Lake Windermere | Adventure Travel Guide
Looking for a wealth of adventures that are right on your doorstep? Look no further than the stunning Lake Windermere
Set within the lush greenery of the Lake District in the North West of England is Windermere. While the town of Windermere itself is small, with a population of just over 8,000, the area itself is dominated by the mighty Lake Windermere. But it’s not just water sports that are on offer the for adventurous in this beautiful corner of the world.
International visitors to Lake Windermere should fly to either Manchester or Edinburgh airports. There are several trains each day from the two cities to Windermere, requiring only one change, both at the nearby Oxenholme which is roughly a 20 minute ride away from Windermere.
Surrounded by deep, lush forests, mighty peaks, and rolling fields, Lake Windermere sits in one of the most beautiful places you’ll find anywhere in the world; Cumbria, the Lake District National Park. But the area really is dominated by the long, thin lake itself. Formed some 13,000 years ago from a glacial trough, Windermere is the largest natural lake in England. As you can imagine, this makes it an amazing place for water sports.
Being so vast, there can be a lot of different water sports and activities going on at the same time on Lake Windermere. The water on Windermere is ideal for stand up paddle boarding, and the natural windbreaks (remember those trees and hills?) that surround the water means it’ll be nice and flat, which is superb for beginners or SUP supremos alike.
Kayaking and canoeing are another good way to see Lake Windermere, with the versatility and manoeuvrability of the crafts affording a pretty unique perspective of your surroundings. If you prefer to go a little faster, water skiing and wakeboarding behind a powerboat are also available, as is flyboarding which, if you’re not familiar, is like a high pressure hose pipe on the bottom of what looks like a snowboard that propels you into to air above the water.
There are numerous hire shops dotted around the edge of Lake Windermere if you fancy trying your hand at any of these water sports, although we found the Water Sports Centre at Low Wood Bay on the North Eastern edge of the Lake a particularly good one-stop-shop.
Sailing and other kind of boating are common on Lake Windermere, although this can make the water somewhat less calm for people paddling on SUP boards nearby, so consideration for fellow lake-users is advised. Indeed a 10 knot speed limit on the lake was introduced several year ago. Wild swimming is also incredibly popular in Lake Windermere, with really useful launches dotted on both sides of the water.
Of course, Windermere isn’t exclusively a water sports destination. Seeing the area on two wheels is enormously enjoyable, whether you’re cycling leisurely with your family, or pushing your limits on the calf-burning Weekend Loop mountain bike trail which, at a staggering 73 miles in length, is enough to keep you occupied for an entire weekend.
If hiking is your thing, then you’ll be spoilt for choice. On the West side of Lake Windermere is the Ash Landing and Claife Heights trail, which takes in various terrain, but isn’t too challenging a walk at just over seven miles. The reward for your efforts are numerous staggering views along the way.
Where to stay
The Low Wood Bay Resort and Spa on the North East shore of Windermere is well located if your stay is going to involve hitting the water. It’s a large, and charmingly British hotel and spa, with large rooms, and a good restaurant on site. It’s also, handily, located literally over the road from the Low Wood Bay Water Sports Centre, meaning you won’t have far to go after your day on the lake.
If your budget focuses on adventure more than accommodation, the YHA Windermere is a hostel that offers a bed starting from just £30 per night, for a shared six bed dorm, although smaller private rooms sleeping two, three, four, and six people are also available. It’s an easy two mile walk to the edge of the lake from the hostel, with routes either following the road, or via more rural footpaths.
Where to Eat
If it’s a special occasion, or simply if you want to treat yourself, then Porto at Bowness Bay, on the East side of Windermere offers a little bit sophisticated. It’s an award winning restaurant that offers modern British dining. If you’re not sure what that means, it’s basically hearty traditional fare, but where the gravy is presented as a squiggly line on the side of your large plate.
If you’re looking for something a little more laid back, the Bilbo’s Cafe in Ambleside on the Northern tip of Windermere is a dog-friendly cafe that offers everything from flapjacks and a brew through to veggie burritos, and full English breakfasts. It regularly hosts live music, the decor is bright but tastefully shabby, and it’s a much loved haunt by anybody that drops by.
Where to drink
After a hard day of fun on Lake Windermere, it would be amiss not to reward yourself with a pint of something. There are no shortage of pubs and tea rooms to frequent along the length of Windermere.
The Wateredge Inn on the Northern Bank of Windermere offers a stunning view down the length of Lake Windermere from its beer garden. Watching the sun set on the West side of the lake while enjoying a pint there is worth the trip alone.
If you’re looking for something a little bit different, head to the Crafty Baa. Hidden away in a former book shop, down an alley in the town of Windermere itself, this amazing little bar feels like a cross between an alpine lodge and a hipster pub in South East London (which, for the records, are among our two favourite places to be).
The beers on offer are an embarrassment of craft beer riches, with everything from the seemingly ubiquitous Brooklyn Lager, to regular Mpora drink of choice Beavertown, to craft beer infused with banana. If you’ve got a beard, a check shirt, and love a pint, Crafty Baa is well worth seeking out.
What the locals say
“I love Lake Windermere. It’s got such strong links to my childhood. It’s such an inspiring place to come enjoy, being here always lifts my spirits up. “
Olivia Irving, water sports instructor and Windermere local.