10 BEST Things Do In Windermere In 2024 (Unmissable Activities!) ✔️
10 BEST Things Do In Windermere In 2024 (Unmissable Activities!) ✔️

10 BEST Things Do In Windermere In 2024 (Unmissable Activities!) ✔️

No visit to the Lake District National Park is complete without a trip to Lake Windermere!

What to do in Windermere, Best things to do. Ambleside Pier
Running 10.5 miles in length and measuring a whopping 220 feet deep, Windermere is officially England’s largest lake and attracts millions of eager tourists each year.

While there’s certainly great fun to be had on the waters for swimmers and watersport fanatics, surrounding Lake Windermere you’ll also uncover plenty more activities to get up to during your time here.

From scenic hikes and village hopping, to cavern hunting and museum perusing just to name a few, there’s so much surrounding the lake just waiting to be discovered.

But with so many activities to choose from, just what are the very best things to get up to during your visit?

What to do in Windermere? 10 Best things to do

Separating the wheat from the chaff so you don’t have to, we’ve whittled down a list of what we consider the 10 best things to get up to in the area!

Set out on any of these activities and I’m positive you’ll be in for belting time!

Interested? Let’s get to it 👇👇

Try one of the many walks surrounding Windermere Lake

Tarn Hows Walk, Views, Lake District

With a blog titled ‘The Walking Northerners’, it’d be amiss if we didn’t kick off our list by highlighting all the amazing hikes on offer in the Windermere area.

From lakeshore strolls, fell climbs, woodland rambles, tranquil tarns and castle grounds just to name a few; I’m sure there’s a walk here to suit your taste & ability.

Rydal Water, Rydal Caves walk
From gentle family trails to challenging hillside climbs, Windermere’s countryside has a hike for everyone.

Particular highlights of ours include a lakeshore walk to the Wray Castle; a fell hike up to the summit of Loughrigg Fell & a stroll around the beautiful Fell Foot Park sitting on the southern tip of Windermere.

For the full lowdown on the best hikes in the area, I’d definitely recommend heading over to our recent post on the ‘7 BEST Windermere Walks You MUST Try’!

Enjoy a swim in the waters of Windermere

After working up a sweat during your hike, why not cool down at any one of the fantastic wild swimming spots dotted around Lake Windermere?  

Wild Swimming Lake Windermere
There are few things more revitalising than a paddle in the crystal-clear waters of Windermere.

Being such a large body of water, there are a multitude of different locations where you’re able to take a dip, which also means you’ve got somewhere new to swim each visit!

The best locations however in my opinion are: Borran’s Park, Fell Foot, Low Wray & Millerground.

With each of these offering a unique duck’s eye view of the lake, feel free to delve into our post on the 4 BEST Swimming Spots On Lake Windermere to discover all you need to know!

Wild Swimming Windermere, Borrans Park, Ambleside

Spend some time village hopping

During you visit, you’ll likely have a mooch around Windermere, but this is by no means the only town there is to see.

Dotted all around the lake are a variety of idyllic & historic villages just waiting to be discovered!

Just a few of our personal favourites are:

Bowness on Windermere

Located just beside Windermere, Bowness-on-Windermere truly is a village worth your attention. Home to some of the most sublime lakeside vistas, an idyllic village full of independent cafes, shops & historical attractions; this is an ideal spot to kill a couple of hours during your trip.

Ambleside

Ambleside, Canoes, Lake Windermere, Best Walks

Sitting on the northern tip of Windermere, Ambleside is likewise renowned for its incredible views overlooking the lake.

With a bustling little village full of variety to peruse, Ambleside is also home to the Stock Gyhll Waterfall, a fantastic wild swimming location on Borran’s Park and the famed Bridge House; a 17th Century cottage that takes the title of ‘most photographed building in the whole National Park’!

Hawkshead

Hawkshead Cottages, Hawkshead to Windermere Walk

A historic settlement still untarnished by modern commercialism, Hawkshead is like stepping into a time capsule, with the ban on cars in the heart of the village only further adding to its authenticity.

Narrow winding streets flanked by fairytale-like cottages, two of our recommendations would be to check out the village’s popular chocolate shop & St Michael’s and All Angels Church.

Residing on a hill at the top of town, the views from the Church grounds on a clear day are simply breathtaking.

