In this article, we will discover the best things to do in Windermere including its many scenic spots, things to do on the lake, local museums, castles and more!
Windermere makes a great base for adventures on the lake and throughout the gorgeous Lake District National Park. Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts flock to the town as it makes a great base for local hikes to some of the nearby peaks.
Windermere is a small town in Cumbria a stone’s throw from the shores of Lake Windermere, the largest natural lake in England. The town is a popular tourist spot thanks to its proximity to the lake and local scenery.
The picturesque town of stone buildings is home to an assortment of boutique shops, rustic pubs, restaurants and cafes. There is a farmers’ market every Friday with local farmers selling a selection of their organic produce.
Getting to Windermere
By car: Windermere is a 1 hour and 40-minute drive from Manchester and around five hours drive from London. Take the M6 and then A590 and A591 straight to the town.
By bus: there are no direct buses to Windermere from major UK cities. You must first get to Lancaster and then take a bus to Kendal and then onto Windermere. Alternatively, take the train from Lancaster to Windermere which takes 40 minutes and starts from £15.00.
- London to Lancaster bus: 7h30m £23.30
- Birmingham to Lancaster bus: 4h0m £25.00
- Manchester to Lancaster bus: 1h25m £9.00
By train: there are daily trains from London Euston to Windermere with a change in Oxenholme. The journey time is 3h20m including the change and costs start from £34.00 if booked in advance.
By plane: the closest international airport is Manchester. From there take the train or bus to Lancaster and complete the journey by bus or train as detailed above.
Best Places to Stay in Windermere
Budget: Jericho’s Boutique Accommodation is a family-run guesthouse just 12 minute walk from the shores of Lake Windermere. The guesthouse is set within a Victorian building with period features and a contemporary design. The price includes a breakfast that is cooked to order from locally sourced ingredients. Singles from £80.00. Book a stay at Jericho’s Boutique Accommodation here.
Mid-range: Windermere Manor Hotel is just a 10-minute walk from the lake and set within three acres of gardens. The rooms have scenic views and a private balcony or patio. There is an onsite restaurant housed in a charming wooden-beamed building. Doubles from £130.00 including breakfast. Book a stay at Windermere Manor Hotel here.
Luxury: Woodlands is a luxury hotel a 12-minute from the lake. If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a real four-poster bed you can here! All rooms have en-suites with exclusive toiletries from the White Company. There is an onsite bar and restaurant. Doubles from £160.00 per night including breakfast. Book a stay at Woodlands here.
Top Things to do in Windermere
There are so many wonderful things to do in Windermere, you could easily spend a week here enjoying the different lakes, cruises, hikes, and simply relaxing in the downtown area.
Whether you prefer an active holiday of kayaking and hiking or something a little bit calmer and more relaxing, there are plenty of things to do in Windermere for everyone. As well as being very family-friendly, Windermere is a top destination for romantic getaways in the UK.
1. Take a Cruise on Lake Windermere
There is a range of different cruises available from Windermere Jetty or nearby Bowness and Ambleside. One of the most popular is the “Red Cruise” which 75-minute round-trip taking in the best scenery the lake has to offer.
The Yellow cruise takes in the fells (mountains), historic houses, and ancient woodland and starts from Bowness. There is also the blue cruise which takes in many of the lake’s islands and a green cruise which takes in Wray Castle.
You can listen to an interesting commentary about the local history of the lake while you cruise which is included in the price. Taking a cruise out on the lake is definitely one of the top things to do in Windermere thanks to the stunning scenery you can enjoy along the way.
Tickets start from £11.000 for adults and £5.00 for children depending on the route. It is also possible to buy a “Freedom of the Lake” pass which enables you to take any and all of the four different cruises in 24 hours. £26.50 for adults and £13.25 for children. You can book online or pay at the ferry pier on the day. The service runs from April to the end of October.
2. Brockhole House and Garden
Brockhole advertises itself as a “beautiful lakeside arts and crafts villa set in extensive grounds”, but there is so much more to this great Windermere attraction. From the visitor centre filled with interesting displays to the beautiful gardens, art gallery, gift shop and restaurant and café, this is one of the best Lake Windermere things to do.
Brockhole House was designed for wealthy industrialists looking to escape the cities to enjoy the serenity of the nearby lake. The house is the former home of William Gaddum, a silk merchant from Manchester who moved to Windermere in 1899. The Gaddum family are still part of Brockhole’s legacy and run the onsite Gaddum restaurant today (a visit is heartily recommended).
There are many activities on offer at Brockhole from kayak tours to caving, mini-golf, orienteering, crazy carts, archery and boat hire. You can book these online or call (+44) 01539 446601.
3. Fell Foot Park
Beautiful Fell Foot Park is a lakeside park with stunning views of the nearby fells (mountains). Fell Foot is one of the great free things to do in Windermere and there are many activities available on site. The expansive meadows and parkland are a great place to have a picnic, and there is also a café on site.
