Windermere is my favourite lake, not just because of it’s scenic beauty, surrounding fell views and vibrant atmosphere, but because of it’s practicality. It’s quick and easy to get to, there’s lots of parking, fantastic cafes to top and tail the walk and endless walking variety. This post chronicles one of my favourite walks along the north west shore and around to Ambleside and Waterhead. A walk that’s been much improved recently with long stretches of off-road paths being created for some of the stretches that had previously required walking on narrow roads. This walk is special because it’s long, but fairly flat (100 flights of stairs according to my fitbit) and has a tremendous variety of views.
I start the walk in Bowness, after breakfast at the always excellent Bowness Cafe (which is opposite the carpark on the main road running through Bowness and Windermere). Unfortunately this convenient car-park maxes out at a 4 hour stay, so I parked down by the lake and walked up. Nicely fuelled up I walked along the east shore to the car ferry. I don’t know what it is about boats, but the ferry is always a treat for me and at 50p for walkers it’s a real bargain and a great way to start the walk and people watch, there’s always a nice mix of walkers, cyclists and drivers of all shapes, sizes and nationalities.
Off the ferry and I follow the road around before heading north (turn right) following a quiet road with stunning views of the lake to the right and to the left, pasture land leading up to forest. This stretch of the walk is always a treat for me because it’s here that I used to bring the kids for picnics and swimming, our favourite spot was where the huge tree languished in the lake.
Here’s a picture of Tess and Ann on the first day that we discovered the tree, about 6 years ago. We returned many times and lots of the kids friends enjoyed it too.
Then it’s onto a fantastic forested section of the walk, the paths are great, the trees are huge and it’s still possible to glimpse the lake through them every now and then. On a sunny day like today it’s hard to beat, all the streaming sunlight and non of the sunburn.
In common with most of my walks there’s the occasional lust inducing house that I come across, this one has fantastic gardens and it’s own boat house. But then I only need to remember those long winter months and seemingly endless Lakeland rain, that soon brings me back to reality.
At about mid-day I’m ready for lunch, even though I’ve eaten a big breakfast only a couple of hours ago. The scene below was mine while I cooled my feet in the lake, dangling from a rocky pier and eating pork pies, cheese and an apple.
This walk is very easy, because I just follow the signs to Ambleside all the way. It loops around the headland above, through some more forest and then it’s out into a long stretch of open farm land. This is the section that’s on all newly created paths that spare the road, and it’s a huge improvement. I’m a real sucker for views that include farm animals, if you look carefully you can see the cows on the hill in the foreground. Cows that live like this are the one’s I’m happy to eat!
The quality of the paths on this whole walk are excellent, rarely muddy, easy to follow and with a little give as the crushed rocks crunch underfoot. There are quite a few cyclists at the weekends though, but as I’m walking midweek, it’s quiet.
After another short forested stretch and following a river for a few hundred yards I arrive at Waterhead. A fantastic break spot that’s a little quieter than Bowness, but not much. I just get a bottle of water and post a pic to Instagram to let Debbie know that I’m on track.
At this point I’d recommend two options. Get one of the excellent tour boats back along the lake to Bowness, a very relaxing end to the day, or head east, up onto the fells and walk back to Windermere that way. I was a little too weary for the fells, but it was too early to end the day’s walking so I decided to take the low road back.
I definitely don’t recommend walking by the road back to Windermere, but on a quiet day like today it was pleasant. Normally cars and lorries are constantly thundering past. About 70% of this route is on the path by the road, but the off-road sections are stunning, even the road-side stretches are flanked by great views on both sides.
I was listening to an audio-book and on my own, and as I mentioned it was quiet, so walking by the road turned out just fine. I stopped off at the gardens shown below, just a mile along the road from Waterhead for a proper break, officially it’s a private hotel garden, but I’ve always felt welcome there.
Mid way along this stretch there’s the Brockhole Lakeland visitors centre, which has a nice cafe and plenty to do.
As I mentioned, I’m walking on a path next to a main road, but the views just keep on coming
I’m not usually one to photograph grave yards, but this one was so picturesque I couldn’t resist.
Fortunately towards the end of the walk, it’s possible to get off-road again and walk right down by the lake shore. I really liked this because of all the people playing around in boats that were fun to watch.
When I returned to Bowness it was like I was on a different planet, when I left it was beautiful and tranquil with just a few hikers making their way, now it was a churning mess of global humanity, the tour buses had descended on the place. It may be on the global tourist ‘must see’ list, but seeing it this was the tourists really don’t know what they are missing – come early and walk the west coast, or the fells, most of the north east shore is for suckers.
I’m writing this post in Caffe Nero Lytham, I did the walk yesterday and today I’m going for another of my favourite local walks, around the Brockholes Nature Reserve near Preston.