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Ambleside, at the head of Windermere and the foot of the Kirkstone Pass, is in the very heart of the Lake District with easy access to Grasmere, Keswick, Windermere and the Langdales. A vibrant, busy town, surrounded by magnificent Lakeland fells, it is the ideal location for a rural break. Although Ambleside has its roots in the medieval woollen trade, it is predominantly a Victorian town, built of traditional slate.

With easy access to an unrivalled range of water sports, walks, climbs, cycling and much more, Ambleside is very popular with both leisure visitors wanting a relaxing break and outdoor enthusiasts looking for a challenge. There are also some fabulous restaurants, cafés and pubs to satisfy the discerning palette and numerous award-winning ales to quench your thirst. Ambleside’s specialist shops offer a welcome variation on high street chains. There is no shortage of outdoor clothing specialists waiting to kit you out in the latest gear for any activity, from walking to windsurfing.

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Lakeside Pier

Described by purists as ‘the true Lake District’, Ambleside is a walkers’ paradise. Plenty of routes begin from near the Waterhead Pier, so why not grab a copy of Windermere Lake Cruises’ handy walkers leaflet – or even better, buy a copy of ‘Walks Around Windermere’ from the attraction’s team – a labour of love by local man, the late Jim Fleming.

Waterhead Pier is less than a mile from Ambleside’s town centre, being just a pleasant stroll or electric shuttle bus ride away.

The Armitt Museum art gallery and reference library gives you the chance to explore the history of life and arts of the Lakes. In addition, there’s also an exhibition about the life of Kurt Schwitters and of course, lots to learn about Beatrix Potter. There’s also information on the nearby remains of a Roman site, which is free to explore.

Zeffirellis is Ambleside’s famous independent cinema, offering viewings of films made by new and emerging talents, while Fellinis shows art-house and independent films, as well as holding performances. There’s also The Old Courthouse Gallery which showcases the best arts and crafts on offer in the Lakes.
For some quality outdoor time, check out Rydal Mount and Gardens. The home of William Wordsworth for nearly 40 years, this house inspired many of his poems – and tweaks to existing works including his world-famous 'Daffodils'.

After exploring Ambleside, make use of the Langdale Rambler bus service between March 25 and November 3 to visit other surrounding towns and villages before heading back to Ambleside.

Before getting back on a Steamer, you can also have a go in a self-drive power boat or rowing boat. Just ask the team on the lake shore!


Things to do

Adventure & Outdoor Activities

And so the adventure begins. Add some thrills to your holiday by fully experiencing everything Cumbria has to offer. Walk, run, climb, swim, get muddy, have fun!

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what's on

 June 2020>

Ambleside has a variety of different events taking place in the town and surrounding areas.

From arts & culture classes, Ambleside Sports, Great North swim to Festival of the Fells, an outdoor activity and cultural festival. Check out whats happening during your stay in Ambleside.

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Food & Drink

Chic British dining in the local restaurants using locally sourced produce, to quirky off the beaten track cafes,
are just some of the delicious treats Ambleside has in store for you.

Wild food has become very ’now’ and no more so than in Ambleside,
where there’s ingredients from shore sourced seaweed to forest-picked mushrooms.

The Old Stamp House, Ambleside

Impeccable Cumbrian provenance is readily available here, from Herdwick lamb to speciality sausage and Windermere Char (local fish). But it’s not all Cumberland sausage here, there’s also a sophisticated range of vegetarian restaurants and cafes in Ambleside.

There’s everything here from the finest of dining in the many top-quality hotels and restaurants, to quirky bistros in cellars, to going continental with Italian restaurants, or even contemporary Thai.

Bustling cafes with fabulous menus bring a dazzle to the centre of town, offering light lunches and tapas, or morning coffee with freshly baked pastries and cakes. No visit would be complete, without a visit to one of the town’s traditional pubs, or a little way out of town to Lakeland’s highest pub, offering soaring views.

Try one of the many Craft beers for that post-hike lift, or while away an evening sampling locally casked ales or a glass of wine, listening to a gig or one of the many other musical entertainments going on in the town.

For more information on what Cumbria has to offer see Food and Drink

Great places to eat and drink in Ambleside

Surrounding areas

Wray Castle

Culture and Heritage

Bridge House, Ambleside
Waterhead, Ambleside
Kirkstone pass
The Romans built a stone fort at Waterhead called Galava around AD 120 (now in Borrans Field) - one of a number built to secure trade and service routes through South Lakeland.

Galava was linked to the Roman port at Ravenglass (via Hardknott Pass), to Brocavum (Brougham) near Penrith along ‘High Street' (an elevated Roman road between Ullswater and Haweswater), and southwards to Watercrook, near Kendal.

After the Romans departed around AD 400, Norse settlers moved in, founding a settlement on high ground above the town centre. It is thought that Ambleside may have been named after a Norseman called Amal (i.e. Amal's saeter - or summer pasture).

Ambleside was granted a market charter in 1650, and Market Place became the commercial centre for agriculture and the wool trade.

The old packhorse trail (now a bridleway) between Ambleside and Grasmere was the main route between the two towns before the new turnpike road was completed in 1770 (now the A591). Smithy Brow at the end of the trail was where packponies were re-shod after their journey.

With the coming of the turnpikes, the packhorse trains were superseded by horse-drawn stagecoaches, which regularly travelled between Keswick and Kendal (via Grasmere, Ambleside and Windermere).

The Salutation Hotel, a former hostelry dating from 1656, developed into a coaching inn where horses could be stabled overnight. The Royal Oak and the White Lion were also coaching inns.

Bridge House

The iconic Bridge House is a tiny house over Stock Beck in the centre of the town and one of the most photographed buildings in the Lake District. Originally built as an apple store by the Braithwaites of Ambleside Hall in 1723, the building is now owned by the National Trust and is open daily from Easter to October.

Galava Roman Fort

Built around AD 120, the original stone fort of Galava at Waterhead stood on a raised platform to avoid flooding from the rivers Rothay & Brathay. The Roman garrison numbered about 500 men and supported a sizeable civilian settlement outside the fort.

‘The Struggle’

‘The Struggle’ aptly describes the steep ascent out of Ambleside to the Kirkstone Inn, one of the highest hostelries in the UK. Teams of packponies and horse-drawn carriages regularly laboured up this gruelling hill!

Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948)

Kurt Schwitters a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, arrived in Ambleside in 1945. Although unrecognised in his lifetime, Schwitters is now recognised as a master of collages and abstract assemblages of recycled materials, referring to his work as Merz; a term that has become synonymous with his style of work.

William Green (1760–1823)

William Green was a fine draughtsman and engraver who lived in Ambleside from 1800 to 1823. His accurate representations of Lakeland landscapes and buildings were much in demand at the time. He was a close friend of William Wordsworth, who wrote the epitaph on his grave in St Oswald’s Church, Grasmere.

Herbert Bell (1856–1946)

Herbert Bell’s photographic studies of local landscapes, architecture and working life in the Lake District are an invaluable record of social history. Bell grew up in Ambleside (his father was the local chemist) and started experimenting with photography in his twenties. His skills with a camera were much in demand during his lifetime.

Langdale Valley

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