Featuring the best attractions in the South East Lake District that are accessible by public transport
The Lake District and Cumbria are home to some of the best scenery and visitor attractions in the country. In the south east Lakes, this includes the popular towns of Bowness, Ambleside, Hawkshead and Grasmere, England’s largest lake, Windermere, plus a number of historic houses, many associated with William Wordsworth or Beatrix Potter.
There are various bus, train and boat services through the area which will transport you to all of the popular attractions described below. Each attraction includes a brief description, photograph, link to website (where available) and any facilities such as shops, cafes and toilets. Public transport services that stop nearby (within 1 mile) are listed and the location of each stop in relation to the attraction is described. Further information on each transport service, including route maps, timetable links and other attractions visited on route, can be found by following the transport service link.
South East Lake District
Select attraction for further detail
* Ambleside – Popular town at northern end of Windermere lake
* Bowness-on-Windermere – Popular town on shores of Windermere
* Brockhole – Visitor activity centre on shores of Windermere
* Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum – Former Wordsworth residence near Grasmere with adjacent museum
* Elterwater – Attractive village in the Langdale valley
* Fell Foot park – Popular park at the southern end of Windermere lake
* Grasmere – Attractive village in the central Lakes
* Great Langdale – Picturesque valley in the central Lakes
* Harrowslack – Open access on western shore of Windermere lake
* Haverthwaite Station – Lakeside & Haverthwaite railway terminus
* Hawkshead – Attractive village near Esthwaite Water
* Hill Top – Historic home of Beatrix Potter
* Holehird Gardens – Attractive gardens overlooking Windermere lake
* Lakeland Motor Museum – Fascinating road transport museum near Newby Bridge
* Lakeside – Boat pier and train station with aquarium at southern end of Windermere lake
* Rayrigg Meadow – Windermere lakeshore amenity area and viewpoint
* Rydal – Small village with some good attractions near Ambleside
* Staveley – Lakeland village between Kendal and Windermere
* Stott Park Bobbin Mill – Historic bobbin mill near Newby Bridge
* Townend – Historic Lakeland farmhouse near Windermere
* Waterhead – Lakeside area and boat terminus adjacent to Ambleside at northern end of Windermere lake
* White Moss Common – Scenic woodland area between Rydal and Grasmere
* Windermere – Popular town and transport hub adjacent to Bowness
* Wray Castle – Striking mock-gothic castle on the shores of Windermere lake
South East Lake District - Attractions Map
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South East Lake District - Attractions
Ambleside is an attractive and popular town in the central Lake District with plenty of attractions for visitors. The town occupies a scenic and commanding location at the head of Windermere lake, with good public transport connections making it a great base for exploring the area. One of the most famous sights is Bridge House, a quirky National Trust property spanning Stock Ghyll, and nearby is the Armitt Museum which has some interesting local history and a display of beautiful botanical drawings and watercolours from Beatrix Potter. The town has plenty of tourist shops, outdoor specialists, cafes, restaurants, pubs and the popular Hayes Garden World.
Behind St Mary’s Church and its magnificent spire is Rothay Park which provides some nice open space and play areas next to the River Rothay and Stock Ghyll. A short uphill walk follows Stock Ghyll upstream of the town to Stock Ghyll Force which is an impressive waterfall in a woodland setting on the slopes of Wansfell.
The main bus stop is on Kelsick Road within the town centre.
Bowness is an attractive and very popular tourist town on the shores of Windermere lake. Until the mid-1800’s it was a small peaceful village but all that changed with the opening of the railway line from Kendal to nearby Windermere town in 1847. Victorian tourists started pouring in to the area and the towns of Windermere and Bowness grew massively to meet the tourist demand. Nowadays the two towns merge together and are regularly filled with tourist crowds but Bowness still retains a lot of charm by the lake with plenty of attractions and is worth exploring.
One of the most popular attractions in the town centre is The World of Beatrix Potter. The famous children’s author wrote 23 enchanting little books in the early 1900’s, with characters such as Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin and Jemima Puddle-Duck still much loved across the world. This popular family attraction recreates 3D scenes from the stories which mesmerizes children and adults alike. The town centre itself has numerous shops, cafes and pubs where you can easily spend some time exploring before wondering down past St Martin’s Church to the nearby lakeside area.
