VIsiting Claife Viewing Platform from Bowness-21

Visiting Claife Viewing Platform from Bowness via the Windermere Chain Ferry 

Looking for easy and cheap things to do around Bowness in the Lake District? 

Visiting the Claife View Platform using the Windermere Chain Ferry is a great value morning or afternoon activity that can be extended to a full-day trip to explore the western shore of Windermere, Wray Castle, or Hilltop, home of Beatrix Potter.

After jumping off the bus at Bowness Pier and briefly stopping to admire the boats, ducks and geese, I folded the path south around to Glebe Road, past a small area of shops and bars and to the entrance of Cockshot Point, owned by the National Trust – you can find more detailed directions from Bowness here.

A stroll around Cockshot Point

Cockshot Point connects the outskirts of Bowness Pier with the Windermere Chain Ferry through a lovely gentle, gravelled path with views over Windermere and to Belle Isle, the only inhabited island on Windermere. I enjoyed the quiet stroll after the busyness of the pier at Bowness, pausing on one of the many benches to admire the views.

I took the exit at the far end of the park and followed the signs to the Windermere Chain Ferry, a couple of minutes walk from Cockshot Point.

Taking the Windermere Chain Ferry

The local council runs the Windermere Chain Ferry and provides easy access to the western shore of Windermere for cars, bikes and foot passengers. The ferry runs from the Ferry Nab near Bowness the outskirts of Far Sawrey.

The journey takes around 10 minutes, and the boat runs backwards and forwards every day from around 6.50am (8.50am on a Sunday) and throughout the summer and winter (although bad weather, maintenance issues, and the number of waiting passengers can disrupt times).

Note, that from April 2024, the prices have risen slightly (£1.10 for foot passengers) than on the above photo and you can ONLY pay by contactless card and NOT cash. You can find the current times, prices and planned maintenance here.

Alighting off the ferry, I took a short stroll to Joey’s Cafe with beautiful views back across Windermere and overt the the central Lake District hills.

VIsiting Claife Viewing Platform from Bowness-15

Lunch at Joey’s Cafe 

Before heading to Claife Heights, I popped into Joey’s Cafe, a lovely veggie/vegan cafe with tasty cakes, pasties, soup and nachos. The cafe has cosy seating inside or you can enjoy the sunshine in the outside courtyard or the tucked-away sundeck that overlooks Windermere, where I enjoyed my delicious tomato and basil soup. I also treated myself to a chunky nutty caramel slice, which I wrapped up for a treat later in the afternoon on my walk back towards Hawkshead.

Joey’s also has a larger cafe at Wray Castle (around a 4 mile walk from the Ferry House) and Hill Top Cottage, the former home of Beatrix Potter.

Visiting Claife Viewing Platform 

Fuelled up, I was ready to climb the short hill to the Claife Viewing Platform.

Originally built in the 1790’s, as a platform to allow early visitors to enjoy panoramic views of Windermere, the Claife Viewing Platform became a popular location for wealthy locals and visitors to host dances and parties. Sadly, the building fell into disrepair in the 19th century until the National Trust acquired the building in 2015 and restored it, adding the tinted coloured glass, an original feature which was designed for viewing the landscape through the changing seasons.

It’s free to visit the platform and can be accessed at any time – note that are a small number of steps to access the viewing platform (with no lift available).

Exploring Ash Landing Nature Reserve 

I found this little gem of a nature reserve tucked away to the left of the main car park for Claife Heights. A small circular path runs around the perimeter, with a stream running through its central artery and lots of spring daffodils out in bloom (in mid March) and a few benches to pause and admire the view over Windermere.

Rather than returning to Bowness, I extended my trip by walking to Near Sawrey and then on to Hawkshead, where I hopped on the bus back to Ambleside. I’ve listed a few options below if you’d like to extend your trip after visiting Claife Heights.

Options to extend your trip 

There are several options to turn this half-day trip into a longer, full-day trip. You could….

  • Return to the Windermere shoreline and walk north to Wray Castle. In summer, you can catch the Windermere cruise boat back to Ambleside or Brockhole 
  • Walk to Far Sawrey (around a mile up hill) and go for a drink or lunch at the Cuckoo Brow Inn 
  • Catch the Cross Lake Experience bus to Near Sawrey and visit Beatrix Potter’s House, Hilltop 
  • Walk to the village of Near Sawrey (1.5 miles) to visit Hilltop
  • Continue on from Near Sawrey up to Moss Eccles Tarn, a favourite spot of Beatrix Potter’s 
  • From Near Sawrey, you can pick up the path back to Hawkshead along the shore of Esthwaite Water and take the bus back to Ambleside or Coniston 

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