Sailing on Lake Windermere
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The Perfect Lake Windermere 3-Day Itinerary!

The Lake District in England is one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s easy to see why, with picturesque lakes surrounded by rolling hills, mountains and forests, as well as charming villages and an abundance of wildlife.

Windermere is the star attraction. It’s the largest lake in England, measuring ten and a half miles long and renowned for its many water sports, outdoor activities and beautiful rural walking trails. The following post will give you what I believe is the perfect Lake Windermere 3-day itinerary to get the best out of a first-time visit to this beautiful part of the world!

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How To Get To Lake Windermere:


The West Coast mainline runs east of the Lake District, connecting Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle with London and Glasgow. The main station to connect with Windermere is Oxenholme in Kendal; from here, you can catch the local line directly to Windermere. 

For more information on train timetables and booking trains within the UK, check out The Train Line.

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Lake Windermere and the rest of the Lake District can be easily reached by bus from most other UK cities.

For low-cost bus operators in the UK, check out National Express.

A helpful app for checking out routes around the UK and the rest of Europe is OMIO, formally GoEuro. This app will give you the best options for planes, trains and buses and the ability to book securely through the app.


The Lake District can be easily reached by car from the M6 motorway.

  • Take Junction 36 and then A590 for the southern end of the Lake District
  • Take Junction 40 and the A66 or A592 for the northern end of the Lake District

Average journey times:

  • London and the southeast to the Lake District is about five hours
  • Manchester to the Lake District: 1 and a half hours
  • York to the Lake District: 2 hours
  • Kendal to Keswick: 1 hour
  • Windermere to Keswick: 40 minutes
  • Kendal to Wasdale: 1 and a half hours

However, please check beforehand if the hotel or guest house has parking available, as there are few parking spaces available, especially in the smaller towns and villages.

How To Get Around Lake Windermere:


Walking has got to be the easiest way to explore Windermere and beyond, with plenty of walking trails for various levels of fitness; however, If you are looking for some easy and more accessible walks, including those suitable for wheelchairs, check out Miles without Stiles. This site shows 48 routes throughout the Lake District National Park, ideal for people with reduced mobility, families with pushchairs and the visually impaired.

If you want something more challenging, check out or download the OS Maps App! You should also check, Lake District National Park for up-to-date weather information and safety advice!


Road cyclists and mountain bikers are spoilt for choice in the Lake District National Park. There is a range of country lanes, permitted cycles and bridleways to suit all experience levels, and you can be sure of fantastic views along the way!

If you need to hire a bike, head to Country Lanes, which is located at Windermere train station.


There is an excellent bus network across the Lake District and Windermere run by. Stagecoach that connects most of the tourist attractions and popular places to visit. Within Windermere and the surrounding area, you can get a day pass on the open-top hop-on hop-off bus for £9.50.

Currently, Stagecoach is running a government promotion offering a maximum single £2 fare on all bus journeys, so this may work out cheaper than getting the day pass! (ends 31/12/24).


One of the best ways to explore Windermere is from its many boat routes around the lake with Windermere Lake cruises. There are various routes and prices depending on which route you choose. Check out Windermere Lake Cruises for up-to-date information.

Where To Stay:

Whatever your budget, there are many hotels, guest houses and hostels all around Lake Windermere. The most popular place to stay is in Windermere or Bowness on Windermere, the lake’s main town. However, if, like me, you want to get away from the crowds, I recommend staying in the quieter northern end of the lake in Ambleside. 

This lovely quaint town has everything you need and is situated within easy reach of most of the popular tourist destinations in the area. One of the area’s most famous waterfalls is located only a stone’s throw away from the town.

For budget travellers, there are plenty of hostels to choose from; I would recommend the YHA Ambleside as it’s situated in a beautiful location right on the shores of the lake close to the jetty. Prices start around £15 a night, depending on the time of year. If you have never stayed in a hostel before, check out my guide for newbies for more information on whether hostel stays are for you. They are not for everyone, but the low cost gives me more money to spend on activities and attractions.

Although I usually choose the hostel option, for my last visit to Windermere, I needed some tranquillity, so I decided to stay at Norwood House Bed & Breakfast, ideally situated in Ambleside town centre, only a short walk away from all the shops and restaurants and at only £50 per night for a single room, I thought was a bargain! 

I could not recommend this place enough; Wendy, the host, was fabulous and cooked the most amazing English breakfast each morning and the usual cereals, fruit, yoghurt, fruit juices and, of course, a good old cup of tea or coffee. The rooms even came equipped with a kettle, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits, bath robes, wine glasses and a bottle opener ready for any pre-evening drinks. The place could not have been any more perfect!