The picturesque lakeside area overlooking Bowness Bay is slightly separate to the town centre but often just as busy. There are a number of jetties where you can catch one of the many Windermere Lake Cruises. Beyond the jetties is Glebe Road which forms a popular loop along the lake shore. Within this loop is a large open recreational area known as The Glebe. The grassy area provides lovely views up the lake and there are various activities available such as mini golf and tennis. Beyond The Glebe is Cockshott Point which also has some good open grassy areas with shingle beaches and a footpath along the attractive lakeshore. There are a number of shops, kiosks, cafes and pubs around the lakeside area.
A short distance out of town along Rayrigg Road is the impressive Windermere Jetty Museum where you can learn all about the last 200 years of Windermere’s boating history, with fascinating displays and many historic boats. Approx 1.5 miles to the south of the town is the iconic Blackwell House, a beautiful example of Arts and Crafts architecture.
Buses stop in the town centre and at the lakeside area, adjacent to Windermere lake cruises. The Windermere ferry is a short walk away, beyond Cockshott Point. It is approx 1.5 miles from Windermere railway station to Bowness centre, mostly downhill walk or catch one of the many buses.
Brockhole is the main visitor centre for the Lake District, where finding out about the National Park is only part of a fabulous visitor experience with many different attractions for the whole family on the shores of Windermere lake.
The main building and gardens were actually built as a private home in the late 19th century, one of many holiday or retirement homes built around the lake in the Victoria era for wealthy city industrialists. Some are still private homes today but many are now hotels or visitor attractions. As a private home, Beatrix Potter was a frequent visitor being related to the owners. After 1946 it was sold and became a nursing home until 1966 when it was bought by the Lake District National Park Authority who opened it to the public in 1969 as the UK’s first National Park visitor centre.
Inside the house are exhibitions of the local area, a gift shop and information centre plus a restaurant and cafe where you can sit on the terrace overlooking the gardens. Outside there are plenty of different activities for visitors including boat hire on the lake, archery and an adventure playground. In the trees above the car park you can see the treetop adventure which ends in an impressive zip line. If you don’t fancy anything too strenuous you can just stroll around the wonderful 30 acres of grounds and formal gardens which are beautifully kept all year round. The footpath also follows the shingle lakeshore between trees with great views across the lake and various boat jetties. Windermere Lake Cruises land here on the red cruise between Bowness and Waterhead, plus the seasonal Green cruise between Waterhead and Wray Castle across the lake. There are additional stalls in the grounds where you can get refreshments and picnic tables near the lake.
There is a charge for activities but entrance to the visitor centre is free and includes toilet facilities. Attractions are open daily all year.
Buses stop on the main A591 outside the entrance and boats stop at the jetty within the grounds.
Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum
Dove Cottage is where William Wordsworth lived from 1799 until 1808 after he first settled back in the Lake District, aged 29. Wordsworth was obviously besotted with Grasmere and his new home at Dove Cottage, describing it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found”. You can take a guided tour of Dove Cottage which is just behind the car park. Wordsworth wrote many of his greatest poems whilst living here and you get a fascinating insight into the family’s lives as you take a guided tour of the house which is presented as it would have been over 200 years ago. Outside the house are the attractive fellside gardens and woodland which have also been restored to resemble those created by the Wordsworths.
Admission to Dove Cottage also includes entry to the recently refurbished Wordsworth Museum nearby. This fascinating place contains a wealth of information and artefacts relating to the Romantic movement and the artists involved, including handwritten literature from the time.
Also nearby is a café for refreshments. There is a charge for entering the house, garden and museum which are open Tuesday to Saturday all year, except early January when closed.
Buses stop on the A591, outside the main entrance.
Elterwater is a picturesque village at the entrance to the spectacular Great Langdale valley. Its old slate houses, clear fast flowing river, attractive village green and backdrop of surrounding hills is real Lake District. Although only small, the village attracts plenty of visitors being central to some wonderful walking country. A good level walk follows the river downstream from the car park to Elterwater lake and beyond to Skelwith Force. Other footpaths lead up Langdale valley and surrounding hills. There are no shops in the village but refreshments are available at the popular Britannia Inn and adjacent Slates cafe, overlooking the village green.
