Things to do in Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria
Situated on the shores of Lake Windermere at the heart of the Lake District, Bowness-on-Windermere welcomes millions of visitors each year, so it’s no surprise that it has a lot to offer.
The charming town is fun to explore on foot and it’s also an ideal base for hill-walkers, cyclists and water-sports enthusiasts making use of the excellent facilities on and around the lake.
Things to do in Bowness-on-Windermere
The World of Beatrix Potter
This attraction begins with a short film about Beatrix Potter and her stories. From there, visitors enter the main exhibition which brings the famous characters and scenes from the books to life.
Areas include Jemima Puddle-Duck’s Woodland Glade, The Peter Rabbit Garden, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s Kitchen, Mr Jeremy Fisher on his Lilly Pad, and more.
A visit takes about an hour, or two if you want to see the “Where is Peter Rabbit” Theatre Show (check website for schedule).
The Old Laundry Theatre
The Old Laundry is a theatre-in-the-round that shares a building with the World of Beatrix Potter in the centre of Bowness.
The Old Laundry is a thriving venue enjoyed by tourists and locals alike, with its eclectic programme of events including plays, musicals, classical and folk music, comedy and film.
You can enjoy a pre-theatre meal in the Old Laundry Bistro before the show with a Dine Out ticket.
Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House
Fans of the Arts and Crafts movement and anyone who loves historic houses will want to visit Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House.
Designed by renowned architect Baillie Scott and completed in 1901, Blackwell with its stunning location overlooking Lake Windermere is one of the most beautiful holiday homes in England.
As you explore this Grade I listed masterpiece, you can enjoy the breathtaking views, wood panelling, stained glass and plasterwork, much as its first owner, wealthy industrialist Sir Edward Holt and his family would have done.
Windermere Lake Cruises
What better way to experience Lake Windermere from a different perspective than to take to the water on a Windermere Lake Cruise?
Offering cruises between 45 minutes and 3 hours, Windermere Lake Cruises let you explore England’s largest lake and discover secluded bays, islands and magnificent views you’ll never forget.
They have lots of tickets to choose from, including a Summer Evening Buffet Cruise which includes a two-course buffet, a Freedom of the Lake ticket allowing access to all cruises for 24 hours, and a Park and Sail ticket for visitors wanting to avoid the traffic.
You can even hire a self-drive electric motorboat, or a rowing boat and enjoy the freedom to explore the lake by yourselves.
Enjoy Stunning Views From Orrest Head
If you’re feeling energetic, why not climb Orrest Head and enjoy some of the finest views in England?
With about 400ft of climbing, you’ll need to be reasonably fit, but it’s relatively easy walking and well within the scope of active young children who will love the sense of achievement when they reach the summit.
The panoramic views over Lake Windermere certainly make the ascent worthwhile.
Families will enjoy a trip to Glebe Park, which offers a range of attractions and leisure facilities.
You can enjoy 9 holes of mini-golf on the pitch and putt course, or if that’s too serious, have a go at crazy golf instead. Alternatively, why not try the addictive new sport of footgolf or target golf.
You can also hire Segways for a 20-minute ride along the shore of Lake Windermere - a great experience!
Brockhole on Windermere
A short drive North from Bowness will take you to Brockhole, an attraction which offers a wide range of activities by the lakeshore.
Exciting activities include the thrilling Treetop Trek where the whole family can test their head for heights with 35 challenging elements including swings, rope bridges and wobbly logs, finishing with a thrilling 250m triple zip line race to the lakeshore.
There’s lots more to enjoy including "Crazi Bugz" offroad driving for kids, laser clay shooting, kayak tours, archery and lots more.
There’s also a cafe for the grown-ups, an indoor play area for younger kids and an outdoor adventure playground where older kids can burn off any remaining energy.
Sticking with the adventure theme, Total Adventure in Bowness has some exciting ways to explore Lake Windermere.
You can hire canoes, kayaks, sit-on-tops or stand-up paddleboards and paddle around the lake, or hire mountain bikes or electric bikes and enjoy the scenic bike trails along the shore instead.
There are even guided tours available to make the most of your visit.
Events in Bowness-on-Windermere
With so many visitors coming to Bowness and the Windermere area every year, it’s no surprise that there are loads of events scheduled throughout the year - particularly in the tourist season, so you’ll never be short of things to do.
There are far too many for us to list them all - but here are a few annual highlights:
The Bowness Bay Blues Weekend takes place in April and welcomes blues musicians from around the world for a three-day extravaganza of blues music.
The Promart open-air art and craft fair offers 80 stalls of art, photography, pottery, knitwear and wood-crafts exhibited by the artists and craftspeople who made the items. Promart takes place in Bowness on the second Sunday of each month from April to September at The Glebe. (You can also find it on the last Sunday of each month in Grange-over-Sands).
The Great North SwimRun takes place in June and starts at nearby Brockhole. With short, medium and endurance distances to choose from this exciting event lets you test yourself on land and water around Windermere.
Along similar lines, the Windermere Triathlon starts from Bowness in July and offers a relay or Olympic distance triathlon. Quite a spectacle - even if you don’t want to take part yourself.
If you prefer culture to sport, then the Lake District Summer Music is an international classical music festival that takes place at the end of July and beginning of August with more than 40 events in many locations around the area.
Find out more about what’s on in Bowness-on-Windermere here:
Shopping in Bowness-on-Windermere
Although it’s quite a small town, there are some interesting shops in Bowness, especially if you’re a visitor to the area.
Roly’s Fudge lets you see how the delicious fudge is made, before choosing what you’d like to buy from the many flavours available. As well as the traditional Clotted Cream or Rum and Raisin, you could try Salted Maple and Pecan, Cherry Bakewell, Honeycomb or Peanut Butter fudge. Delicious!
Herdy on Lake Road offers a unique selection of carefully chosen local gifts, homeware and accessories.
The High Street is the main shopping area in Bowness and is home to some high street brands, antique shops and gift shops.
Places to Eat in Bowness-on-Windermere
There are plenty of cafes, restaurants and places to eat in Bowness, so you’re bound to find something good as you explore the town. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started:
If you’re looking for a decent cup of coffee, or a bite to eat, the Folk cafe in St Martin’s Parade is worth a visit. With good food (check out the cakes!) and friendly service, you can’t go wrong.
It’s always good to try local cuisine, and if being on the water has given you an appetite for fish, then a visit to seafood restaurant “Hooked” will fit the bill. Hooked has a good range of fish dishes to choose from and a good reputation for quality.
Places to Visit Nearby
With lots of other famous Lake District towns nearby, it’s worth travelling around the area and seeing some of the sights.
The town of Windermere is only a mile or so up the road, so you can easily visit on foot. Originally called Birthwaite, the village was re-named after the lake when the railway arrived and tourism started to take off. Today, Windermere is almost an extension of Bowness.
Ambleside is one of the Lake District’s most famous and beautiful villages, situated at the head of Lake Windermere. Although there was a Roman fort in the area, most of the buildings you see today are Victorian. The walk to Stockghyll Force waterfall, a mile from the village is well worthwhile.
The little village of Grasmere with its grey-green cottages built from local stone is a picturesque place to visit. Dove Cottage, home of famous poet William Wordsworth is open to the public. If you on the Thursday nearest 20th August, you could see the Grasmere Sports, with Cumbrian Wrestling and fell racing.
For more information about Bowness-on-Windermere, check out the following websites: