The Freedom of The Lakes

My transport from Ambleside to Bowness

The most popular attraction in Cumbria is not Derwentwater, Muncaster Castle, Coniston Water, Hill Top, Dove Cottage or even Helvellyn, but Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake, in the very heart of the Lake District.

The Mountains

At this point all Geography school teachers worth their degree will tell you, that Windermere is not a lake at all, but as the name suggests a Mere! There are many lakes, tarns and reservoirs in the Lake District National Park, but there is only one body of water, Bassenthwaite Lake, which is traditionally named a lake.

Lake Windermere

Larger bodies of water in the Lake District are generally named as mere or water, whilst smaller ones are denoted by tarn. But for most of us, it is the Lake District and all of road signs direct you to The Lakes, so I am happy with that.

A single boat on Windermere with misty mountains in the background

I decided to spend some time on the lake at Windermere, courtesy of Windermere Lake Cruises. The best known and busiest body of water in the Lake District, Windermere is 10.5 miles long, 1 mile wide at its widest point and 200 foot deep in places and you can explore it all, with Windermere Lake Cruises, which also serves as a ferry between various points around the lake.

MV Teal can carry up to 533 passengers

Today historic Steamers sail alongside elegant launches such as Miss Lakeland, Miss Cumbria and Queen of the Lake. Vessels, piers and buildings have all recently been refurbished and updated. The day-tripper is the lifeblood of the boat trips on Windermere. Today the vast majority of passengers arrive by car or coach, but the British Rail connection at Windermere still remains and a portion of the old Lakeside branch flourishes as a preserved steam railway.

A sunny day of cruising on board Teal

At the southern end of the lake, you can see the locomotives of the Haverthwaite Steam Railway and the Lakes Aquarium, with the largest collection of freshwater fish in the United Kingdom. You can also picnic or hire a rowing boat at the restored Victorian Fell Foot Park, near Newby Bridge. If you have never visited the southern end of the lake before, there are plenty of sights and attractions for the visitor to explore.

Windermere is surrounded by stunning mountain peaks and picturesque villages, as well as the busy `honey-pot` destination of Bowness-on-Windermere, where you can explore The World of Beatrix Potter attraction, which has some wonderful displays on Beatrix Potter and her delightful `animal` characters, such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck.

In the north, trails lead to Orrest Head, a hill with panoramic views across the lake and the fells beyond, and Holehird Gardens, with its alpines, heathers and shrubs. Windermere Lake Cruises offers a wide range of options to suit every visitor`s needs. You can choose to cruise from 45 minutes to 3 hours – or you can spend all day on and around the lake with their Freedom of the Lake ticket. I chose the Freedom Of The Lake ticket, which enabled me to enjoy a full day out on the lake, or mere! My ticket was valid on all scheduled sailings and I could use it for a full 24 hours from the time of purchase.

The Teal’s large upper deck is perfect for evening buffet cruises, dancing and private functions

I started my journey at Ambleside pier on the northern point of the lake and sailed down on a return trip, to Bowness on Windermere. If like me, you enjoy sitting back on a boat taking in the majestic sights of the mountains all around you, then it is a wonderful way to get to know the Lakeland scenery. You get a different perspective on the mountains from sitting on the water!

Ambleside Pier

The Freedom Of The Lake ticket is valid on all four cruise routes around the lake;

Red Cruise (Bowness > Brockhole > Ambleside (Waterhead) > Bowness)

Yellow Cruise (Bowness < > Lakeside)*

Islands (Blue) Cruise  – Bowness circular cruise

Green Cruise  (Ambleside > Wray Castle > Brockhole > Ambleside)

Windermere – Stunning Lake land scenery

No matter where you start your journey, whether at Ambleside, Bowness, Brockhole or Lakeside Pier, there are stunning views of mountain scenery, secluded bays and several wooded islands all around you. I really enjoyed my 60 minute return trip from Ambleside to Bowness. The boat trip was both relaxing and extremely scenic with a very informative and amusing commentary provided for my entertainment.

The ‘steamer’ MV Swan is one of the largest vessels operating on the Red Cruise and offers tremendous views of the Lakeland scenery.

The lake is magnificent and the mountain views from the boat were stunning. Safety on the boats is of course of paramount importance, so it is also a great way to transport your children from one part of the lake to another. You can also purchase on board snacks & drinks, but the shops, pubs and restaurants are just a few steps from the Pier at Bowness. I was also able to break up my journey in Bowness by stopping off to enjoy The World of Beatrix Potter attraction. I had a great time reliving some of my childhood memories!

MV Tern heading north on Winderemere towards Ambleside (Waterhead) Pier.

If you are looking to experience Windermere and all that the area offers, but you are not looking to walk long distances, then let the boat take the strain. Let the boat do the travelling for you!

The ‘Swan’ heading into Bowness Pier.

Windermere Lake Cruises Ltd

Registered Office:

Winander House

Glebe Road



LA23 3HE





Telephone: 015394 43360

Twitter: @Windermereboats

Facebook: windermerelakecruises

Did You Know?

Windermere Lake Cruises officially one of England’s top ten most popular attractions. Figures confirm that Windermere Lake Cruises is officially one of England’s top ten ‘paid for’ visitor attractions, based on passenger numbers.

The latest Annual Visitor Attractions Survey collated by the national tourism body VisitEngland reveals that there were 1,557,423 passenger journeys on the company’s 16-strong fleet of ‘steamers’, modern launches and wooden launches during 2016.

The results place the company fifth on the national list, ranking ahead of iconic attractions such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Stonehenge and Westminster Abbey.

Windermere Lake Cruises is also one of only three northern attractions in the top ten, along with Chester Zoo and Flamingo Theme Park and Zoo in North Yorkshire.

The full top ten paid for visitor attractions in England in 2016, according to VisitEngland, were: Tower of London, Chester Zoo, Royal Botanic Gardens -Kew, Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, Windermere Lake Cruises, St Paul’s Cathedral, Stonehenge, Royal Academy of Arts, ZSL London Zoo, Westminster Abbey.

Published: 30th August 2017

Photographs: Courtesy of Windermere Lake Cruises Website, and some of my own!

Should you decide to visit Windermere Lake Cruises as a result of this review, could you please mention The Travel Locker.


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