With something to appeal to all different tastes, the narrow streets of this traditional lakeland village are thronged with holidaymakers and day-trippers in the summer especially, and nonetheless the atmosphere is entirely relaxing and laid back. With a beautiful setting, a vibrant town centre and nightlife, the famous Windermere steamers, and the rest of the Lake District on your doorstep, Bowness-on-Windermere represents the Lake District at its best.
Along with enjoying the lake frontage, perusing the enticing local shops, wiling away time in the cafes and dining out in the many excellent restaurants, there are plenty of attractions and things to see and do in Bowness and the surrounding area.
Near the lake and the steamer pier on Glebe Road in Bowness bay is an extensive open parkland area, perfect for picnics, and nearby are public tennis courts, putting green, crazy golf, and an excellent 18-hole pitch-and-putt course, which takes a couple of hours to complete and makes for a fun-filled afternoon.
Steamers and passenger launches come and go from the piers in Bowness Bay, and you can choose to take part in the main cruise route that operates between Ambleside in the north and Lakeside in the south, stopping and re-alighting as you wish to explore, or you may wish to take the 45 minute Islands Cruise, which allows you to see up close the iconic islets and inlets of England’s longest lake. If you are torn between the many things to do in Bowness, this one is a must.
Experience the luxury of a high-end sailing yacht, and enjoy fine dining on board. We think this is a lovely treat to complement your holiday in the Lakes.
We recommend a visit to this fabulously preserved house, dating from the turn of the last century, and full of wonderful examples of Arts and Crafts furniture. You can sit in Blackwell’s historic chairs and enjoy the splendid views from the windows, rather than merely observing from behind a rope barrier.
What better way to enjoy the wonders of Lake Windermere than hiring your very own boat and cruising the beautiful waters on your own schedule? You can hire electrically-powered craft that are easy to handle from this marina on Glebe Road, and set out for an hour, half a day, or a full day.
We love this exhibition as it enchants children and adults alike, and it will encourage you to go across the car ferry or round the lake to Sawrey and Miss Potter’s home at Hilltop. Her tales are vividly brought to life by the detailed models, and children will delight in their encounter with Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and friends, and exploring Mr. MacGregor’s garden.
You can choose from a large range of boats to hire or even purchase if you choose, and Windermere Canoe and Kayak also offer bike hire.
Learn all you need to know about kayaking, windsurfing and sailing with the help of fully qualified instructors. You can also choose to stay ashore and try orienteering, Nordic walking, navigation and or rock climbing.
The Fun Factory provides a neat answer to the question of what to do in Bowness with your younger children on a rainy afternoon. Situated on Glebe Road, you can sit back and watch them having fun in the soft play centre, while also enjoying great views over the lake nearby yourself.
This is a very traditional cinema, and a visit here will give you a feeling of going back in time, and yet you can still enjoy the latest releases. Dating from the early 20th Century, the Royalty retains traditional features, curtains and lighting.
As much as the Lake District is geared to active holidays, it is also a wonderful place to relax, and finding a beer garden around Bowness-on-Windermere is amongst the best things to do on a sunny day. The Angel Inn located on Helm Road and The Ship Inn by the waterside on Glebe Road offer excellent options for sitting out with a leisurely pint. If you fancy going further afield, The Mortal Man in Troutbeck has a wonderful beer garden looking down the valley, and The Wateredge Inn’s garden at Waterhead in Ambleside is superbly placed right by the lake.
Bowness is well placed to allow you to use the main bus routes to explore the wider area, or to use your own transport. The A591 runs north to the lovely villages of Ambleside and Grasmere, and beyond to Keswick and the Northern Lakes. Hugging the eastern shore of Windermere below Bowness takes you to the hamlet of Newby Bridge, with Lakeside and the Lakes Aquarium nearby, and a run around the lake, north or south, or the car ferry straight across it, gives access to Sawrey and Beatrix Potter country. North-east over the Kirkstone Pass offers a stunning drive, taking in the pretty valley of Troutbeck and perhaps stopping for a beer in the wonderful Mortal Man Inn beer garden or at the top of the pass at the traditional Kirkstone Inn, the third highest pub in the country, and over to stunning Ullswater, where some scenes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens were filmed. Southwards on the A591 takes you to the larger market town of Kendal, and in the back country to south of Bowness and set back from the eastern shore of Windermere, the Lyth Valley is charmingly set with green fields, rolling hills, and narrow lanes. As well as exploring under your own steam, we would recommend you have a look at The Mountain Goat minibus tours, which cover all areas of the Lake District, and run from various starting points in the region, including from Bowness. The main office is in nearby Windermere, and day tours include a ‘Ten Lakes Spectacular’ and a tour of Beatrix Potter country, as well a relatively short highlights trip around south Lakeland.
There are a fine selection of cafes, restaurants and pubs in and around Bowness. The Coffee Bean on Lake Road, and The Beatrix Potter Cafe and Monties Cafe, both on Crag Brow, are amongst the many coffee houses. Bodega is a fine wine-bar-style watering hole on Ash Street, and serves world beers and tapas. For takeaways, Mela Spice Fusion on Ash Street has a good reputation locally for an Indian option, as does the Jintana Thai on Lake Road. For Chinese food there are several options including Golden Fortune on Lake Road. Vinegar Jones is a fish and chip shop in Royal Square in the town centre, and there is one on Rayrigg Road too, Seafarers. If you are still out after the pubs close on a weekend in Bowness and looking for things to do, The Wheelhouse Club and Lounge Bar above The Ship Inn on Glebe Road is a local night club with large bar area and dance floor.
Please follow the link below for a list of eateries we think are worth checking out in and around the town: Places to eat in Bowness on Windermere
Bowness is situated between the central Lakeland fells to the north and the lower-lying countryside of the green Lyth Valley and Newby Bridge area to the south. There are many excellent options for shorter and longer walks, and everywhere you go you will enjoy some of the loveliest scenery in the country. Mountain bikers will find excellent trails, especially if they cross the car ferry to Sawrey and nearby Claife Heights, or enter the Troutbeck valley and take the Garburn Pass to remote Kentmere, or head north over the rugged marches of Wansfell to Ambleside. In Ambleside, an array of outdoor stores and bookshops will provide all you need in the way of walking gear, maps and guides.
Here are a few of our favourite local rambles:
A short, easy wander with great lake views. As you walk along Glebe Road from the steamer pier and pass the Ship Inn on your right, you will come to a large gate on your right at bend in the road. Through the gate gives access to the level pathways through fields and by the lakeshore at Cockshott Point, easily accessible for all, including those with limited mobility. ½ hr.
Superb views and an adventurous rocky summit idea for children to explore, all for relatively little effort. The start of the walk is easily found at the top of Windermere Village on the main road a short way down from the train station as if heading toward Ambleside. It is well signed from the pavement. 1 hr.
This is one of our favourite local walks as it provides some of the best access to the shoreline on the east side of Lake Windermere, and excellent picnicking opportunities. You can park in the car park on Rayrigg Road, a couple of miles from Bowness centre, before ascending the hill above it and dipping down to the tree-lined lakeshore below. Millerground is the section of the walk by the lake, and Adelaide Hill is the small grassy hill above it, historically associated with Queen Adelaide and her visit to the area. The views are outstanding, and the short ramble provides plenty of interest throughout. 3/4 hr.
Starting from Troutbeck village near the post office, you can walk to Ambleside over lovely countryside with spectacular views, and loop back round over the steep summit of Wansfell. You can also choose to do either the fell walk or the cross country ramble separately. 2-3 hrs.
One of the nicest and simplest fell walks towards the southern end of the lake. Starting from the car park on the small side road that runs up from the A592 means you have gained some height already, and the walk to the summit is quite short, though steep and rocky in parts. The views across the southern end of Lake Windermere are excellent, and achieved with relatively little effort. 1 ½ hrs.
Self-drive guided off-road 4×4 tours, the Kankku offices are located in Windermere near the train station and Booth’s supermarket. See the Lake District from a new perspective and experience the adrenalin of driving your very own specially prepared 4×4 over rugged tracks through Lakeland’s finest scenery.
The centre is located on the lake shore a few miles along the A591 north of Bowness and things to do include water skiing, wakeboarding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, and motor boat hire.
With the largest collection of freshwater fish in the UK on display, the Lakes Aquarium is an award-winning attraction situated at Lakeside, near Newby Bridge. You can drive the few miles from Bowness-on-Windermere, or you may prefer to combine a visit with a boat trip as the steamers stop here.
The station for this short branch-line railway trip is at Lakeside, and is another activity you may wish to combine with a boat journey to Lakeside, along with a visit to the Lakes Aquarium. Historic steam and diesel engines take you on a charming ride through the picturesque Leven Valley.
Ferries have been crossing the lake for some 500 years, originally using oars, and now motorised. The ferry also takes cycles and foot-passengers, so you can choose to leave the car behind if you wish, and there is a minibus service that runs from the western ferry landing to Hawkshead, and calls at Beatrix Potter’s house at Hilltop. Explore the quieter western side of the lake.
Located at the mouth of the Troutbeck valley, a short distance from Windermere and Bowness, Holehird Gardens are managed by the Lakeland Horticultural Society, and provide a lovely setting for a peaceful stroll.
The Lake District Visitor Centre at Brockhole offers a comprehensive guest experience a couple of miles north of Bowness-on-Windermere and things to do include a tree-top trek, pony rides, trails and orienteering, mini-golf, and strolls through acres of gardens and grounds.
By car, leave the M6 motorway at Junction 36 and pass by Kendal, taking the A591 to Windermere, and through the town to Bowness itself. Windermere rail station is at the end of the branch line from Oxenholme, on the west coast mainline near Kendal, and short taxi ride or a half-hour walk from Bowness. Buses also run regularly from Kendal and Lancaster, and information on bus timetables in the Lakes can be found here: