I have always wanted to go to Lake District for many many years ago and only finally made it happen recently by myself, solo traveling. Yes, I am that desperate lol. It had to be a quick getaway because there is no trains going to Lake District on the weekend and I am traveling without a car. So it is doable to visit Lake District without a car as long as you stay in Town which has good access with public transport.
Initially I wanted to stay in Keswick as they have a lot of good hikes nearby but then I got advise from Trip Advisor that it is easier to travel to Ambleside as it is only a short Taxi ride from Windermere train station and Mountain Goat Tour which I planned to take doesn’t take trip from Keswick in fall and winter. Hence I changed my plan to Ambleside instead and I am not disappointed. Ambleside has easier access with public transportation and there is a lot of walk which I can take and plus there is a lake where I can take the cruise from.
Set just north of Windermere, amid the Lake District’s dramatic landscapes and pretty villages, Ambleside’s location takes some beating. The town itself has plenty to offer visitors: stroll along streets lined with Victorian slate buildings, where, naturally, outdoors shops sell everything from compasses to walking boots. Enjoy a coffee in one of the many independent cafes while poring over a map to plan your day, or wind down an afternoon ramble by sitting in one of their cafe or pub.
With Cumbria aiming to become the UK’s first carbon-neutral county by 2037, Ambleside’s location means visitors can have a more eco-conscious escape, too, and with plenty of activities and hiking routes on offer in the town, there’s no need to use the car.
How to get to Ambleside from London
The Lake District is served by mainline railway stations at Windermere and Penrith, both handy gateways into the region’s hotspots. Avanti West Coast Train serves the railway from London Euston train station to Penrith and Windermere (Via Oxenholme). Line between Oxenholme to Windermere, stopping at Kendal, Burneside and Staveley is served by Northern Railway. However if you want to take a train from London to Windermere you can buy the ticket directly from Avanti West Coast website. The whole journey take average 2.5 to 3 hours.
From Windermere train station you can either get a cab (it’s a 12 minutes journey and I paid around 15 pounds) or catch Bus 555. I took a cab from the Cab line in front of the train station. I was lucky that there was a cab waiting but it is better to reserve ahead.
Taxi companies in Ambleside and Windermere:
BOBCAB Taxis – 07831313790
AMBER Taxis – 015394 42000 (email@example.com)
With the recent strike due to manpower shortage in 2022, Avanti West Coast is operating with a reduced timetable. Their upcoming timetables are being amended on a rolling basis and will be confirmed at shorter notice than usual. It is strongly advise to check before you travel, both once the strike timetable is confirmed and on the day itself. There is no trains operating on the weekend, so if you are planning to come to Lake District from London you need to come and leave on weekdays.
How to get around
- Take the Lake District Stagecoach Buses. They offer Hop on & hop off all day from £9.50 a day, for unlimited rides on the designated zone or more. You can check the bus timetable here or use google map to know which bus to take. All the bus stop around Lake District has a clear information on the bus route and timetable.
- Exploring The Lakes by boat. You can take the boat from Ambleside Waterhead Pier and explore the whole of Windermere with a Freedom of the Lake ticket which starts from £26.50 and let you travel anywhere which is valid for 24 hours from time of purchase.
Where to Stay in Ambleside
Ambleside has various accommodations to choose from Luxury Hotel, Bed and Breakfast and YHA. Ambleside YHA is probably one of the best located YHA in the country. It was seated in front of the lake, a stone throw away from Waterhead Pier.
I chose to stay in a Bed and Breakfast located in the Central for convenience as I was travelling solo and I would prefer a single room with a real bed, ensuite bathroom and a breakfast. Elder Grove fits to my requirement and I was happy to have chosen to stay there. Matthew the owner is a real delight to meet in person: he was friendly, funny and always make me feel comfortable. Elder Grove is located in a central location, close to where the restaurants, pubs and shops and only 1.2km away from the Waterhead pier. It was also close to the bus stop at Kelsick road. I will definitely stay here again when I come back to Lake District. You can book thru Booking.com or direct to their website for best rate.
What to do in Ambleside
Take a half day or full day tour with Mountain Goat Tour Private tour
There are other operators but Mountain Goat Tour was the only one operating all year round. Their office is located next to Windermere train station. They do pick up and drop off from other locations in Lake District however the option is lesser in winter vs summer.
Mountain Goat Tour has half day and full day tour. I went with Best of the Lake District half day tour. The tour gives you a fantastic overview of the Lake District in a short amount of time.
All tours include a commentary, providing you with plenty of local information and stories, stop at points of interest for photos, toilet breaks and refreshments.
