The Lake District is a perennial favourite with walkers and outdoor enthusiasts – with good reason. Around Windermere alone there are many wonderful walks that can be enjoyed by walkers within a single day.
As the region’s – and England’s – longest lake, there are diverse vistas and landscapes around Windermere, as well as attractive villages and towns that are well worthy of an afternoon’s exploring.
The following five walks show the diversity of walking available in the area around Lake Windermere and are suitable for a range of ages and abilities, so don your best hiking gear and get ready for an adventure!
1. Perfect for Toddlers: A Day Out at Wray Castle
Much of the lakeshore boasts well-established footpaths that are suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. The western lakeshore around Low Wray and Wray Castle is particularly blessed with well-laid paths, making it perfect for shorter walks with young children or those a little less steady on their feet.
Wray Castle was built in the Gothic Revival Style in 1840, complete with crenelated turrets, arrow slots and an elaborate hall. Now owned by the National Trust, visitors are welcome to explore the house and grounds. Shaded paths meander through the wooded bank between the castle and the lake, known as Watbarrow Wood,and take you to the water’s edge, where you can enjoy spectacular views across Windermere.
Stay close by, at the National Trust campsite at Low Wray, which occupies an equally lovely position, right on the banks of Lake Windermere.
2. A Short Amble to Spectacular Water: Ambleside to Stock Ghyll Force
This short walk from the centre of Ambleside village take you up to Stock Ghyll Force, a spectacular 70-foot waterfall. The road out of town starts near the Salutation Hotel and is well marked.
Follow Stock Ghyll Lane uphill and you will join the start of a well-marked footpath after just a few minutes’ walking. Stay on this path for another ten minutes, following the red arrows, and you will reach a railed viewpoint, which provides a safe spot from which to admire the force.
In the spring, you can expect a host of golden daffodils beneath the trees, but on wetter days the path can get muddy underfoot. Even though this is a relatively short walk,you’ll need to wear good footwear that provides suitable grip.
3. A Challenging Day Hike: Ambleside to Troutbeck and back via Wansfell
You can extend the walk on from Stock Ghyll Force to complete a circular route that climbs beyond the waterfall to Wansfell Pike, follows a bridleway to the villages of Troutbeck and Townend, and then through woodland past High Skelghyll farm, Jenkins Crag and the Skelghyll woods, before dropping back down into Ambleside at the Market Cross.
The National Trust plots this fabulously varied route in reverse: find the details here. The charity owns a number of landmarks on the route, including the former home of Beatrix Potter at Troutbeck. The author used to live in the village at Troutbeck Park Farm, where she bred herdwick sheep.
The National Trust owns a further property at Townend: a yeoman farmhouse dating from the 17th century which stands as a good example of the vernacular architecture of the Lake District.
At just under 6 miles, this circular route can be completed within five hours, but we suggest allowing more time to complete it, since you’ll want to linger to appreciate the varied landscapes and many wonderful vistas.
4. Idyllic Viewpoint: Orrest Head
For a magnificent panoramic view of Lake Windermere, this half-hour walk up to the outstanding viewpoint of Orrest Head is worth every step of the climb uphill from the village of Windermere.
Orrest Head was visited by the famous guidebook author Alfred Wainwright on his first trip to the area in 1930. The view from the top of Orrest Head is said to have inspired the author’s great love for the Lake District.
He wrote of the viewpoint: ‘I was totally transfixed, unable to believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like this. I saw mountain ranges, one after another, the nearer starkly etched, those beyond fading into the blue distance. Rich woodlands, emerald pastures and the shimmering water of the lake below added to a pageant of loveliness, a glorious panorama that held me enthralled. I had seen landscapes of rural beauty pictured in the local art gallery, but here was no painted canvas; this was real. This was truth. God was in his heaven that day and I a humble worshipper.’
To experience the view for yourself, you can download a map of the short hour-long circular walk from Windermere to Orrest Head here.
5. Beatrix Potter Lake Windermere Walk
Beatrix Potter is synonymous with the Lake District and this walk is the perfect way to experience the magical landscapes she loved so much.
Start at the ferry terminal at Bowness on Windermere. Leave your car on the Bowness side of the lake and travel across on the ferry as a foot passenger. From the ferry point, you can walk up to the Claife Viewing Station, owned by the National Trust, to enjoy some magnificent views across Lake Windermere. The route takes you up to Beatrix Potter’s former home at Hill Top, now open to visitors thanks to the National Trust. Make sure you allow time for a visit!
The circular route then takes you back across country through fields and woodland back to the ferry. This circular route isn’t listed elsewhere online, so you will need to purchase the relevant ordnance survey map to plot your route: OS map is OL7 English Lakes SE.
What Do I Need to Walk Around Lake Windermere?
If you are hiking in the Lake District, it is always worth being prepared. The weather can change suddenly here, so take the necessary precautions when packing for a day out. As well as the obligatory waterproof packable jacket, pack warm layers for extra versatility. A warm but lightweight fleece is ideal.
Because most of these hikes will see you traversing a good deal of elevation, you may also like to pack an ultra-lightweight hiking pole for a little extra support on the uphills and downhills.