One of the Lake District’s most popular destinations, the lively and attractive town of Ambleside is less than five miles away from the Howbeck Guest House, situated at the head of Windermere, England’s largest lake.
It is a popular starting point for walking, mountaineering and mountain biking trips, with plenty of outdoor shops and a good choice of popular pubs and restaurants providing much-needed refreshments to hungry hikers.
While you’re pottering around Ambleside, look out for the National Trust’s Bridge House, a quaint building built on a tiny bridge over the Stock Ghyll more than 300 years ago, which is believed to have originally been a summer house and apple store for Ambleside Hall. It now serves as an information centre for the National Trust.
Roman fort of Galava
A little south of the town, on the shore of Windermere at Borrans Park, you’ll find the remains of the Roman Fort of Galava — just a short walk from the Waterhead Ferry Terminal. Dating to the 1st or 2nd century AD, and protected on two sides by water, the fort housed some 500 soldiers and was built to defend the lower fells of South Lakeland from invasion by the Picts and Scots, as well as guarding the road to the Roman Port at Ravenglass via Hardknott Pass. It is one of a series of fortified structures protecting the key trade routes through Cumbria. Archaeological excavations carried out between 1914 and 1920 by R.G. Collingwood discovered the remains of the fort’s defences, as well as sections of the internal building arrangement, all of which can bee seen by visitors today — including the main gate, the south gate, the commanding officer’s house, and the granaries and headquarters building.
To see displays of artefacts retrieved from the fort, you need to visit the Kendal Museum of Natural History and Archaeology.
The town’s museum, library and gallery holds a fascinating collection of photographs, art works, documents and objects covering the local and natural history of Ambleside and the wider Lake District.
Visitors can view watercolours by Beatrix Potter of natural history and archaeological subjects; see the Beggars’ Entry Book for Ambleside and other documents relating to the Poor Law; and browse a huge photographic collection of around 23,000 albums, prints, portfolio works and glass plate negatives by local photographers such as Herbert Bell and the Abraham brothers. The museum also contains art works by Kurt Schwitters, including the ‘Wood on Wood’ assemblage created in 1947 whilst the artist was living in Ambleside. Visitors can see the plans for the Ambleside railway; Ruskin’s letters to his doctor and other personal correspondence; and archaeological displays featuring Neolithic stone axes, Bronze Age weapons, and an archive of Collingwood’s excavations of the Roman Fort of Galava – amongst many other interesting artefacts.
A lake cruise from Ambleside
About a mile out of town, the Waterhead Pier ferry terminal at the edge of Windermere offers passenger services across the lake to Bowness-on-Windermere and Lakeside, with fabulous views over the water and the surrounding fells. A horse-drawn carriage transports passengers between Waterhead Pier and the centre of Ambleside.
Places to see nearby…
In the nearby village of Rydal, surrounded by wooded fells, you can visit William Wordsworth’s house at Rydal Mount.
The charming village of Elterwater is also just a few miles west of Ambleside, behind Loughrigg and Silver How, by the entrance to Great Langdale.
And if you enjoy scenic dries, take the short trip from Ambleside to Glenridding, on the south western shore of Ullswater, along the dramatic Kirkstone Pass.