MV Teal on WIndermere

Windermere by boat: cruising from Ambleside Waterhead to Lakeside

One of the finest things to do is a boat trip on one of the four lakes that allow commercial boat trips in the Lake District (Windermere, Coniston, Derwentwater and Ullswater). I’ve previously sailed two of the shorter routes on Windermere – the red route that runs between Ambleside Waterhead and Bowness and the peak season-only green route that runs from Ambleside to Wray Castle.

So, when my dad visited in early October and mentioned we could do a cruise down to the far tip of Windermere (where we also took a steam train trip to Haverthwaite) I jumped at the chance.

The pier at Ambleside is a 15/20-minute walk from the main centre of Ambleside or you can jump on the 555 or 599 bus that will whisk you down to the pier in 5 minutes.

We chose the latter so we’d have plenty of time to pick up our tickets and potter around the pier area. The horse chestnut trees that line the lakeshore were beginning to look beautifully autumnal, and I enjoyed kicking through the leaves to find conkers.

You can purchase various tickets to see Windermere by boat depending on how far you wish to travel, where you begin sailing from and what time of year you are visiting – you can see the most up-to-date ticket prices here.

To make the trip from the tip of Windermere (Ambleside Waterhead) to the toe (Lakeside) requires a ‘Freedom of the Lake’ ticket, which allows you access to all the routes on Windermere for a 24 (or 48) hour period – which could be very handy in summer!

A little tip for locals – if you have an LA or CA postcode, you can apply for a free Local Residents discount card from Windermere Cruises that gives you 20% off in high season and 50% off in low season.

Ticket purchased, we hopped on board MV Teal, one of the three larger boats that cruise Windermere. Smaller boards are often used for some of the shorter routes (and in low season). 

As we set sail out of Ambleside and watched the high fells drift away, a short commentary over the public address system provided details of significant sights, the history of the boats and how Windermere was formed in the ice age and how at 10.5 miles long it is England’s longest lake.

We stood out on the deck to admire the view before it got a little too cold, and we retreated inside. Inside, the boat is warm and comfortable, with a range of seats and a small cafe where you can purchase drinks, snacks and sandwiches.

Ambleside to Lakeside Boat trip

Below the deck is also a bar, which wasn’t open on our early morning cruise. You can also bring your own food and drink to enjoy on board (which we did).

After half an hour of cruising, we pulled into the popular town of Bowness to set down passengers and pick up more before setting off again and cruising past Belle Isle, the largest habitable island on the lake. During the summer, you can also do a short island cruise around several of the lakes on Windermere. 

The boat trip from Bowness to Lakeside is an additional 40 minutes. I loved sitting out on the deck again and spotting all the huge houses and mansions on the shore, many of which were talked about on the commentary and watching the landscape soften from the dramatic high mountains surrounding the north of the lake to the softer, more rolling peaks of the south. 

Before long, the boat pulled into Lakeside, where the trip ended. There are several options at Lakeside – you can head straight back up the lake, head to the Lakeside Hotel for some lunch, head into the nearby hills, take a trip to the Aquarium or hop on the short steam train to Haverthwaite.

We continued our adventures on the Haverthwaite steam train (which takes about 18 minutes). On the return trip, we jumped off at Newby Bridge Holt and walked the mile back to Lakeside before taking the boat back to Ambleside.

Planning a trip to the Lake District? Check out these posts….

12 things to know before visiting the Lake District

A weekend itinerary in the Lake District

The 12 best cafes in the Lake District

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