 

Head north along the traffic-free western shore trail of Lake Windermere to Wray Castle, an area Beatrix visited extensively as a child and make your way up to Potter’s home village of Near Sawrey. Cycle back to Hawkshead for a rewarding drink in one of its quaint pubs.

Claife Heights

Enjoy stunning views of Lake Windermere from Claife Heights

Approximate distance: 9 miles round trip
Difficulty: Suitable for all

The great news is that the Claife Heights mountain bike trail is accessible to all and enjoys magnificent views of Lake Windermere. 

Your adventure starts by parking up at Ferry Nab, Bowness-on-Windermere, and taking the 10-minute ‘Mallard’ ferry over to Far Sawrey. After disembarking, cycle a third of a mile, then turn right onto a minor road that runs alongside Lake Windermere. Here, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of Belle Island and Thompson’s Holme. 

The Lake Trail continues for another 2.5 miles before entering a lovely wooded area. The next stop is High Wray where you’ll want to take a left to join the bridleway to the photogenic Gate With Many Locks. After a bit of an uphill stroll (or cycle, if you can manage it), you’ll pass Wise Een Tarn and Moss Eccles Tarn before continuing downhill for 1.5 miles. Keep to the right and cycle carefully onto the B5285 to the village of Near Sawrey. Here, you’ll find Beatrix Potter’s delightful Hilltop House and an excuse for a well-deserved refreshment stop. Continue along the B5285 and back to the ‘Mallard’ ferry.


What's the easiest circular route around Windermere?

Windermere is the biggest natural lake in England and much of the shore is privately owned, so there is no really easy circular route. You can follow a rough route around the lake, though it is about 30 miles long, so not easy. Instead, there are lots of wonderful traffic-free cycle paths to enjoy around shorter sections of the lake.

Self-catering cottages in the Lake District

We have a gorgeous selection of self-catering cottages in Windermere, the perfect cosy bolt hole from which to plan your cycling break in the Lakes.

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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