Just a mile from the lake shore, the town of Windermere together with its lakeside neighbour, Bowness-on-Windermere, have provided a major tourist destination since Victorian times.
While the lake itself is the main attraction, these linked towns are also home to a number of interesting museums, as well as a fantastic array of tea rooms, boutique shops, pubs and restaurants to keep visitors well-fed and watered.
The hub of most tourist activity is focused around beautiful Windermere itself, the largest natural lake in England. Dotted with 18 islands, the entire length of the ribbon-shaped lake is served by passenger ferries, steamers and launches, and these are a major attraction. Boats leave from Lakeside railway station, on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite heritage steam railway at the southern end of the lake, and travel right up to Waterhead Bay near Ambleside in the north, and vice versa. There are also intermediate stops at Bowness and, by some of the the smaller launches, at Brockhole – the Lake District Visitor Centre. Before you climb on board one of the services, check where it stops – some boats only operate part of the route, or operate out and back cruises, whilst others go the whole distance.
Bowness-on-Windermere is packed with quaint shops selling keepsakes, postcards, local products and other treats. Whether you’re shopping for outdoor gear, souvenirs or tasty local produce, you’ll find it all in the compact centre of Bowness, right by the lake. This is also a great place to go out for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner, whether you fancy fish and chips, homemade cakes or a slap up meal in a restaurant.
The World of Beatrix Potter
The magical world of Beatrix Potter is brought to life at this themed family attraction, with both indoor and outdoor spaces recreating the region’s landscapes, inhabited by famous characters from the books, and depicting scenes from each of the tales. Go and see Mrs. Tiggy-winkle in her country kitchen; encounter Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor’s garden; and find Jemima Puddle-duck in a gentle woodland glade -before heading outside to discover the Peter Rabbit Garden and have a bite to eat at the on-site Tailor of Gloucester Tea Rooms.
Blackwell: The Arts and Crafts House
Built in a lovely spot overlooking Windermere, this historic house is widely regarded as one of Britain’s finest from the turn of the last century. Visitors can explore, taking in the property’s decorative features, furniture and period rooms, as well as the lovely gardens.
Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway
Open from April to the end of October, this little steam railway takes visitors on a scenic three and a half mile journey from Haverthwaite, at the southern end of the line, to Lakeside Station at the southern tip of Windermere, which is home to the Lakes Aquarium. Some services connect with Windermere steamer departures from Lakeside Pier for trips on the lake, sailing to Bowness or on to Ambleside, or you can stop off for lunch at the pier’s restaurant, which has panoramic views over the lake.
The Lakes Aquarium is at the southern end of Windermere, and can easily be accessed by boat from Bowness. The attraction packs in underwater marine life from exotic destinations such as Africa and Asia as well as local species from the waters of Morecambe Bay. There are amphibians and reptiles to meet in the Tropical Rainforest area, while a tunnel under the lake enables visitors to glimpse diving ducks and other underwater wildlife.