Windermere is one of the most popular locations for a Lake District holiday. It is blessed with beautiful scenery and plenty of great things to see and do. Windermere is the perfect location for a Lake District short break in a holiday cottage as you can pack a lot in over a weekend. The town is right on the lake, ideal for getting out and about from our Windermere cottages and exploring all that the area has to offer. Here are our favourite things about Windermere.
Bowness-on-Windermere sits right on Lake Windermere and has beautiful piers with scenic views. The town of Windermere is a mile or so uphill from Bowness, within walking distance, and these two small towns are almost inseparable. Bowness is one of the busiest places in the Lakes and the promenade at Bowness Bay is one of the most popular places for hiring rowing and motor boats.
Stretching for over 10 miles between Ambleside and Newby Bridge, Windermere is the largest lake in both the Lake District and England. The lake is home to the biggest open-water swimming event, the Great North Swim, where participants compete in a 1-mile swim from Low Wood Bay.
Things to do with kids
There are plenty of family-friendly activities in Windermere. At Brockhole Visitor Centre you can discover all the different things to do and enjoy tree top trekking, mini golf and cycling. There are beautiful gardens to explore, an indoor soft play and ever-changing exhibitions. To the south of Windermere Lake, Fell Foot Park is a great place to explore and relax. There are lovely lawns to enjoy games and picnics. The park is set on the lake and perfect for paddling, swimming and boating.
A trip on the steamers
One of our favourite things to do in Windermere is to take a trip on the Windermere Lake Cruises. It's the perfect way to enjoy the scenery and explore Lake Windermere. The steamers and launches sail from Bowness to Waterhead and Lakeside or you can hop on the island cruise to see some of the 18 islands on the lake.
Enjoy the views
As Windermere is one of the less mountainous areas of the Lake District, it is a place where you can truly appreciate the beauty of the lake. There are several small hills with viewpoints to take in the gorgeous scenery. To the south is Gummers How where you can see the entire length of Windermere and all the way to the coastal estuaries in the south. On a clear day, you can even see the peaks of North Wales! We also like climbing Latterbarrow on the western side of the Lake. Our favourite southern Lake District walk is the short hike up Orrest Head to visit the Wainwright memorial and see the view that inspired him to write his famous guide books.
Windermere has its fair share of legends - some more imaginative than others. The Crier of Claife is said to stalk Claife Heights at dusk. Mysterious calls have been heard and a hood figure has been seen around the ferry landing stage. An unidentified creature has been spotted in the southern end of the Lake, dubbed Bownessie by those who have seen it. Perhaps they were influenced by the cult 70s novel The Pike, which is about a man-eating pike that stalked holidaymakers on Windermere? Most famous of all is the Tizzie-Wizzie, a creature with the body of a hedgehog, wings of a bee and tail of a squirrel. It was photographed at the turn of the century by a Bowness boatsmen and hunting the Tizzie Wizzie became a popular Windermere tourist attraction at the turn of the century.
The beautiful Lyth Valley lies a few miles to the south of Windermere. It is a peaceful and idyllic valley bounded on one side by an impressive limestone cliff known as Whitbarrow Scar. The valley is famous for its fragrant damson blossom that covers the valley each spring. The valley holds a Damson Day festival in the spring and you will find all manner of damson products for sale along the roadside.
Step into the world of Beatrix Potter
Based in Bowness-on-Windermere, The World of Beatrix Potter attraction brings the all her fabulous characters to life. The author spent much of her childhood holidaying in the Lakes and it's easy to see where she got the inspiration for her famous children's books when you step into this museum. Learn all about her life and visit the Peter Rabbit Garden complete with the cabbages where Peter lost one of his shoes and the garden gate which he squeezed under when he tried to escape Mr. McGregor.
Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway
The Lakeside and Haverthwaite railway is an 18 minute train ride at the Southern end of Windermere. Daily trains pulled by steam engines run alongside the River Leven. The railway was a former branch line that re-opened in 1973. Steam trains operate on the line from Haverthwaite to Newby Bridge and Lakeside. There is a small visitor centre with a café, shop and playground at the main station in Haverthwaite. Vintage steam and diesel engines are kept on permanent display in the Engine Shed.
The foodie mile
Windermere is one of the top locations for eating out in the Lake District. Crook Road between Windermere and Kendal is well known as a ‘foodie mile’ featuring several gastro pubs, hotels and restaurants with fine reputations. Notable places to eat include Gilpin Hotel and Lake House, The Samling, the Wild Boar and Linthwaite House Hotel.
See our selection of pet-friendly cottages in Windermere, or see our introduction to Sally's Cottages.