Buses stop in the village centre.
Fell Foot park
Fell Foot Park is an attractive National Trust owned parkland on Windermere lakeshore with a number of activities for visitors. Originally, it was one of many private estates around the lake with a mansion house for a wealthy landowner. The wonderful gardens were established in the mid-19th century, along with the Victorian gothic style boathouses and piers that are now used for the cafe and boat hire. The mansion was demolished in the early 20th century in anticipation of a larger house, but that never happened and the site was largely abandoned for a time before being donated to the National Trust in 1948. It was then used as a campsite before opening as a Country Park in 1972.
Many people come to Fell Foot to picnic, play and paddle. There are plenty of grassy areas by the water with picnic tables dotted around. From the waters edge there are fantastic views up the lake towards the mountains in the distance. The lake is narrow at this point and it soon becomes the River Leven downstream. Boating is also popular and you can hire kayaks, rowboats and paddleboards. Windermere Lake Cruises operate a small passenger ferry between May and September which regularly travels the short distance to Lakeside across the lake.
There are some good footpaths around the mature gardens which stretch to open meadows downstream. As well as the cafe, other facilities include an adventure playground and toilets. There is free entry to the Park which, along with the cafe, is open daily all year.
Buses stop outside the main entrance. Boats to and from Lakeside stop at the jetty near the cafe.
Grasmere is a picturesque and popular tourist village, on the shores of Grasmere lake and surrounded by high mountains in the very centre of the National Park. It was originally made famous by William Wordsworth who lived at a number of properties in the area and is buried at St Oswald’s Church in the village alongside his wife Mary, sister Dorothy and 3 of his children. You can visit the graves and also wonder through the adjacent Wordsworth garden by the River Rothay which meanders past the village. Just outside the village on a small hill overlooking the lake is the imposing Allan Bank where Wordsworth lived for a short time from 1808 to 1811. This is now a National Trust property and although mostly bare inside is still worth a visit along with the adjacent gardens.
Back in the village, adjacent to the church is the renowned Grasmere Gingerbread shop, housed in the attractive old village school building which dates from 1630. Wordsworth taught at the school for a short time in 1812. The various other shops within the village are mostly tourist orientated and there are numerous cafes, restaurants and pubs. It is a popular centre for climbing mountains and there are some nice short walks alongside the river and to the lake where rowing boats can be hired.
The last Sunday in August brings the Grasmere Sports event to the adjacent fields. An annual event since 1868, you can see a host of local sporting events and activities, including fell running where humans race each other up and down the local fells, and hound trailing where dogs race each other along a scented trail across the fells. You can also see the unique local sport of Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling where competitors attempt to unbalance each other dressed in the traditional white long johns, white vest and colourful trunks.
Buses stop at a couple of locations through the village, including adjacent to the green in the village centre.
Great Langdale valley
Great Langdale is a wonderful Lake District valley with spectacular scenery all around. The enclosed valley is surrounded by some mighty Lakeland mountains such as Langdale Pikes, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags and Pike O’Blisco. The road runs along the green valley floor as far as Old Dungeon Ghyll which is a popular starting place for many mountain walks. A good way to appreciate the surroundings more is by walking the relatively level but rough track which continues up Mickleden valley for approx 2 miles from the bus terminus. Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel provides refreshments.
Approx 0.7 miles further down the valley is Stickle Ghyll where the steep path up to Stickle Tarn and Langdale Pikes begins. Refreshments are available here at the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and Sticklebarn Tavern.
Buses stop at Old Dungeon Ghyll and Stickle Ghyll.
This attractive access area on the western shore of Windermere lake is a short distance north of the Windermere ferry landing at Ferry House. This shore is much less developed and busy than Bowness across the lake and makes a good escape from the crowds. The open area of grass and shingle shore has some fabulous views across the lake, including Belle Isle in the near distance which is the largest island in the lake. The narrow dead end road continues approx 0.7 miles northwards following the attractive lakeshore with plenty of opportunity for a picnic and paddle. Beyond that a rougher track continues northwards towards Wray Castle and makes a pleasant walk. If you don’t mind a bit of climbing there are also some good footpaths and views on Claife Heights which rises up away from the lakeshore.
