Ambleside is right in the heart of the Lake District, has plenty of things to do and see, and is the perfect base for exploring the outdoors. Many mountains and long hikes can be started from near Ambleside, however there are plenty of shorter walks too. Whether you are just on a quick weekend break, or a longer holiday, you can easily squeeze one of these walks in! For those looking for a less strenuous day out in the Lake District, I have put together a list of the best short walks from Ambleside.
What to take with you when walking around Ambleside
- No matter how short the walk, always take a phone! Ideally, you should let someone know where you are going too in case you run into trouble.
- If you are out walking your dog, take some water for him/her! Particularly in summer, rivers can dry up, and lakes can be full of toxic algae.
- Money – there are many local tea rooms or pubs dotted around the Lake District. Some still do not accept card payment, so take a bit of cash!
- Waterproof. The Lake District is notorious for wet weather, and the skies can open at any moment. I really love a light Pac a Mac that is breathable and you don’t overheat when it is warm but wet!
- Bring a camera! The views you will be rewarded with will be amazing, so try to capture them! I always take my GoPro with me when walking as it can withstand the rain and is super light!
Walking up Loughrigg from Ambleside is not only easy, it also rewards you with an unmissable view from the top. Whilst technically a fell, don’t be put off – it is really just a very big hill. I often walk up with my tiny dog, so if she can do it, just about anyone can! Whilst the true summit takes a bit of a hike, I usually venture up from Ambleside to the South facing side of the fell for the best views down Lake Windermere. It should take around 1.5 hours from the middle of Ambleside to this point and back again. Whilst there is no need for full hiking apparel, it can be muddy and slippy in places so make sure you have got some decent footwear on. When starting the walk up Loughrigg from Ambleside, you need to make your way to Rothay Park. Easy to find, look for the church spire, or failing that ask any local to point you to the park. Once there, you need to go across the 2 adjacent bridges at the opposite side. Now, turn right and there is a cattlegrid in front of you. Hop over, and in around 30 metres, take a left over the next cattle grid. Here, you are faced with a steep tarmac road framed by some trees. You are at the base of Loughrigg. Walk up for around 10 minutes, and admire the view on your right of Fairfield horse shoe. A couple of sharp bends and there is a small gap in the wall on your left. Take this, and cross a tiny stream. Now it is a steep ascent, sticking to the right hand trail. Keep going up for around 15 minutes, through a wooden gate. You should eventually see a small tarn ahead. Now, turn left and you should be walking south, towards Windermere. A few ups and downs, and you should find your self on the south ridge, looking straight down the lake. A great spot for photographs, it made it onto my top UK instagram spots, and if you are lucky you might get a low jet pass over head.
This short walk will take you to a picturesque old packhorse bridge just outside of Ambleside. The walk involves a gentle ascent and will take around 40 minutes from the centre of Ambleside. Starting from the Tourist information centre, head up North Road, passing the Unicorn Inn on your left. At the butchers, take a slight right so you are going up the steep road. Turn left onto Sweden bridge lane and continue walking up this road, past several houses, for around 10 minutes. At the top you will find a gate, go through and you are onto a more rocky bridleway. Continue upwards, taking in the spectacular views of Bowfell and the Langdale Pikes. Continue on this route until you eventually reach the cute little bridge over the rive, known as Sweden bridge. An excellent place to stop for a picnic and paddle. Now, you can head back down the way you came, or alternatively, cross the bridge and follow the path over the crest of the hill. Keeping on the track you will eventually end up on Nook Lane, near the University library.
If you are looking for really short walks from Ambleside, then a stroll up to Stock Ghyll waterfall may be perfect. Not too strenuous and only around 20 – 30 minutes from the centre of town, this is a good one if you have kids or are feeling like something easy. From the tourist information, head towards the Salutation Hotel, and walk past the entrance, still on the main pavement. there is a left lane between a (currently empty) building, and the Thai restaurant. Take this lane, and you should find your last chance to use the toilets on your right! On the left, there are a couple of signs pointing you up the hill to the waterfall. Continue on the tarmac road for 5 to 10 minutes, until another sign points you left into the woods. If you were to continue, you could make your way up Wansfell, but I can’t really class that as a short walk! Another 10 minutes of gentle ascent and you should find yourself at a view point, looking straight at the waterfalls! You can now head back to town, or continue up a little more and over the bridge that is above the falls, down the other side of the river and then back across abridge at the bottom of the woods, to make it more of a circuit. If you choose this, it can be a little bit slippy on the otherside, but nothing too treacherous. You will only add on another 5 minutes until you are back in Ambleside anyway.
