Very Best Things to do in Windermere Lake District
[updated 12 January 2023]
Surrounded by the pristine Lake District National Park, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to the best things to do in Windermere Lake District, and in this guide to the Lake District, we give you everything you need to know to experience the fun and beauty of Windermere.
Whether it’s hiking the peaks that provide picturesque views of the lake or getting on the water itself and admiring the beauty from down below, adventurous travelers will have no shortage of options.
For those seeking a slower-paced environment, Windermere in the lake district really is the place to go. The town’s fascinating history is just waiting to be discovered, including old-school railroads and ancient castles.
There’s loads of fun to be had by visitors both old and young, so let’s get stuck into the best things to do in Windermere!
- Take a look at all the best hotels in Windermere in one place!
- Not sure if Windermere in the lake district is for you? Take a look at the 8 best Lake District towns and villages to stay
- Check out the ultimate list of things to do in the Lake District
Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s House
While visiting the quaint town /village of Windermere, allow yourself to take a break from reality and step into the imagination (and home) of Beatrix Potter herself!
Set off from the western shore of Windermere Lake along the B5285 for 5 miles and you’ll be at Hill Top.
Of all the wonderful things to do in Windermere village, this absolutely has to be at the very top of your list. With timed entrances and several other quirky characteristics, the wait is worth it as you’re encouraged to let your inner child enjoy Potter’s magical world.
Each room is filled with references from her stories – from the tales of “Peter Rabbit” to “Jemima Puddle-Duck”, this trip down memory lane is sure to warm the hearts of every visitor who steps through the door.
So take a step back in time and discover this must-see attraction. Visiting the Hill Top is one of the best things to do in Windermere for both adults and kids alike. It really is the perfect family outing that is guaranteed to get everyone smiling! It’s also simply a gorgeous house, reminiscent of the UK’s most remarkable cottages, so you really can’t go wrong with a trip here.
Brockhole on Windermere
This adventure park is an ever-evolving tourist attraction in Windermere which leaves much to be discovered, even for returning travelers. It certainly is one of the best things to do in Windermere for kids, but don’t let that stop you from also letting your hair down for a day of non-stop fun!
From kayaks and Krazi Karts to archery and mini golf, there is fun to be had for all. Families can also explore the vast grounds on an adventure scavenger hunt that follows the many available trails. Later, celebrate your victory with a drink at the Brockhole Cafe or lunch at Gaddum Restaurant which offers delightful Cumbrian cooking to match.
Built in 1840, Wray Castle is a great place to visit in Windermere, just don’t tell that to the wife of Dr. James Dawson. The castle was built using her fortune, but after a mere glance, she refused to move in.
You, on the other hand, can explore the castle on a free tour and enjoy the beautiful grounds full of large redwood trees on the cusp of Lake Windermere. To make a real day of it, take a boat along the lake to Wray Castle Pier, and enjoy a relaxing walk as the castle slowly emerges in the distance.
You can then take a magnificent walk from Wray Castle to Ferry House, to take a ferry onwards. (Ferry House is the western pier of the Windermere ferry service).
A Day in Ambleside
This picturesque lakeside town on the northern tp of Lake Windermere is a must when deciding which places to visit. The town is surrounded by some of the best landscapes in the UK.
Take your time discovering the streets full of shops, restaurants, and bookstores. popping into the town’s many bookshops or pubs is one of the best things to do in Windermere when it rains.
Make yourself a sweet treat at the Chocolate Factory or explore a wide range of liqueurs and liquor at Kindred Spirits. Why not take home a treat to enjoy around the evening fire?
Lakeside Haverswaite Railway
It’s time for you and your loved one to take a deep breath, sit back and relax on this beautiful steam train journey along the Windermere countryside. Beginning operation in the 1860s until nearly a century later, all that remains is a three-and-a-half mile stretch of railway and yes, a darn good time.
From Haverthwaite, enjoy the ever-changing views along the Leven Valley – you’ll enjoy views of beautiful lakes, rivers, and gorgeous green forests. Finish up by crossing the iconic Newby Bridge over Leven River and arrive at Lakeside Station. End this romantic excursion with a meal at the Pier, which offers stunning panoramic views of Windemere.
Hot Air Balloon
Embarking on a hot air balloon ride is truly one of the more spectacular ways to spend the day. Take in the entirety of the Lake Districts in a single incredible flight. Pendle and Cumbria balloon flights leave just after sunrise and right before sunset offering a small and private expedition 4000ft in the air.
Picture this – high above the largest natural lake in England, you stand with your partner, champagne glass in hand. This really is the date of dreams for couples seeking a romantic outing!
Claife Viewing Station
Built towards the end of the 18th century, this eclectic landmark became a hit among tourists some 50 years later in the 1830s. The stained-glass windows create a colourful frame that surrounds what the locals call a “drawing room”. For decades, this room has allowed visitors to picture the beauty of Lake Windermere through these shades and pushed them to imagine it through the seasons. No need for an Insta filter with this historic ruin!
From the ferry terminal on the Windermere western shore, you can take a brisk hike up to take a picture at one of the hit tourist attractions in the Lake District.
The brooding mountains, misty lake, and surrounding fells of the Lake District are an essential feature of what makes this region so special. Hike this majestic environment, shaped by the Ice Age and the inevitability of glacial wear and tear, and you’ll undoubtedly leave with a smile on your face.
