The Lake District: Bowness-on -Windermere
The Lake District is more than a school residential; it of course has the lakes to explore, 16 to be exact, as well as other bodies of water and meres. But there are also caves and hidden gems to discover, and great food and drink to enjoy. I had to find out the hard way that lakes aren’t salty by falling in when I was younger, who knew!
Located in Cumbria, Windermere is the largest lake in England, lying alongside the border between the historic counties of Lancashire and Westmorland. It is the most touristy, being famous for having the largest natural lake in England, being nearly 9 miles long, accompanied by lots of amazing restaurants: walks, and opportunities for a variety of water sports, like paddle boarding: kayaking, canoeing, wild swimming, and a range of other opportunities to try whilst visiting.
Windermere is one of my parent’s favourite places to be, they’ve been going for years and will never be bored of the scenery and surroundings. It is always very busy throughout summer due to it being such a popular destination, creating a fun and bustling environment, full of new people to meet and share adventures with. So, if you would like to take a scenic photo of the lake without some unfamiliar faces in your shot, my only advice being either try to wake up early, to avoid the crowds, or the town tends to quieten down in the evening, when a lot of day trippers are heading home or are getting ready for their evening meal.
Windermere has some lovely places to eat and drink
I would recommend The Fizzy Tarte, for a cocktail after a day of being on the water, no need to book as it has plenty of seating areas both inside and outside. Lake View Garden Bar is lovely, and as the name suggests, it looks onto the water and makes for some great views, whilst enjoying a drink. It also allows dogs to join you, so everyone can be included, as generally, the lakes are an ideal place for dog owners, with most accommodations happily allowing dogs to stay. The Village Inn is a good place for proper pub grub, others I would recommend would be Mela, a great Indian restaurant, and The Hole in T’ Wall, being a quaint pub, serving traditional ploughman’s platters and hearty sandwiches. All are in the centre, as Bowness is quite a condensed town, with restaurants and shops on every corner, with the majority only a street or two back from a view of the waterfront. There’s plenty of choice for places to try, you’ll never be bored of the food, and you’ll struggle to go hungry!
There is a car ferry service for £5 per car, which can take you from across the centre of Windermere from Ferry Nab, just south of Bowness to Ferry House at Far Sawrey. The journey only takes around ten minutes and can save a lot of time. This takes you directly across to the opposite side of the lake, instead of driving all the way around on tight narrow roads, which can be dangerous for unaware drivers, who aren’t used to tight turns and narrow bends, or if you get car sick on windy bumpy roads, like myself. It is a very useful service, which lets you see the lake from all angles, and runs all year round, only excluding Christmas day and Boxing Day.
If you haven’t had a chance to try any water sports before, Windermere is the perfect place to do it! There are kayaks and canoes available to hire, as well as paddle boards which are getting incredibly popular, if you fancy testing your balance that is. Or if you prefer to be in a boat, you can try hiring a small motorboat to see more of the views. Unfortunately, no speed boats or jet skis are allowed due to the 10mph speed limit that is imposed on the water by the local council, being put in place with the hope of restoring the lakes tranquillity. This is patrolled by the lake wardens who keep an eye out, providing patrol and rescue emergency services, so if they see anyone getting into trouble; you’ll be in safe hands as they’re all trained in first aid. Much larger powered boats and master crafts are allowed, and if you’re lucky enough to own one, it must have a Windermere registration, this includes any boat that has an outboard or electric motor.
Fresh water wild swimming can be a new experience for many, a great day to try it is when the sun is out, and the water is nice and calm. But is it not without its dangers. There are warning signs telling swimmers to be wary of the blue-green algae which can cause illnesses, I visited recently, and it can be tricky to avoid, as the blooms can sometimes merge with the water, and it made me ill for a day, but I was fine after that; I’ll be more wary next time. More sunlight and warmer temperatures have made the algae multiply, producing toxins which can be harmful for dogs and swimmers alike. The South Lakes District Council have told families, “We want the public to be aware of the affects and are asking people to be extra careful and vigilant when using the lake for recreational purposes during the summer months.” (Mail Online, 16.8.22).
I also would recommend water shoes, as it can be rocky on your feet, and could be painful without them, especially for walking in and out of the water on the gravel. Obviously, only go as far in the water as you feel comfortable and go in slowly, as even on a hot summer’s day, the water can be cold and can in extreme cases, can lead to cold water shock. This can be avoided by going in at your own pace to get used to the temperature, and always wear a life jacket if you have children or are a less confident swimmer. Less abled swimmers can get easily panicked in rocky cold water, especially when it becomes much deeper when you take just one more step, so keep that in mind.
On a flat day, you can paddle around and see Belle Island up close. A great island, the largest of the islands in Windermere, it is one mile long, and the only one to ever be inhabited. It is privately owned, so visitors aren’t permitted to land, but you can boat or paddle around it to see the fascinating home, which has a large domed roof and tennis courts on its land. You just must be cautious of the rocks as you get closer to the isle, in case your kayak gets stuck, but don’t panic, a wiggle and a push off with your paddle should set you free. Or if you don’t mind getting your feet wet, you can always just step in the water and free your boat further before jumping back in and continuing to explore. I would suggest paddling around the isle, and then continuing straight over, where you can tie up your kayak in the marina.
Once securely tied up, you can walk over the jetty to get an ice cream, burger, or the toasties, which are my favourite, at Dan’s Shack, just behind the seating area at Ferry Nab. It is quieter than the main town; a great place to take in the views after your journey around the island. You don’t need to be a very experienced kayaker to do the journey, just remember to look out for the red buoys which indicate where the larger touring boats can go, as you’ll want to stay out of their way, as I can’t imagine you’ll want to go over large waves and risk a lot of water in your boat.
Even after visiting for years, only recently did my myself and my family discover the caves there are to explore. This was found through a TikTok, where we saw a video of new places, and new activities we hadn’t thought of doing before whilst in Windermere. The Rydal caves are accessible for families as the walk is only half an hour or so before you reach the first cave; then it is up to you for how far you wish to go. You can also walk above the caves to soak in the views, these are a lot steeper than the initial walk, and are much more of a climb, are but worth it for the scenery and photos you can take.
Get out there and explore! Sometimes you have to put on a brave face, getting in the cold water and wincing until your shoulders are in, a positive attitude can really shape your experience. Windermere isn’t a heated pool sadly with tiles and crystal-clear water. The unknown can be scary at times, but memories will be made if you immerse yourself in a new adventure. The time of year you visit can really affect this, you can’t expect to sunbathe in the middle of May, so pick your battles, and book a stay where you can hope the weather is at its finest. Unfortunately, sun cannot be guaranteed, but end of July to the middle of August has always been great weather when I have visited, so I wish you the same luck.
Written by Holly Richardson