It is possible to hire rowing boats, kayaks, or paddleboards at Fell Foot. Prices start from £19 per hour and you can book online.
You can reach the Park by road or ferry from Windermere.
4. Marvel at The World of Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter is one of Britain’s most loved children’s authors who penned such classics as The Tale of Peter Rabbit and the Tale of Benjamin Button. Potter spent her childhood holidays in the Lake District and then went on to become a champion of local conservation in the area.
This wonderful family day out brings the world of Beatrix Potter’s stories to life in front of your very eyes. Take in the award-winning Peter Rabbit garden, enjoy a bit to eat at the café filled with characters and take home a little bit of Potter magic from the gift shop.
Tickets cost £9 for adults and £5 for children aged three to 16. Children under three years go free.
5. Hike to Orrest Head
There are many trails that lead from Windermere up to the surrounding fells. These hikes range in difficulty from easy, short ambles, to more strenuous treks to the top of mountain peaks.
Orrest Head is a peak above the town that was made famous in Wainwright’s book The Outlying Fells of Lakeland. The panorama from the summit takes in the surrounding fells including The Old Man of Coniston, Great Gable, and England’s tallest mountain, Scafell Pike.
The hike starts at the train station in Windermere where a pathway leads all the way to the summit. The round-trip is about 3 miles and should take around 90-minutes.
6. Explore Wray Castle and Grounds
This gothic 180-year-old castle on the shores of the Lake is a must-visit for those visiting Windermere. There are panoramic views of the lake from the castle grounds which include hiking trails, lakeshore and parkland.
Wray Castle is on the western side of the lake but is easily reachable by ferry. Entry to the grounds is free, but there is a charge if you would like to see inside the castle. £5.40 for adults and £2.70 for children.
There is a café open from 10:00 to 16:00 daily and outside toilets.
7. Ride a Steam Train on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway
There is a steam railway line that runs between Haverthwaite station at the southern end of Lake Windermere to Lakeside Station 5km to the north. The views valley and lakeside views from the train are incredible, and once you reach Lakeside you have the option of transferring to a steamer ferry to cross the lake.
Train to Lakeside Station
- Adult single £5.60
- Adult return £8.60
- Child single £3.20
- Child return £4.30
Train and boat to Bowness
- Adult single £21.00
- Child return £11.90
Train and Boat to Ambleside
- Adult single £29.50
- Child return £14.80
At Haverthwaite station there is a tea room serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
8. Visit the Lakeside Pier and Aquarium
Looking for things to do Lake Windermere when it’s raining? Look no further than the Lakeside Aquarium. The aquarium is set over two floors with ten different zones including Asia, the Americas, Africa, the Rainforest, and of course, the Lake District.
If you’ve ever wanted to get up close and personal with an axolotl or piranha, here is the place to do it (though not too close in the case of the piranha)! The displays include underwater chambers where you can walk through and admire the fish and sea life swimming above your head.
Tickets cost £8.00 for adults and £6.00 for children. You can reach the aquarium by ferry, steam train, or by road.
9. Check out the Windermere Jetty Museum
This museum recently reopened in 2019 houses a fascinating collection of classic boats. Here you can see steam launches, sailing boats, and record-breaking speed boats from years gone by. There is a model boating pond where you can sail your own miniature boats, hiking trails around the jetty and an on-site café.
Adult tickets cost £9.50 and children £4.50. The museum is open daily from 10:00 to 6:00.
Things to do Near Windermere
If you have visited Windermere before or you have more time, there are also some wonderful things to do near Windermere to explore. The Lake District towns are closeby, especially if you are traveling by car, and you can really see a lot in a short period of time.
10. “Go Ape” in Grizedale Forest
Grizedale Forest is one of the great things to do near Windermere thanks to its beautiful scenery overlooking the lake and fens. At Grizedale, there are plenty of action-packed activities on offer from mountain biking to horse riding or swinging between the trees at the Go Ape courses.
The forest area has 10 hiking trails and 9 cycle trails (bike hire is available on site). There is a visitor centre with information about the area, a café and plenty of places to picnic.
11. Visit Charming Keswick
This ancient market town 20 miles north of Windermere is well worth a visit. The town’s market dates back over 700 years, and the streets are lined with picturesque stone cottages, rustic pubs and a selection of interesting museums, theatres and hiking trails leading from the town.
Read more in our full guide to Keswick.
Is Windemere Worth a Visit?
Windermere is absolutely worth a visit thanks to its location right next to the lake of the same name. There are so many things to do in Windemere from sailing, paddle boarding and hiking to sampling some of Cumbria’s hearty fayre, so no trip to England is complete without visiting the stunning Lake District! What are you waiting for, book your trip today?!