Windermere & Bowness – the Early Days!

Windermere and Bowness are the most popular tourist destination in the Lake District.

Lake Windermere (although officially a ‘mere’ and not a lake) has been a major attraction for visitors since Victorian times when the Kendal and Windermere Railway built a branch line to it. There are plenty of things to see and do in Windermere and Bowness, including water sports, walking, climbing, and visiting some of the best attractions in the Lake District.

Visitors can take a boat trip around the lake on a steamer, or hire a boat, dinghy or cruiser. Open-top buses and steam locomotives are also available for visitors who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, or a range of walking tracks and trails run alongside the water´s edge. Close to the lake are a wide choice of heritage sites, historic houses and beautiful landscaped gardens which attract visitors from all over England.

The MV Tern is the oldest steam boat still operation on Lake Windermere. Originally commissioned in 1891, the Tern was requisitioned during WW2 as a patrol boat on the lake, and used as a base for testing underwater mine laying techniques. The original steam engines have been replaced by diesel engines, and Tern is still in full working order.

Lake Windermere is 10.5 miles long and stretches from Ambleside in the north to Newby Bridge in the South. The deepest part of the lake is at the northern end, and is approximately 220 feet deep.

Bowness was once a small fishing village which fast became a lively tourist destination once the railway came to Windermere in 1847. Now offering a wide range of shops, restaurants, elegant hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast accommodation, Bowness has evolved into one of the most popular areas in the Lake District. The town of Windermere has a more laid back atmosphere than Bowness, and traditional shops line the streets.

During the 19th Cebtury, horse-drawn carriages would carry passengers to and from the railway station to the lakeside, whilst hotel-based charabancs took guests on local sightseeing excursions. Once the commercial possibilities were realised, a wide range of hotels, villas and boarding houses sprang up in Bowness to accommodate the tourists. In 1869 the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway was built and linked to ferry services from Lakeside, cementing Bowness's position as an up and coming resort for wealthy day trippers from Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Wealthy businessmen from urban areas then began to regard the Lakes as a haven of scenic tranquility, and bought up great chunks of land and grand country houses. Belsfield, which is now a hotel, was bought by the iron magnate, Henry William Schneider in 1869 as a commuter home. Brockhole was built in the 1880s by Henry Gaddum, a wealthy silk merchant from Manchester, which later became the National Park Visitor Centre. Blackwell, now the Arts and Crafts House, was commissioned by Sir Edward Holt, a wealthy brewer from Manchester.

If you are looking for somewhere special to stay in Windermere or Bowness why not book into a spa hotel in Bowness or a romantic cottage in Windermere.