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Windermere & Bowness - the Lake District.

Bowness on Windermere and Windermere, the Lake District and Cumbria.
Shopping in Bowness on Windermere.

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Welcome to the EDGE Guide to Windermere and Bowness. For the purposes of this guide we will treat the two villages of Windermere and Bowness as one and the same, they are now joined at the hip, as it were, and form the busy 'hub' of the Lake District.

Just added: The Bowness on Windermere and Windermere Gallery

Bowness is the older of the two being quite ancient whereas Windermere is largely a Victorian creation brought about by the arrival of the railway and the influx of visitors that came with it.

Today Bowness is the busy and picturesque heart of the Lake District situated on the shore of Lake Windermere with all its attractions for the visitor including devastating views of some of the most spectacular countryside in Britain.

The ferry landing on Windermere at Bowness.

The shopping is excellent and you may be tempted to spend a little more than you planned. The locally produced food is noteworthy and should be sampled when you spend a day looking around Windermere and Bowness.

Just added: The Bowness on Windermere and Windermere Gallery

Windermere is to the north east of Bowness: quieter and a little smaller than its neighbour, Windermere provides a pleasant destination for days out - being well connected by road and rail to the rest of the Lake District and Cumbria.

Windermere of course shares all of the benefits of its larger neighbour (Bowness being so close), but offers a variation on the same theme.

The number of activities and things to do and see in and around Windermere and Bowness is considerable:

golf - walking - climbing - gardens - a steamboat museum - an exhibition dedicated to Beatrix Potter - Grizedale Forest Park - a reptile house - horse riding - paragliding - ballooning - a marina - mountain biking - guided tours - boat hire - ferry trips - swimming - sailing - a steam railway at Lakeside - Townend, a National Trust property - Brockhole Visitor Centre - and more.

There is certainly enough to keep you busy and lots of activities have been specially designed for children.

Windermere and Bowness, the Lake District and Cumbria.
Visitors can find pretty hidden corners.

There are a great many picturesque villages nearby not least Hawkshead over the hill on the far side of the lake. For an alternative to using the road round the Lake take the chain driven car ferry.

Other ferries run the length of lake Windermer from Waterhead near Ambleside to the north down to Lakeside to the south, calling at Bowness on Windermere on the way.

A great day out can be enjoyed at Windermere and Bowness and like all the places of interest in Cumbria and the Lake District it is within easy travelling distance of us. Why not base your holiday with us.

Windermere and Bowness, the Lake District and Cumbria.

Windermere and Bowness: a short history: top

The histories of the two villages are very different. As already mentioned Bowness is much the older of the two. The Romans came to the area around AD80 and established a fort at nearby Ambleside: this is probably when they built a villa on Belle Isle, a small island opposite Bowness Bay.

There doesn't seem to have been any Roman settlement on the Lake shore itself.

Bowness, like Ambleside, became a more permanent settlement after the end of the Dark Ages with the coming of the Vikings. They settled in both Ambleside and Bowness and are responsible for the naming of the lake - Vinander's Mere (this became Windermere over the centuries)- after one of their chiefs.

Bowness they called Bull Ness to indicate that this was where the village bull was kept.

In the early years of the C13 a church was built, and the present St Martin (1483) stands on the foundations of the earlier building and retains some of its decorative carvings.

Cumbria's connection with the first President of the USA pops up again in Bowness, George Washington's direct ancestor John Washington died here in 1407.

At that time Bowness was a small village relying on farming and fishing, especially for the char, still found in the Lake.

Both Bowness and Windermere remained as small remote settlements until the Lake District became popular with visitors, largely as a result of the connection with the Lake Poets.

Windermere and Bowness, the Lake District and Cumbria.

The number of visitors increased until in 1847 the railway came from Kendal to the Lake and the tiny village of Windermere, then called Birthwaite.

From then on neither of the villages looked back.

New trades and employment opportunities came to the inhabitants; large private residences were built for the wealthy who commuted to places such as Barrow and the north and south of the county and beyond, via the railway.

Many local businessmen who had made fortunes in the Industrial Revolution chose to build their mansions on the shores overlooking the Lake.

Until the coming of the railway Windermere/Birthwaite was a small place of no importance: now it is a bustling community.

Location: OS ref SD 403970 Sheet 97. Get the map.

Map of Windermere and Bowness on Windermere.


A visit to Windermere and Bowness is an essential element to any Lake District tour not only for the many activities around and about, but also for Lake Windermere and the countryside around it.