We went to see Blea Tarn, stop for photo spot at Elterwater, Langdale Valley, Taw Horn, stop at Coniston lake, the medieval village of Hawkshead, famous for its connection with Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth, Wray castle and end our tour by taking a cruise from Ambleside to Bowness on Windermere.
Visit the Bridge House
The Bridge House from the 17th century that was originally built to avoid Land Tax is now a famous icon of the Lake District and one of the most photographed buildings in the National Park.
This quirky residence has played many roles over time including chair makers, basket weavers, tea room, and even housed a family of 8. There isn’t a lot to do in the house as it’s so tiny, but you can talk to the staff and find out what life was like living in a small house like this.
Take a lake cruise from Waterhead Pier
The pier is only 1.5km from the town and it is your gateway to access the lake. You can take a relaxing boat ride over to Bowness-on-Windermere and even stops like the Windermere Jetty Museum, Brockhole and Wray Castle too. Windermere Lake Cruises have lots of ticket options on offer that will suit all budgets but the best and most economic option is a ‘freedom of the lake ticket’.
This pass allows you to take unlimited rides on any of their cruise routes for either 24 or 48 hours. So, you can take in all the sights along Englands longest natural water lake.
Armitt Library & Museum Centre
The Armitt Library was founded by Maria Louisa Armitt in 1909 who lived in Rydal village nearby. She originally set up the library on the back of the Ambleside Book Society, of which William Wordsworth was a subscriber. The library was set up by her to not only be able to celebrate the intellectual activity of Ambleside but enable ideals to be shared.
In 1911, Maria Louisa died. By this time she had a few collections in the library already. But, upon her death, contributions flooded in including editions donated by Beatrix Potter. The independent library is now a museum that has over 11,000 books and a gallery around the social and natural history of Ambleside and the Lake District.
Walk to Stock Ghyll Force
From the Town central, find White Lion Hotel on your right and Follow the marked path from Stock Ghyll Lane, and you can walk a circular route in around 30 minutes.
Stock Ghyll Force is a 70-foot cascade that falls through an emerald gorge in the woods. Originally, this opened up as a Victorian attraction where members of society would visit for a penny – which was a lot back then. There was once a swimming area, tea rooms, pony rides and observation platforms.
Visit St Mary’s Church
You will easily spot St Mary’s Church all over Ambleside, it’s the spire coming from St Mary’s Church. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1854, the gothic style church was made of local blue stone with a sandstone spire on top. Inside the church you can see colourful stained glass windows and the choir stalls that have been carved from the figures of 14 northern saints. There is also a small chapel dedicated to William Wordsworth and some artwork with scenes from the Rushbearing Festival.
Take the walk to Lourigh fell or a longer walk to Rydal cave
If you walk past St Mary’s Church you will come across Rothay Park. There are various trail you can take from a short walk to a longer walk.
Loughrigg Fell is one of the best walks near Ambleside and offers some of the best views in the entire Lake District National Park. Start your walk from Ambleside town centre for a 11km circular loop up to the summit, and back down past the Rydal Caves. This is one of the best hikes to do in the Lake District as it has no sheer drops or edges, but still has some of the best views in the whole national park. Total time is around 3-3.5 hours.
Another popular walk from Ambleside is the Loughrigg Tarn and Rydal Cave loop. Taking you to the other side of Loughrigg Fell, this walk takes you to the tarn (lake) without climbing to the summit. Along the walk, you will be able to see beautiful view of the Lake District, including Helm Crag and the Langdale Pikes. You will also see Rydal Cave, a man-made cave which was used to produce high-quality roofing slates. Access to the cave is free, and a fairly easy walk, but the rocks can be quite loose, so mind your stepping and your head.
6km away from Ambleside is the amazing folly mansion of Wray Castle. It is not exactly a real castle but a pretty impressive mansion home. The property was owned by Dr James Dawson in 1840, a retired surgeon from Liverpool. He built the property after his wife inherited a small fortune from her families Gin Distillery business. But, when the property was finished, she didn’t want to live there. After his death in 1875, Wray Castle was inherited by Edward Preston Rawnsley, cousin to Hardwicke Rawnsley who was vicar of Wray Church. Beatrix Potter also stayed here on her first visit to the Lake District in 1888. William Wordsworth did not hold back on properties he didn’t like but he actually loved Wray Castle saying it complemented the landscape.
Today, Wray Castle is own and managed by the National Trust and is open to visitors both inside the house and around the grounds that have spectacular views of Windermere.
There are plenty you can do in Ambleside in a good sunny day and also when it rains. When you run out of things to do in Amble side you can always hop on to stagecoach bus and explore other towns within Lake District.