Bowness on Windermere

Lake Windermere from Bowness

Bowness-on-Windermere is a town in South Lakeland, Cumbria, England about halfway along the 12 mile length of Lake Windermere between Waterhead at the North and Lakeside at the south. Due to its position on the banks of Windermere, the town has become a tourist hotspot and now the Lake Districts most popular visitor destination, Bowness-on-Windermere is busy for most of the year. People go to enjoy the lake for sailing and water sports or to just relax.
Although the growth of Bowness and the town of Windermere has caused them to become one large settlement Bowness is distinct from the town of Windermere as the two still have distinguishable town centres.
Historically part of Westmorland, in 2012, Bowness was one of the official stop off points for the Olympic torch before it made its way to the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Bowness boasts a cosmopolitan mix of shops and restaurants and a vast choice of accommodation to suit all budgets. The surrounding countryside around Bowness and Windermere is rich in gourmet pubs and country houses offering gourmet food and fine dining, like the Cuckoo Brow Inn at Far Sawrey just across the lake from Bowness, which can be reached by using the frequent car ferry. There’s also a pleasant walk Bowness to Far Sawrey circular  lake that takes in the Cuckoo Brow Inn and makes use of the car ferry.

Lake Windermere Car Ferry

The Windermere Ferry has been operating for more than 500 years. The original craft were rowed across the lake, later ferries were steam driven and the most recent ones have had diesel engines. The current ferry ‘Mallard’ is the largest so far; a modern craft which carries up to 18 cars and over 100 passengers.

In the summer months there is a minibus service between Ferry House and Hawkshead, calling at Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop House. The ferry offers the opportunity to leave the car behind, cross the lake on foot and catch the bus, relaxing all the while and enjoying the scenery while someone else does all the work.

During the 19th century, Bowness grew from a small fishing village to a town living almost entirely off tourism and holiday homes. It was the centre of the boat-building industry which provided the sailing yachts, rowing boats and steam launches used on the lake. A large number of hotels and boarding houses gave employment to the permanent population of the town. The arrival of the railway in 1847 in Windermere (the residents of Bowness had opposed a station in their own town) provided much of the momentum for the growth.
The Victorian influence can be seen everywhere, in the late 19th century, wealthy businessmen from Lancashire built large residences overlooking the lake, and many of these have now been converted to hotels, such as the Langdale Chase Hotel, Storrs Hall Hotel, and the Belsfield Hotel. Others houses include The National Park Visitor Centre at Brockhole, between Ambleside and Bowness enjoy the atmosphere of the area and the town’s delightful setting.

St Martin’s Church Bowness

St Martin’s Church is the parish Church of Bowness, and was built in 1483, with various alterations, including the restoration of 1870, when the Church was enlarged. It is probably the most interesting building in Bowness, and is worth looking inside. The area behind the church is the oldest part of Bowness, a delightful web of narrow streets known as Lowside, which gives an idea of what the village was like before the arrival of the railway.

Our View

It had been at least 15 years since we’d last visited Bowness on Windermere and first impression suggested that it was like Blackpool of the lake district. But after exploring the town and surrounding area you find it’s got something for everyone, with plenty of appealing pubs and places to eat. There’s an excellent array of shops  for a days shopping, if you’ve done to much walking in the surrounding fells and there’s the cruise boats for a relaxing day on the lake and to our surprise the boat we went on had a bar, so I was able to sit back and view the amazing scenery with a pint of bitter. Definitely a place we will be visiting again

Where We Stopped

We stopped in our Motorhome at Braithwaite Fold Camping and Caravan Club site. The campsite sits on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere and is a stone’s throw from the linked towns of Bowness and Windermere.

The site is quite compact, but very pleasant and has 66 level hardstanding with electric hook up pitches and is a very popular site. It was the middle of October when we stayed there, we’d arrived early and couldn’t go to our pitch until 13:00, but I am so glad we got there early as the queue by the time we could move on to the site was stretched back down to the main road. A poor couple behind us had turned up on the hope of getting a pitch but it was fully booked and they were turned away. There are modern facilities including an undercover washing up area, laundry and disabled facilities and 3 grass pitches for tents only.

Pubs  and Where to eat

A selection of the pubs and places we visited whilst stopping at Bowness-on-Windermere

Cuckoo Brow Inn – Far Sawrey

The Art’s bar & Grill – Brantfell Road, Bowness-on-Windermere

The Royal Oak – Brantfell Road, Bowness-on-Windermere

Village Inn and Grill – Lake Rd, Bowness-on-Windermere

Hole in T’Wall – Lowside, Bowness-on-Windermere

The Albert – Queens Square, Bowness-on-Windermere

The Flying Pig – Rayrigg Road, Bowness-on-Windermere

The Angel Inn – Helm Rd, Bowness-on-Windermere



We really only did one proper walk whilst we stopped at Bowness and that was the Bowness to Far Sawrey Circular,which included a stop at the Cuckoo Brow Inn for lunch, full details of the walk can be found by following the link below or on the Walks page.

Bowness on Windermere to Far Sawrey Circular


The range of accommodation in and around Bowness-on-Windermere is vast and caters for all budgets from camping to top class hotels, self-catering and bunk barns, we stayed at Braithwaite Fold Camping and Caravan Club site, for a full range of places to stop, check out one of the links below or simply put Bowness on Windermere in google and there’s absolutely loads to choose from.

Useful Links

Visit Cumbria – Bowness-on-Windermere

Lake District – Bowness-on-Windermere

South Lake District – Bowness-on-Windermere