I love the Lake District and we try to get up there every year & stay in a different town or village each time. We have family in Kendal therefore we can visit the family & have a holiday in one go.
Last year we decided to try Ambleside. We normally stay in quieter villages, but as we had friends coming this time we decided to stay in a busier town with a choice of drinking holes.
~ Location ~
Ambleside is a town located just into the Lake District national park on the top tip of Lake Windermere, a few miles from Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere. The main road (A591) runs through the towns' one way system from Kendal up to Keswick (via Grasmere). This is one of the "better" roads that run through the Lake District, as if you have travelled there before you will understand that the roads can be VERY winding and takes a lot longer to travel short distances (I am from the Fens and we are not used to hills!).
~ Accommodation ~
As Ambleside is quite a touristy town, there are a huge number of options for accommodation. There are hundreds of holiday cottage lets to choose from ranging in price and size - we stayed in a 3 bed house in the centre of the town for approx £500 per week in August.
There are also hotels - Best Western Salutation Hotel, Queens Hotel, Churchill Hotel to name a few. I cannot comment on the hotels having not stayed in them.
There are also numerous bed & breakfasts in Ambleside and campsites just outside. There is also a Youth Hostel in Waterhead.
~ Food ~
There are lots of food options in Ambleside. As we had a self catering cottage we did cook a lot ourselves & there are two main food shops a Co-op and Spar in the centre - a couple of doors from each other. These are both quite small, however, there is a Booths supermarket in Windermere, just next to the train station, which is a few miles away, or a big Asda in Oxenholme, Kendal about 15 miles away.
There are also butchers, bakers and cake shops, all within walking distance in the town centre.
We tried a couple of takeaways while we were there - there is a great fish and chip shop in the centre (the name escapes me) and a Chinese just down the hill from the centre called The Lucky Dragon. There is also another Chinese - China Cottage but it was closed when we went to get food so didn't taste them.
We went to the Indian restaurant which was lovely on our anniversary, the food was great the service was great, we couldn't fault it! It was called Tagore Indian restaurant.
We also went to the Wateredge Inn (a bit of a walk from the centre) for a few snacks while drinking, it was lovely food - we only had a cheese platter between the 4 of us, but it was extremely expensive there, however, you probably have to pay for the location, which was right on the lake. A lovely place for a quiet drink.
There are also Thai, Italian Pizzeria, and numerous pubs serving food.
~ Days out ~
There are hundreds of things to do in the Lake District, especially if you like walking, however, I'm only going to speak about thing close to Ambleside (within 5 mins drive) as I could be here all day!
In Ambleside, if you want to buy hiking gear then this is the place for you. There whole centre is full of hiking shops selling everything you could want for outward bounds activities.
There is a crazy golf course and park for the kiddies (or big kids!).
The main river which goes through the town has a pretty waterfall walk (free) which takes you through a wooded area to a pretty fall. However, it can be steep and difficult in places (we went when it was wet and the path got very muddy), and make sure you keep a close eye on inquisitive kids as there are some nasty drops down the side of the paths, there are some barriers but not in all places.
For the more adventurous there are quite a few walks starting in Ambleside, the ones we did -
Ambleside to Troutbeck, over Wansfell pike (489m), very pretty walk to a remote village (which we stayed in the previous year), over a steep pike which is quite strenuous in places, but rewarded with brilliant views over Lake Windermere. This is quite a popular walk, so in the height of the season, don't expect to be on your own walking.
Ambleside to Rydal via Lily Tarn, Todd Crag, then Rydal cave, then back the easy way along the main road. This is quite a strenuous walk in parts & I would definitely make sure you take an OS map, compass & someone who can read maps! This is a less trodden walk, therefore the paths are not always easily seen. Not really for small children, you need to be pretty fit to get over some places. This takes in a number of locations
- Lily Tarn is so called as this is a small pond at the top of a fell with lily's growing. This is a magical place but was very difficult to find. We came across a number of people up there trying to look for the Tarn, until we gave up & decided to go on, and mistakenly almost walked into it! It is a small tarn/pond which is bigger at different times of the year, surrounded by moss covered mounds, with lily pads growing.