Back towards the ferry is Claife Viewing Station, built in the 1790’s it provided a wonderful viewpoint over Windermere lake and was a popular tourist attraction before falling into disrepair at the end of the 19th century. It has recently been tastefully restored and again provides wonderful and peaceful views over the lake with free entry. The Station is a short uphill walk from the road and from Joey’s Cafe which provides refreshments. Toilet facilities at Ferry House.
Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway
The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway is a privately operated heritage railway, running from Haverthwaite to Lakeside on Windermere. The line dates back to 1869 when it was a fully functioning branch line connected to the main Furness line at Ulverston, primarily to transport goods from Windermere. After the branch line was closed in the 1960’s, the Lakeside to Haverthwaite section was reopened as a heritage railway in 1973. Nowadays, it is a delightful 3.5 mile line, with steam trains chugging through the attractive Leven valley and period carriages giving a real sense of the old days. The trains are timed to combine with the Windermere Lake Cruises for an enjoyable train & boat ride in season, with a very limited service outside of that period. Haverthwaite station has a large free car park, cafe, gift shop, picnic area and toilets.
Buses stop on the main A590 outside the entrance.
Hawkshead is one of the most charming villages in the Lake District and worth a stop to explore its historic centre. The village dates back to medieval times, originally a prosperous wool market run by the monks of Furness Abbey which was near Barrow-in-Furness. There are a number of historic buildings around the village, including Hawkshead Grammar School which was founded here in 1585 and educated a number of notable pupils, including the famous local poet William Wordsworth who was sent here in 1778, aged 8, after his mother died. The school eventually closed in 1909 and the building is now a museum dedicated to its interesting history.
Also in the centre of the village is the National Trusts Beatrix Potter Gallery, a 17th century building housing displays of her famous watercolour illustrations and more about her work. The building was once the office of the solicitors W.H. Heelis & Son, where William Heelis worked when he married Beatrix in 1913. No doubt Beatrix would have spent a great deal of time in and around Hawkshead when she lived nearby at Hill Top.
Other notable buildings in the village include St Michael and All Angels church, most of which dates back to the 16th century and sits on the small hill overlooking the village. There is a lovely churchyard where you can find some peace and enjoy the surrounding views. Also, in the main village square is the old Market Hall which dates from the late 18th century when the village thrived as a local market.
It makes an enjoyable stroll around the timeless and mostly car-free village centre with its jumbled collection of whitewashed houses, archways and alleyways, courtyards and squares. There are a number of tourist shops, cafes and pubs.
Buses stop near the village centre, also near a tourist information centre and public toilets.
Hill Top, in the attractive village of Near Sawrey, was once the home and sanctuary of Beatrix Potter and is still kept exactly as it would have been when she lived and worked there.
Born in London in 1866, Beatrix Potter is known across the world nowadays as the famous children’s author who produced 23 little story books with much loved characters such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. What many don’t realise is just how talented and influential she was in many other varied fields, from land conservation and sheep farming to the science behind fungi.
Hill Top was bought by Beatrix in 1905 with profits from her early work. At that time she still lived in London, this was her bolthole and sanctuary where she could escape to write her books. Even when she married in 1913 and moved in to nearby Castle Farm she continued to use Hill Top for her personal work and pleasure.
Today the house is kept very much as she left it when it was donated to the National Trust after her death in 1943. Very atmospheric and filled with her personal possessions, you can get a real sense of her life and guides will tell you more. The garden is also wonderful and, along with the house and other nearby locations, provided Beatrix with many illustrations used in her books.
The house is open Saturday to Wednesday from February to October, plus Thursdays from Easter to October and daily during summer school holidays. Closed in winter. There is an admission fee to house and gardens, free for National Trust members. The ticket office is in the nearby car park. The house can be busy so entry is by timed ticket and booking recommended. Outside there are attractive gardens, a small gift shop and toilets which are open the same time as the house plus weekends in November and December. Occasionally a pop up cafe too. The Tower Bank Arms next door is a quaint looking pub which also has connections with Beatrix Potter.
There is no public transport to the attraction but you can walk 1.8 miles from Ferry House on Windermere lake which is served by Windermere Lake Cruises and the Windermere Ferry. A pleasant walk, mostly on footpaths with a fair bit of up and down.
