Nestled among the rugged mountains and verdant valleys of Cumbria in England, Lake Windermere showcases nature’s remarkable artistry. As the largest natural lake in England, spanning over 10.5 miles in length and reaching depths of up to 219 feet, it holds a special place in the hearts of those who visit.
The area surrounding Lake Windermere has been populated since ancient times. The Romans, recognizing its strategic significance, established several forts in the vicinity. However, it was during the medieval period that the area truly began to flourish. Several villages and hamlets grew along the lake’s shores, many of which are now popular tourist destinations.
Lake Windermere’s history isn’t merely confined to land. The waters themselves have borne witness to countless events, from Viking invasions to the construction of grand estates during the Victorian era. Numerous archaeological sites and finds, including remnants of boats, testify to its historical importance.
Sailing & Cruising
No history of Lake Windermere would be complete without mentioning the art of sailing. The lake has long been a hotspot for maritime activities. From the simple rowboats of the local fishermen to the graceful yachts of the Edwardian elite, Windermere has seen a wide variety of vessels grace its waves. The advent of the steam age in the 19th century saw the introduction of paddle steamers, which soon became a popular means of transporting both goods and passengers. Today, visitors can still experience this bygone era aboard the beautifully restored vessels of the Windermere Lake Cruises.
Regattas and boat races have been a tradition for over 200 years, with the Windermere Cup being one of the most prestigious sailing events in the region. The Windermere Yacht Club, established in the late 19th century, continues to promote sailing on the lake, providing training and events for enthusiasts.
- Beatrix Potter and Windermere: The renowned author of the Peter Rabbit stories, Beatrix Potter, was deeply enamoured with the Lake District. She bought Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, close to Windermere, where she wrote many of her famous tales. The Lake District, including areas around Windermere, greatly influenced her writings.
- Islands and Aisles: Lake Windermere boasts 18 islands, with Belle Isle being the largest. Interestingly, Belle Isle once housed a circular house which is said to have been constructed so that there were no corners for the devil to hide in.
- Deep Waters: Though it’s the longest lake in England, Windermere is not the deepest. That title goes to Wastwater. Nonetheless, the depths of Windermere are substantial, with many intriguing diving sites scattered across its floor.
Windermere Lake Cruises
Windermere Lake Cruises has an illustrious history and has been operating for over 160 years. The company was founded in 1858 as the Windermere United Yacht Company, and it began offering scheduled passenger services in 1863. The company started as steam yacht owners catering to private clientele. As tourism in the Lake District began to flourish, the company expanded its operations to offer scheduled passenger services. Over the decades, the fleet and the routes have expanded, adapting to changing times and tourist needs, yet the dedication to preserving the beauty and essence of Windermere remains unchanged. Serving as one of the prime attractions in this region, they offer visitors an opportunity to explore the expanses and enjoy its breathtaking views.
Types of Boats
- Steamboats: Reminiscent of a bygone era, the steamboats offer a nostalgic journey across the lake. These beautifully preserved boats give passengers a sense of travelling back in time and offer a unique and immersive experience.
- Modern Launches: For those who prefer a more contemporary sailing experience, Windermere Lake Cruises also operates a fleet of modern launches. These are often larger and can cater to more passengers at once.
- Traditional Launches: These are smaller, wooden crafts that offer a more intimate experience and are often favoured for private hire or smaller group tours.
The lake boasts a range of attractive stop-off points with a variety of attractions, including shops, restaurants, museums, and historical sites:
- Bowness-on-Windermere is a bustling tourist hub with a wide range of shops, restaurants, and attractions. It is also home to the World of Beatrix Potter attraction.
- Ambleside is a picturesque town located at the northern end of Windermere. It is a popular base for walkers and hikers, and it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
- Lakeside is located at the southern end of Windermere. It is home to the Lakes Aquarium, the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, and the Windermere Outdoor Centre.
- Brockhole is a family-friendly attraction located on the eastern shore of Windermere. It offers a variety of activities, including a treetop adventure course, a boat hire, and a play area.
- Windermere Jetty Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of Windermere Lake Cruises. It houses a collection of boats and other artefacts from the company’s long history.
Freedom of the Lake Ticket
The Freedom of the Lake ticket offers numerous benefits to those wanting to thoroughly explore Windermere. This ticket provides unlimited travel on scheduled services for 24 hours, enabling passengers to hop on and off at various stop-off points as per their interests. Instead of purchasing individual tickets for different routes or stop-offs, this ticket offers a cost-effective way to explore the entirety of Windermere. Given the diverse attractions around Windermere, this ticket encourages passengers to delve deeper into the Lake District’s beauty, perhaps exploring less frequented spots.
Windermere Lake Cruises offers a magical journey across England’s largest lake. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an avid explorer, or someone seeking the tranquillity of nature, there’s something for everyone on these cruises. The Freedom of the Lake ticket, in particular, ensures that passengers have the liberty to craft their own unique Lake District experience.
Beech Hill Hotel & Spa
Nestled on the eastern bank of Lake Windermere lies the Beech Hill Hotel & Spa. A hotel that combines genuine comfort with the kind of low-key sophistication that appeals to the modern traveller. I spent a long weekend here and from the exterior, Beech Hill offers a somewhat stately countenance, with its modest stone walls and dark wood beams hinting at the traditionally English interiors. The reality is, thankfully, more nuanced. Yes, you’ll find the occasional chintzy armchair or overly floral wallpaper, but these are juxtaposed against contemporary design elements and up-to-date amenities, making for a place where tradition meets understated modernity.
The View That Steals the Show
The hotel’s prime location offers sweeping views over Lake Windermere, stretching towards the hazy hills in the distance. In the morning, the waters may appear moody and introspective, only to shimmer with golden promise by late afternoon. It’s a dynamic, ever-changing vista – and arguably the hotel’s standout feature. It cannot be overstated how special and unique this view is, which only a handful of hotels around the lake can boast.
