The Lake District Guide

Great prices on hotel rooms in the Lakes!

Check out the special low price offers at



Eating Out

Mountain Walks

Valley/Lakeside Walks

Things To Do, Places To Go Main Page

Top Ten Attractions:

Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Blackwell - The Arts and Crafts House

Muncaster Castle

Windermere Steamers

Aquarium Of The Lakes

Ullswater Steamers

Honister Slate Mine and The Via Ferrata

Kendal Mountaineering Services

Lake District Guiding

Lake District Sheepdog Experience

Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway

Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston

General information

English Heritage in the Lake District
Wonderful properties, lovingly cared for.

The National Trust in the Lake District
An organization that works hard to protect our heritage.

Map of the Lake District

Lake District Guide Lake District Guide Home Page

The Lakes Top Ten Attractions

Windermere Lake Cruises is the most popular attraction in Cumbria, operating on England's largest lake, in the heart of the Lake District. With cruises from 45 minutes to 3 hours, there's something for everyone, whether you're coming on a full day visit or a shorter trip. Spend all day on and around the lake with the fantastic 'Freedom of the Lake' ticket!

Windermere Lake Cruises

Windermere Steamers: Relaxed elegance in the modern world (an email from a reader):

I first came across Windermere Steamers five years ago when I was in Bowness on business and needed to get to Lakeside and this guy said to me “Take the steamer”. I had always thought of The Lake District as fell walking and tourists and lots and lots of sheep. The Lake District does have that of course, but it also has Windermere Steamers, a throwback to a more stylish age of relaxed voyages.

I found that the operators, Windermere Lake Cruises, have a large fleet of modern and traditional launches, which they like to call ‘steamers’ but are no longer powered by a coal furnace. The vessels operate the full length of Windermere, calling at Waterhead, Bowness and Lakeside. A return cruise round the whole lake, should you wish to do it all in one go, takes about 3 hours. However, if you take advantage of the 'Freedom of the Lake' ticket, you can stop off at any stopping places on the circuit. And if you want to ‘Park and Sail’, you can get up to 9 hours of parking at Lakeside for just £3.00. If you want to take in the Lake District and you like good value and you care about your carbon footprint, then ‘Park and Sail’ is made for you.

But the best way to see Windermere on a boat is a private charter, available during the evening, in the peak season. Get your club or company to organise a tour. The bigger boats, known as the ‘Mighty Whites’ are the Swan and the Teal. These boats are on three decks with a lower saloon bar, a comfortable cabin and an open top deck, which can be transformed into a dance floor for the evening. You can order anything from canapés, a silver service dinner or a buffet or barbeque. For entertainment you can choose from a disco, modern or traditional band. You might like to try the Tern, which is the most elegant and, at over 100 years old, the oldest vessel on the lake. She carries up to 80 passengers and has two lower saloon cabins, one of which is a licensed bar. There is an open top deck for viewing the romantic scenery or taking to the dance floor. A full buffet or barbeque is available. Smaller boats, Lakeland Class Vessels, are available with a choice of music and refreshments.

I was quite staggered when I discovered that the Tern had already been in service for 100 years and was still going strong, but it seems that Windermere Steamers have been going even longer than that.

Windermere is the largest lake in England, over ten miles long and 200 ft deep in parts. It is classed as a public highway and way back in time supported commercial traffic, in slate quarrying, copper mining, and the timber, wool and fishing industries. In the early 19th Century, there was a sailing packet service, which carried goods and passengers between Ambleside, Bowness, Hawkshead Ferry and Newby Bridge. It connected the Lancaster stagecoach in the South with the Carlisle stagecoach at the North. The full journey took three and a half hours and the return fare was 3 shillings (15p). When you think that a good wage in those days was less than a pound, (Bob Cratchit, Scrooges clerk, earned fifteen shillings a week), this fare was quite expensive. In 1845, the age of steam came to Windermere when the Lady of the Lake was launched at Newby Bridge, despite the vigorous opposition of the poet Wordsworth. She was 80ft long with a depth of 6.4ft with a 20 horse power steam engine. The launching ceremony was attended by such notable personages as Lord Cavendish and Harriet Martineau, an early feminist. The Illustrated London News reported that the launching ceremony had cost the proprietors in excess of £100. (Remember, there is no such thing as a free launch.)

Lady of the Lake carried up to 200 passengers and had a luxurious first class saloon decked out with mirrors and carpets. She lasted in service until 1865. Another steamer, Lord of the Isles was launched in 1846, but was sadly destroyed by fire in 1850. When the railways came, faster steamers were engaged by competing companies. The Dragonfly was the largest steamer on the lake, 95ft in length and 16ft in breadth. She easily outpaced her rivals and when she overtook The Lady of the Lake, her band struck up The Girl I Left Behind, a popular music hall song of the day.

Several more steamers were built by railway companies, notably the Tern, The Swift and the Swan, which continued in service into the twentieth century despite several crashes, often with one another. The Tern survives to this day.

The current fleet date mostly from the 1930s but are fitted with modern fuel economy engines. In the season they operate at frequent intervals and with a 'Freedom of the Lake' ticket, you can hop on or off at any of the stopping points. Wherever you go, you see mountain scenery, secluded bays and the many wooded islands. At Lakeside, you can see the Lakes Aquarium or take the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway. Between May and October, there is a service to Fell Foot Park, an idyllic picnic area with a woodland trail and an adventure playground. Bowness is known as the 'heart' of the Lake District, with its shops, cafes and restaurants. A few minutes walk from the pier is The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. Ambleside is set beneath the imposing mountainside and the rolling fells. It is the most popular venue to stop off before returning on a later boat.

Everything you could possibly want is in the vicinity and with Windermere Steamers, you can see it all!

Great prices on hotel rooms in the Lakes!

Check out the special low price offers at


Submit your Lakeland photos to our photo gallery!