Windermere & the Islands

Top choice in The Lake District

Windermere gets its name from the old Norse, Vinandr mere (Vinandr's lake; so 'Lake Windermere' is actually tautologous). Encompassing 5.7 sq miles between Ambleside and Newby Bridge, the lake is a mile wide at its broadest point, with a maximum depth of about 220m. It's a nice place to hire a boat for the afternoon, but it is far and away the busiest of the lakes.

Windermere Lake Cruises offers sightseeing cruises, departing from Bowness Pier.

The lake's shoreline is owned by a combination of private landholders, the National Park Authority and the National Trust, but the lakebed itself (and thus the lake itself) officially belongs to the people of Windermere (local philanthropist Henry Leigh Groves purchased it on their behalf in 1938).

There are 18 islands on Windermere: the largest is Belle Isle, encompassing 16 hectares and an 18th-century Italianate mansion, while the smallest is Maiden Holme, little more than a patch of soil and a solitary tree.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Lake District attractions

1. World of Beatrix Potter

0.51 MILES

This themed attraction brings to life various scenes from Beatrix Potter's books, including Peter Rabbit's garden, Mr McGregor's greenhouse, Mrs Tiggy…

2. Wray Castle

1.24 MILES

An impressive sight with its turrets and battlements, this mock-Gothic castle was built in 1840 for James Dawson, a retired doctor from Liverpool, but it…

3. Blackwell House

1.56 MILES

Two miles south of Bowness on the B5360, Blackwell House is a glorious example of the 19th-century Arts and Crafts Movement, which championed handmade…

4. Hill Top

1.83 MILES

Two miles south of Hawkshead, in the tiny village of Near Sawrey, this idyllic farmhouse was purchased in 1905 by Beatrix Potter and was used as…

5. Hawkshead Grammar School

2.75 MILES

In centuries past, promising young gentlemen were sent to Hawkshead's village school for their educational foundation. Among the former pupils was a…

6. Beatrix Potter Gallery

2.79 MILES

As well as being a children's author, Beatrix Potter was also a talented botanical painter and amateur naturalist. This small gallery, housed in what were…

7. Townend

3.34 MILES

This fascinating farmhouse offers an insight into Lakeland life c 1700. It once belonged to farmer Ben Browne and his family, who made a living by…

8. Galava Roman Fort

4.15 MILES

The foundations of Ambleside's ruined roman fort, built c AD 79, can be seen just west of the Waterhead jetties. The land is now owned by the National…