- Todd Crag is a peak which looks down on Windermere to the south, Ambleside to the East and Rydal Water and Grasmere to the north
- Rydal cave - is an old quarry cave which pictures taken from the inside looks like you are looking out of a monsters mouth, however, they have now put barriers up as a number of rocks have fallen from the roof, so we were pretty disappointed we couldn't get in.
- Rydal itself is a pretty small lake, which is quieter than the more touristy Windermere / Coniston. It is famous for Rydal Mount, one of Wordsworths house which is open to visitors. You can also walk along the old "coffin road" to Dove Cottage (his other house open to visitors) but by the time we had got there we were too tired to go any further.
- There is a tea room at Rydal Hall, to stop for some lunch and then back via the shorter route down the main road back to Ambleside.
A short drive from Ambleside is Windermere the town and Bowness-on-Windermere the lake destination, where you can hire boats or take the lake cruises down Windermere.
From either Bowness-on-Windermere or Waterhead (short walk south of Ambelside) you can get the lake cruise down to Lakeside on the southern tip of the lake, where there is an aquarium, Haverthwaite steam railway and Lakeland Motor Museum. Costs from Waterhead (if you go from Bowness it's cheaper) taken from www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk:
Boat & Train - Adult £20.25, Child (5-15 yrs) £10.15, Family (2 adults, 3 children) £55.00
Boat & Aquarium - Adult £23.70, Child £12.10, Family £66.80
Boat & Motor Museum - Adult £20.25, Child £11.15, Family £55.90
Also, if you have a strong stomach for hair raising roads, just north of Ambleside there is Kirkstone Pass, you leave Ambleside up "the struggle" aptly named, do not attempt this if you are not a confident driver or are worried about your brakes! The road joins the A592, which is by no means a main road to the top (1,489 feet!) with an Inn on the top (please ensure the driver does not drink!) and a car park with a number of walking routes. You can carry on up the road to Ulswater, or go back down. If you don't fancy going back down "the struggle" you can carry on the A592 past Troutbeck and it brings you out at Windermere town. It is not a long drive in distance but its slow going, with amazing views along the route. There are plenty of passing places along the road, and be careful as there are quite often stray sheep dotting the road.
~ Nights out ~
There are a lot of pubs/bars around the town, some are quite small and cosy and there are some more modern sports bars. There are no "night clubs", but a few of the pubs had live music a couple of night in the summer. Our route was across Rydal Road, then down Lake Road, you will come across - The Priest Hole, Churchills (sports bar), Royal Oak, White Lion, then up North Road to The Unicorn & Golden Rule (just next to our cottage).
There is also a small cinema in the town centre (above the Italian Pizzeria).
~ Would I recommend ~
Yes. As Ambleside is quite a busy little town, its popular with tourists due to its central location and numerous walking shops. If you are looking for a quite peaceful holiday I would recommend staying on the outskirts of Ambleside as the centre can get quite busy. Also the main road does go through the town, even though a one way system does try to move the traffic more freely (which is very confusing when you first get there!). But for location you cannot fault it!
Ambleside - the best little town in the UK. Many may agree with me, many may not, but I don't ask to be agreed with all the time ;o)
My love of Ambleside comes from going to University there to study teaching. It was then that I got into mountain biking and walking and if that's what you're looking for in a town, well here it is! I arrived at Uni a not very fit person and left as someone who biked everywhere and walked up a lot of hills.
Ambleside is known as the heart of the Lake District, as it's the tourist hotspot of the area and within easy walking or driving distance from lots of places. Grasmere is just a short walk out of Ambleside, whilst Bowness and Windermere are a little further, about 5 miles away.
