Car-free adventures aroundWindermereCumbria

book trains

England’s largest lake has been attracting crowds of tourists since the Windermere and Kendal branch line arrived in 1847. And the railway is still a great way to arrive for some car-free adventures around Windermere, by foot, bike, bus and boat. Trains leave from Oxenholme at least hourly. Visit a brand new boat museum on the edge of the water or an arts and crafts house that is an icon of design. Enjoy a scenic bus ride to Grasmere and walk in Wordsworth's footsteps, following the old Coffin Road above dreaming Rydal Water. Escape by bike and ferry to Windermere’s quieter western shore or simply stroll past the piers near Ambleside and soak up the evening sun. It's a great area for a UK holiday - scroll to the end of this feature to find more tips about buses, bikes and places to stay!

  • County: Cumbria
  • Great for: arts and crafts | boat rides | boating | cycling | historic houses | literary connections | museums | walking |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • Please note: researched/updated November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Blackwell Arts and Crafts house

    Don’t miss one of the area’s hidden gems, worth splashing out on a taxi for: a beautiful arts and crafts house looking over Lake Windermere towards Coniston. Architect Baillie Scott designed the interplay of space, light and colour in the Blackwell Arts and Crafts house for a for Manchester brewing tycoon at the very end of the nineteenth century.

    • The walk from Windermere is along a main road without a pavement so the best idea is to hop in a taxi for the three miles from Windermere station with Lakeside taxis (01539 488888) and less from Bowness.
    • From the mock-medieval hall, with stained glass panels, peacock frieze and cosy inglenook, to the light-flooded white drawing room, with iridescent turquoise-tiled fireplace and mesmerising views, it’s a visionary creation.
    • Look out for rowan-berries in the carved woodwork, the ornate plasterwork or among the painted daisies on the dining room’s hessian wall hanging.
    • And then have homemade soup or a cream tea on the terrace and check out the artworks in the shop…
  1. 4. Grasmere and Dove Cottage

    In the last year of the eighteenth century, the poet William Wordsworth visited the area on a walking holiday. He bought a little whitewashed house, where he wrote several of his most famous poems. Dove Cottage has come to symbolise the key themes in Romantic poetry: nature, simple living and imagination. You can find it in Grasmere, where the Wordsworth family are buried in the churchyard next to the Gingerbread shop.

    • Grasmere and Dove Cottage are just twenty minutes away from Windermere by bus. Hop on the 555 or the 599 from Windermere station. The bus ride is staggeringly beautiful, running alongside Rydal Water with its little wooded islands and then Grasmere. Since the only way to walk along this side of the lake nearest this village is on the main road pavement, the bus is one of the best ways to see it.
    • Dove Cottage stands near the lake towards the edge of the village and the stone steps in its half-wild hillside garden are bordered with forget-me-nots. There’s a huge modern Wordsworth museum next door; both the museum and the cottage are being renovated this year, but the area still has a powerful sense of poetry.
    • Wordsworth actually lived for many more years at grander Rydal Mount, a couple of miles away. The 555 and 599 buses also connect the two houses. There are great views of Rydal Water from the garden of Rydal Mount and it’s free to wander through the cascading woodland gardens of neighbouring Rydal Hall, with a café in the old school room.
    • You can get off the bus at Rydal Mount and walk to Grasmere (see map below) along a pretty path between the two houses, the old coffin road; it makes an ideal evening stroll with sunset views across Rydal Water and banks of April bluebells. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • Back in Grasmere, tuck into hearty pub meals by the log fire at Tweedies, where the hot pots are enormous and come in real pots. Make sure you leave room for the chocolate torte, poached pears or treacle sponge and custard!

    Here are some more ideas for green travel in the Lake District from our friends at Green Traveller.

  1. Buses, bikes and places to stay

    If you’re planning a holiday in the Windermere area, there are some useful bus tickets, bike hire, and great places to stay.

    • Add PlusBus to your Windermere train ticket and you can travel as far as Grasmere, including open-top buses.
    • Stagecoach offers various bus tickets that give you unlimited travel in the area. You can hop on and off the buses all day with a Central Lakes dayrider ticket or ride around the whole region with an Explorer ticket, valid for one day, three days or (great value!) a whole week.
    • Find out more visit the Lake District AONB page.
    • There is bike hire at Windermere Station, where they can give you advice about routes. Country Lanes cycle hire provide maps, locks, helmets and help, and rent out mountain bikes.
    • YHA Ambleside is right by the water.
    • For couples travelling without kids who want a really luxurious break, you can check out Applegarth Villa Hotel, just a couple of minutes from Windermere railway station. With a candlelit lounge, rain showers and dimmable lights, it’s a romantic choice and new suites in the stable block come with glowing, bubbling hot tubs on a private sunset-facing patio.
  • Sheep - Car-free adventures around Windermere