15 Best Things to do in Ambleside (Lake District)

19th March 2023

Ambleside sits in the center of the Lake District, close to the Lake District National Park. This area has a unique blend of history and natural settings that will allow you to immerse yourself in history, beat the crowds and find new ways to explore. 

Ambleside keeps its history well known, and it has preserved downtown architecture that’s several centuries old. The town acts as a beautiful entry point for a trip to the National Park, as there are several gorgeous locations and tourist attractions in Ambleside within walking distance of the town centre. 

To help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a combination of the best things to do in Ambleside. This guide takes you through history, natural beauty and attractions that will leave the whole family plotting their next another trip.

Related reading:
Looking for where to stay? Then here are the 
10 Best Hotels in Ambleside
Not sure if Ambleside is for you? Take a look at the 8 best Lake District towns and villages to stay
And check out the ultimate list of things to do in the Lake District  

1 – Hike to Stock Ghyll Waterfall

Stock Ghyll Waterfall

If you’re looking for things to do in Ambleside, you won’t need to search far, as you can walk from downtown to this spectacular waterfall to find one of the highlights of the whole Lake District. A series of waterfalls cascades down 70 feet, only a few minutes’ walk from the main street. 

Flanked by lush greenery, accessing the falls is a beautiful, quick hike that the whole family can enjoy. You can soak in views of all of Stock Ghylls’ unique flows from the safety of an established viewpoint.  

2 – Explore Galava Roman Fort

The oldest place to visit in the Ambleside dates back to the second century. These remains of a supply base between Brougham and Ravenglass exemplify the area’s history. A quintessential landmark of England’s early history, you can spend the day tracking the Roman road from this fort to other ancient ruins that lie around Lake Windermere.

This fort has been preserved by the national trust, giving you unparalleled access to a genuine and adequately maintained piece of history. Excavators originally began digging up the remains in the early 1900s. This relic sat untouched for millennia underground and still held its shape. 

3 – Enjoy the Rydal Mount & Gardens

Rydal Mount & Gardens

To find things to do in Ambleside that put yourself in the middle of the town’s history, head to Rydal Mounts to see a house from the 16th century surrounded by the English Lake District’s core. William Wordsworth’s family home heavily influenced one of the Romantic age’s most influential poets. 

The house has been impeccably maintained, and it still functions as a full-time family home – the place doubles as a de facto museum of Wordsworth’s works, both literary and physical. The garden was his creation, and the current iteration maintains his original vision.  

4 – Get Lost Around Lake Windermere 

The Jewel of the Lake District is accessible from Ambleside. The lake is known to be England’s largest lake, and its comfortable, summer temperatures provide something for everyone. You can get your fill of fishing, boating and commercial activities, or find spectacular viewpoints and hikes across the ten miles of water. The plethora of activities makes for some beautiful things to do in the Ambleside for kids. 

The town borders the middle of the lake, and the downtown district runs straight up to the water’s edge. If you’re looking for a pub or juts a good night’s rest, options are available on the shorefront. Lake Windermere has enough to offer to make it the focal point of your vacation. 

5 – Learn at the Armitt Museum

Armitt Museum

Home to various original works by Beatrix Potter, her collection barely scratches the surface of exhibits held inside the historic doorways. The museum originated as a library, coalescing in unprecedented access to historical literature. It’s one of the locals’ favorite things to do in the Ambleside when it rains.  

The focus of the project is to continue to tell the story of the Lake District. A day perusing the museum can give you ideas for the rest of your trip. The artifacts and artworks held here paint a picture of everything Ambleside has to offer.

6 – Hike the Helm Crag Circle

 The hike is a looping walk that’ll take you through Ambleside’s local hills. The whole family can do one of the best hikes around in one afternoon and still get off the beaten path. The pathway climbs 600 meters while gently following a river.

Folks head to these hills for great views across the valley and Grasmere. The trail borders the Lake District national park, and it will ensure you have the kids home by suppertime. 

7 – Take a trip to the past at the High Sweden Bridge

High Sweden Bridge

Another piece of local history is this bridge frequented by packhorses. The bridge combines history with exercise, as it is a hike accessible from the north end of Ambleside. The bridge is accessible through a sloping walk through the hills of Ambleside’s valley. 

This proximity makes the whole experience an adventure that is accessible while still parking downtown. Once you leave the town’s streets, this won’t feel like the case as the unfettered territory has little human interference. 

