Bowness on Windermere is one of the most popular places to visit for a reason. Whether you live locally or you’re visiting, here are some of the favourite things our kids love to do (and we do too!).
Bowness on Windermere
We LOVE Bowness on Windermere. It’s possibly one of the most well known and popular place for visitors in the Lake District, and it’s easy to see why.
With plenty to offer for families both in, on and around the lake, there is just so much to do. Along with Windermere which is just up the road, there are places to visit and activities to try to keep everybody busy!
In this post, I’ll be talking about places in both Bowness, and Windermere. And also, a few places really nearby.
To Note: As a general rule for families, I would always recommend getting to places early if possible, especially in the school holidays. Parking is easier and it is generally less crowded. The summer especially can get very busy in Bowness and around the lake.
When planning a trip, I would always plan the parking that you’re aiming for, along with a back up parking option in case your first choice is full. It’s generally fine but having a back up eliminates any stress!
And lastly, enjoy! Pick your adventure….
This is a total classic. For anyone who has read the books, or watched the TV programmes, this is a must-see. It starts with a film to introduce Beatrix Potter and her stories, then you make your way through the experience, where all of her stories brought to life.
You’ll see all the characters from the stories, and there are all sorts of multi-sensory experiences to keep it interesting.
From our experience, you can get round the whole thing in less than an hour. But obviously leave longer if you want to visit the cafe, and if you’re anything like my kids, the gift shop.
The World of Beatrix Potter is in Bowness, and you can find parking almost directly opposite, in Rayrigg Road car park.
Ferry to Far Sawrey then Wray Castle
This is a day out that is still on our list, but it’s one that my local friends recommend to me over and over again! This day can be split into 3 sections:
First, catch the passenger ferry from Ferry Nab and take your bikes across to Far Sawrey. There is plenty of pay and display parking at Ferry Nab, and you can leave the car there all day. Have a look here for timetables and prices.
Second, check out the amazing view from Claife Viewing Station which is really close to the ferry stop. From here, head along the road signed Bank Barn/Wray Castle. Follow this as it turns into a track.
Continue on this route, making sure to keep going forwards (don’t turn off!) until you pass through a gate and the trail turns left, signed Wray Church. Then just past the church you’ll come to a road, and then with two right turns you’ll be entering Wray Castle.
The bike ride is 8 miles, and is classed as an easy trail.
And thirdly, enjoy everything that Wray Castle has to offer! I think some food and drink is in order, and a rest with a view on the picnic tables.
And when you’re ready, you can do the whole thing in reverse to get back to your car.
We love this walk! We do it quite a lot for a quick blast. We were just saying how when our children were little, this felt like the BIGGEST walk ever, but now we stomp on up there in super quick time. The view at the top is a massive reward for really quite a manageable walk.
The walk is approx 3km, and lots of it is fairly steep. Still manageable for little legs, but the first bit is the steepest so don’t be put off!
You’ll need to park somewhere near the top end of Windermere. There are parking spaces along the A591 just near the traffic lights by the Windermere Hotel. If you can’t find one, then you should find street parking when you turn into Windermere. As ever though, I recommend getting there early to make sure you can park, because this is a popular walk.
From the main road (A591) you will see the start of the walk to the left of the Windermere Hotel. The walk is signed all the way up so it’s really straightforward to find your way to the summit.
At times you get two options for part of the walk – the blue sign option is accessible and is part of the Miles without Stiles series of pushchair friendly walks.
Once you reach the summit, enjoy the 360 degree views of the Lake District! This is where we crack open the chocolate buttons to celebrate getting to the top of this short but steep trail.
Take a Windermere Lake Cruise
The lake cruises operate out of Bowness and take you to all different areas of the lake. You can make a plan for the day, and either stay on a cruise right round the lake, or stop off at different places to explore.
A favourite trip of ours is any cruise that stops off at Waterhead, Ambleside, then lunch at the YHA right on the lake side. From the jetty at Waterhead, there is a little electric bus (it’s totally not a bus but I don’t know how else to describe it!) that shuttles to and from the centre of Ambleside. This is super handy if you want to spend time in Ambleside.
Another idea is to take a cruise with a stop off at Brockhole on Windermere. This is a great place for a play and an explore, with a brilliant playpark and a lovely cafe.
The lake cruises are also a great option if the weather is a bit rainy. The largest boats, the Swan and the Teal, have a load of indoor seating and you can get food and drink on board. It’s a fun way to see the lake whilst staying dry!
If you need more ideas for things to do in the area when it rains, check out this post Things to do in Bowness on Windermere in the Rain for plenty of inspiration.
Visit Windermere Jetty Museum
Honestly this is a new favourite of ours. It’s a fairly new museum, celebrating the history of life on lake Windermere. We now have an annual membership so we can come back as much as we like!