Our two favourite hikes are a must-do for any trip to Lake Windermere. First, Claife View Station from Far Sawrey (seven and a half miles, four hours). Starting at Brathwaite Hall, tread along the rich, green countryside while passing old ruins and seeking out incredible lakeside views and the iconic Claife Station.
Second, trek up from Bowness-on-Windermere (on the eastern shore of Windermere Lake) to Brant Fell, and discover picture-perfect lakeside views with three-metre tall rocky outcrops. A perfect short (three and a half miles) hike to get away from the busy lakeside.
Drive – Wildermere to Ullswater
While not for the faint of heart, this route sure does command your respect. Surrounded by impeccable scenery, this is a fantastic way to reach the eastern Lakeside District whilst also discovering great vantage points.
Along the journey, you will be able to see Brother’s Water. Stop and enjoy a beer at an old monastery-turned-pub from the 1500s at Kirkstone Pass.
If you have the time, you should certainly take a hike to the top of Red Screes for a chance to stand above the clouds in the autumn and spring. Continue until you discover Ullswater Lake. Return as you came or create a loop to Keswick, Grasmere, and Windermere to complete a great day of sightseeing.
Bicycle Lake Windermere
As I am sure you can already tell, cycling around this countryside and around the lakeshore is one of the best things to do in Windermere. The lake, surrounding picturesque mountains, and accessible trails, provides beautiful vistas for this outdoor excursion.
Plenty of trails will take you to the well-known spots at Wray Castle and Claife Station, but if you’re up to it, why not take on the local 28-mile challenge? The challenge constitutes a ride along the lake through Ambleside, Grasmere, and Hawkshead featuring different lakes and plenty of wooded sections. Stop by the Brittania Inn – a farmhouse built 500 years ago that has since been transformed into a pub – to enjoy their cosy fireplace in winter or their great beer garden in summer.
Total Adventure UK also runs cycling tours throughout the Lakeside District.
Fell Foot Park
While we’ve certainly explored some of the Lakeside District’s land-side activities, it’s time we got our feet wet and discovered the lake for ourselves! Of course, one of the best things to do in Windermere is to hire a kayak and get paddling.
The place to do this is Fell Foot Park located at the southern end of Lake Windermere. Surrounded by stunning mountain views (snow-capped, if you’re lucky), the lake is your oyster.
The far end of the lake is some 11 miles away – so are you up for the challenge? Spend your lunch in the meadow by the water and enjoy the views before trying your hand at stand-up paddleboarding.
Windermere Lake Cruises
Want someone else to do the hard work? Windermere Lake Cruises depart from Ambleside, Brockhole, Bowness & Lakeside for cruises of Windermere Lake between 45 minutes and 3 hours.
You can drive yourself, join a cruise, or take a “cruise + attraction” tour and see sites such as the Lakes Aquarium, Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam & Stories, and the Lakeland Motor Museum.
It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Windermere without delighting your taste buds with the iconic Cumberland Sausage. With its roots here in town, going to Huddleston Butchers really is a different type of attraction to visit in Windermere.
This local specialty dates back five centuries, but the history behind its 21 inches (50 cm) is unknown. However, over time, it has taken on a variety of flavours thanks to a great influx of spices in the 1700s.
Butchers in Cumbria, a county that includes Windermere, felt so strongly about their historic sausage that they even applied for Protected Geographical Status. So you really ought to give it a try and see why it’s such a big part of local culture!
Dove Cottage – the home of William Wordsworth
Visiting Dove Cottage, the first home of William Wordsworth in the Lake District, is the perfect thing to do in Windermere on a rainy day. William had such a deep connection with the Lake District that it provided a strong source of inspiration for this famous poet who helped spawn the era of romantic literature.
If you find yourself their on a rainy day, be sure to surround yourself with the very same damp daffodils that helped create Wordsworth’s iconic poems. Inside the cottage you’ll discover the life of William as a young poet who believed the connection between man and nature was key to a happy life. An appropriate thought during your time here in the Lake District!
Lakeland Motor Museum
What can another old car museum possibly have to offer? This one isn’t just for motor heads. In a district as old as time, it makes sense that an old mill, minutes from Windermere Lake, would house over 30,000 exhibits that recreate the advancement of transport throughout the 1900s.
From the Delorean (yes, the infamous car from “Back to the Future”) to retro vehicles, motorcycles and race cars, there is bound to be something that piques your interest. It is one of the more unusual things to do in Windermere’s lake district, but it sure is worth your time!
Especially if you visit the lake district in Spring you must head about a mile to the north of the village to find the walled garden within Holehird Garden. The Lakeland Horticultural Society runs these 10 acres of gardens and the walled garden is the best part. Beatrix Potter liked to hang out here and the view from here is thought to be one of the very best views of the lake district.
High Stott Park Bobbin Mill
Visitors come to High Stott Park to wander through the woodlands to find Stott Park Bobbin Mill. It’s run by English Heritage and it’s a fantastic place to see a still-working remnant of industrial England – it used to make millions of bobbins a year when there were lots of spinning and weaving factories in England.
The Drunken Duck
A beer with a view is just the thing after a long day of exploring the lake district.
The Drunken Duck is a place people drive from far and wide to visit. It sits on a rustic hill just out of Ambleside, but somehow it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. That, dear friends, is part of the Drunken Duck’s charm!
It comes with a brewery next door and an unbeatable view to go along with your pint. After lunch, stroll down to the lake and maybe back up for one last cheeky beverage to salute an excellent adventure in Windermere.
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