Windermere (lake)

Ambleside / Waterhead / Bowness-on-Windermere / Lakeside / Windermere Village

Windermere, at 10.5 miles long, one mile wide and 220 feet deep, is the largest natural lake in both the Lake District and 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.


image of an an aerial view of windermere lake in the english lake district, taken from a balloon and looking north from the foot of the lake

Looking north from the foot of Windermere, with Fell Foot lower right, and Lakeside Pier centre left.

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.


At the southern end is Lakeside Pier, and Lakeside Station of the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, and also the Aquarium of the Lakes.


am image of a tourist cruise boat on windermere lake with lake district fells behind

Steamer on Windermere

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.


All of the west shoreline, but very little of the east, is owned by the National Trust. The Trust also owns Fell Foot at the southern end of the lake.

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.

an image of an aerial view of windermere lake in the lake district in the winter, looking north from newby bridge

See photo albums of Windermere

Windermere accommodation links

The Cedar Manor Hotel – boutique hotel within walking distance of Windermere town centre.
The Rothay Manor Hotel – charming hotel in Ambleside village on the northern end of the lake.
Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa – luxury lakeside hotel in Bowness on Windermere.
Bed & Breakfast
1 Park Road – a luxury bed and breakfast in the heart of Windermere. Pet Friendly.
Lindeth Fell – 5* luxury bed & breakfast in a tranquil location on the outskirts of bustling Bowness.
Oakfold House – 4* bed & breakfast located in a quiet position between Bowness and Windermere.
High Fold Guest House – 4* bed & breakfast in Troutbeck village, approx 3 miles from Windermere lake
Hillsdale – 4* townhouse B&B with parking in Ambleside village on the northern end of the lake.
Glamping – see our Glamping page for a full selection of sites & providers on Windermere

Grid Ref : SD 395960