St Michael's And All Angels Church, Hawkshead, Views, Scenery
Also open to visitors, be sure to head inside and be wowed by the Church’s historic interior

Grasmere

Another quaint village famed for housing the grave of Lake District writer and legend William Wordsworth.

With plenty of quirky shops & cafes to check out, Grasmere is also known as having arguably the best gingerbread in the whole world!

Grasmere Gingerbread, Sarah Nelson
 Baked fresh each day, trust me when I say you’ve never tasted anything quite like this before.

Map of villages to visit in Windermere

Sail the waters with Windermere Lake Cruises

Luckily for those who’d like to hop between towns, a plethora of ferries conveniently run across Lake Windermere thoughout the day, providing tourists with the most fun & scenic method of navigating the area!

Windermere, Lake District Cruses
Why not ditch the car and hop on board!

Fun fact – Clocking over 1.6 million passengers each year, Windermere Lake Cruises was titled England’s 4th most popular paid for attraction in 2018.

With origins dating back to the Victorian era, the fleet of 17 passenger vessels even includes ‘steamers’ dating back as far as 1891.

I’m sure all you history buffs are getting giddy already at the sound of that!

With four colour-coded route options, passengers can easily jump on board and visit hotspots including Ambleside, Wray Castle, Bowness on Windermere and even an island cruise tour.

Name
Route
Yellow Bowness-on-Windermere – Lakeside Station – Bowness-on-Windermere
Red Bowness-on-Windermere – Windermere Jetty – Ambleside – Bowness-on-Windermere
Green Ambleside – Brockhole National Park Visitor Centre – Wray Castle – Ambleside
Blue Bowness-on-Windermere – 45 Minute Circular Tour of the Islands – Bowness-on-Windermere

For more information, feel free to check out the official Windermere Lake Cruises site here.

Go cavern exploring

A favourite with adventurous adults and children alike, some of the Lake District’s very best caves can be found in near proximity to Windermere.

Rydal Caves, Lake District, Walk, Swim, Stepping Stones

For instance, Rydal Caves can be found just north of Ambleside; a man-made wonder with such an atmosphere that it was even selected as a filming location for the Netflix hit fantasy series ‘The Witcher’!

Rydal Caves, Inside, Views
With various filming locations dotted around the Lakes, why not head over to our ‘Witcher Lake District Locations Guide’ for all you need to know?

Other nearby caverns also include Cathedral Cave near Little Langdale and Hodge Close Quarry, also menacingly known as ‘Skull Cave.’

Having been dubbed as England’s scariest cave by national press, you’re even able to sneak down to the bottom of the quarry via a hidden scramble path!

Hodge Close Quarry, Cave, Skull, Rail Track

Notoriously difficult to find however, please make sure you know where you’re going before you visit by reading through our ‘Hodge Close Quarry Guide’. The landscape here is very hazardous, so it’s imperative that you know your bearings.

Discover the Wonderful World Of Beatrix Potter

One of England’s most iconic writers, all around Windermere you’ll likely see a whole host of museums, shops & the like dedicated to Beatrix Potter.

Having authored 23 classic children’s stories and sold over 250 million copies, she’s arguably the National Park’s most famous former resident.

Celebrated for preserving much of modern Lakeland which we all enjoy today, Beatrix also owned the neighbouring Coniston Estate which can be found just the east of Windermere.

(For a list of great walks around Coniston, be sure to check out our detailed guide here!)

Peter Rabbit, Stuffed Teddy Bear, Beatrix Potter, First stuffed teddy in history
Did you know? – Peter Rabbit was officially the first fictional character to be made into a stuffed toy in 1903, making him the first ever licensed character 🐇

With Potter’s books continuing to sell all around the globe the world in various languages, one of the best places to get the full Beatrix Potter experience during your visit to Windermere is at the Wonderful World Of Beatrix Potter exhibition.

A delightful family attraction I’m sure the little ones will love, watch Beatrix Potter’s stories come to life through vibrant recreations.

Meet characters from the books, stroll around the outdoor Peter Rabbit Garden and peruse the gift shop to take away some of the magic for yourself.

Learn about Lakeland’s history at Windermere museums

Likewise, for museum lovers there’s plenty more where that came from!

