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Ambling around Ambleside

The Bridge House, Ambleside

We recently spent a few days in the Lake District. As a present from a good friend for my wife’s 70th birthday, we booked a short break in a traditional stone cottage in Ambleside thinking that in mid March we might enjoy some spring-like weather, a Lakeland landscape full of colour and daffodils, and enjoy some of the local attractions before the big crowds arrive.

Weather-wise, needless to say, it rained, then it snowed and then the sun came out and it got bitterly cold. Not ideal, but one cant help but feel better for seeing the mist moving over Windermere, the snow on the hilltops and buildings and the colours in the landscape when the sun came out.

The crowds hadn’t arrived so it was easy to drive places and park the car. You could get a table in the better restaurants without having booked months in advance and you could walk without being intimidated by seasoned walkers in high tech hiking gear with OS maps in plastic bags.

The cottage was OK, if expensive for what is was. I have been pestered by the booking company to review it and if I do I will tell them that on a freezing day, the heating should be on when they are expecting guests to arrive. With no instructions on how to work the heating controls and the complicated ‘Hive’ thermostat, I was struggling to maintain a decent temperature. I’m convinced that this was partly due to the owner remotely overriding my attempts to turn up the temperature to save money!

Ambleside lies at the northern end of Lake Windermere and is a good base for exploring the Southern Lakes. It has some nice shops (although far too many outdoor clothing and equipment shops), nice cafes and restaurants and pubs, and the remains of a Roman fort. It is also very easy on the eye. The buildings and the layout are very pleasing, so its not surprising most of the town has been designated a conservation area.

We enjoyed pottering around the town and visited Bowness and the landscapes around Coniston and Hawkshead. A couple of local attractions we visited – and which I would recommend if you’re in this neck of the woods – were the ‘Blackwell Arts and Crafts House’ just outside Bowness and the ‘Windermere Jetty Museum’. Both attractions are under the management of ‘Lakeland Arts’ (not ‘National Trust’) which means the prices are reasonable and the tea rooms are better run! Click the titles below which link to their web sites.

Blackwell House is the most impressive arts and crafts building I have seen. This Grade I listed building was designed by noted architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott and was built as a holiday home for wealthy brewery owner Sir Edward Holt who was made Mayor of Manchester twice and who worked for numerous good causes, especially improving buildings, libraries, water and sewage works for the people of Manchester.

I agree with its claim that it is one of the UK’s finest examples of Arts & Crafts architecture, (a style inspired by the natural world, while embracing traditional craft skills in an age of increasing mechanisation and mass production). Almost all of Blackwell’s original features survive, along with immaculate furniture and beautiful decorative flourishes. The setting is something special also providing tremendous views over Windermere and the Coniston Fells. The house also has art and craft exhibitions, a gift shop and tea room (I recommend the scones).

Windermere Jetty Museum is an impressive collection of boat houses and a gallery. It contains some great examples of local boatbuilding, including SL Dolly, one of the oldest mechanically powered boats in the world; Margaret, the oldest sailing yacht in the UK; world record breaking speed boats; Esperance, one of the boats that inspired Captain Flint’s houseboat in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, and even Beatrix Potter’s rowing boat. The gallery was currently hosting a photographic exhibition titled ‘40 Farms’ and is the work of British Life Photographer of the Year, and Cumbrian farmer, Amy Bateman. These stunning photographs of people, farm animals, wildlife and landscapes document the stories of 40 Cumbrian farmers.

In conclusion, it was a nice three days. Of course, despite all the walking (a good bit of it uphill), I’m pretty sure we took in more calories than we expended. I suppose that is inevitable with so many good food eateries and local beers available.


Author: Paul

I am a retired, married bloke, dad and grandad - growing old with attitude.

5 thoughts on “Ambling around Ambleside”

  1. We live not far from Stoneywell Cottage, another Arts & Crafts place. It’s in Leicestershire and doesn’t have the mountains of the Lake District in the background, but it is set among dramatic stony crags and has good views across to Bradgate Park and the folly known as Old John. The tea shop is tiny and the menu extremely limited, but it’s lovely to sit outside with a scone and a pot of tea on a warm day. A good place to visit if you’re in the area.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds great, Paul. I love the Lake District and have had several holidays there. We usually went around Easter and had everything from a ‘heatwave’ of 22C to snow closing all the roads on the day we were supposed to leave. Beautiful scenery, lovely walks, and plenty of good places to stock up on the calories 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In the Lake District you just have to hope for the best weather wise don’t you? As you say it’s great for the variety of walks it has to offer but it’s also a place that gives you an appetite for eating and drinking nice beer.


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