Bowness: a guide

Once a fishing village and a small centre for boat building, Bowness-on-Windermere is now the busiest tourist spot in the Lake District.

On a summer’s day on The Promenade it can feel just like a seaside resort because this is the main hub for Windermere Lake Cruises and a popular place for the hiring of rowing boats and motor boats. ‘Steamers’ go south to Lakeside or north to Waterhead near Ambleside while smaller vessels do other trips on the water.

There’s a nice old fashioned look to the ticket offices while at one end of The Promenade are the cushion huts, once used by boat owners for storing cushions for their boats.

But if you want to escape the tourist throng, it’s quick and easy. Head south from The Promenade through Glebe Park to Cockshott Point or simply take the Windermere ferry from Ferry Nab to the other side of the lake.

Across the road from where the boats are moored is the Belsfield Hotel (Laura Ashley), the former home of Henry Schneider, an industrialist of substance and a commuter of style, who travelled to work on his steam yacht Esperance.

Alighting at Lakeside, he would hop on the train to Barrow where he was chairman of the steel works. The story goes that he would leave home, accompanied by his butler carrying breakfast to the boat on a silver tray. Esperance was the inspiration for Captain Flint’s houseboat in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons.

The oldest part of Bowness is tucked behind St Martin’s Church, not far from The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction. The church is a late 15th century building which was restored and enlarged in 1870.

The stained glass in the east window, thought to have come from Cartmel Priory, is mainly 15th century while the painted inscriptions on the walls of the nave date from the 16th or 17th centuries. There’s also a carved rood-screen, designed in the Arts and Crafts style by architect Dan Gibson.

Of course if you’re a really big fan of the Arts and Crafts, the best place to go is Blackwell, just outside Bowness. Built for a Manchester brewer in 1900, its major plus is that almost all of the original decorative features have survived: the stained glass, wood carving, tiling, plaster work and wrought iron work.

The heyday of the Arts and Crafts movement had just passed when, in 1927, The Royalty on Lake Road opened as a cinema, theatre and dance hall, the same year as its restored Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ began life in Ohio, United States.

The organ is now owned by the Furness Theatre Organ Project but occasional organ concerts are held over summer and there are a small number of silent film screenings, with organ accompaniment.

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