Discover Ambleside

Introduction

A great location, excellent restaurants, plenty of independent shops, a small but treasured Lakeland museum, a much loved cinema complex, a church with a Wordsworth chapel, a rich cultural heritage, heaps of cafés, and a wide choice of hotels and B&Bs. Welcome to Ambleside, ‘the axle at the wheel of beauty,’ as one 19th century writer described the town. Windermere and the pier for lake ‘steamers’ are a few minutes walk away, Grasmere lies to the north, Bowness is down the road to the south. The likes of Wansfell, Loughrigg and the Fairfield range form a protective arc of fells in every other direction.

Rothay Manor Hotel

Rothay Manor Hotel

With eight luxurious suites open in May and the hotel named Best Dining Experience in the UK and Ireland at the Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence 2022, there is much to celebrate at Rothay Manor. The new suites are housed in The Pavilion, a contemporary looking building that contrasts nicely with the fine looking Regency manor that already houses 15 individually styled bedrooms. Four of them are dog friendly. Rothay Manor ‘pleases, inside and out,’ says the Good Hotel Guide 2022 which also describes the cooking here as a ‘class act’. See Rothay Manor Restaurant. www.rothaymanor.co.uk

Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa

Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa

A few steps from the shores of Windermere, with wonderful views across the water to the Langdale fells, this is one of the best located hotels in the Lake District. Massive investment over the last few years has transformed the 131 bedroom destination - just outside Ambleside - where the 29 bedroom Winander Club, the Blue Smoke on the Bay restaurant and the watersports centre all add to the reasons for staying here. An excellent spa and health club offers a range of treatments and experiences, while outside, an infinity pool soaks up more of those great views over Windermere. www.englishlakes.co.uk/low-wood-bay

Randy Pike

Randy Pike

Even if you forget the name - although that’s pretty unlikely - you'll never forget the space and splendour of Randy Pike and its three luxurious suites. Huge rooms, large, hand carved beds with their Frette linen, enormous bathrooms, lavish colours, richly textured designer fabrics and ‘out of the world’ breakfasts are the hallmarks of this B&B, located between Ambleside and Hawkshead. ‘If you want to escape to paradise for a couple of days…then this is the place,’ said one delighted guest. Of course it’s all laced with a bit of eccentricity but the eccentricity is what people love about the place. And there’s delightful countryside right on the doorstep. www.randypike.co.uk

The Juniper House

The Juniper House

Next door to Randy Pike, but standing in its own area of the garden, is this hexagonal-shaped suite, spacious, lavish, colourful and full of invention. The ceiling light, for instance, is made from an upturned log basket, cymbals cover the two tom-tom lined porthole windows, a huge gate stone is in the bathroom and the reclaimed industrial shelving has little labels saying ‘kilts and sporrans’ ‘itchy tank tops’ and ‘string vests’. There’s a super-king size bed and cosy sofas while the outside terrace has views to Windermere (lake) and Wansfell. ’The most beautiful suite we’ve ever stayed in,’ said one guest of this B&B, located between Ambleside and Hawkshead. www.randypike.co.uk

The Old Stamp House

The Old Stamp House

Number one fine dining restaurant in the world in Trip Advisor’s 2021 Restaurant Awards, Michelin starred The Old Stamp House took top spot for the UK - in the same awards - in the new ‘Date Night’ category. Head chef Ryan Blackburn is a great ambassador for Cumbrian produce, so look forward to dishes using fish and shellfish from Cumbria’s west coast, Herdwick hogget from Yew Tree Farm near Coniston, game from the Cartmel Valley, potted shrimps from Morecambe Bay, Cumbrian gingerbread and more. There’s a six course tasting menu for both lunch and dinner, the theme changing with the seasons. Pic: Phil Rigby. www.oldstamphouse.com

Lake Road Kitchen

Lake Road Kitchen

’One of the best and boldest restaurants in the UK, the cooking some of the most innovative and accomplished in the UK,’ said the National Restaurant Awards 2021 as it placed Lake Road Kitchen in its top 100 restaurants. Harden’s 2022 guide did exactly the same. ’Championing flavour and technique’, the 20-cover restaurant offers two main menus of eight and 12 servings, a pescatarian 12 serving menu and a vegetarian, vegan and gluten/dairy free eight serving menu. Expect dishes like smoked North Sea Halibut with burrata and beetroot: Galician octopus with Peruvian chilli and pine; steamed Norwegian cod with scallop vinaigrette. Pic: Paul Hearne. www.lakeroadkitchen.co.uk

Rothay Manor Restaurant

Rothay Manor Restaurant

Named Best Dining Experience in the UK and Ireland at the Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence 2022, a Michelin Plate awarded in 2021, three AA Rosettes for its restaurant and a head chef, Dan McGeorge, who was Champion of Champions on BBC Two’s Great British Menu in 2021. No wonder the Good Hotel Guide talks of ‘ambitious cooking’ at Rothay Manor. In the fine dining restaurant - in the evening - there’s a choice of a three course à la carte menu or a seven course tasting menu. Light lunch is offered during the week, Sunday lunch a big draw. The Brathay Room offers ‘classic bistro-style’ seasonal meals. www.rothaymanor.co.uk

Kysty

Kysty

Run by the same family who own the nearby Michelin starred Old Stamp House, Kysty is, in the words of The Guardian’s restaurant critic Grace Dent, a ‘small, classy, imaginative, relatively inexpensive, self-effacing jewel in the Lake District’s crown’. Awarded a Michelin Plate in 2021, the neighbourhood bistro offers lunch and dinner, with a seasonal menu inspired by the Cumbrian landscape: Herdwick lamb and hogget from the fells, game from the Cartmel Valley, fish and shellfish from Cumbria’s coast and nuts and berries from local woods. For those not familiar with Cumbrian dialect, Kysty (rhymes with feisty not misty) means ‘overly discerning about ones food, or fussy’. www.kysty.co.uk

