The Lake District is a truly incredible part of England. Everywhere you look are beautiful mountains, lakes and stunning scenery. Wherever you choose to visit in the area, you can’t really go wrong – but one of the most popular parts is Windermere.
Windermere lake, at 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep, is the largest natural lake in both the Lake District and in England. It’s surrounded by mountain peaks and villages, including Bowness-on-Windermere, lots of walking trails and viewing points and multiple options for getting out on the water. It makes a perfect base for exploring more of the Lake District, and is also home to some stunning hotels.
We chose to stay in Linthwaite House hotel, and you can read my review HERE . We spent 2 days in Windermere exploring, and then branched out to do other day trips, such as Ullswater (post HERE) and Coniston (post HERE) to see more of the region and make a week of it. We really enjoyed Windermere and its surrounds, and have put them in to a perfect 2 day itinerary for you to enjoy.
Day 1 – Bowness and Wray Castle
A. Climb Brant Fell for views of the lake
There are a lot of walks in and around Windermere, but one of my favourites if you’re limited on time and don’t want to spend your whole day hiking, but still want the beautiful views, is Brant Fell.
This walk starts from Bowness on Windermere, where there are lots of car parks, and the route we followed can be found HERE. Alternatively you could pick the slightly easier (and half the distance) Orrest Head, the route for which can be found HERE, but I personally preferred the views from Brant Fell. Start this walk early to have it to yourselves, and in total the walk should take around 1-1.5hrs depending on fitness.
After your walk, it will be time for breakfast, or brunch if you started a bit later. We finished at around 10am and headed for Urban Food House which did a great Full English. Or if you’re not that hungry – start on the delicious Bowness icecream.
B. Windermere Boat Cruise
After viewing the lake from above, it’s time to take to the water. From Bowness you can do a number of boat tours of varying lengths, or even take boats to surrounding areas such as Ambleside, but we have that planned for day 2 in more depth! We therefore chose a 1 hour Windermere islands cruise to take in the lake but not take up the whole day.
C. Windermere Lake walk and a late lunch
After the boat cruise, head by foot to the lake shore to take it all in. I think the best area, a short distance from Bowness, is Cockshott Point. In total you can walk there, stroll to the shore and be back in Bowness in around an hour. Finish off in Bowness with a late lunch or icecream (or both) depending on how full you are from your earlier breakfast/brunch and then head back to your car ready for a couple more sites in the afternoon.
D. Hill Top
From Bowness, it’s time to get back in to the car and head on the trail of Beatrix Potter to visit her 17th century farmhouse – now a National Trust site which is effectively a time capsule of her life. I grew up reading Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggywinkle and Jeremy Fisher so it was lovely to visit. In total we spent an hour here.
E. Wray Castle
From Hill Top, it’s a short drive to Wray Castle. Now, this isn’t actually a castle, it’s a private home built in the 1800s, which until 1929 was rented out as someone’s home!! You can still go in the castle, though it’s not furnished so is just empty rooms. There are a few nice walks around the castle and grounds too, but you don’t really need longer than an hour here.
F. Enjoy a lovely dinner
After visiting Wray Castle, if you have time you could visit Claife viewing station for sunset – otherwise it’s time to head back to wherever your base is for dinner. We were staying in Bowness so visited some lovely restaurants in the town, including Asian street food at Baha, yummy Thai at Jintana, delicious Indian at Shahib’s, Mexican at Bandito Burrito or Italian at Trattoria.
Day 2 – Ambleside and Grasmere
A. Discover Ambleside
Ambleside is one of the most picturesque villages in the area, though it does get really busy so arrive early to guarantee a parking space. We arrived at 10am and had to drive round the one way system for 45 minutes until we found a space! So get there for 9am if you can. Whilst there, make sure you check out Stockghyll Force waterfalls, a short walk from the centre.
B. Explore the incredible views on Loughrigg Fell (or alternative)
If you’re not a confident walker, then this part of the itinerary isn’t for you. You could instead do a lovely walk at Lily Tarn or at the waterfalls mentioned above. If you want the stunning views out over Windermere and beyond though, then Loughrigg Fell is a manageable walk that starts and ends in Ambleside and gives absolutely stunning reward for the effort required. We chose to walk the 11km route, taking us 3 hours. A full write up of this walk and the route, plus alternatives, can be found in my post HERE.
C. Grasmere village and gingerbread
After our walk we were exhausted so drove the 10 minutes or so to Grasmere and had a well earned drink to rest our legs. We’d taken a packed lunch on the walk, but you could also have a nice lunch at one of the many pubs in Grasmere.
Grasmere is famous for being the home of Wordsworth, the famous poet. You can visit his grave site at the local church, and his house in the village (more below). Also in Grasmere are some quaint houses, lovely shops and restaurants, and then the most important part…..Grasmere Gingerbread.
Quite simply, Grasmere Gingerbread is the BEST in the world. Invented in 1854 in this little village, still made and sold in the tiny cottage it started from – this gingerbread is mouth wateringly, wonderfully amazing. Be prepared though, you’ll probably have to queue for about 30-60 minutes to get in the shop. It’s so worth it though.
D. Wordsworth’s House
A final stop in Grasmere is Wordsworth’s House, Allan Bank. William Wordsworth is a famous poet and visiting his house amongst the stunning scenery just on the edge of Grasmere is well worth it if you’re interested. The estate is also home to red squirrels galore which were lovely to watch scampering around.
E. A special meal at Linthwaite House
After finishing in Grasmere, we headed back to our hotel for a special meal at its in house restaurant Henrock, from Michelin starred chef Simon Rogan. Even if you’re not a resident, visiting for dinner is so worthwhile. The food was absolutely delicious, the restaurant elegant but informal, and just the perfect place for a special holiday celebration.
If you’re not wanting to splash out quite so much, then you could also visit for lunch or Afternoon Tea. Or visit one of the cheaper options back in Bowness that I mentioned at the end of day 1.
That rounds off a perfect 2 days in Windermere. If you have longer in the area, then why not visit another area of the Lake District such as:
Thanks so much for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed my virtual tour of the Lake District, as I loved every minute visiting this wonderful and special place. Stay safe and happy travelling all.