Photo by Ashlyn Gehrett  –  Link

Windermere

England

Measuring 10.5 miles long, one mile wide, and 220 feet deep, Windermere is not only the largest natural lake in the Lake District National Park, but also in the whole of England, and is central to the South Lakes area of the region. Having been a tourist hot-spot since the 19th century, it continues to be one of the area's busiest spots, attracting many visitors each year.

Being such a large body of water, this lake has become a magnet for water sports enthusiasts, with several marinas and sailing and windsurfing centres dotted around its shores. If the water isn't for you, there's also loads to do on dry land in this area, including hiking, cycling, steam trains and landmarks to visit.

Activities on the lake

Windermere's main visitor centre, Brockhole, is a great option for hiring boats and water sports equipment. They offer a range of vessels, including rowing boats (from £18), sit-on kayaks (from £15), open canoes (from £20), and paddle boards (from £15), which are available to book online, so as to avoid disappointment if they're all in use by the time you get there. 

Brockhole also offers kayak tours (£42 for half a day including all the equipment and a packed lunch), paddling to Ambleside, the Roman Fort, and Brathay, with a lunch stop along the way - this is a great way to enjoy the lake away from the crowds. Pre-booking is essential for the tours, and they'll only cancel in the most extreme weather conditions (no, rain is not considered extreme in the Lakes…).

For a slightly dryer ride, take to the water on a Windermere Lake Cruise and sit back, relax, and enjoy the stunning scenery. There are four cruise options: the Red Cruise connects Bowness, Brockhole, and Ambleside with views across the Lakeland fells, the Yellow Cruise covers the southern half of the lake between Bowness and Lakeside, the Green Cruise travels to the quiet western shore and Wray Castle, and the speedy Blue Cruise takes you on a 45 minute round trip from Bowness. Each cruise allows you to hop on and off at any of the stops, so it's a convenient as well as scenic way to enjoy Windermere. We'd recommend trying the Yellow Cruise, with tickets priced at £11.80 for a return trip to Bowness.

On dry land

There are also loads of things to do around the lake once you're back on dry land.

  • Hill Top Farm: Children's author Beatrix Potter is one of the most famous people to have lived in the Lakes, with many of her books inspired by the beautiful landscape. She donated 14 farms and 4000 acres of land to the National Trust after her death in 1943, so was a pretty important player in protecting the natural beauty of the area. Hill Top Farm, where she lived for almost 40 years, is largely as she left it and can be visited today. Walk around with a copy of one of her books, spotting the illustrations based on her home, and see her writing desk where so many favourite stories were written. Admission to the house costs £10.90.
  • Wray Castle: This impressive mock-Gothic castle was built in 1840 and was the home of a retired doctor until 1929, when it was bought by the National Trust. Although there's not much to see inside, the lakeside grounds are really special. Plus, Beatrix Potter's family stayed here once on holiday, so you can continue your literary tour of Windermere.  
  • Red Nab to Wray Castle walk: This three mile walk hugs Windermere's wooded shoreline and is a lovely way to explore the lake on foot. Starting at the Red Nab car park and ending at Wray Castle, it's an easy, flat route which anyone can enjoy.

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