8 – Hike the Louhghrigg Fell Loop 

This walk starts and ends in Ambleside but gives you views across the Lake District National park’s southern side. It’s no walk in the park, as the total distance of the loop is 12 km, but trekkers find unparalleled birdwatching and wildlife views. This hike is consistently considered one of the best things to do in Ambleside. 

The walk features 500 metres of elevation gain in an easy to follow path that takes you to waters, mountain tops and caves. There is a steep climb right at the start, but if you get through the rock scramble, the rest of the adventure will be smooth sailing. 

9 – Explore plant life at Hayes Garden World

Hayes Garden World

This Landmark garden store and nursery is, among other things, the pride and joy of Ambleside. They take on their role as a garden centre in a UNESCO World Heritage site by having maintained the same practices for over 200 years. 

They stock a massive number of unique flowers and grower tools, highlighted by their award-winning azalea collection. The garden centre has something for the whole family with classes and events for all ages. Their maze of flowers and nursery development makes this one of the best things to do in Ambleside for kids. Hayes Garden World looks to put the exclamation point in your visit to Ambleside. 

10 – Feel the Rush of Coniston Water

Coniston Water is the home of a grizzly water speed history. Donald Campbell famously set several speed records over decades on the pristine waters. Campbell met his demise on the very same lake when he took a 12-year-old boat to speeds of over 300 miles per hour. Seeing an impromptu gravesite may feel like one of the more unusual things to do in Ambleside, but visitors won’t be disappointed. 

The lake offers up much more than speed records, but this history makes it a top tourist attraction in Ambleside. Those looking for more will find the area is ripe with trails and potential boat trips. Visitors can make the waters a stop on the way north or spend an entire weekend exploring the waters. 

11 – A day in the Woods at Grizdale Forest

Grizedale Forest-2

This forest is home to the best mountain biking near Ambleside. It has become an organically-developed art museum as various sculptures have accumulated across natural forest acres. Its well-maintained nature ranks it as one of the best places to visit in the Ambleside. There are trails and activities for all ages, and quality staff will help guide your adventure into the woods. 

The forest has organically developed into one of the best tourist attractions in Ambleside. Families can get out of their comfort zones and get above the tree line with zip line activities and tree walks. A bike rental store and visitors’ centre welcome visitors and will provide you with everything you need to enjoy a grand day out. 

12 – Laugh at the Bridge House

This old stone beacon watches over Stock Beck in the middle of Ambleside. It is another piece of history that has integrated itself into the town’s present and future. Its wacky architecture sticks out as one of the most unusual things to do in Ambleside. Visitors come to see the unique work of architecture, but there is so much more to learn about the relic. 

The house initially served as a convenient apple store for anyone using the bridge to pass through. At one point, eight people lived in the two-story building above the river. A quick stop at Cafe Treff around the corner completes the outing.   

13 – Spiraling St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary’s Church

This Church represents the only holy house in the Lake District Area with a spire. This unique factoid makes the church stand out, but its history and current usage give it its staying power. The church is still used as a house of worship today, meaning its history is continuing to write itself.

This church is a testament to Gothic style as a part of the late 17th Centuries Gothic Revival. A more of a laid-back edition of England’s church history, this one will give you an authentic look at a church that isn’t looking to break any records. 

14 – Defend the walls of Wray Castle

This castle is a new addition to historical sites in Ambleside, but that doesn’t mean its history is any less worthy than any other of the landmarks of the area. Tours didn’t begin at this site until 2011, but its church-like interiors quickly became a hit. 

Activities and tours lead visitors throughout the storied hallways, and visitors will connect with the story of a castle built for beauty rather than functionality. It surrounds itself with views of the Lake District right on the shore of Lake Windermere.

15 – Rest at the Wateredge Inn

Wateredge Inn

You can take the Wateredge name literally, as this Inn offers dining, rooms and views right across the middle of Lake Windermere. It is the pinnacle of hotels on offer in the area, and merely dining within the Inn’s walls with a view across the lake is enough to make your day.

The inn often features live music offerings and takes the details of operating a fine antique establishment with quality. It’s close to Ambleside’s central shopping district and most of the area’s major attractions. 

It’s cosy and private, thus one of the best things to do in the Ambleside for couples and the perfect central location from which to explore all of the Lake District’s wonders.

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From exploring Roman forts to hiking through dense forest, here are the 15 best things to do in Ambleside, Lake District.

From exploring Roman forts to hiking through dense forest, here are the 15 best things to do in Ambleside, Lake District.