Keswick lies to the North of Ambleside, although it's reachable by car in about 30 minutes on a good day and it's a very picturesque town to walk around. Not so Kendal, which is pretty much a town filled with shops that you'd see in any shopping centre.
From Ambleside, there are a lot of walks that begin in the town, such as Loughrigg or Wansfell, both easy enough walks. Loughrigg is also a good one for mountain bikers, although the trick to 'doing' Loughrigg on a bike is not to put a foot down - a bit tricky when there's three gates to open as you go over it. It can be done though!
For the more adventurous walker/climber, Ambleside is a good base for the big mountains in the area, such as Helvellyn, although people who want to set off very early in the morning might want to stay further north.
Ambleside has a lot of the attractions that you'd expect from a small tourist town - lots of tourists (!), a big garden centre (Hayes, which is on the road between Windermere and Ambleside and well worth a visit), an independent cinema (which is part of a pizza place and you can even eat your pizza whilst watching a newly released film), the Bridge House, Wordsworth's various living places, and for when you're hungry, a couple of chip shops, a couple of Chinese restaurants/takeaways, lots and lots of cafes, and do visit the Apple Pie (near the bridge house as you're going north towards Grasmere) for THE most delicious pastries and cakes.
There's not a huge amount to do for children, unless they like outdoor shops, garden centres and walking and the various eating places are not massively children-friendly.
As for parking, I would recommend using the old University car park. It's on the right side of the road after the mini roundabout and just before the Bridge House. Not quite as expensive as the main car park.
Basically, I love the Lakes, I love 'my' mountains and I love Ambleside and I defy you not to love it too.
Earlier this year my family decided to take a much needed break to the Lake District. I had very litttle to do with the planning of this holiday, all I had to do was arrive home the day before ready for my dad to drive us all to Ambleside, the village that my parents had decided to stay in. I had half-heartedly read reviews and guides to Ambleside but really had no idea about what to expect.
My initial impression of Ambleside was very good. Driving through the village it all seemed so picturesque and quaint. I wouldn't say the buildings are the most attractive that I've ever seen, in fact they're a little bit dreary but they're old and they look old and I love old buildings.
Ambleside is in a great location. One of the reasons why my parents chose to stay in Ambleside was because it is so easy to get to various attractions and to access the beautiful countryside around Ambleside. You can walk to Windermere where it is easy to get to a number of other villages (I would recommend taking the boat and not swimming). There are also a number of bus services that leave from Ambleside going to various places of interest. The buses were described to me as frequent by locals which translated as every half an hour (and therefore not what I would consider to be frequent). For people who would rather walk everywhere (like my parents) there are a number of walks that start in Ambleside and are suitable for all abilities. It does get expensive to take the buses and boats everywhere but unless you know that there is a safe walking route to your destination I would highly recommend using them. Footpaths on the side of roads frequently disappear and there are not always crossings so walking to places (as we discovered) is not always the safest or most pleasant way to travel.
Unfortunately if you put aside the appearance of the town and the fact that it's conveniently located for a number of attractions the town itself has little to offer. For me the attraction to small towns or villages like Ambleside has always been that they're quiet, a nice break from the city. Ambleside is very crowded and far too small for the number of people who are in it. I did visit at the height of the tourist season so it's probably not so crowded at other times of the year.
The number of people crammed into Ambleside had a huge impact on every aspect of my visit. Pavements were too narrow even to walk side by side with someone in places, so sometimes you are forced onto the road if there is someone walking towards you. The roads are busy so this is quite dangerous (although traffic is quite slow due to the fact that there seems to be a constant traffic jam going through Ambleside). The supermarkets (there's a spar and a co-op) are not big enough for the number of people who need to use them and aren't particularly well stocked, they're more like corner shops and there were always long queues when I went in.
