Windermere town is the Lake District's busiest tourist centre, now combined with the older town of Bowness-on-Windermere, which dates back to the 10th/11th century. The area has been attracting visitors ever since the railway made its way here in 1847.

Ancient Viking and Saxon invasions have left a legacy of Norse and Saxon place names all around the Cumbrian region and it was a Nordic chief called Vinand who named the nearby lake after himself, as 'Vinand's Mere'. Bowness, nearer to the shore, started out as a port town that grew up around the 15th-c St Martin's Church. The church was restored in 1870 and contains a chained library and some interesting stained glass windows.

Lake Windermere
Windermere (credit: Pixabay)

Although the town has an extensive range of accommodation it is very popular in spring and summer, so advance booking is advised. Hotels and guest houses are also wide spread in the surrounding villages and countryside. The town centre contains an excellent selection of shops and equipment suppliers.

Windermere is set in the heart of the National Park, a region loved by tourists, walkers, climbers, artists and poets. Located 8 miles (13 km) north-west of Kendal, the area is an excellent centre for exploration of the whole Lake District region. Local scalable hills and mountains include Scafell Pike, the highest point in England at over 3200ft (975m), and Helvellyn and Skiddaw to the north.

From the lake's shore you can hire a rowing boat, take a ferry across the lake or enjoy a pleasurable summer steamer. A footpath, north from the town, leads to the modest heights of Orrest Head (784ft), a famous 360° viewpoint overlooking the lake and surrounding fells. Another popular viewpoint is situated towards the southern end of the lake at Gummer's How, easily accessible from a car park just off Fell Foot Brow (signposted from the A592).

The autumn Windermere Marathon, which starts and finishes on the Bowness promenade, is regarded as one of the most scenic marathons in the world. Other events include the Bowness Bay Blues Festival in the spring.

Things to do and See Near Windermere and Bowness

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

At 10 miles (16km) long Lake Windermere is England's largest natural freshwater body. To the north its waters are fed by the rivers Brathay and Rothay. The lake's banks are heavily wooded so the best way to enjoy the scenery is from the water by boat. Pleasure boats, steamers and yachts regularly sail the waters and rowing boats may be hired from the quay. Various water-sports events take place on the lake every year, such a water skiing, long distance swimming and even speedboat record attempts. There is also excellent fishing for pike, perch and the elusive salmon-like char.

The largest island in the lake is Belle Isle where an unusual 18th-c, circular, country house is surrounded by landscaped grounds. The house contains portraits of the Curwen family by George Romney, views of Lake Windermere by Philip de Loutherburg and bespoke furniture by Gillow of Lancaster. The house and museum are open to the public in season and accessed via boat from Bowness promenade.

Windermere Jetty Museum

Located on the lake shore, the museum boasts a unique collection of restored Victorian and Edwardian steam launches - many in full working order. Including the steam launch Dolly (circa 1850), said to be the oldest mechanically powered boat in the world. Opened in 1977 the museum has a covered dock where its historic craft are preserved. Steam-launch tours operate from the Jetty in the summer. A number of operators also run trips from Bowness aboard more modern pleasure cruisers, stopping at many of Windermere's lakeside villages.

Opening times: daily 10am to 4pm - Admission Charge
Location: Jetty Museum, Rayrigg Rd, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 1BN
Tel: 015396 37940

Aquarium of the Lakes

Experience the Lake's secret water world and freshwater aquarium. Not to be missed is the incredible underwater tunnel where pike, eels, perch and char swim above you. Regular lectures and events.

Opening times: daily 10am to 4.30pm - Admission Charge
Location: Lakeside, Newby Bridge, Ulverston LA12 8AS
Tel: 015395 30153

Blackwell The Arts & Crafts House

Part of the late 19th-c Arts and Crafts Movement designed by architect M H Baillie Scott. The gallery has displays of applied arts and crafts and original designs including stained glass, stonework, carved oak panelling and plasterwork.

Opening times: daily 10am to 4pm - Admission Charge
Location: Blackwell - the Arts & Crafts house, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 3JT
Tel: 015394 46139

Brockhole on Windermere | Lake District Visitor Centre

One mile north of Windermere is Brockhole, the Lake District National Park's premier visitor centre with 30 acres of gardens and grounds, stretching down to the lake. Visitors can enjoy superb views, lake cruises, walks, events and activities.

Opening times: daily 10am to 4pm - Free Locals Parking
Location: Lake District National Park, Visitor Centre, The, Windermere LA23 1LJ
Tel: 015394 46601

Lake District National Park

The Lake District is rugged wilderness of mountain ridges and deep valleys. Established as a National Park in 1951, it provides some of the most dramatic scenery in Britain. Major lakes include Coniston Water, Derwent Water, Ullswater and of course the largest Windermere at 10 miles long. The town of Windermere is an excellent centre for exploration of the whole of the area, which contains around a dozen large lakes and over 200 smaller lakes or 'tarns', situated in beautiful surroundings, many of which are only accessible on foot.

Map of Windermere and Bowness


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