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Windermere & Bowness

Bowness Bay
on Lake Windermere

















For more on the
connection see



The number of activities and things to do is almost endless: golf, walking, climbing, gardens, a steamboat museum, an exhibition dedicated to Beatrix Potter, a reptile house, horse riding, paragliding, ballooning, a marina, mountain biking, guided tours, adventure holidays, boat hire, trips on the ferries that run from Ambleside to Lakeside via Bowness, swimming, water skiing, sailing, a steam railway at Lakeside, Townend a National Trust property, Brockhole Visitor Centre, and more. There is certainly enough to keep you busy and lots of activities have been specially designed for children.

There are a great many picturesque villages nearby, not least Hawkshead over the hill on the far side of the lake. For an alternative to using the road round the Lake take the chain driven ferry, which will take your car whereas the ferries that run the length of the lake take passengers only.

The histories of the two villages are very different. The Romans came to the Bowness area around AD80 and established a fort at nearby Ambleside. They probably also built a villa on Belle Isle, a small island opposite Bowness Bay. Bowness, like Ambleside, became a more permanent settlement with the arrival of the Vikings. They settled in both Ambleside and Bowness and are responsible for the naming of the lake - Vinander's Mere - after one of their chiefs, (this became Windermere over the centuries). Bowness they called Bull Ness where the village bull was kept.

Both Bowness and Windermere remained as small remote settlements until the Lake District became popular with visitors, largely as a result of the connection with the Lake Poets. The number of visitors increased until in 1847 the railway came from Kendal to the Lake and the tiny village of Windermere, then called Birthwaite. From then on neither of the villages looked back. New trades and employment opportunities came to the inhabitants; many very grand hotels and large private residences were built for the wealthy people who commuted to places such as Barrow and the north and south of the county and beyond, via the railway. Local industrialists who had made fortunes in the Industrial Revolution chose to live in the area, and many of their former homes are now sumptuous hotels. Until the coming of the railway Windermere/Birthwaite was a small place of no importance: now it is a bustling community with fine hotels, guest houses and shops.

A visit to the two towns is an essential element of any Lake District tour not only for the many activities around and about, but also for the Lake and the countryside around it, with their beauty, tranquillity and rich history. No matter what else you do in the county you should most definitely pay the towns a visit.





Copyright EDGE 1997