If you’re unfortunate enough to not get the best weather during your trip to Windermere, fret not since there are a whole host of museums to fill up your days.

Whether you’re a fan of Laurel & Hardy, wanting to learn more about the history of motor cars or interested in visiting the boat museum; there’s no shortage of exhibitions here for you.

For those that way inclined, there’s even the Derwent Pencil Museum.

Yep, you heard that right. A museum dedicated solely to pencils!

Separating the wheat from the chaff so you don’t have to, here’s a list of the top 10 rated museums in Windermere:

Map created with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android 
  1. World of Beatrix Potter
  2. Hill Top, Beatrix Potter’s House
  3. Lakeland Motor Museum
  4. The Puzzling Place
  5. Wordsworth Grasmere
  6. Derwent Pencil Museum
  7. Blackwell Arts & Crafts House
  8. Holker Hall & Gardens
  9. The Dock Museum
  10. Laurel & Hardy Museum

Eat all of the food!

Waterhead Coffee Shop, Blueberry Scone & Coffee
Blueberry Scone and a coffee by the pier. Livin’ the dream.

Fine dining, café nibbles, local bakeries or some maybe even some good old fashioned pub grub after a tiresome day out; you won’ struggle finding fantastic eateries dotted all around Windermere.

On our last visit we opted to eat at the Queen’s Head in Hawkshead for dinner, a 17th Century inn with big portions and classic pub food which didn’t fail to fill both me and my partner up!

Nevertheless, it was our brunch visit to Waterhead Cafe in Ambleside that truly took the cake during our most recent trip.

Simple yet tasty light bites, I opted for the classic ham & cheese panini, while my partner went straight for one of their homemade blueberry scones with cream & jam (pictured above).

Scrumptious food and gorgeous views overlooking Windermere, sitting by the lake and enjoying a brew really is one of life’s simple pleasures! 

Hop on board the historic Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway

During your time in Windermere, why not hop on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway & enjoy the 50-minute steam train ride to Lakeside Pier?

A picture-perfect route throughout, simply kick back and enjoy the classic Lake District countryside as you journey along this historic heritage trainline.

With the journey running 3.5 miles in length, the railway takes you via Newby Bridge to Haverthwaite, along the old Furness line that used to go to Ulverston and Barrow.

Originally constructed during the peak of the Industrial Revolution in the mid 19th century, the historic railway was used to transport coal and iron to areas of heavy industry.

Officially closed for business in 1965, the railway line was later reopened as a tourist attraction, largely thanks to Dr Peter Beet who helped form the Lakeside Railway Estates Company.

Both preserving and commercialising the railway for all of us to enjoy today, one word comes to mind when thinking of Peter and his fellow railway enthusiasts. Legends! 

Last time we checked, fare prices were:

  • Adult Return      £10.00
  • Adult Single        £6.00
  • Child Return      £6.00
  • Child Single        £4.00
  • Family Return (2 adults & up to 3 children)          £30.00

Dogs are allowed to travel for free! Just please be respectful and don’t let them jump on the seats.

Spend the night camping (or glamping) beside Lake Windermere

Syke Farm Campsite, Buttermere, Lake District Campsites

If you’re planning on a multi-day trip in Windermere, then what better way to get a true outdoor experience than by spending a night under the stars in a tent?

With various lakeside campsites on offer, there’s even the option to camp by the epic Low Wray Castle.

Fun fact – While the eye-catching castle may look medieval in nature (it even includes fake arrow slits), this Victorian neo-gothic building wasn’t actually built until 1840.

Nestled beside a serene shingle beach and one of the best wild swimming locations in the National Park, what better way to start your morning than by jumping out of your tent and heading straight for a sunrise dip.

For more info, you can click here to head on over to the Low Wray National Trust website.

For those wanting something a tad more glamourous however, you’ll equally have no trouble finding fantastic glamping options dotted around the lake.

From Mongolian yurts to quaint shepherds huts and more, I’m sure you’ll find something to suit your preferences.

Likewise, for more camping inspiration in the National Park, don’t forget to check out our recent post listing the 5 BEST Campsites In The Lake District!

More Lake District resources

While you’re here…

Why not explore more from the Lake District section of our little ol’ blog? I’m sure there’s something that’ll tickle your fancy!

Happy walking 🚶🚶