Lake Windermere: The Perfect 3-Day Itinerary:

If you only have three days and two nights in Windermere, I recommend getting there early in the morning and leaving late in the afternoon on your last day to get the most out of your time in the area. If coming from further afield, I recommend staying a few extra nights to have at least three whole days exploring.

As I was only travelling from Liverpool, I got the early morning train up to Windermere; I arrived around 9.30 am, far too early to check into my hotel, so I quickly stashed my belongings away at the luggage storage centre around the corner from the Windermere train station for £4. If you need to do the same, this is the only place to store luggage in the area. It’s located in the visitor information centre just down the hill from the train station.

Lake Windermere 3-Day Itinerary – Day 1:

Bowness, Lakeside & Haverthwaite Steam Railway

After enjoying breakfast at your hotel or in one of the many cafes on the route from the train station, make your way from Windermere down through the main road towards Bowness on Windermere. The walk should only take 30 minutes and is quite a pleasant downhill stroll. 

Along the way, you will probably pass the Windermere library, which has a small exhibition about 300 Jewish children who were evacuated to Ambleside after being liberated from Auschwitz and other concentration camps in 1945. This is a free exhibition and definitely worth visiting if you are interested in history.

As you enter Bowness on Windermere, you will be met with many restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and, depending on the time of year, hundreds of other tourists! If you fancy it, you can visit the popular World of Beatrix Potter attraction; however, if this isn’t your thing, then walk down towards the water’s edge and the pier.

Once at the pier, buy a ticket for the Yellow Cruise for £16.00 for adults and £9.60 for children for a return trip. You can also upgrade your ticket by adding the steam train ride or Lakeside aquarium for an extra £5. I recommend the ride on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Light Railway, and then, if having time to spare, you can check out the aquarium on the way back.

While waiting for your ferry, you can relax, feed the ducks, walk along the water’s edge, go shopping and maybe get supplies for a picnic in Lakeside.

The ferry is a lovely old steamer with a seating area both inside and outside, as well as a café serving hot and cold drinks and snacks. The cruise down the lake towards Lakeside takes approximately forty-five minutes each way and is a fabulous way to take in the beautiful views along the lake. The cruise also has a running commentary providing information about the sights. Just grab a coffee and relax, watching the beautiful scenery pass you by!

Once you arrive at Lakeside, you will see the train waiting at the station (the train times coincide with the ferry times). Walk along to the platform, pick your seat and get ready to ride this historic steam train across the picturesque Leven Valley towards Haverthwaite station.

At this quaint little station, you will find a fabulous restaurant serving tasty local delights, or you can even book in advance and have a delicious afternoon tea! You can also cross over the small bridge to the picnic area overlooking the station; here, you can sit and watch the trains go by. Either option is a great lunch stop.

Whilst at the station, you can also check out the views from the small walking trail starting alongside the fabulous kids’ playground. Or the big kid in you can check out the engine shed, which contains a selection of locomotives and old steam engines.

Once you’ve had enough, take the next train back to Lakeside, where you can either check out the Lakeside Aquarium or take the next ferry back to Bowness on Windermere. You can then pick up your luggage if it’s in storage and check into your hotel. 

By now, you are probably exhausted from a busy day sightseeing, so use the time to have a cuppa and recharge before heading out for tea and maybe a few beers in one of the many pubs around the lake. If you are staying in Ambleside, I recommended The White Lion Pub for some fabulous pub grub and a few beers!

Lake Windermere 3-Day Itinerary – Day 2:

Ambleside & Cruising Around The Lake

If you are not staying in Ambleside, take a local bus or ferry to the village. If staying in Ambleside, take a short stroll from the town towards the lake. While you are on your way, keep an eye out for the Ambleside Roman Fort. This National Trust site is free to enter and is mainly visited by grazing cows! It’s only a small site, but it’s worth a quick visit; just be sure to watch out for the cows, as some of them didn’t look too happy to have us humans wandering through their territory!

Next, head down to the lake and small pier; if it’s a cold morning, grab a coffee from the cute little café overlooking the lake; the cakes also look amazing! I recommend getting the Green cruise with a round trip costing £12.70 for the day on one of the smaller traditional wooden launches. The cruise stops at two other locations, both worth a visit.

The first stop takes you to Wray Castle. Although it looks old, the castle itself was built 180 years ago by a Liverpool surgeon who only needed it to defend himself from the Cumbrian weather! The National Trust now owns the castle and is free to enter for its members; if not a member, it is £11 per adult and £5.50 per child.

