I had heard several people say that England’s Lake District is lovely. Well, let me tell you after spending only a day there, it did not disappoint. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to go back and explore more. In addition to the beautiful lakes, there are so many cute towns and plenty of places to go hiking. It’s a quiet area, but you will not be bored. We visited the Lake District in August and the weather was just perfect.
It’s a trick question! There are 16 bodies of water in the Lake District National Park, but only one actual lake – Bassenthwaite Lake. The other bodies of water are technically considered waters, meres, and tarns. We spent most of our time around Windermere but we did see Bassenthwaite Lake when we drove to see the Ashness Bridge.
Windermere is the largest body of water in England, so we decided to spend most of our time around it. Lake Windermere Cruises offers several different cruises on the lake. We went on the Red Line, which would take us from Bowness to Ambleside and then back. Boats run about every 30 minutes, but you should check the schedule for your visit.
*In case you were wondering the Lake District is one of 15 National Parks in the UK!
Cruising to From Windermere to Ambleside
The boat we took had plenty of space for everyone. We choose seats on the right side so we would be facing the shoreline the boat would be closer to. The views from the lake are lovely so I’m sure wherever you sit you will enjoy the view. The ride takes about 30 minutes and the narration provides interesting trivia facts and some of the history of the area.
Once we got to Ambleside, we opted to take the shuttle that was waiting for us (£2 each) rather than walk the 15 minutes into town. We figured we would be walking enough on our hike. The shuttle dropped us off at the Red Lion, which is right in the Ambleside town centre.
Next time I visit the Lake District, I might stay in Ambleside. The town (just like Bowness) is one of the best villages in the Lake District and definitely worth exploring a bit. I was really impressed by the bridge house, it was just so cute! You can even go inside it. I was a little surprised that there is only a door on one side so you can’t walk across the river through it.
Hiking in the Lake District
Then it was time for our hike. We bought a booklet of Ambleside walks from the visitor’s center in Bowness (also available online). We had a tough time deciding which walk to do but ended up going with the Stock Ghyll with the Sweden High Bridge extension. The booklet estimated the 5 ½ mile walk would take about four hours and described it as:
“Ascend alongside the spectacular ‘Stock Ghyll’ waterfalls and enjoy the fantastic views across this beautiful corner of Lakeland.”
The booklet also said that sturdy waterproof boots with a good grip on the soles were essential. Well, both Russell and I just had sneakers. Traction wise the sneakers were fine as it was not a technically difficult hike. However, based on our experience I would recommend waterproof shoes (click here to check out the selection on Amazon). Even on a perfect sunny day, we went through some wooded areas and fields where we encountered some muddy spots.
In addition to making sure you have waterproof shoes, you will need detailed directions to do this walk. The hardest part of the walk is making sure you don’t miss a turn. This was not a typical hike where you follow a trail. We walked on trails and streets, crossed fields and bridges, and went through several gates plus crossed a few cattle guards. Quite the adventure! So I would recommend either getting the booklet or finding detailed directions if you are doing another walk.
The waterfalls are actually very close to the town of Ambleside, so even if you don’t want to go for a long walk you should check them out. After we passed the waterfalls, we walked along a narrow road and through some fields with stunning views of the countryside. We saw more sheep than people, and the sheep were quite talkative!
Then we were back on a main road with a nice downward slope. Our next turn would be a “stony track signposted Ellerigg.” We were really enjoying our downhill walk when I realized we had walked way more than the 200 yards we were supposed to. We had to trek back uphill to try to find it. Luckily we run into two other men on the road and they showed us the way.
The extension to the High Sweden Bridge was definitely steeper than the rest of the walk but still manageable. The first part of it you again have breathtaking views, but as you go higher trees get in the way of the view. After crossing the bridge, you still climb higher but without trees to block the view (or the sun). After reaching the peak, the rest of the walk is all downhill with more great Lake District views.
Returning to Bowness
We caught the last shuttle back (4:30 pm) to the dock. Since we weren’t in a hurry to leave, we got drinks inside the shop and then sat at a table right by the river to relax for a bit. We got in line a little before the boat was scheduled to leave to make sure we would get seats with a view. We had a different boat on the ride back and sat on the top deck. For this trip, the boat went along the opposite shore. They told us about the story of child book author Beatrix Potter and how much she loved the area. She is a big reason why the Lake District is so well preserved.
Our Lake Windermere Boutique Hotel
Once we got back to Bowness we headed to our hotel, the Ryebeck, just outside of town. The Ryebeck is reasonably priced and one of the romantic hotels in the Lake District. Our room was lovely and had a great view looking west to Lake Windermere. While the room did not have wifi, it was available downstairs. The gardens in the back were also lovely. They actually have over five acres of grounds but we didn’t have time to explore it all.
The staff at the Ryebeck could not have been more accommodating. There was no elevator so I think it was the chef that carried our luggage upstairs for us. They also prepared the continental breakfast early for us since we planned on leaving early. The breakfast menu looked really delicious, so next time we will try not to leave so early. I would have also liked to have afternoon tea on the terrace.
Leaving the Lake District
When we left, we headed north and made a little detour to see the Ashness bridge, which is not too far from Keswick. The Ashness Bridge is the most photographed bridge in the Lake District due to its setting and stunning views. You can look out over Derwent Water, Bassenthwaite Lake (the only true lake in the Lake District), and the River Derwent.
Our drive was a scenic tour of the Lake District along curvy roads. The road that actually goes to the bridge is very steep and narrow. At first, we questioned if it was a two way or one-way road, but while we were taking pictures of the Ashness bridge we did see a car go the other way. I also saw the trailhead for a few hikes there. We didn’t have time this trip, but I would love to do more hiking there.
Our Time in the Lake District Video
In summary, the Lake District was everything people had told me and more. You can get more of the feel of the area from my video below. I was really impressed by the natural beauty, plus I found the Lake District towns so charming. My time there was just an introduction to the Lake District. I would have really liked to have more time to explore some of the other areas, like Buttermere. Well, we will just have to go back.
Expert Tips for Lake District Short Breaks
- Plan some time for exploring, maybe a boat trip or some Lake District hiking.
- Make sure to visit the best towns in the Lake District like Bowness, Ambleside, and Keswick.
- Wear proper footwear. I recommend waterproof shoes even on a sunny day.
- Take the shuttle to and from the boat to save your feet for the scenic walks.
- Make sure you have detailed directions for the Lake District walk that you want to do.
- The Ryebeck is a great place to stay in the Lake District. Click here to check availability and rates at the Ryebeck.
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