“The popularity of this quarter of Lakeland is down to its Victorian past and softer walking opportunities”
The area near Lake Windermere has been popular since trains started arriving in the Victorian age. Like many of the seaside towns around the country the area was developed on the back of this. Fortunately they had a tendency to congregate near water and thus Bowness was built, developed and over time exploited. It is actually not a bad place at all, plenty to do with lovely views over the lake and, of course, it tends to draw people in who maybe are not after the traditional Lakeland pastimes of walking and general outdoor activities. The main beneficiary is Windermere which is still a good base, attractive yet near to where much of the non-walking action is centred, particularly involving the lakeside. Away from the corridor from Windermere up to Ambleside on the A591 the area is a pleasure to stay in. With the exception of Kentmere the hills are softer, lower, often covered in attractive woodland and full of nooks and crannies just waiting to be explored. Most who stay in the area never explore it but there is much to see and do for anyone who is prepared to look around.
Kendal is outside the Lake District National Park and is definitely a town. There is a genuine local community here (although many drive in to work in the National Park) which offers something different for the visitor. The shops are less touristy, there is a good leisure centre and Sizergh Castle is on the doorstep. However the main benefit of staying in Kendal is the access it brings to the valleys of Kentmere and Longsleddale. Kentmere is a firm favourite for walkers with the attractive little village surrounded by an excellent high level ridge, the ‘Kentmere Horseshoe’ one of the classic circuits of the Lake District. Sadly there is no pub but a couple of good ones in Staveley, a few miles to the south and at the entrance to the valley. Staveley is a medieval town with some great architecture and a picturesque village square. Taking the A6 north from Kendal there is a tiny road leading in to the 6 mile valley of Longsleddale – frankly there is nothing up Longsleddale except peace, quiet and some good hills at the head! The road does not carry over to Haweswater but a straightforward walk does.
Troutbeck is the valley that is nearest to Windermere and the name signifies both the valley that leads over Kirkstone Pass to Ullswater and the ‘conservation’ village strung alongside the road for a mile and a half. Due to its conservation status Troutbeck is well preserved and attractive (if the road is not too busy which to be fair it rarely is) with some excellent walking from the door, 3 pubs offering choice for an evening and close enough to Windermere for any other needs.
Windermere itself was, until the late 19th century 3 different hamlets which joined together when the railway arrived. It is a busy village with excellent places to stay. Practically on the lake but with good links to the higher fells to the north Windermere can be chastised by some but it has character and some charm, particularly outside the high season. Bowness itself is all about the large marina where hundreds of sailing boats are moored and the access points to the lake for the steamers and non-motorised boats which can be hired locally. It is often very full with many visitors never moving from the lake side particularly if the weather is good. The Victorian influence is strong and as I mentioned earlier it has that feel that many seaside towns developed when the Victorians took it upon themselves to travel. Windermere is definitely my preference of the two for its more Lakeland feel but many will disagree.At the southern end of Windermere lies Newby Bridge with its own community thereabouts and certainly plenty to do for the visitor, even though the higher fells are some distance away. The Lakeside and Haverththwaite mini railway runs for 3 ½ miles, the river offers some excellent paddling and messing about whilst it is a great location for exploring the Furness peninsula to the south.
Just to the south of Kendal is a hidden pearl of an area offering some excellent, mainly low level walks. Most famous for the Leighton Moss Nature Reserve The Arnside & Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty fits its name perfectly with a choice of coastal walking and rolling landscape, pretty villages and a feel of peace & tranquility which is only really found on the fringes of the National Park.
Fells above Windermere. A lovely area of low and surprisingly quiet fells that lie just to the east of Windermere.
Orrest Head. A simple climb from the centre of Windermere to a fine viewpoint. Very worth and enjoyable.
Staveley & Potter Tarn. An unusual walk but with some lovely riverside and two picturesque tarns
Gummers How. A rugged little fell towards the south of Windermere lake, an easy climb but full of interest for anyone.
Kentmere Horseshoe. One of the wonderful circuits in Lakeland, a long day but a must to complete the whole round.
Kentmere and Troutbeck. Wonderful tracks link these two valleys at relatively low level, one of my favourite mid length walks.
Whitbarrow. Near Kendal the summit ridge of this isolated fell is weird, almost like being in the Mediterranean!
Twin Peaks of Longsleddale. A secretive valley leading towards Haweswater contains two peaks where Lakeland meets Pennines.
Lands near Underbarrow. A quiet area of lovely countryside near Kendal
Crossthwaite, near Kendal. More delightful countryside that lies between Kendal and Windermere
Heights of Kendal Fell. A short walk from one of the gateways to the lakes takes you over a local hill and fine woodland
The Helm . A delightful short walk from Oxenholme with great viws and easy walking on The Helm
The ‘Other’ Borrowdale. A deep and attractive valley and a high ridge are the highlights of this forgotten area.
Arnside & Silverdale
From Arnside to Silverdale. This walk combines coastal walking, rural meandering and the option of a fell with views to finish.
A round of Silverdale Head. More coastal walking with views over the bay combine with some attractive woodland.
Gait Barrows Nature Reserve. A little sister to Leighton Moss next door this nature reserve is quiet and full of interest
A climb up Arnside Knott. A pretty limestone hill with great views, easily climbed from Arnside village.
Other Things to do in the Windermere Area
Brockhole Visitors Centre. Learn all there is to know about the National Park and enjoy the large outdoor play area.
Fell Running for Women. Ali Bramall is a business coach and has combined her profession with a love for fell running in a series of courses
Beatrix Potter Experience. A theme park in Bowness with tales, stories and a full Peter Rabbit and friends park to explore.
Windermere lake cruises. A choice of boats and length of cruises in Cumbria’s most popular visitor attraction.
Lakeside Railway. A 3.5 mile trip on a steam train from the south shores of Windermere.
Sizergh Castle. A medieval castle near Kendal with imposing ramparts, an interesting interior and great gardens.
Blackwell House. Built in 1900, a fine example of the Arts & Crafts style of architecture and furniture.
Arnside & Silverdale AONB. Click here to find out more about the work and activities within the AONB
Updated Weather Forecast
Click here to go to the Met Office website for a 5 day weather forecast for the Windermere & Kendal area.
Places to Stay
Beck House Farm Caravans, nr Kendal