If travelling around the UK and planning to visit many National Trust sites, I recommend becoming a member for only £6 a month for adults, giving you free entry to the castle on the day. 

Although the castle has no furniture, it’s a lovely place to explore. There are numerous walking trails from the castle to other parts of the lake and some beautiful viewpoints.

Once back on the boat, the next stop is Brockhole, which is now a huge adventure playground for both adults and children with plenty of outdoor activities, including a tree-top adventure and kayak and boat hire. Even if you don’t fancy having a go at many of the activities on offer, it’s still a lovely place to explore. I recommend Brockhole if you have kids, although be prepared for the costs of activities on offer to add up! 

Once finished at Brockhole, take the boat back to Ambleside if you’re feeling a bit peckish. The Waterside Inn on the shores of Lake Windermere near the pier is an excellent place for food or even just a few cheeky beers!

If you are still feeling energetic, why not walk up to one of the Lake District’s most famous waterfalls, Stock Ghyll Force? To reach the waterfall, head up through Ambleside past the White Lion Pub and keep a lookout for Stock Ghyll Lane. Halfway up the lane, you will find signs for the waterfall. Be careful, though, as the trek up can be slippery, especially in wet weather with uneven ground. 

The walk is only about 30 minutes but can be pretty steep in parts; however, the views of the waterfall are amazing! I walked up there in the rain, and it was awesome; just watch out for some precarious edges; don’t risk getting too close!

Lake Windermere 3-Day Itinerary – Day 3:

Grasmere & William Wordsworth

If you need to check out, most hotels will keep hold of your luggage until you are ready to head home. After a hearty breakfast, catch the 555 or 599 bus to Grasmere. The ride to Grasmere is only around 30 minutes, and if the weather is nice, I recommend sitting upstairs and making use of the open-top bus to get some fantastic views of Radal water and Grasmere Lake; It’s simply stunning! 

Once you arrive in the sleepy village of Grasmere, walk up to Alan Bank House. The National Trust now owns the house, and once again, members can enter for free; for non-members, the cost is £7 per adult and £3.50 per child. 

The house and its grounds were once the home of the National Trust founder Canon Rawnsley and is a beautiful place to explore and relax. Within the grounds is a woodland with many walking trails and an up-and-coming vegetable garden. There are also plenty of spots to pull up a deck chair and enjoy a cuppa while watching out for the famous rare red squirrels in the woods. 

Once finished at Alan Bank, take a walk through the town. Grab some lunch and pick up a few souvenirs, and if you like gingerbread, head over to the famous Grasmere Gingerbread shop. This place is one of the smallest shops I’ve ever visited, and if you love gingerbread, the smell alone is worth a visit!

After tasting some incredible gingerbread, continue walking, and you will come across theodil G Wordsworth Daffarden and the church in which William Wordsworth and his family are buried.

From here, you can either walk towards Rydal, visiting Dove Cottage en route or catch the same bus as before and take the short journey to Rydal Mount.

The bus stops close to Redial Mount; just take a short walk up the hill. This beautiful house was another of William Wordsworth’s homes and the place where he died in 1850. This place is truly stunning! The house has been left exactly as it was, with all the original furnishing, and the grounds are immaculate. Entrance fees are £10 per adult. This was one of my favourite places in the Lake District.

After Visiting Rydal Mount, walk back down the hill and pop into Rydal Hall and Gardens. This place is free to enter and has some beautiful gardens. It’s a lovely spot to grab a cuppa and relax, enjoying more of the stunning countryside views!

Once finished, head back down the hill and turn right. You will find a great pub, The Badger Bar and Restaurant, to have a bite to eat. Just a short walk across the road, you will also find some more scenic walks along Rydal Water.

By now, it’s probably time to catch the bus back to Ambleside, head back to the hotel, pick up your bags and say goodbye to the Lake District.

Final Thoughts:

I hope you have enjoyed this 3-day Itinerary in Lake Windermere. Of course, there are many other things to see and do in the area, and some people may even want to do much less or fit in so much more! Still, this itinerary gives a good overview of some famous attractions and the area’s beautiful scenery.

To learn more about visiting the Lake District, check out my comprehensive guide.

Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up! 

Remember to follow our social media accounts for more travel inspiration and updates. 

Happy travels!

Lake Windermere 3-Day Itinerary for first timers!
Lake Windermere 3-Day Itinerary for first timers!

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