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Editor's Note: This guest post comes to us from David and Debra Rixon, creators and hosts of the Footloose Travel series. Together, they create delightfully lengthy, in-depth European travel videos full of great scenery and invaluable travel tips. Most of their videos are available to view free here with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video membership, and you can follow them HERE on Vimeo to see some of the others.
Lake Windermere is one of the largest and relatively developed of the lakes, and offers a wealth of activities for a short break, and Ambleside at the north end is a good place to start. When we were filming our Footloose in England’s Lake District, we made it our base from which to explore this beautiful unspoiled place, and it is close to the National Park.
Taking trips on the Windermere steamers is the traditional and best way to see the attractions around the longest lake of the region. At the southern end of Windermere is Lakeside, home to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite heritage steam railway – you can stand on the platform and watch the trains come and go, breathe in the steam and smut or buy a ticket and ride on it. There's also an aquarium and motor museum down there.
The next stop has to be Beatrix Potter's home ‘Hill Top', run by the National Trust; it's an atmospheric and very popular visitor attraction a mile away from the west shore. From the lakeside, you can take the Mountain Goat minibus up the steep road if you don’t fancy the walk. The tickets are timed, to avoid crowding in the cottage, and a chance to look properly at the artefacts; Beatrix’s writing desk is there, with original letters with illustrations to smile over. The coal fire is usually lit all year round downstairs, and with the sound of the old clock ticking, you can take a moment to imagine living there in the Victorian age.
Amongst other attractions on this side of the lake, is pretty Hawkshead village – namesake of a quality clothes wear brand – and houses the Beatrix Potter Gallery. Wray Castle is a National Trust property open to the public, and was where Beatrix celebrated her 16th birthday, a favourite place to stay for the Potter family.
Stunning Tarn Hows offers an accessible circular (1¾ miles) walk through wonderful scenery. The National Trust have two off-road mobility scooters available for use, free of charge, so everyone can make the trip around the tarn but you need to book those in advance. The curious Claife Viewing Station built in the 1790’s offers a lovely view of the lake and the coloured glass panels are a fascinating glimpse into painting techniques from the past.
You can't avoid the jetty at Bowness (pronounced Bonus), and love it or hate it; the busy Victorian town is thronged with visitors and shops, making it the tourist capital of the region. One mile up the road is the gentler town of Windermere, and there is a bus that will cover the distance as well. The combined boat and bus tickets are a good way to avoid fathoming timetables!
Just across the road from its railway station is the start of a short gentle walking trail to Orrest Head, a fantastic view across not only Windermere, but the scenic fells in the North, and very much connected with the legendary walker and author, Alfred Wainwright.
A must do is Wordsworth's Dove Cottage and the pretty lake and tourist village of Grasmere, and there is an open top double decker bus service (Route 599) to take you there. The area around Windermere and Coniston Water is full of attractions and beauty spots.
The Ruskin Museum at Coniston is also a good stop; here the village celebrates 3 British heroes who helped shape the fortunes of Coniston Water: John Ruskin, Donald Campbell and Arthur Ransome. The village is dominated by the Old Man of Coniston that towers above it, and it’s also a good place to visit the Tilberthwaite Slate Quarries. The Steam Yacht Gondola also launches from here for an authentic sail on the famous lake.
The weather in the ‘lakes’ is as unique as the region, and outerwear is generally a must-have in your tote or backpack, and good comfortable shoes. Transport is always available, but there is a fair amount of walking to do, either around or between or to get to and from attractions. It is an unforgettable landscape, and the sheer variety of activities makes it a haven for just about every ability and interest.
Food is also an important part of the region, and there are artisan and organic producers of many products and fare local to the areas. And that’s just the south of the region; plenty more stunning landscapes and lakes to find and explore, and watching our video will give you a just the taster you need to plan your trip!
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