Things To Do In Bowness-on-Windermere

If ewe ever find yourself in the Lake District, why not visit the gorgeous town of Bowness-on-Windermere? This popular spot is the first choice for many when visiting the Lakes as the area is filled with numerous attractions and activities. There are plenty of things to see and do in Bowness-on-Windermere so, to help you out, we’ve put together a little guide for your visit.

Why Bowness-on-Windermere?

A view of lake Windermere from Bowness Pier, with lots of small wooden boats moored up, on a clear blue sky day.

Bowness-on-Windermere is a popular tourist town sitting between Waterhead and Lakeside on the shore of Lake Windermere. The name “Windermere” is translated from Old Norse as “Vinandr’s Lake”, which echoes the Viking presence that was once in England. Strictly speaking, Lake Windermere should just be called “Windermere” (with mere meaning a lake that is wide in relation to its depth). However, to avoid confusion with the town of Windermere, most people refer to the water as “Lake Windermere”.

The area is alive and bustling most of the year with visitors who come to try watersports on the lake, find souvenirs, or simply to enjoy the relaxing and welcoming atmosphere of the town. Bowness is the perfect location for a day-trip or a longer stay, and an ideal holiday destination all year round. With so much on offer, it will be easy to find something to appeal to everyone in your flock.

Exploring the Area Around Bowness

When you think about the Lake District, you think about the landscape (and grazing!), and there’s no better place than the area around Bowness and Lake Windermere. It is a walker’s paradise with a wide variety of trails catering to every ability. Whether you want a leisurely stroll around the shore of the lake, or a hike up the hills surrounding the town, all walks offer brilliant views of the beautiful area so you should try to do at least one.

One of our top recommendations is Orrest Head. This short, easy walk provides an excellent viewpoint. Interestingly, it was the first summit in Lakeland visited by Alfred Wainwright, the famous fellwalker and guidebook author. After seeing this viewpoint from Orrest Head, Wainwright began his “love affair” with the Lake District, which ended up with him completing his 7-volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells plus 40-odd other books to do with outdoor walking.

For another relaxed walk, there is Adelaide Hill and Millerground. This again is short, but has the best access to Lake Windermere along the entire eastern shore. It is also ideal for families due to the sights along the way such as waterfalls surrounded by wild garlic. Delicious!

View from the summit of Orrest Head, Windermere, Cumbria, looking eastward. Photo by Antiquary, licensed CC-BY-SA-4.0.
Photo by Antiquary, licensed CC-BY-SA-4.0.
Admiring the view from Brant Fell. Photo by Andrew Bowden, licensed CC-BY-SA-2.0.
Photo by Andrew Bowden, licensed CC-BY-SA-2.0.

For the more adventurous walkers, we recommend Brant Fell. The path is quite steep at times, and can get a bit muddy, but on a clear day the views from the top are certainly worth it. We recommend taking a Herdy Tumbler Flask with you, filled with tea, to keep you going.

Nearby Gummers Howe offers a similar walking profile and a wonderful view of Windermere lake, but features significantly more parking and the added bonus of grazing Luing cows along the walk.

An alternative from near the road to Gummers Howe is Fell Foot Park, a National Trust park featuring open lawns for games, gentle strolls, and picnics, plus easy access to the southern shore of Windermere. You can also try out some watersports on site, if you’re feeling ready to say “cowabunga!”

Grizedale Forest, Whitbarrow Scar, and Esthwaite Water are all close by too. As we said, there’s a lot to choose from!

For those of you with little lambs, there is Brockhole Visitor Centre, which is situated between Ambleside and Bowness. This amazing place is filled to the brim with exciting activities for all the family, such as a tree-top aerial obstacle course and zip wire; an indoor caving challenge; watersports and archery; an off-road driving experience; a giant adventure playground, and so much more. Herdy will be desperate to join you on your adventures!

A view of Bowness Pier from the lake of Windermere, with green leafy trees behind it. Photo by Nilfanion, licensed CC-BY-SA-4.0.
Photo by Nilfanion, licensed CC-BY-SA-4.0.

From Bowness Bay, there are many boat trips to help you explore as much of the Lakes as you can. There is a car ferry, operating all year around, which crosses the width of Windermere and arrives at either Far Sawrey or Hawkshead. Windermere Lake Cruises also has a large fleet of modern and traditional boats and “steamers”, which travel around the full length of Lake Windermere. They go from Bowness Bay, calling at Waterhead at Ambleside, and Lakeside at the southern end of Windermere.