In a world often driven by the latest trends and the need for ostentation, Beech Hill’s understated charm might just be its strongest asset. This is the Lake District presented without a filter; authentic, peaceful, and utterly compelling. With confident, friendly staff who understand the importance of good service and discretion, you can get on with enjoying your vacation.
The Windermere Suite
The Windermere Suite is one of the finest hotel suites in the Lake District. A contemporary space where the beauty of the Lake District filters through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The room is anchored by plush furnishings, warm hues, and details that evoke both modern sensibilities and the timeless charm intrinsic to the Lake District. The stylish bathroom is designed with intentionality, creating a harmonious balance between opulence and comfort inside a generous space.
The wow factor arrives when you step out onto the expansive patio and discover the breathtaking panorama of the lake and surrounding hills. The shimmering expanse of Lake Windermere stretches out below, its waters reflecting the ever-changing moods of the skies. The lush gardens of the hotel, meticulously curated yet wonderfully wild in places, add colourful hues to this postcard-perfect view. The view from this sundeck alone is reason enough to book the Windermere Suite and it could become the highlight of your storyboard staycation.
Whether you’re seeking a rejuvenating soak in the sunken hot tub in the cool morning air or a warm, bubbly retreat under a canopy of stars, it offers a private sanctuary. It’s easy to lose track of time here, as the gentle waters of the tub mirror the vast lake below, and the world outside will drift away with the passing clouds.
For those sunny, idyllic Lake District days, the loungers are poised to offer a space for sunbathing or perhaps a nap. With a book in hand and the warmth of the Sun enveloping you, it’s a moment of sheer bliss that speaks to the soul. Here, the boundary between indoors and outdoors seems to blur, where the Lake District’s natural splendour becomes an integral part of your personal space. Few hotels can offer this unique experience. This isn’t just about luxury — it’s about a connection to a place, a feeling of being ensconced in the very heart of the Lake District. A stay here doesn’t just offer a room with a view; it promises memories that linger, long after the journey home.
The name ‘Burlington’ is deeply rooted in the Lake District’s geological history. It pays homage to the Burlington Slate, a quintessential material that has been quarried in the region for centuries. This stone, prized for its strength and distinctive blue-grey hue, is synonymous with the area’s architectural and cultural identity. It has not only shaped the landscapes but also the homes, buildings, and monuments that stand as a testament to the Lake District’s enduring spirit. Just as the slate is interwoven into the fabric of the Lake District, so too is Burlington’s commitment to bringing forward the best of local produce and culinary techniques.
With Head Chef Lukasz Zebryk’s innovative approach and commitment, diners at Burlington’s are treated to a culinary journey that celebrates the very essence of the Lake District. The use of local ingredients, combined with contemporary flair and techniques, ensures that dish’s are a reflection of the region’s abundant bounty and traditions. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, Burlington’s promises a gastronomic adventure whilst overlooking the iconic waters of Lake Windermere.
Canapés: The evening commenced with a simple yet thoughtful selection of canapés. The vegetable frittata stood out with its delicate layers, each bite capturing the essence of garden-fresh ingredients. Paired with this were the vegetable tortilla chips – crispy, with a natural sweetness and far too tempting.
Starter: The starter was a tableau of intriguing choices. The ham hock and pheasant terrine showcased the full flavours of both meats harmoniously. The inclusion of black garlic ketchup was a real indulgence, more than a mere condiment. It added a deep, luxurious layer of flavour, elevating the terrine’s richness. Accompanying this was a delightful quail’s egg that added both visual and taste contrast. The almond crumb offered a mild nutty undertone and a crunch, playing well against the smoothness of the terrine. I really enjoyed all of the diverse flavours on the plate.
Main Course: The main course was a celebration of sea and garden. Beautifully cooked, the inherent flavour of the Scottish salmon made it easy to appreciate the quality of the fish. The pea velouté, with its silky texture and verdant hue, provided a colourful backdrop whilst adding its own subtle narrative to the dish. The pan-fried baby potatoes, golden and crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside were the perfect pairing and the dollop of soured cream introduced a tangy counterpoint. I paired the salmon with a Pinot Grigio Venezie.
Dessert: The infamous Beech Hill Sticky Toffee Pudding was a sweet and welcoming ending. The pudding itself had a rich depth, and when paired with the creamy vanilla ice cream, it offered a delightful play of temperatures and textures. The butterscotch sauce draped over added a velvety sweetness, and the fresh banana slices introduced a soft, fruity flavour.
The meal at Burlington’s was a balanced blend of traditional flavours presented with modern sensibilities. Each dish felt honest, showcasing the ingredients’ natural tastes without unnecessary embellishments. The approach was both friendly and professional, making it clear that the focus was on delivering a memorable culinary experience. For those seeking a genuine, unpretentious dining journey, Burlington’s promises just that.
The Lake District is a place where nature, history, and culture converge in a glorious tapestry which is no wonder why it’s one of the UK’s top tourist attractions, attracting over 18 million people each year. Whether you’re exploring the vast expanse of Lake Windermere, indulging in the luxury of its hotels and spas or embarking on a culinary journey at one of its top restaurants there’s a story waiting to be discovered.
A ‘Storyboard Staycation’ here offers not just an escape from the every day but a deep dive into a land that has inspired poets, writers, and countless creatives. It beckons with the promise of adventure and the allure of tranquil moments. If you ever find yourself yearning for a blend of scenic splendour, historical richness, and modern comforts, look no further than the Lake District. It’s a destination for the storyteller in each of us.
Words and Photography by Ian Cole