Windermere, at 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep, is the largest natural lake in England, and is fed by numerous rivers. The Romans built their fort of GALAVA at its northern end (Waterhead), and it has always been an important waterway for movement of heavy materials.
Bowness-on-Windermere – Lakeland’s most popular holiday resort – is an excellent centre for boating activities, with over 10,000 boats registered. Until March 2005 Windermere was the only lake without a speed limit, but a 10 mph limit has now been imposed.
There is a large selection of Adventure Activity companies, guides and instructors for all abilities based around and on Windermere. Details of these can be found in our Activities Section.
The village of Windermere grew around the Windermere railway station, about a mile and a half from the lake. The village was originally called Birthwaite, but the railway company decided to call the station after the lake.
Steamers and launches operate from Bowness Bay to Waterhead at Ambleside, and Lakeside at the southern end.
In the late 19th century, wealthy businessmen from Lancashire built grand mansions overlooking the lake, and many of these have now been converted to hotels, such as the Langdale Chase Hotel, and the Belsfield Hotel. Others houses include The National Park Visitor Centre at Brockhole, between Ambleside and Bowness, and Wray Castle almost opposite Brockhole, and the first Lake District holiday home of Beatrix Potter.
Arthur Ransome based his book ‘Swallows and Amazons’ partly on Windermere and partly on nearby Coniston Water. The lake is today one of the prime destinations for watersports and is home to several marinas and Sailing and Windsurfing Centres.