It is worth stopping at Lakeside as it is home to the Lakeside Station of the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. You’ll feel as if you have travelled back in time amongst the traditional steam engines. Then, if you fancy it, there is the Lakes Aquarium too, which is a popular attraction for families.

Places to visit in Bowness-on-Windermere

The yacht "Myrtle" sailing south from Bowness. Photo by Matt Buck, licensed CC-BY-SA-3.0.
Photo by Matt Buck, licensed CC-BY-SA-3.0.

Many people visit for watersports, as Bowness is actually one of the main centres of outdoor activities in the UK. There is an extensive selection of top Adventure Activity companies, guides and instructors including specialists in canoe, kayak and stand up paddleboard. There is also opportunity to sail your own yacht on Windermere Lake, or take sailing courses with qualified instructors. Just be careful not to fall in!

Another extremely popular family attraction is World of Beatrix Potter and the accompanying Where is Peter Rabbit Musical Spectacle. This magical interactive attraction brings to life all of 23 of Beatrix Potter’s stories. Meet characters such as Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-winkle and Jemima Puddle-Duck, and visit the famous Peter Rabbit gift store. While you’re there, pop next door to visit our Herdy Bowness store and say hi!

Inside the Herdy Bowness shop, surrounded by colourful Herdy products.

Victorian architectural influences can be found everywhere in Bowness. In the late 19th century, wealthy businessmen built large residences overlooking the lake, and many of these have now been converted to hotels, such as the Langdale Chase Hotel, Storrs Hall Hotel, and the Belsfield Hotel.

A popular example of this architecture is Blackwell - The Arts and Crafts House. Blackwell is one of England’s most important surviving houses and is a wonderful example of Arts and Crafts movement architecture, with most of the original interiors still intact. Blackwell has international importance and was given a Grade 1 listing in 1998. The house and gardens were restored in the early 2000s and are now open to the public.

While Victorian and Edwardian buildings are evident throughout Bowness, for those who want to learn about its earlier history a walk to Lowside, behind the St Martin’s Church, will be of interest. The houses and little narrow streets make a delightful web which gives an insight into what the village was like before the arrival of the railway.

St Martin’s Church itself, which is the parish Church of Bowness, was originally built around 1203AD but was entirely reconstructed by 1483AD after a fire almost completely destroyed the church in 1480AD. The church is considered unusual for the area as the roof is covered in lead rather than slate, which is more common in Cumbria.

St Martin's Church, Bowness-on-Windermere. Photo by Michal Klajban, licensed CC-BY-SA-4.0.
Photo by Michal Klajban, licensed CC-BY-SA-4.0.

Shopping in Bowness-on-Windermere

Many visitors are surprised by the variety of shopping that Bowness-on-Windermere offers. From local merchants providing bespoke gifts to the everyday items that visitors may need, for a small town there is a lot of brilliant shopping to be done. The gentle cobbled streets of Bowness make it an inviting location to wander around, but are easy for a Herdy to trip on!

The cobbled lane of Ash Street off Crag Brow in Bowness-on-Windermere, narrow and full of shops.

The main road to lake is lined with quirky independent shops, as well as recognisable big brands like Joules and Fatface. Whether you are searching for fashion, gifts, outdoor clothing, toys or souvenirs, there is lots to buy.

If you fancy even more retail therapy, take a short walk or drive into Windermere where you will find the famous Lakeland Shop. What started as a local kitchenware company 50 years ago stationed 10 minutes from the heart of Windermere, Lakeland has developed into a massively popular nationwide brand. The huge store in Windermere attracts tourists regularly with its range of products as well as a café.

If you work up an appetite while exploring the abundance of shops, check out the selection of restaurants and cafes in town. Bowness has both local and foreign food in all price ranges, including Italian, Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisine. From pubs to fine dining, and bakeries to ice-cream parlours – Bowness has plenty to keep you full up and on the go. There is no shortage of cake too, which is just what we need to keep Herdy happy.

If ewe do decide to take a trip to Bowness-on-Windermere, let us know in the comments below, on our social media at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or email us.

Products mentioned in this guide

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