Best places to stay in the Lake District
Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere
One of the most classic holiday destinations in the Lakes, the twin towns of Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere (usually shortened to just Bowness) have been attracting holidaymakers since the first steam train arrived at its station in 1847. It's split into two towns, with the quieter Windermere being 1.5 miles uphill from the lake and the more lively, bustling town of Bowness stretched out along the Windermere coastline. Between the two, Lake Road winds down the hill, lined with a great selection of hotels, guesthouses and traditional British Bed and Breakfast establishments, although you'll also find a great selection of self catering accommodation and campsites in and around the village and down by the shores of the lake.
Bowness is the place where most tourists and holidaymakers congregate. Filled with a great array of shops, teashops, cafés, restaurants, ice cream stalls and ferry terminals, it's got everything to keep tourists amused and entertained. It does get extremely busy in summer, with thousands of holidaymakers and day trippers flocking to the tiny town, although it does attract holidaymakers throughout the year too. It's the place to stay if you want a central base in the Lakes which offers lively nightlife and a good range of shops and entertainment.
To avoid the summer crowds, it's a good idea to book a ticket on one of the lake cruisers and get out on the waters of the largest lake in The Lake District. There's a range of modern cruisers and ferries, plus vessels which date right back to the 1930s. You can choose to take a pleasurable leisurely cruise around the lake or make the trip across to Ambleside on the far side of the Lake.
Although there was a settlement on this lakeside site way back in Roman times, Ambleside is a typically Victorian town which makes a great base for exploring the hills and lakes of the Lake District. Loved by poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge, it offers a diverse selection of accommodation and all the usual shops, cafés, pubs, takeaways and restaurants. In fact, it has more pubs than you could possibly visit in one day, with 10 public houses and bars within a quarter mile radius.
While it's on the shores of Windermere and so is the perfect place for trying out some of the water sports available there, and indeed a lot of the action in Ambleside takes place in the well equipped marina, there are other natural attractions within a short walking distance, including Stock Ghyll Force, a spectacular waterfall over 70 feet high and the beautiful Stagshaw Gardens, which literally burst to life in a blaze of colour every spring and summer. During the evenings, there's a great choice of restaurants and the infamous Zefferellis offer a cinema, restaurant and jazz bar that's always very popular with both holidaymakers and Lakeland residents. Not quite as busy and bustling as Bowness, it's a great place to stay if you want traditional Lakeland hospitality in a Victorian setting.
Located close to Windermere, while Troutbeck isn't teeming with holiday accommodation, it does offer a selection of small guesthouses and camping sites that are very popular with walkers wishing to explore the area around the Kirkstone Pass and Ullswater. As it's been awarded conservation status, Troutbeck is a well preserved and attractive village with no less than three pubs and some excellent walking options. Many people who stay in this area, do so because they love the peacefulness of Ullswater and because they have plans to conquer 'Striding Edge' on the top of Helvellyn.
The small country town of Keswick (meaning cheese farm) is located on peaceful, still Derwentwater and is the ideal base for touring the Northern Lakes. With its pedestrianised centre housing an excellent range of shops, galleries and eating places, plus its proximity to the lake, it has everything you could need for a lively, outdoor holiday. You'll find all kinds of paintings, pottery and jewellery on sale here, together with a tremendous selection of outdoor clothes and equipment, plus there's plenty of places to stay from camping sites and B&Bs through to luxury hotels.
The high peaks of Skiddaw, Helvellyn and Scafell (the highest mountain in England) are close by and there's plenty of forest trails and lakeside paths if you prefer to stay closer to the ground. With all sorts of outdoor activities on offer from ghyll scrambling and mountain biking to climbing and abseiling, it's an ideal location for anyone wanting an adventure holiday. And, if you love messing about on the water, there's plenty to keep you occupied on Derwentwater. Choose from all kinds of sailing, from rowing boats to windsurfers, or take a boat trip from one of the two marinas. There's also a great lakeside path which is ideal for walking or cycling, with a few places to stop off for a welcome coffee and piece of homemade cake or delicious ice cream.