Holehird Gardens are a spectacular attraction managed by the Lakeland Horticultural Society and maintained by volunteers. The 10 acre hillside site has a great variety of plants and features including a walled garden, rock gardens, water features and an impressive Hydrangea display. One of the best features are the superb views towards the central Lakeland mountains. The imposing Holehird House is adjacent which was built in the 19th century as a family home for the estate. Beatrix Potter stayed at the house in 1889 and 1895. The gardens are open daily through the year, dawn to dusk, although reception is only open April to October during the day. Limited refreshments are available in the reception, toilets are nearby. A small donation is expected from visitors for upkeep of the gardens.
Buses will stop on the main A592 outside the attraction on request.
Lakeland Motor Museum
Lakeland Motor Museum is located in striking premises adjacent to the picturesque River Leven at Backbarrow. There are apparently around 30,000 exhibits tracing the development of road transport through the twentieth century. A separate building houses the Campbell Bluebird Exhibition including several life-size replicas of vehicles used by Malcolm or Donald in their various land and water speed record attempts. Admission fee applies to the museum which also includes a gift shop. Open every day apart from Christmas day. Adjacent to the museum, overlooking the river, is Cafe Ambio which serves a good selection of refreshments in very pleasant surroundings.
Buses stop on the main A590, approx 0.4 miles away, so a short walk is required. Walking instructions here.
Lakeside on Windermere is a small but popular area with some excellent attractions by the lake. The main feature is the Lakeside pier and railway station which is the historic terminus for both Windermere Lake Cruises and The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway.
Pleasure cruises on Windermere started in 1845 and have continued ever since. Nowadays, roughly every hour and every day between Easter and November, a steamer boat leaves Lakeside for the scenic 40 minute trip up the lake to Bowness, and on to Waterhead Ambleside. There are still boats in winter but less frequent. There is also a seasonal ferry boat from here to picturesque Fell Foot Park across the lake.
The railway spur to Lakeside from the main Furness line at Ulverston was completed in 1869 and Lakeside pier soon became a busy little port with trains and boats carrying passengers and goods. The line was eventually closed in 1967, but the Lakeside to Haverthwaite section was reopened in 1973 as a heritage railway. Nowadays, it is a delightful 3.5 mile line, with steam trains chugging through the attractive Leven valley and period carriages giving a real sense of the old days. Trains are timed to meet the boats for a very enjoyable train & boat ride in season, with a very limited service outside of that period.
Adjacent to the pier and station is the Lakes Aquarium which contains wonderful displays of fish, reptiles and even otters. It provides a fun and interesting visit for all the family, especially in wet weather as it’s all indoors!
From the pier there are pleasant views across the lake towards Fell Foot and Gummer’s How hill, plus up the lake towards Lake District mountains in the far distance. There is a cafe on the pier which provides refreshments overlooking the lake, as does the adjacent Lakeside Hotel. Public toilets are available.
Rayrigg Meadow is a pleasant recreational area next to Windermere lake with various attractions for visitors. Near to the car park is a good picnic and play area with adjacent grass in an open setting. The small grassy hill above the car park is known as Queen Adelaide’s hill and the summit provides wonderful views across the lake and towards the mountains in the distance. Queen Adelaide apparently visited this fabulous viewpoint in 1840 and the hill was renamed in her honour from its original Rayrigg Bank. It is a short but steep footpath to the top from the car park.
Towards the lake from the play area is a well placed bench overlooking the lake and a short drop down brings you to the tree-lined lakeshore where there are shingle beaches and a couple of boat jetties with attractive views across the water. There is a footpath along the lakeshore in both directions, if you turn right you soon reach Millerground which again has a few jetties and lovely views from the shingle shore. The easy access along all this lakeshore makes it a good place for paddling and bathing with the added benefit of fine sunset views across the lake.
There are toilet facilities at the car park.
Buses stop outside the car park. Or approx 1 mile walk from Bowness town.
The small village of Rydal is located near to Rydal Water, between Ambleside and Grasmere, with some good attractions. At the top of the steep lane off the main A591 is Rydal Mount where the famous poet William Wordsworth lived from 1813 till his death in 1850 and where he wrote many of his poems. The impressive house, which dates to the 16th century, is now owned by descendants of Wordsworth and retains the feel of a lived-in family home with a selection of the family’s prized possessions and portraits. It has been enlarged over the intervening centuries, including by Wordsworth himself.