The Armitt: Museum, Gallery, Library

The Armitt: Museum, Gallery, Library

Opened in 1912, this is ‘a unique combination of museum, library and gallery devoted to preserving and sharing the cultural heritage of the Lake District’. An early supporter was Beatrix Potter who donated a collection of exquisite botanical watercolours, created before she embarked on a career as a writer. Items from that collection are being displayed at the V&A in London this year, as part of the Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature show. An exhibition on display throughout 2022 - The Pull of the Fells - showcases the history, culture and literary links to rock climbing, fell walking, and mountaineering in the Lake District. Picture by Dayve Ward. www.armitt.com

Zeffirellis/Fellinis

Zeffirellis/Fellinis

There must be many places the size of Ambleside (and bigger) that would love a venue like Zeffirellis: a cinema complex, jazz bar, daytime café and vegetarian restaurant rolled into one. Named after the great Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli, it’s been a landmark in the town for over 40 years, a ‘gem at the northern tip of Lake Windermere,’ as Time Out magazine said in 2021 as it placed Zeffirellis at number nine in its list of ’50 best cinemas in the UK and Ireland’. Not far away is Fellinis which is in the same ownership and houses a ‘vegeterranean’ restaurant and a digital cinema. www.zeffirellis.com

Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop

Fred’s Ambleside Bookshop

If you want to find out more about Ambleside, the Lake District and the rest of Cumbria, head to this well known independent bookshop, opened in 1956. A comprehensive collection of local maps and guide books plus classic and contemporary adult fiction and a children’s/teenage book section is the shop’s great strength. Plenty of new releases are on the shelves as well. Owner Steve Muscutt and his staff are extremely knowledgable while the website has a link to Fred’s online bookshop. This in turn lets readers search over 500,000 books, then have orders delivered to their door. www.fredsamblesidebookshop.co.uk

Ambleside: a brief history

Ambleside: a brief history

Even though the Romans built a fort at Borrans Field near Waterhead around AD 79, much of Ambleside is a Victorian creation, the town growing in the 19th century with the expanding tourist trade. In those days it was a place fizzing with intellectual activity. Writer Harriet Martineau (a friend of Charles Darwin), Dr. Thomas Arnold (headmaster of Rugby School), poet William Wordsworth, writer and historian Mary Louisa Armitt and her artist sister Sophie, educationalist Charlotte Mason, Beatrix Potter and German born Kurt Schwitters, one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, are all associated with the town.

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church

Built in the 1850s, the church was designed by George Gilbert Scott, architect of the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station (now the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel) and the Albert Memorial in London. Unusually for the Lake District, St Mary’s Church has a spire. It’s also got some attractive stained glass windows, including one in the Wordsworth Chapel, given by friends and admirers of William Wordsworth in the 1850s. A sculpture called Virgin and Child is by Josefina de Vasconcellos while 60 figures, portrayed in a large rushbearing mural, represent local people at the time it was executed in 1944. www.stmarysambleside.org.uk

Windermere Lake Cruises

Windermere Lake Cruises

About one mile (1.6km) south of the town centre is Waterhead where you can hop on a ‘steamer’ belonging to Windermere Lake Cruises and explore Lakeland’s glorious centrepiece. Windermere Lake Cruises is Cumbria’s biggest tourist attraction and with 10.5 miles (16.9km) of water to sail along - main piers are at Bowness-on-Windermere and Lakeside as well - you can see why. There are four ‘steamers’ - MV Swift, MV Swan, MV Teal and MV Tern - plus modern launches, traditional launches and self-drive cabin boats. Rowing boats are available for hire at Waterhead too. www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk

Stock Ghyll Force

Stock Ghyll Force

It takes about 20/25 minutes to walk up from the town centre to this 70’ waterfall, one of the best known in the Lake District. Take Stock Ghyll Lane to start with and not long after turn left into some woodland where it’s signposted ‘To the waterfalls’. For 300 years the woollen trade was Ambleside’s major industry and in Stock Ghyll or Stock Beck, the mills had a handy source of power. You can see one of the old waterwheels across the road in the town from the National Trust’s Bridge House. Stock Ghyll itself rises on Red Screes - the fell which towers over Kirkstone Pass - and then meets the River Rothay at Ambleside. 

Walks

Walks

Loughrigg Fell. North west of the town, the fell is criss-crossed by numerous paths so you can wander around and pick your vantage point. Head out of Ambleside via Rothay Park and Miller Bridge. Todd Crag has cracking views of Windermere. Wansfell Pike. Lies to the east of Ambleside and has fine views over Windermere. The obvious route from the town is up past Stockghyll Force (waterfall), followed by a steepish fellside climb to Wansfell. High Sweden Bridge. North of Ambleside is the old packhorse bridge over Scandale Beck called High Sweden Bridge. A path from either Nook Lane or Sweden Bridge Lane (just off Kirkstone Road) takes you all the way there. 

And more

And more

Ambleside Tourist Information Centre and post office is located in the centre of town. Stagshaw Garden. The National Trust woodland garden, just to the south of Ambleside, has a fine collection of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas. More cafés/pubs/restaurants include Wabi Sabi, the Golden Rule pub, Apple Pie Café and Bakery, Stiles of Ambleside, Fresher’s Café, The Copper Pot, Doi Intanon and Dodd’s Restaurant. More places to stay include The Regent Hotel, The Samling (just outside the town), Salutation Hotel & Spa, The Waterhead Inn, Ambleside Manor, Haven Cottage, Elder Grove, The Riverside, and The Waterwheel Guesthouse. The last five are B&Bs.

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