When I recently took a trip to the Lake District I thought I would struggle for things to do that didn’t involve climbing a mountain or donning a wet suit. I was obviously wrong. For one of my days out I got to see all there was around Lake Windermere. As I was staying in Ambleside, taking a Windermere Lake Cruise a great option as they have a pier just 10 minute walk from Ambleside town centre.
I arrived a little early for the first sailing so had a coffee in the café at the pier while I waited. At all four piers there are cafés onsite or nearby so you can stop and have a drink while you wait for your next boat. The main three piers are Ambleside, Bowness, and Lakeside; the fourth is a stop at Brockhole Information Centre on the route from Bowness to Ambleside. There’s also a special walker’s timetable as some of the routes stop at Wray Castle so you can follow a lakeside walk to Ferry House.
Boats leave from between 9 and 10am in the morning with the last sailing between 4 and 7pm depending on your pier. As the full lake cruise takes an hour and a half I’d recommend taking the earliest sailing you can to make the most of your day.
My journey started in Ambleside and ended in Lakeside with a short stop at Bowness. I got to experience their vessel MV Tern, one of their traditional steamers with an open air top deck, an indoor heated saloon, licenced bar, and toilets. The weather wasn’t great when I went so did find the top deck quite cold but wanted to make the most of the photo opportunities so stayed out as long as I could before heading indoors.
When you arrive in Lakeside there are three main options on things to do; Lakes Aquarium, The Lakeside to Haverthwaite Steam Railway, and the Lakeside Motor Museum. The Aquarium and the Steam Railway are onsite at the pier, while the motor museum is just a short five minute shuttle bus away. I headed straight for the Aquarium as the crowds went straight for the train! This meant I could enjoy the aquarium at my own pace in a slightly quieter time. I’m not a fishy-person, but I appreciated the exhibits, for those with kids the aquarium was really good. With displays of local fish found in the Lakes, to those as far flung from Asia, The Americas, and Africa too it was a very educational visit. The walk through tank was great fun; watching the fish overhead you really felt like you were submerged under Lake Windermere, even though you weren’t.
After I’d ventured through, spent some money on the obligatory souvenirs and then grabbed a quick bite to eat in the café the next train arrived. As the boat hadn’t got in yet I managed to jump on before the crowds descended, but not before getting some great shots of the steam train in full swing on its way in to the station.
The journey to Haverthwaite station only takes 20 minutes through the countryside. There were a lot of walkers on the train who said they’d parked at Haverthwaite, walked up to Lakeside and then were getting the train back before heading home. They told me it was a beautiful walk – even in the rain! When we got to Haverthwaite I jumped out quickly to have a look around while the steam train turned around. The train only stops for 20 minutes max so you either have to jump straight back on or wait an hour for the next one. I decided that 20 minutes was plenty, but there is a gift shop, restaurant and children’s’ playground at the station so you could easily spend an hour wandering around.
All aboard and back to Lakeside, it was then the turn of the Motor Museum. The shuttle bus runs regularly from 11am until 5pm so you can easily get out to the Motor Museum without any problems. I was a bit skeptical about the museum, as I don’t have a clue about cars. When someone asks me what car I have, I say a blue one. But I was pleasantly surprised. They say on their website it’s more than just a motor museum and they are definitely right. Yes the exhibits are centered on classic cars (I was going to put an example here, but the only name I could think of was Ford), but the museum is filled with old signage, memorabilia from time gone by, and even smurfs. Yes, smurfs. Everything you can possibly think of from your childhood, your parent’s childhood, and your grandparent’s childhood they have it here. My favourite part (apart from seeing the big collection of smurfs) was the garage and road signs. As a graphic design graduate I could really appreciate the value of the old metal signs and their designs. The museum have rescued a lot of classics over their time, some having been refurbished and others being left to age as they were intended – it could take hours to wander the museum looking in detail at every single one.
Back on the water now and my final stop was Bowness-on-Windermere. I’ll do another post on this eventually but if you’re not completely knackered out at this point Bowness offers a visit to The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. I’m a big fan of Beatrix Potter so I definitely needed a stop off here before heading on the final boat back to Ambleside for dinner and bed!
If you’re still wondering why there were smurfs in a motor museum it’s because smurf toys were given as freebies when you bought a tank of petrol back in the 70’s. So technically they are motor related!