The museum itself is fairly interesting, but I would say it definitely suits older children. My 6 year old lasted about 5 minutes, but my 9 and 11 year old’s liked reading the displays and opening the drawers to find different ‘lake treasures’.
However, the younger children are catered for with a room just for them, filled with hands on toys and dressing up clothes. For the parents, this room also has a view right over the lake so, win win!
The café is worth a visit too, as it has beautiful views out over the lake and yummy hot chocolates for the kids.
The real pull of this place is the events and festivals it hosts. We’re booked in for a science festival in a few weeks which looks amazing, and they have loads of different things on sprinkled through the year.
All the information is on their website, so it’s worth checking out to see what’s coming up.
You’ll find Cockshott at the very end of the Glebe, in Bowness on Windermere. It’s an outdoor space with lake access, and just beautiful.
I’ve written a whole post on Cockshott Point which you can find here, so head to that post to find out everything you need to know if you’re planning a visit.
If you’re in need of cake (and really, who isn’t?) you are honestly spoiled for choice in Bowness and Windermere. However, we have a favourite to share, and it’s Homeground, in Windermere village.
The menu is delicious, and our (fairly choosy) children always find something to eat there.
You can’t book, and often when you pass you’ll see a queue of eager diners snaking along the pavement. So my advice would be that if you pass and there isn’t a queue, make the most of it and head on inside!
Windermere Pump Track
Windermere pump track opened in 2021 and is super popular with children of all different ages. It’s small but challenging enough to keep older kids interested and perfect for young children too. Perfect if you don’t want a big bike ride day but the kids still want to get out on their bikes.
Located in Queens Park, Windermere, LA23 2LT.
Visit the park at Millerground
Millerground is SUCH a popular spot, and for good reason. In all, there is an easy car park, a fab playground, lake access and coffee!
To begin, the parking is pay and display at Rayrigg Meadow Parking, Rayrigg Road. There are also toilets here that are open in the summer months.
From the car park, you’ll see a big field leading to a playpark, and if you’re lucky the coffee truck will be there too. The playpark is decent, and the location makes it a great choice.
From the park area, there are steps down to the jetties at Millerground. Here you’ll find a stone ‘beach’ which is super popular for wild swimming, and for launching kayaks, paddleboards. Or simply setting up and having a picnic, and throwing stones in the lake, which is what we’ve spent a lot of time doing over the years!
There is an obvious path leading along the lake from the jetties, and this is a lovely walk if you follow it round. It brings you to a waterfall, and a steep path that leads back up to the main road. From here it’s just a little walk along the pavement back to the car park, and the whole loop is a perfect gentle walk.
Rayrigg Meadow parking is at LA23 1BP
The Royalty cinema in Bowness is a lovely little cinema, which is almost 100 years old.
Screen 1 is a traditional cinema auditorium with the original seat layout. It always feels like such a treat coming here because it’s such a different experience.
You’ll find it on the road heading out of Bowness towards Windermere on your left. There is a pay and display car park right next to it which makes life easier too.
You can find up to date information about showings and timings here.
Hire an electric boat
This is so much fun! On Windermere you can hire anything from rowing boats to heading on a lake cruiser, but we absolutely loved seeing the lake from an electric boat.
We hired our boat from Windermere Aquatic and chose the fantail as we’d never tried one before. If you look on the website you’ll see beautiful pale blue and white boats with gorgeous tan leather interiors – ours ended up being the bright pink boat so you couldn’t miss us!
An hour’s hire definitely isn’t enough to get all around the lake, so we headed across to the west side of the shore, then followed the shoreline until we’d used half the time up, then we looped across to the east side and headed back towards Bowness.
Honestly, it was fab. I was slightly terrified when it was my turn to drive but it was so easy, even I could do it!
Brockhole on Windermere
There is so, so much to enjoy at Brockhole on Windermere. Located just outside Bowness on the A591 between Windermere and Ambleside, Brockhole needs a whole post to itself as there is just so much going on!
So far we have sampled (on a few separate visits) – archery, treetop nets, the faerie trail, the shop, the café, an Easter Egg hunt, the play park and the Lake District Story exhibition.
We still plan to try – Treetop Trek, laser clay shooting, mini golf, Krazy Karts, and Brave the Cave.
There is plenty of parking, but honestly in the school holidays and on the weekends over summer I still would always try to get there before 10:30am, as the car park fills up quickly. The car park is pay and display and you can find prices here.
Brockhole also encourages you to travel by bus or boat if possible. Stagecoach bus services 555 and 599 stop outside Brockhole, and you can find a bus timetable here.
These are some of our favourite things to do in and around Bowness on Windermere, and I hope it’s given you a few ideas too!
If you’re planning a walk local to Bowness on Windermere, have a look at my post on Skelghyll Woods which is just up the road towards Ambleside.