Wordsworth was also a keen landscape gardener and the beautiful 5-acre garden remains very much as he designed it, consisting of fell-side terraces, rock pools and an ancient mound. There are some wonderful views of surrounding hills and nearby Rydal Water. You can take an excellent guided tour of the house then wonder around other parts and the gardens yourself. There is a charge for access to the house and gardens with an adjacent tea room for refreshments. Open Sunday to Thursday from February to December, closed January. Admission fee applies, tea room and toilets also available.
A short distance back down the access lane is the historic Rydal Hall which is now a Christian conference centre. You are free to wonder around the lovely gardens (donation box included) and there is a cafe, open daily all year. Further down the lane is St Mary’s Church which has a pleasant churchyard and behind that is Dora’s field which was owned by the Wordsworth’s and is a mass of daffodils and then bluebells in the spring. Next to Dora’s field on the main A591 is The Badger Bar, serving more substantial refreshments and where you can actually see badgers in the gardens and on the local webcam.
Across the road from the pub is a footpath over the River Rothay which soon meets the attractive shores of Rydal Water. The popular footpath leads on to Grasmere lake and village. A good higher level footpath also leads towards Grasmere from behind Rydal Mount.
Buses stop on the main A591 at the bottom of the steep access lane, approx 250m walk up hill to Rydal Mount.
Staveley is a typical Lakeland village with slate houses, surrounding hills, a fast flowing river and a number of interests for visitors. It is easily missed from the main A591 but it is a lot more pleasant than it used to be before the bypass was built. Staveley Mill Yard is the hub of the action with various shops and businesses including Hawkshead Brewery and pub, the huge Wheelbase cycle shop and Wilf’s cafe. Elsewhere in the village itself is St Margaret’s Tower which is all that remains of the old church, the Eagle & Child Inn which has a lovely riverside beer garden, and public toilets. A pleasant short walk leads around the village and along the River Kent.
Buses stop at a couple of locations through the village. The train station is only a short walk from the village centre. Not all trains stop at this station.
Stott Park Bobbin Mill
The original Stott Park Bobbin Mill dates from 1835 and was built to produce wooden bobbins (or thread spools) for the Lancashire textile mills during their heyday following the Industrial revolution. A massive amount of these bobbins were required and the Lake District proved to be a good place to make them with an abundant supply of water to power the machinery and also the coppice wood that was used for the bobbins. Up to 250,000 bobbins per week were produced in this small mill alone. The industry flourished throughout the 19th century and there were over 100 Lakeland bobbin mills over that period but Stott Park is the only surviving example and is now managed by English Heritage.
You can take a fascinating guided tour of the mill and still see a few bobbins being made on the original belt driven lathes. Electricity provides power nowadays but originally it was all water powered with a steam engine later added. You can still see the impressive steam engine which is powered up on bank holidays and special events. Outside, you can see the stream that provided the power with pleasant footpaths around the grounds and a picnic area. Displays around the site tell you more about its history and other interesting facts.
There are toilet facilities and a small shop where you can buy bobbins made in the mill. There is a charge for entrance if you are not English Heritage members. The attraction is open Wednesday to Sunday plus bank holidays between Easter and November. Closed during winter.
Boats and trains stop at Lakeside, approx 0.7 mile walk along the narrow road.
Townend is an historic Lakeland farmhouse preserved to show the lifestyle of the family who lived there for more than 300 years. The family moved out in the 1940’s and the property is now managed by National Trust. The attractive 17th century farmhouse retains many original features and was home to the Browne family who were fairly ordinary farmers with some fairly quirky interests as shown by the collection of books, carvings and artefacts in the house. You can wonder around the atmospheric farmhouse and there are tours available at certain times. Outside there is a pleasant garden and an impressive barn across the road. Open Tuesday to Friday, March to October. Free entry for National Trust members, otherwise admission fee applies. Toilet facilities are available.
508 bus stops on the A592 at Troutbeck church leaving approx 0.6 miles walk through Troutbeck village. Other buses stop on the A591 at Troutbeck Bridge leaving just over 1 mile walk, mostly uphill, along the minor Bridge Lane towards Troutbeck village.
As the name suggests, Waterhead marks the head of Windermere lake and you will find quite a few attractions in this attractive village near to Ambleside town. The most obvious feature is the lake and there is plenty of shoreline access with excellent views across the water. The small promenade makes a pleasant stroll and there are a few benches from where you can watch the boats coming and going. Windermere Lake Cruises call at the main pier here and you can take a scenic red cruise to Bowness and Lakeside or a seasonal Green cruise to nearby Wray Castle and Brockhole.
At the other end of the promenade, the Wateredge Inn has a fabulous beer garden overlooking the lake. If you walk beyond the pub you soon come to Borrans Park which provides good open grassy areas and small shingle beaches overlooking the lake. Beyond the park is Ambleside Roman Fort which was probably built during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (AD 117–138), around the same time as Hadrian’s Wall was built in north Cumbria. It is free entry to the fort and although not much remains of it now, you can still see the foundations of the various buildings, with information boards around the site telling you more. The Romans certainly had a magnificent view from their fort with mountain and lake scenery all around.
There are a few small gift shops, stalls and cafes in the Waterhead area, along with public toilets.
Buses stop outside the Waterhead Hotel and the boat jetty is nearby.
White Moss Common
White Moss Common is the attractive area of woodland and meadow between Grasmere lake and Rydal Water in a place that really epitomises the Lake District, surrounded by lakes and mountains in all directions! The picturesque River Rothay runs for around 1km through a narrow valley between the two lakes, with various footpaths allowing you to explore the area and visit the lakes.
Good footpaths lead a short distance from the road to an open area of meadow next to the river with a couple of benches and nearby toilets. From there, Grasmere lake is the easiest to get to if you follow the river upstream for around 800m to a footbridge over the river and a lovely shingle beach with stunning views northwards across the lake and surrounding mountains. Rydal Water can be reached on a rougher path over the footbridge near the toilets and up through the woods before descending left to the open lakeshore, around 1km distant.
There are toilets but no other facilities.
Buses stop on the main A591 adjacent to the site.
Windermere town is actually about 1 mile distant from Windermere lake and was formerly called Birthwaite until the railway came in the mid-19th century at which point the station and hence the town took the name of the lake. Although basically joined to Bowness, it is a separate town with its own attractions. The town centre has a number of attractive buildings, independent shops and cafes. Adjacent to the train station is the popular Lakeland shop, Booths supermarket and Tourist Information Centre. Above the town is the wonderful viewpoint of Orrest Head which has sweeping views in all directions and is where the famous local walking guide author Alfred Wainwright first encountered the Lake District in 1930. It is a short but fairly strenuous walk, starting from opposite the railway station.
A local hub for public transport with the railway station and many bus services stopping here. All buses stop in front of the railway station.
Wray Castle is a striking mock-gothic castle on the shores of Windermere lake. Built in 1840 as a private residence, the house has had an interesting history with many varied occupants. In 1882 a 16 year old Beatrix Potter holidayed here with her family from London. She was evidently very impressed and this was the start of her Lake District love affair which gave her so much inspiration in her later work. The castle was later acquired by the National Trust in 1929, although it only opened its doors to the public in 2011.
Inside the castle you can explore the elaborate church-like interior with rooms that house different displays and children’s activities. There are also occasional guided tours. Outside, the elevated views are wonderful from in front of the castle towards Ambleside and surrounding mountains. There are attractive wooded grounds stretching down to the picturesque shores of Windermere lake where there are some grassy areas and shingle beaches with panoramic views across the lake. There are some fabulous walks along the lake shore which provides a good place for a picnic and paddle. Other attractions include a small adventure playground and a mulberry tree planted by William Wordsworth in 1845. Between Easter and October you can take a Green cruise from the nearby jetty around the northern part of the lake, also calling at Brockhole and Waterhead. The adjacent mock-gothic boathouse was built the same time as the castle.
There is a cafe and toilet facilities with a charge for castle entrance if you are not National Trust members. Castle open daily, except Monday & Tuesday, from March to October. Closed in winter. Grounds and cafe are open daily all year.
The boat jetty is a short walk from the castle, still within the grounds.