Under Loughrigg and the stepping stones
Only recently replaces after being washed downstream a few years ago in Storm Desmond, the stepping stones are a quaint sight, and kids will enjoy hopping over to the other side of the river. From Rothay Park, head through away from Ambleside to crosss over the two adjacent bridges, and then turn right over the cattlegrid. On your left you will see the steep hill starting its way up Loughrigg, but you should pass this and remain on the road. Continue for around a mile until you find the stepping stones on your right. The road itself is popular with walkers, however be aware it can be used by cars so keep your eyes and ears open! At the stepping stones you can either return back to Ambleside, or continue on the road, which will bring you out near Rydal Hall. you could even combine it with the next walk to make an easy loop.
This historic house is now mostly used for projects and meetings, however a stroll around the gardens makes for a pleasant walk. To reach the hall, you can use the above walk to the stepping stones and continue on. Another route would be head north out of Ambleside centre. Walk past the Health centre along Rydal road, continuing until you see a bus stop. On the opposite side you should see another, next to some big iron gates leading to a riverside track. Cross over and follow this track, giving some nice views of the fells. At the end you will pass through a gate and you are now on the Rydal estate. There is a small campsite and some interesting camping pods. You can walk up to the Hall and take in the gardens and water fountain. Down on the river is a viewing hut, and in summer if you are brave, a swimming hole! Round the back of the hall is a small café and toilets.
Rydal hall also has a campsite, plus yurts and small cabins that you can stay in. I really recommend checking them out if you are looking to stay in the area and experience something a little bit different!
As you can see, Rydal is full of short walks! To get to the caves, first take the route from Rothay Park to the stepping stones, and continue on this road until you reach the cattlegrid at the end. Ahead is a small humpback bridge and the main road, do not cross this. Instead, turn left. You may find an ice cream truck her if you are lucky! Continue up the path past the car park on the left, and some cottages. Finally you will come out above Rydal water and be rewarded a great view. Stay on this top path, keeping Real water on your left and you will find yourself going up. Around 15 minutes walking will bring you to the cave entrance. Occasionally cut off to visitors, the caves should only be entered if there is no fence or warning saying other wise. You can venture all the way to the back, it is wide open and you definitely cannot get lost!
So, this one you can’t really reach by walking from Ambleside, but I have to put it in this list because it is amazing. Tarn Hows is one of my favourite walks near Ambleside, offering unrivalled scenery on a sunny day, just check out the picture below! It is about a 15 minute drive out of Ambleside towards Consiton, and be warned, parking is expensive. However, you are rewarded with a view over the impossibly still water and rolling hillsides. You can walk all the way around the edge of the water, around a 45 minute leisurely stroll. There are plenty of picnic spots and benches along the way too. If you continue on to Coniston from Tarn Hows car park, the route through the mountains there is also pretty spectacular!
This is the most strenuous walk on the list. It deserves a place however, as the views from the top are spectacular! On a clear day you can see all the way down Windermere to the coast! The walk starts from Ambleside town centre. Check out this more detailed post on the walk up Wansfell Pike. The walk itself is quite steep and can take the best part of an hour to reach the summit. I don’t recommend this for the less mobile. If you have weak knees, definitely get yourself some walking poles to reduce the impact, particularly on your descent. You can actually turn this into a full day out by heading to the summit of Wansfell Pike then continuing over the mountain to Troutbeck. To reach the start of the walk, you need to head out of town towards Stock Ghyll waterfalls. It is great to combine these two walks.
What are your favourite walks from Ambleside?
Let me know in the comments!