Ambleside is a beautiful town in the heart of The Lake District. Loved by visitors, the area is full of exciting activities. Whether you are planning a hiking holiday, family vacation, or romantic getaway, there are plenty of things to do in Ambleside.
Best things to do in Ambleside
Visit the Bridge House
A trip to Ambleside is not complete without visiting the famous bridge house. Right in the centre of town, this 17th century building is probably the most photographed landmark in Ambleside. The 17th century building is made from local slate and is perched over the river Rothay. Legend has it that up to 8 people used to live inside! An amazing feat when you see just how tiny the Bridge House is!
Stroll around Waterhead
Walk 15 minutes south out of Ambleside, and you will reach the top of Lake Windermere. This is the biggest lake in England! Waterhead is a little collection of boats, shops and cafes at the head of the lake. The area is beautiful, with panoramic views over to the Coniston fells. On a sunny day I recommend grabbing a drink from the Ambleside YHA and sitting on the benches outside. It is the perfect place for sunset! Kids will love feeding the ducks, and also the famous choc dip ice cream at the cafe near the main pier!
Sample local cuisine
Ambleside is full of amazing cafes and restaurants. The food in the Lake District is very much focused on eating local produce. Thanks to the many farms in the area, meat is of exceptional value. There are many pubs in Ambleside serving up a fabulous, traditional Sunday Roast. If you are vegetarian, then don’t worry! Ambleside has a high number of vegetarian cafes and restaurants too. The Lake District is also home to many micro breweries. Head inside any pub and you will find local ales on tap. Loweswater Gold is a particularly popular choice, as are some of the ales from Hawkshead brewery. Make sure you give them a try!
Rent a bicycle
You wont find many busy junctions or confusing traffic in Ambleside. The town is easy to navigate, and is very bicycle friendly. Hire a bike from local shop BikeTreks and see the area on two wheels. Whilst it is fairly easy to ride on the road, the real fun is cycling on the many off road tracks. Cycle routes run all around the lakes and many start in Ambleside. Some particularly scenic routes include cycling to Far Sawrey along the shores of Windermere, or perhaps heading along the quiet road that runs under Loughrigg to peaceful Rydal. If you are cycling on roads, just be wary of narrow roads and blond corners.
One of the most noticeable things about Ambleside is the sheer volume of outdoor shops! If you’re looking for a new tent, backpack or jacket, you are in the right place. There are lots of big brand outdoor shops in Ambleside. Even better, if you see a for sale sign in the window you may bag yourself a bargain. As well as outdoor shops, there are some quirky gift shops. Ambleside still has a largely independent high street with charming local shops. Detail is full of interesting gifts and off beat items. For unique jewelry, head to Silver Moon, just a few metres away from the tourist information centre. There is also a local gin store on Compston street where you can refill your bottle if you bring it back!
Visit the Roman Fort
dating back from the 1st century, Galava fort is a must for any history fans. The ruins are in a field not too far from Waterhead. The site is managed by the national trust and has some very informative signage. Boards around the site will tell you what you are looking at. It is an interesting and educational little trip worth making!
St Mary’s Church
You should be able to see the church steeple from many places in Ambleside. Towards Rothay Park, St Mary’s church is the biggest in Ambleside. Built in the 1850’s, the building is quite remarkable. Even for those who are not religious, I still recommend taking a look inside. On the inside back wall is a brilliant painted mural depicting locals taking part in the annual “Rushbearing” festival.
Take a boat ride
Down at Waterhead, big steamers depart frequently. These run up and down between Ambleside and Bowness. A trip on one of these is a great experience and offers sensational views. If you prefer a little more independence, you can rent a rowing boat. Rather vintage looking, and each with a ladies name printed on them, these rowing boats are ever so cute! Just be careful of other boat traffic if you decide to rent a boat yourself.
Walk up Loughrigg
Overlooking Ambleside, Loughrigg Fell is one of the most scenic things you can do in Ambleside. Although a small mountain, it is not a particularly hard hike. From the centre of Ambleside, head through Rothay Park and across the bridge. You should see signs for Loughrigg Fell. Continue up, for around half an hour. There is a lovely little tarn close to the top. Once at the top, you are rewarded with spectacular views across the town. You can also see right down the lake, and to all the fells around!
Visit the climbing wall
Thanks to the natural formation of the Lake District, climbing i s a popular activity. For those who have never done it, you can learn. Ambleside climbing wall is a great activity for those who may want to try. They offer some great taster sessions. you can also bring kids, which is good news if you are looking for things to do in Ambleside when it is raining! All equipment can be provided, and it is with professional instructors.
Druing the summer months, White Platts opens for mini golf. A great activity that can be enjoyed by people of any ages. The area sometimes has a bouncy castle too, great for kids. Right in the heart of Ambleside, White Platts is easy to reach and a great way to pass a morning or afternoon.
Things to do near Ambleside
If you have a car, fancy hopping on a bus, or like to walk a bit further, there are great things to do close by!
Visit Wray Castle
Directly opposite Ambleside across the lake, you can find Wray Castle. This is a picturesque gothic style castle on the shores of Lake Windermere. It is a great cycle route from Ambleside to Wray castle. Otherwise, you can drive and park on site. You have to pay if you want to enter the castle itself. However, it is a lovely place to just wander around, and admire the castle from the outside. There is also a lovely lakeside path that runs in front of Wray castle. Views from the castle across the lake and towards Ambleside are phenomenal.
There are many great walks from Ambleside. One of my favourite is the walk to Rydal Caves. The route takes you through Rothay Park and under Loughrigg. Following the river, you will get to see the cute stepping stones! Continue and you come out overlooking Rydal Water. A great viewpoint. Continue on and you will eventually reach Rydal Caves. A wonderful, natural cave in the hillside, you can walk inside. The rock formations are interesting, as well as the acoustics! Plus, it is very exciting to go into a cave!
Another town in it’s own right, Grasmere is much smaller than Ambleside. Just a 5 minute drive away, it is a lovely little village to take a stroll in. You can even walk here, a beautiful scenic route in itself. Grasmere is particularly well known for Grasmere Gingerbread. There is a small shop that sells it, and you must go! The recipe for Grasmere gingerbread is a closely guarded family secret. It is a perfect souvenir to bring back from a trip to the Lake District, as you cannot get it anywhere else in the world! The staff in the shop also dress up in old Victorian clothes, which is quite fun!
Between Ambleside and Windermere is the former home of William Wordsworth. The poet Wordsworth famously lived in the Lake District. You can explore the home and gardens of Wordsworth. The gardens are beautiful in the summer. There is also a lovely little wateefall. No trip to Rydal Mount is complete without a pit stop in the cute little tearoom next to the river. If you want to go inside of Rydal Mount, you must book a ticket. However, most people just go to enjoy the surrounding area.
Brockhole visitor centre
If you are visiting Ambleside with kids, Brockhole is a must visit. The visitor centre is set in huge grounds. On site there are many different activities from an adventure playground, to mini golf. For the more adventurous, you can even do the tree top trek – ropes and walkways up in the tree tops! There is clay shooting, archery and bike rental too. If it starts to rain, or you need a break, head to the onsite cafe!
Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments your top things to do in Ambleside!
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