Although Ambleside seems to rely entirely on tourism the tourist information centre is just a stand with leaflets on in the post office. The only places of interest that I could find in Ambleside, using the tourist information centre was a museum that was closed the week we were there and the bridge house. The bridge house is a tiny house over the river that is now owned by the National Trust. When I say that it's tiny I mean it, it's barely big enough for some National Trust merchandise and leaflets and a few people. It's difficult to believe that a family with six children lived there. I visited the bridge house a couple of times, the first time was because I was interested in seeing what it was like. It's certainly worth seeing. After that I returned a couple of times because the man who worked there was just so helpful and friendly. After finding the tourist information centre so useless I asked him about a number of attractions that I was interested in visiting and he seemed happy to help, giving us tips about various National Trust properties.
My parents really enjoy walking and while I love walking around cities I don't like walking in the country, I'm just too clumsy and I hate getting dirty. However, as my parents were spending so much time walking and I was getting quite bored I did take a walk with them to the waterfalls in Ambleside. They're very well signposted so if you want to visit them you shouldn't have any problems finding them. I personally didn't enjoy the walk. It was muddy, wet and slippery and now my family have photographs that they'll be able to hold over me for the rest of my life. However, it wasn't a particularly difficult walk (if I can do it anyone can) and the view was beautiful.
If you are determined to stay in Ambleside and not venture out to the many great places that there are to see you will be able to keep yourself occupied in Ambleside, it's just that whatever you can do there you could do better and for less money somewhere else.
There is a cinema in Ambleside called Zefferelli's but it's nowhere near as good as the cinema's that I usually visit, it's small and overall quite uncomfortable and it isn't much cheaper than visiting the cinema in Finchley. There are plenty of restaurants and cafe's that sell a great selection of locally produced food but they're very over priced. There are a number of book shops that I loved looking around but the selection is much smaller than the book shops that I usually go to.
If you are looking for a good place to be based in the Lake District so that you can visit all of the historic houses and take lots of lovely walks in the countryside then I would certainly recommend Ambleside. If you are looking for somewhere that you can stay in for a week without having to make an effort to walk or travel outside of the town then this probably isn't the place for you. I was hoping for a quiet, relaxing stay in the country and instead I found myself in a place that's just as busy as the city with the only difference being that it isn't equipped to deal with so many people.
Ambleside holds such an idylic place in my heart as it is somewhere i used to visit yearly with my late parents.
We would stay in a most fantastic hotel (which i believe still exists) called the Kirkstone Country Foot Country House Hotels and it was this hotel that was instrunmental in developing my love of a good dining experience.
Evening meals were a true gastranomic experience of 6 courses of the most amazing, locally sourced food acompanied by superb wines and followed always by cheese, biscuits and port. This was always the highlight for me as we would take our time dressing for dinner and it was such an experience!
I remember vividly the beautiful surroundings afforded by Ambleside... one walk from the hotel led through beautiful woodland along a stream that culminated in an amazingly beautiful waterfull that would take my breath away every time I saw it... there was something truly magical about it.
Other walks would lead us by lakes, to the most wonderful shops and lovely 'walkers' pubs to grab a drink and a sandwhich after a long amble... truly idylic!
It may sound as though I am waxing lyrical and that my review is over romanticised and perhaps it is... it is based on a truly idyllic time in my life... but to me Ambleside will always hold a place very dear to my heart
Ambleside is described as the tourist hotspot of the lakes, centrally located around Lake Windermere which is I think the largest natural lake in the UK it is easily accessible from the M6 and set in beautiful stunning scenery.
Ambleside itself has plenty to offer, lots of places to stay and eat and plenty of shops to keep you entertained, aprking can be a problem though so arrive early if you're going just for the day out.
My biggest issue with Ambleside though is lack of places to eat if you have a young family, a lot of the restaurants only really cater for adults and the menu only offers posh nosh and somehave no childrens menus at all. The last time we took our children here we ended up living on fish and chips as we couldn't find anywhere for the kids to eat that was going to be reasonably priced.
Ambleside is a pretty functional village in the Lake District National Park about half an hours drive from the M6 motorway. The park is situated in the county of Cumbria in the Northwest of England on the shores of Lake Windermere, England's largest lake. It has many many B&Bs and hotels at varying prices. The most expensive hotel is probably the Salutation Inn in the centre of the village (it is part of the Best Western chain but in local decor) and the cheaper end of the B&B market probably approaches £30 a night. There are also numerous self-cating appartments e.g. Kirkstone Foot apartments where I stayed on my most recent visit there. These were very comfortable. There is also a youth hostel some walk out of town.
Anywhere you stay within Ambleside is no further than a 10 minute walk (at a reasonable pace) from the centre of the town. The town is mainly a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and most of the shops in the town are outdoor shops of some variety or another.
Footpaths up many of the local fells ( e.g. Wansfell ~ 480 m, and Loughrigg ~350 m) can be found from the town itself and summiting these fells offer amazing views of the surrounding area.
The potential drawback of the area is the weather which is notoriously hard to predict and changeable but you don't get beautiful scenery in the UK without lots of rain so I guess it is just one of those things!! There are also a lot of tourists in the main season and parking can sometimes be an issue.....you would almost certainly have to pay to park in Ambleside itself.
There are numerous cafes in the town as well as pubs and restaurants as well as fish and chip shops!! Whatever your taste it will surely be catered for. The pubs serve a variety of excellent real ales and there is also a pub...the sportsman...that shows most sporting events and has a disco downstairs on certain nights! There is also a good independent cinema showing up to date films which is worth a visit.
Interesting activities that can be undertaken if you are not really a hill walker is the boat trip to Bowness where you can go to the Beatrix Potter museum...or you can take a bus trip to nearby Dove Cottage where Wordsworth lived.
I first went to Ambleside with my parents and sister, who was studying Beatrix Potter as part of her A level in Art. We stayed at a bed and breakfast on the road from Lake Windermere into Ambleside opposite the garden centre, which was very nice indeed. I have since been on three further occasions, once for a walking holiday, staying at the same bed and breakfast, and twice for brief stays as we were passing through on our way to somewhere else. Ambleside itself is a good base for touring as it lies in a strategic position on the A591, the main north to south road through the Lake District. It was granted its charter as a market town in 1650 and has many remnants of the 17th century. My favourite of these is the tiny house built over the Stock Ghyll, the stream that runs through Ambleside. Originally built as a summerhouse for the Ambleside Hall, it is now owned by the National Trust, who opened it as their first information centre in 1956. St Mary’s church in Ambleside has a 150-foot spire and a mural of the rush bearing ceremony which takes place on the first Saturday in July, when the children carry rushes through the town. Students of the Royal College of Art who were evacuated to Ambleside during World War II painted the mural. This lovely town is a mixture of specialist and gift shops, pubs, hotels and tea-rooms. We found a café on the side of the Ghyll serving speciality teas and all sorts of home made cakes and snacks. It’s not obvious from the centre of the town but well worth looking for. The town gets very busy at peak times and the roads and the footpaths are very narrow so care needs to be taken by all. During my first stay we decided to make our way to Near Sawrey, to see Beatrix Potter’s house in order that my sister could glean information for her thesis. We walked from our guesthouse down to Bowness on Windermere and caught the ferry across the lake. We then walked from the landing point to Near
Sawrey. The weather was extremely hot and we were very weary by the time we arrived and headed straight for the Tower Bank Arms, which actually appears in one of Beatrix Potter’s stories, The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck. The pub is a typical country pub and serves fine food as well as good beer and is owned by the National Trust. Just along the lane from the pub is Hill Top, the farm where Beatrix Potter lived. The National Trust now owns it, as she left this and many other of her properties to them in her will. Hill Top is open to the public as a museum, and is kept in the style in which she and her animal friends knew it. It still contains her furniture, china, pictures and some of her original drawings. Well worth a visit while you're staying in Ambleside.